Issue(s): Thor #362
Simonson starts us off with another crazy awesome Norse concept. This time it's Naglfar, the ship built out of the fingernails of the dead, which, when finished, Hela will ride to Asgard with an army of the dead to destroy the gods as part of Ragnarok.
Hela shows up again, and teleports in the Executioner and the "Enchantress". The Executioner is ready to fight all comers to stay at his love's side, but when Balder, who "never lies" questions her identity, the Executioner gets suspicious.
Instead of the Enchantress, the Executioner sees a woman named Mordonna. We don't really learn much about who she is, and to my knowledge this is her only appearance.
Mordonna tries to imply that the Executioner is in on some scheme. In response, he hurls his axe, which "can cut through the dimensions themselves", and destroys Naglfar. The axe is lost.
Hela had been hoping to provoke a conflict that would release her from her vow from last issue, but the destruction of her ship leaves her so enraged she unleashes her hordes of undead. A major chase follows, with the Asgardians employing the machine guns they got from the US Army on Earth.
In order to ensure the party's escape, Thor, who is in terrible physical pain due to the wounds he received from Hela and also an emotional mess over the death of Odin and the recent problems with Sif, decides to stay behind and hold back the zombie hordes. But the Executioner also joined this quest seeking relief from his internal torment...
...so he knocks Thor out and takes his place. Balder promises that he and Thor will drink to Skurge when they return to Asgard.
What follows is the dramatic last stand of Skurge the Executioner.
The Executioner has always been a somewhat underutilized character. An early Lee/Kirby villain and nearly a founding member of the Masters of Evil, he usually came across as a lackey of the Enchantress with no personality. Simonson did a lot in these past few issues to give him more depth, and gives him a grande finale here. The irony is that Simonson makes us realize what a great character he could have been, and you regret his death (As Thor says, "Before we left Asgard, Skurge said to me, 'You will not regret it' when he asked to come along. He was wrong."). Of course, the death of an immortal God isn't quite the same as the death of a mortal, so we'll see him again.
A final (and short) battle with Garm...
...and the Asgardians are out of Hel.
Thor opens a portal to Midgard so that he can return the lost souls.
The Hel storyline was a different kind of epic than the Surtwar, but they invite comparison. The war with Surtur was a grand epic, huge in scope, and of course crossed over into other titles, and had a profound and (relatively) lasting affect on Asgard. This Hel story was smaller (a mini-epic?) and more personal, perhaps symbolized by the fact that the lasting damage was to Thor and the Executioner, rather than to Odin and Asgard. This story allowed for more character introspection, although i shouldn't draw too much of a distinction; Simonson's works during this period always manage to find a balance between grand scale combat and character beats.
Thanks to Michael for pointing out where Magma can be found in this issue. I totally missed it.
Hela leaves for Thor #361 towards the end of the X-Men annual, in a scene that Magma is a part of, and Magma's not wearing her New Mutants costume during her adventures in Asgard, so i'm not going to try too hard to place the books based on this easter egg. Since these stories are essentially concurrent, i think we're good.
Quality Rating: A
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor #360-362 is a continuous story with each issue leading directly into the following, but there are other issues that take place concurrently, so i've broken it up into three separate entries. Balder the Brave #1 takes place during Thor #360. And Hela abandons her confrontation with the X-Men in Uncanny X-Men annual #9 due to the events of Thor #361-362. See above for the placement of Magma (or rather, my disregarding the placement of). Thor appears next in Thor #363 and shouldn't appear anywhere else in-between.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
Look very carefully on the second page- there's a tiny picture of a woman in a New Mutants costume. The letters page in Thor 368 implies that this is Magma and her appearance is a result of having consumed faerie food. Don't feel bad that you didn't notice it- the letters page said that nobody who wrote in got the explanation right.
Posted by: Michael | July 5, 2012 11:09 PM
I've added the scan for this. Thanks!
Posted by: fnord12 | July 6, 2012 12:39 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2013 9:49 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2013 9:51 AM
Posted by: Anonymous | April 21, 2013 9:53 AM
How often does a villain get a death scene that is this great? Like with Magneto's "death" in X-Men #3, we get a character who really goes out with a cause and a reason.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 3, 2015 11:40 AM
I have loved this story since the mid-80s. I have told my Friends about it for nearly 30 years... And yet it only recently occurred to me: Skurge wasn't redeeming himself. He was committing suicide.
Posted by: Michael Voyles | January 17, 2016 2:16 AM
He was doing both.He died in Thor's stead but was largely motivated by his own despair.
Posted by: Michael | January 17, 2016 9:04 AM
And f*ck whoever brought back Skurge after this.
Posted by: kveto | March 19, 2016 2:26 PM
Fnord, the theory is that Magma is in a New Mutants uniform here because this is Hel, so this is her soul not actually her body, which was dressed differently in the Asgardian Wars annuals. Partial tip of the hat to The Lightning and the Storm podcast for also pointing that out.
Posted by: Jeff | June 19, 2017 2:59 PM
One of the very highlights of a run full of highlights. Walt really knocked it out of the park with Skurge's last stand.
Skurge and Thor both looking to this mission as a distraction away from their current unhappiness, but Skurge, already feeling the Enchantress has made a fool of him, is then tricked again by an image of the Enchantress, and made to look like he is betraying the Asgardians. He gets revenge on Hela by destroying Naglfar (as Fnord says, the sheer craziness of the boat made of fingernails that has been being built since the dawn of time is a great addition), but with it his axe is destroyed.
Feeling that he has been made a fool of too many times, feeling that he is dead already, he sacrifices himself rather than let the equally troubled Thor do it. Looking back over his shoulder and thinking "Goodbye, Balder", saying goodbye to his life as he watches the living leave him there alone, with the army of Hel approaching closer and closer. But he succeeds in his mission and goes out heroically. The last page of "They sing no songs in Hel... for silent is that dismal realm" with Skurge fading from the page is just beautifully done.
The Enchantress' guilt afterwards, and Thor & Balder's promise to drink to him, also contribute.
I recently saw the "Ragnarok" film which had a fairly bathetic adaptation of Skurge's last stand, with none of its despair or glory. I'd rather they hadn't bothered at all than to pay it such poor tribute.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | May 15, 2018 10:09 AM
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