Issue(s): Thor #387, Thor #388, Thor #389
Speaking of my preconceptions, i tend to think of the Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz team as being at their best with very down-to-Earth stories, which is one of the reasons i think Thor gets replaced with Eric Masterson during their run. So i am surprised to see them kicking off their run with a much more cosmic tale, and pulling it off relatively well.
That said, this is about as down-to-Earth a Celestial story as you can imagine (well, aside from the Beyonder beating them up to impress Boom Boom) and i don't know that i love some of the implications of the Celestial purpose that come out of this story.
As an executive summary, Thor winds up on a random planet, finds that it has been judged and found wanting by the Celestials, tries to stop them from destroying it, fails, and finds out that things aren't as bad as they seemed anyway.
The planet in question is Pangoria, and it seems to be populated by a wide hodgepodge of creatures.
But the dominant species seem to be blue and pink skinned humanoids. I would say that this means that they are of Kree stock, except that wouldn't fit with the fact that the Celestials are judging them.
To explain, in a tangent that will contain more than a little conjecture on my part, my understanding is that the Celestials come to a world and mess with the genetic structure of the dominant species, creating Eternal, Deviant, and normal (or "latent", per Silver Surfer #5) variants. And we know that the Celestials did this to the Kree, and i believe the idea is that it's the Eternal strain of the Kree that won out, and subsequently spread out and colonized a large segment of the galaxy. So it wouldn't make sense for the Celestials to show up on one of the colonial worlds. The blue folks on Pangoria also seem to all be extra stocky, which is another reason why my Kree idea is wrong (the reason i go to the Kree thing is just to try to explain why there are so many blue and pink humanoid aliens in the Marvel universe). Although these blue guys could also just be stocky because the ones we see are all pirates.
Their leader is Pegas the Pirate King.
And Tom DeFalco makes us very aware of the fact that he's a self-interested jerk by having him repeatedly state that he's only interested in escaping the planet with his own life, the rest of his people be damned.
Thor, on the other hand, after rejecting the advances of Pegas' pink-skinned assistant Myla...
...decides to fight the Celestials. It's an interesting perspective. Thor has to know that the Celestials (and, for that matter, Galactus) go all around the universe destroying planets. And he's never made an effort to stop them. But he's willing to put his life on the line for people he knows nothing about because he happens to be on a planet where the Celestials are acting. To be clear, i don't think that's bad characterization. It's a very human response, and a heroic, if reactive, one. But it is a futile gesture.
Thor dons his battle armor for going up against the Celestials. It doesn't look quite right without his beard.
I've been saying "Celestials" all along, but to start with, there's only one: Arishem.
I have to admit my Celestial recognition isn't up to par, so while i was reading this i got confused and thought this was the same Celestial currently appearing in the aforementioned Silver Surfer #5. That is actually Jemiah (you'd think i could at least remember red vs. green!). My confusion was reinforced by the script telling us on at least two occasions that it's possible that Celestials can appear in multiple places at the same time, which i thought might be covering for a scheduling mishap.
I guess instead it's a way to use Celestials repeatedly while honoring the original "judge for 50 years" idea.
At the end of the first issue, a second Celestial shows up. One that we haven't seen before, and one that towers over Arishem: Exitar.
We haven't seen Celestials actually execute a judgement on a planet prior to this, and the idea is that this giant Celestial is the one that shows up when a judgement is complete.
Thor had been ineffectually attacking Arishem, and now he flies to the head of Arishem...
...and unleashes his mightiest blow, which creates a small hole in his helmet.
Thor, of course, jumps in!
Being in a Celestial brain is going to be psychedelic...
...but things do settle down and Defalco and Frenz give Thor some stuff to fight.
The Celestial anti-bodies or whatever destroy Thor's armor.
Between the shaving of his beard last issue and the destruction of his armor here, it's clear we're getting Thor back to his basic look. But if you're going to do that, having Thor's new armor dissolve in the brain of a Celestial is certainly the least objectionable way.
I should also note that Thor declares that Exitar's brain is giving off an aura of "evil".
More stuff to fight:
After defeating that, Thor turns his attention to the central structure in the brain. He wraps his Belt of Strength around Mjolnir...
..and unleashes a blast that cracks open the dome, although it slags the Belt and Mjolnir in the process.
Thor persists, fighting more of those dome guardians and then eventually making it inside the dome. This causes Exitar to really take notice of him for the first time, and he starts sifting through Thor's memories. Which, oddly, include the cover image of Avengers #261, which Thor wasn't even in.
I guess Thor is also a fan of Roger Stern's Avengers run.
While Thor is inside Exitar, Myla has a change of heart and leaves Pegas to go and die with the citizens of Pangoria, spending her (expected) last moments comforting children. Thor is expelled from Exitar and he joins her.
Meanwhile, Arishem and Exitar begin the process of extermination.
But it turns out that they aren't planning to exterminate the entire planet. Instead, while the majority of the populace seems to be wiped out, Myla, the children, and other pink-skinned Pangorians watch as Pangoria is transformed into a lush garden world. A "replicoid" of Thor shows up to explain.
Thor is admonished to never interfere in the affairs of the Celestials again, and then all of his stuff is restored (Mjolnir and presumably the battle armor and Belt of Strength too).
Thor is then told to get off of Pangoria before he pollutes its now purified genetics (hey, Myla was making moves on him before). He's then teleported to Earth. Thor wonders why Earth and not Asgard; he must have forgotten that Earth was his intended destination before he accidentally wound up in Pangorian space due to the broken Rainbow Bridge.
I guess to revise my musings above, the blue Pangorians were the dominant species, with them being the Eternals and the pinks being the norms (or vice versa?), while the various additional aliens were the Deviants? You might say i'm thinking about this too hard, but what happens on this planet doesn't seem to fit well with what i understand of the Celestial's purposes. Based, granted, on very, little, i thought the idea was that the Celestials would create the three strains and then wait it out to see which strain worked out the best, and then judged the planet based on whatever mysterious goal they had in mind. Instead, here, it seems to be a straightforward case of conventional morality - the blue guys were evil, so they were destroyed, and now the pinks have been given a second chance. Clearly that can't be the case or Earth's Deviants would have been wiped out long ago and the Skrulls would never have been allowed to prosper. I guess we'll have to chalk it up to the Celestials being, as Thor says, unfathomable, but it sure doesn't feel unfathomable in this story. It's also worth remembering that Steve Englehart is working with the Celestials concurrently in Silver Surfer, and we'll soon be seeing a different interpretation of them.
I can't help think of Roy Thomas' reason for deciding to bring the Celestials into the Marvel universe, which was basically that if he didn't do it, someone else would later do it, and poorly. Arrogant, perhaps, but you can kind of see his point here. Because while Thomas did bring them into the MU, he didn't make an attempt to explain their purpose, and what we see here from DeFalco kind of demystifies and defangs them a bit. From Kirby's original Eternals series, some of the Celestials have always had modifiers to their names ("Jemiah the Analyzer", etc.) but they were never really explained. With the introduction of Exitar, DeFalco defines a specific process, and it makes things a bit mundane and operational. This isn't really DeFalco's fault except in the sense that he took it upon himself to create definitions for the Celestials and going from a Kirby-esque mystery to any rational explanation is bound to result in some disappointment. And to be fair, DeFalco still leaves a lot undefined.
Also, don't let my quibbles and over-analysis distract from the fact that this is Thor facing off against Celestials, drawn in a retro-Silver Age style by Ron Frenz, and it's all very cool. Tom DeFalco's scripting style is already being criticized in the lettercol as an "overbearing similarity to Stan Lee's". This gets to the interesting dichotomy of the Tom DeFalco (as Editor in Chief) era: while some books are becoming increasingly dark, others are regressing into a very retro style. At least it gave readers a range of choices.
While all of this is going on, the Asgardians are busy dealing with an attack from the minions of the Egyptian god Set.
Or maybe it's the forces of Cobra-La?
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: We shouldn't leave Thor floating in space too long, so i've pushed this back into 1988.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showArishem, Balder, Exitar, Heimdall, Thor, Thor Replicoid
I think it was an error to make Exitar bigger than the other celestials. "Size matters not".
Posted by: Chris | May 7, 2014 10:06 PM
I don't think the blue Kree in general are Eternals because we find out a few years from now that the Demon Druid that Thor fought at Stonehenge is in fact Ultimus, the last Kree Eternal.
My recollection is that Engelhart in Silver Surfer also positions the Kree as evolutionarily stagnant. I inferred that this was as if baseline earth humans had lost their potential for mutation. Engelhart also does some decent work in Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four to re mystify the Celestials: Engelhart's New Age schtick works pretty well with them, and I prefer his take to DeFalco's. We haven't seen the worst of the latter yet--just wait to we get to the Watchers/Celestials war during his FF run.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | May 7, 2014 10:58 PM
This is the story where I first started collecting Thor. As someone who really doesn't care about the Celestials or Eternals or most of Marvel's cosmic stuff, I enjoyed this a lot. Ron Frenz's retro style was refreshing at the time and holds up pretty well today, I think.
Posted by: Robert | May 8, 2014 4:35 AM
The dome guardian seems to be the love child of the 4th Sleeper and Cerberus.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 9, 2014 6:00 PM
If you think DeFalco defangs and demystifies the Celestials here, wait until you get to the latter parts of his Fantastic Four run in a few years.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 25, 2015 3:52 PM
I always thought that the pink-skinned humanoids (like Myla) were the native dominant race while the stockier blue-skinned humanoids (led by "Pegas the Pirate King") were aliens who had conquered the planet and now ruled it. Myla did tell Thor that "pirates" had settled on Pangoria because it was a small world far from the main spaceways, and that these pirates had conquered the native inhabitants "a few hundred years" earlier and had been using Pangoria as a haven ever since.
It seemed to me that Exitar had acted to cleanse Pangoria of the non-natives whose "impure" presence had contaminated the Celestials' plans for the planet. The fact that those whom he destroyed were "evil" seems to be almost coincidental. Then again, all of the children who survived seem to have facial features that were less human than Myla and more like the pirates. Oddly, all of the survivors, even the less human-looking children, had pink skin.
As for the Kree, their history with the Celestials has never been revealed. The fact that Demon Druid was retconned into being a Kree Eternal named Ultimus has never been examined and nothing is known about what happened to the other Kree Eternals. Plus, nothing whatsoever has ever been revealed about the Kree Deviants, not even their appearance, so they're an even bigger mystery. Maybe writer Al Ewing will incorporate that idea into the current storyline in the new ongoing Royals series. Or not.
Posted by: Don Campbell | May 28, 2017 4:35 PM
If you think this story demystifizes the Eternals, wait until you get Jason Aaron's Thanos Rising.
Posted by: CaptainMar-Vell92 | January 9, 2018 5:12 AM
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