Issue(s): Thor #396, Thor #397, Thor #398, Thor #399, Thor #400
There really was no doubt of DeFalco and Frenz's respect for, or even idolization of, Lee and Kirby, but this run that restores Odin to Asgard really is the perfect love note to them.
We begin with Thor giving Hogun a blood transfusion.
Hogun then tells Thor about Seth's invasion of Asgard, but holds back the fact that Seth has marked him (Hogun) for death. Thor also gains the aid of the Earth Force characters, who show up to apologize for attacking him in the previous arc.
Seth is unperturbed that Thor now knows about his plans.
Since the Rainbow Bridge is destroyed, Thor and company are still trapped on Earth. But Thor has a plan for that. Thor adds the Black Knight to his party and they all head over to the Vault, where Seth's minion Grog is being held.
And they let Grog go, knowing that he'll open up a portal back to the mystic realms.
Thor is pretty enthusiastic about fighting all of Seth's minions, but the Earth Force guys are less sure, and Wind Warrior has a little freak out.
However, Thor's confidence is less solid after Balder - who doesn't know that Thor is working his way back to Asgard - summons Thor's power for himself to fight the main prong of Seth's assault. Thor and his companions wind up getting captured.
You saw that guy in the orb behind Seth above. We learn that he's a prisoner of Seth as well.
Even with Thor's power, Balder is struck down in battle...
...and we see that something is interfering with his normal invulnerability to everything except mistletoe (which is not something that Balder is normally seen relying upon).
Seth, meanwhile, pays a visit to Loki.
But when Loki hears that Seth intends to extinguish the Flame of Life, he teleports away. And he's there in astral form when Thor breaks out of his chains, outraged over the fact that Grog is wielding Mjolnir (possible because of Balder's power drain). Thor and his group force Grog to tell them the source of Seth's power, and that leads them to the orb. The guy in it turns out to be Bes, God of Luck.
Loki secretly lends Thor some of his strength to help him defeat Seth.
Back in Asgard, Seth releases the Harpies of Doom.
And Wind Warrior has joined up with the Lost Ones, gods that Seth has drained of their power. That explains where the rest of the Egyptian gods are.
Speaking of Gods, Heimdall is struck down in battle, causing Enchantress to cry out in a primal scream that transcends time and space, and we see a bunch of gods from other pantheons.
It better transcend time, since one of those gods is Dionysus, who based on my placement is running a bar on Earth at this point.
Enchantress then goes out after Seth, but is struck down and taken prisoner. However, the Celtic gods show up after that to help the Asgardians.
And back in Seth's dimension, Bes leads Thor and his group to another prisoner, Odin.
The battle in the heavens is such that even Eric and Kevin Masterson see signs of it on Earth.
The Asgardians and Celts manage to push Seth's forces back, but that causes divisions between them as they debate whether or not to pursue. Note that's the Celtic druid Dagda, not Volstagg, on the bottom left.
And that's Karnilla and Haag on the bottom right. Karnilla debates helping Asgard, but she's using all her powers to hide her own domain from Seth.
The battle continues on all fronts.
Balder goes one on one with Seth, but while they fight, assassins prepare to shoot Balder down. Lorelei jumps into the path of the shots.
Balder is nonetheless struck down by Seth, and Thor's power returns to him.
Odin senses the need to return to Asgard, and all of Thor's companions go with him. But Thor himself is given the Odin power and sent after Surtur, whose battle with Odin was interrupted when Seth captured the All Father.
Thor grows to match Surtur in size, and as they toss buildings back and forth, Grog incidentally dies.
The battle in Asgard continues...
...and it turns out that Balder isn't dead. Karnilla saved him at the last minute.
Meanwhile, Heimdall is back on his feet, and holding a giant shield with an H on it. He's joined by a gun-wielding Volstagg and Fandral.
Here's another one of the Celtic gods, Caber.
And as the battle turns, here's Earth Force taking on Seth.
He defeats them and transforms into a giant serpent.
As he did in Avengers, the Black Knight continues to tell us in every panel he appears in how his body is getting stiffer and stiffer. But eventually it actually matters. He finally becomes completely paralyzed.
When Hogun hears that he's become an extension of his sword, he does the only logical thing.
Meanwhile, Thor and Surtur's battle takes them across time and space, to Atlantis...
Thor eventually defeats Surtur, and then Odin absorbs Surtur's essence.
The Earth Force characters are healed and sent back to Earth, and Thor requests leave to return to Earth to find a cure for the Black Knight, and the request is granted.
It's a very simple, straightforward battle. Compared to Walt Simonson's run it may seem overly simple, and i definitely feel like it downgrades Surtur to a degree. But compared to the overly long epics of Gerry Conway or Roy Thomas' Thor overly complex and long epics, i vastly prefer this more streamlined approach. And there's very clearly a love of the source material, with the Thor/Surtur battle allowing DeFalco and Frenz to include some other Lee/Kirby locations (and Atlantis). I think the key to enjoying this stuff is understanding the retro nature of it. Compared to Walt Simonson's Thor, or other stuff going on concurrently in, say, X-Men, this will feel old fashioned. But at its best, this run's deliberately old fashioned storytelling is enjoyable in its own right.
There are a number of back-up features in issue #400 that i won't cover in detail: a feature on Thor's hammer, a pin-up of Thor's love interests, and a Tale of Asgard with the Warriors Three. But there's also a Thor/Hercules arm-wrestling match where you can see Defalco acknowledging his hokey-ness.
And unrelated to anything else, the final back-up is worth showing a few panels from. It's another Tales of Asgard, written by a Randall Frenz, but it's got really nice art from Charles Vess.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This begins after the Avengers break up in Avengers #297 (it's possible that the first few pages of issue #396 actually take place before the last page of Avengers #297). I'm allowing a period of recovery for Hogun in the hospital before the blood transfusion, which is also when Avengers #295-297 takes place. Note that while Thor and Surtur's battle takes place across time and space, the panel with the Inhumans is said to take place at the "precise moment" as the previous scene in the comic, which is the Enchantress lamenting Lorelei's injuries. Based on that, i've included the identifiable Inhumans as characters appearing, although the MCP actually places them earlier in publication time.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (12): show
You refer to Hogun as Heimdall several times in the article.
Posted by: Michael | August 6, 2014 9:53 PM
Fixed the Hogun/Heimdall thing, thanks.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 6, 2014 10:09 PM
Those Vess scans look Nowlan-esque, never thought of them as similar before.
Posted by: cullen | August 7, 2014 12:11 AM
Thor 400 contains the worst pinup of Sif I've ever seen.
Posted by: Jeff | June 13, 2015 12:01 PM
I am a fan of the Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz era of Thor. Following up Walter Simonson's brilliant, groundbreaking run would have been a thankless task for anyone. Given that, DeFalco & Frenz did good work. Yes, their stories were definitely retro, deliberately intending to evoke the original Kirby & Lee stories. But, like Fnord, I find their issues much more entertaining than much of the material that ran in Thor throughout most of the 1970s and early 80s.
Perhaps it also helps that I read these issues when I was a teenager. I was just the right age to really enjoy the work DeFalco & Frenz did on Thor, and then on Thunderstrike. I admit that re-reading some of these issues two decades later they seem clunky at times. But I still like them.
DeFalco was at a convention in NYC a few months ago and I really had to resist the urge to bring along a gigantic stack of comic books for him to autograph. As it was, I ended up asking him to sign about ten books for me, which he was happy to do, especially since I got them all personalized. He seems like a nice guy.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 14, 2015 2:53 PM
Randall Frenz's backups do a lot of work to make Loki really, really, evil practically form birth which honestly makes him a lot less interesting.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 28, 2015 9:36 PM
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