Issue(s): Thor #381, Thor #382
For issue #381, we start by watching the events of Mephisto vs.... #4 from the perspective of the giants that woke up the Midgard Serpent last issue. Obviously they don't really know what's going on.
It's worth noting that this faction of the frost giants is led by a giant named Grundroth. He's trying to secure a position for himself at the expense of Utgard-Loki, who we saw leading the giants in the Balder the Brave series.
Utgard-Loki resurfaces in these issues as well, but we'll never see a conflict between him and Grundroth thanks to regular, Not-Utgard Loki.
The battle with the Serpent has left Thor not just crippled but literally a mass of jelly inside his armor. We saw in the Mephisto book that his soul is still strong, but he's unable to move. And the giants decide to have some fun with that.
However, Loki has reason to hate the giants, since they attacked him in his castle a few issues back. We saw him last issue at the site of the Destroyer's destruction, and this issue he brings its melted remains to where the giants are toying with Thor, and tricks one of them into stepping on it.
This rebuilds and reactivates the armor...
...and that giant sets about destroying the rest of them, including Grundroth.
There's a cool (if brutal) sequence where Grundroth uses Thor's immortal body to deflect the blast of the Destroyer, and then the Destroyer splits his beam to zap Grundroth from the sides.
With the giants killed, the Destroyer turns to Thor, and attempts to destroy him. But thanks to Hela's curse, it is unable to. Loki seems pleased with the idea of Thor getting blasted by the Destroyer for all eternity.
But, weirdly, as the narration capsule says, for the first time we see the Destroyer thinking to itself.
It thinks that in the past, its undoing has been thanks to the frailty of the mortal forms that have inhabited it, but with Thor's cursed immortality, it would be truly invincible. So it tries to absorb Thor. But instead it finds itself in battle with Thor's soul...
...and Thor wins the fight.
Meanwhile, in Asgard, the Mortensen kids use the potion they got from the ravens in issue #381 to revive Balder. We also find that Volstagg and Hildy are unaffected by the stiffening effect that has paralyzed the rest of Asgard (i'm not sure it's ever said why). Balder surveys the Nine Worlds and realizes that Utgard-Loki is planning an attack on Asgard while it is vulnerable.
So while Thor travels through Hel in the Destroyer armor, passing Garm...
...and Hel's greeter, Modgud...
...Balder, Volstagg, Kurse, and the three kids prepare to defend themselves from the onslaught of frost giants.
In the Destroyer armor, Thor proceeds to smash up Hel.
Seeing this, Loki, having appeared in astral form to talk with his daughter, calls Thor the "luckiest" warrior in addition to the greatest.
As Thorstroyer's rampage goes on, he seemingly loses control of himself and becomes more Destroyer and less Thor...
...to the point where he knocks away the Executioner (although, note, he doesn't destroy him).
The Destroyer had preserved Thor's body in a crystal shell, and by the end of his rampage Hela does all she can to get Thor out of the shell so that she can restore his body and then restore his soul to it. Hela once told Thor that he would end up begging her for death; instead she puts all her hope into restoring him to life.
But it turns out that Thor was faking; he never lost control of the Destroyer armor.
Before Hela considers renewing her curse, Loki arrives to talk some sense into his daughter.
Thor puts the Destroyer armor into a crystal shell and then returns to his own body, which has been made whole again.
Before leaving, he apologizes to the Executioner and promises to finally have that drink for him.
But when Thor leaves, Hela decides to release the Executioner as well, allowing him to go from Hel to Valhalla, where he might actually be able to have a drink with Thor himself.
After Thor and the Executioner are gone, we see that Hela has given up on any hopes beyond her kingdom, but that her motivation seems to have been personal - a secret love for Thor - and not anything like what Mephisto seemed to suspect of her in his mini-series.
Meanwhile, the small group of non-paralyzed Asgardians had been holding their own against the giants...
...but Thor returns to finish them off.
Hela told Thor that Loki was responsible for the paralyzing effect, but it's similar to what Utgard-Loki did to Karnilla's people in the Balder The Brave series, so Thor tells Utgard that he'd better go find a cure, and he does so (it's not said if he also restores Karnilla's people).
With the battle over, Thor takes Balder to have that drink in honor of the Executioner. And Volstagg, who was initially not trusting Kurse, decides to rename him "Valgoth".
With everything seemingly over, Thor pays his brother Loki a visit. Loki claims that since he left the Destroyer armor where Thor might use it, any debts between them are settled.
But Thor doesn't quite agree, and leaves him with a tiny taste of the pain that Loki put Thor through recently.
And with that, we say goodbye to Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema. These last two issues put a nice wrapper on the series. The use of the Destroyer armor was brilliant fun, a great way to get out of the situation with Thor's broken bones. And this arc also checked in on Kurse and Executioner and showed us Balder as a leader. We don't end with a complete restoration of the status quo, obviously. Odin is still missing. And Thor is still in his new armor at the end of this issue.
Simonson's run revitalized a series that was often kind of stogy. He managed to do it not by ignoring Thor's mythological side, and in fact he used those elements even more than many past writers. But he did it with a sense of humor and a craft that kept the stories feeling human and exciting. It's also worth noting the number of connections to the rest of the Marvel universe: an early appearance by Nick Fury, the Surtwar saga that spilled into a number of other titles and especially the Avengers, a crossover with Power Pack, the Mutant Massacre tie-in and subsequent use of Iceman. Despite Thor dealing with lots of Asgardian problems, he was still firmly rooted in the larger Marvel world.
And when Simonson gave up the pencils, Sal Buscema did an amazing job of continuing the top quality art. Sal Buscema is an important artist throughout the Silver and Bronze ages, and his quality continued to improve with his Hulk and ROM runs, but it's here where we saw his versatility.
Tom Defalco and Ron Frenz are now on deck to take the book in a very different direction.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The beginning of this issue is concurrent with Mephisto vs... #4. This book will have fill-ins until issue #386, when Thor gets his beard shaven, so any appearances of Thor with a beard but without Hela's curse (and i am including X-Men vs. the Avengers in that; more in that entry) must appear between this issue and #386.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBalder, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Destroyer (Asgardian armor), Dr. Druid, Executioner, Garm, Grundroth, Gudrun, Hawkeye, Hela, Hildy, Huginn, Iron Man, Kevin Mortensen, Kurse, Loki, Mephisto, Mick Mortensen, Mockingbird, Modgud, Muninn, She-Hulk, Thor, Tigra, Utgard-Loki, Volstagg, Wonder Man
Karnilla's people aren't restored by Utgard-Loki- they're later cured in a New Mutants story.
Posted by: Michael | March 17, 2014 9:36 PM
The best run of Thor ever, and I say that with a great passion for the original Kirby run (which is in second, but Simonson was consistently great while the Kirby run needed a few dozen issues before it really gelled).
The upcoming DeFalco run has some good moments and is enjoyable, but doesn't quite capture the grandeur Simonson did.
Posted by: Chris | March 17, 2014 10:19 PM
I shouldn't have read this but I really needed to know if Simonson's run stops in the middle of a big adventure or not.
Posted by: David Banes | March 17, 2014 11:54 PM
Simonson's run did have a definitive ending, yes.
Agreed about it being the best Thor run, even over what Kirby did.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 18, 2014 1:10 AM
I have a soft spot for DeFalco because I came to Thor during his run. I thought it was a very entertaining run of comics. Yes, it petered out and the Masterson stuff went on too long but for awhile it was a solid series. Now, that isn't to say it's on par with Simonson or Lee/Kirby because it isn't. But I would rank it third. The stuff between Kirby and Simonson is borderline unreadable to me and the stuff since DeFalco has been mostly derivative crap, IMO.
Posted by: Robert | March 18, 2014 8:49 AM
I think there's been some good stuff in Thor after the 80s, although nothing that lasted long, but yeah, a lot of it is so over-rated, and I haven't enjoyed the book for, literally, decades until the current Jason Aaron run.
I couldn't stand the Masterson stuff though, that's where I started to really dislike this book.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | March 18, 2014 8:52 PM
Is there anyone who doesn't think this is the best Thor run?
Not just that, but for me, up there with the all-time great runs on any title (Byrne / Claremont on X-Men, Byrne on FF, Perez / Wolfman on New Teen Titans, Miller on Daredevil, O'Neill / Adams on GL/GA).
If for nothing else, I love the redemption of Skurge, with him heeding to call to defend Asgard, with his quest in Hel, his magnificent death scene, and then his final scenes here and the long-promised drink to his memory. He was a character that was ignored for long stretches and often not used well and in Simonson's run he becomes fantastic.
But, on a personal level, buying these earlier this year in the 5 volume trade set was the first comic purchase I made since I ditched the bulk of my collection in 2009. That's how good a run this is.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 15, 2015 11:50 AM
One of my favorite elements of Simonson's Thor is n display int hat final sequence: the Odinson isn't some brash fool, but rather someone who's been doing this sort of thing for centuries and has more wit that Loki credits him with.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 24, 2015 8:29 PM
Surprised that final splash page wasn't posted. Was a nice ending image for the run and captured the tone of Simonson's Thor nicely in one pic.
Posted by: Scott | January 3, 2016 4:41 PM
I'm not sure there's much point in discussing our personal opinions in this forum, but I agree that Simonson's run is overrated. The art was awesome, at least at first, but the writing lacked the depth, the details, the characterization that a professional writer, as opposed to an artist who writes, brings to the table. In addition, it's simply hard to write a sympathetic story when your protagonist is arguably the most powerful character in the universe, and royalty besides. This is a problem shared by the Inhuman royal family, and to a lesser extent, the Black Panther.
Posted by: Andrew | October 14, 2017 9:32 AM
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