Issue(s): Thor #406, Thor #407, Thor #408
To rescue the kidnapped Eric Masterson, Thor flies to Wundagor and finds that the High Evolutionary's castle has been "recently restored".
While the Mongoose sends missiles and New Men after Thor...
..the mysterious guy that has been partnering him appears to Eric and reveals that he is the New Man called Count Tagar, and he explains that while Mongoose isn't a New Man, they serve the same master.
That said, Tagar isn't on board with Mongoose's attack on Thor.
Count Tagar then gets an alert that the High Evolutionary has been located, so he calls off the fight and invites Thor in to help. The Mongoose slips away, and Eric is released to Thor. Despite the recent attacks, Thor immediately agrees to help the New Men, in part due to the fact that locating the High Evolutionary will also bring him to his missing friend, Hercules.
Eric Masterson insists on going along as well, so the New Men give him a battlesuit.
Meanwhile, out in space, the Rigellians - who Ron Frenz can draw all day as far as i am concerned - discover something amiss in the nearby Black Galaxy.
And that is also where the High Evolutionary and Hercules have been found.
The Rigellians sends a Null Bomb into the Black Galaxy, which is also called the Bio-Verse because it is a living universe (it's where Ego the Living Planet comes from). They also send in the Recorder to confirm that the bomb destroys whatever is causing the disturbance.
Statement: I think the Recorder is awesome.
And that disturbance is giant ghost forms of Hercules and the High Evolutionary, who continue to battle each other in their supposedly super-evolved forms.
The Recorder informs Thor's party about the Null bomb.
And Thor decides that matters are serious enough to pull out his battle armor. Because Eric recognizes the bag, this gives up Thor's Sigurd Jarlson identity. Thor says that's ok because "Nevermore shall he masquerade as Sigurd Jarlson. Nevermore shall he assume any guise... save his own!". Well, that first part is true, anyway.
There's a plot in here about how some of the New Men are secretly allied with the Mongoose, but they all die while being won over by Thor's heroism. Of more immediate interest is the fact that the creatures that Thor encounters in the Bio-Verse are the same as what he saw when he went into the brain of a Celestial in Thor #387-389.
One of the creatures causes instantaneous aging, which kills one of the New Men but just causes the immortal Thor to grow a beard.
I'm fairly certain that the white hair is just a coloring mistake.
As Thor says, the mind reels at the possibilities that the Bio-Verse is related to the Celestials...
...and that gets teased out when Thor's surviving group locates the bomb.
In the area where the bomb landed there are a group of Celestial helmets. Is the idea that the Bio-Verse material eventually fills those helmets and that's how new Celestials are born? Adding to the intrigue is the fact that, after the bomb is disabled, it's discovered that the High Evolutionary and Hercules have also wound up stuck in two of those helmets.
Neither the Evolutionary nor Hercules show any sign of actually being evolved in intelligence or personality; they've just woken up without bodies (and the images of them battling in the sky seem to just be afterimages). Hercules encourages Thor to just smash the helmets to get them out, which he does at the same time that the living Celestial that is in the area blasts them.
Images of beauty, horror, joy, and sadness pour out, and then the characters are blasted across the universe for "hours" before things settle down. They find that the Celestial blast has actually repaired the Recorder as well as Thor's torn cape.
Note that Thor's beard is still colored white, but it's possible that that's the coloring error and Thor was actually aged and then de-aged thanks to the Celestial; his beard is colored blond for the remainder of this issue. But the bigger news of course is that Hercules and the High Evolutionary have been restored.
Note that no conclusions are drawn regarding what was seen in the Bio-Verse. Some cool theories can be drawn from this. I assume the basic idea is that the Bio-Verse is indeed a birthing ground for new Celestials and that High Evolutionary and Hercules wound up there because in their super-evolved forms they were either ready to become Celestials or were similar enough to the Bio-Verse material that they got sucked in. The fact that they completely retained their existing personalities would have to be explained; perhaps they weren't worthy to be Celestials in some way so by sticking them in the helmets the Celestials were actually draining off their extra-evolved energy or something.
I also wonder if the implication is that Ego the Living Planet is a mass of proto-Celestial material that somehow reached consciousness before getting put into a new Celestial.
Anyway, Thor, Hercules, and Eric go home to return the High Evolutionary to the New Men.
I know this is kind of mean, but i wish Eric would shut up about his kid already. Every other panel it's "I can't wait to tell Kevin about this". I wonder if we've reached the flip side of the point of view character; instead of inserting kid sidekicks for the audience to relate to, the average reader is now old enough that they have kids themselves, so our relatable characters are parents. Although we're still sort of channeling vicariously through the (anticipated) excitement of the kid.
As for the fact that Thor is returning the guy that was recently waging Evolutionary War back to Earth, that's left with a "We shall talk later!".
We do still have the Mongoose lurking around, but the most important thing on Thor's mind is a shave.
Now that he's back on Earth, Thor feels a momentary weakness, which seems to be related to being on Earth that may mean that he has to return to Asgard forever.
Notice that Count Tagar, despite his earlier break from Mongoose, is still interested in collecting genetic material from Thor to create a new race of gods.
And here's the promised talk between Thor and the High Evolutionary. Basically, the Evolutionary has decided to go study the Black Galaxy some more.
That looks familiar.
If you're wondering what the heck the point of bringing the High Evolutionary back so soon after the Evolutionary War was, here's my thoughts. In X-Factor annual #3, we saw that the High Evolutionary felt like he was racing against time, and we eventually learned that it was because the Fantastic Four were investigating the beings called the Beyonders, and the Evolutionary was afraid that they would come and do something to humanity, so he was trying to get humanity ready. His schemes all failed, but obviously the Beyonders haven't come and done anything to Earth in the meantime, so the Evolutionary's concerns seem to have been unfounded. We don't see the Evolutionary recognize that explicitly, but obviously he's back on Earth now and nothing has happened, so i'd say a quiet retreat into space is exactly the face-saving move that is necessary. In any event, the High Evolutionary's exploration of the Bio-Verse will be revisited in DeFalco's run.
But for now, we still have the Mongoose to contend with.
Hercules gets knocked aside early, so it's just Thor vs. the Mongoose.
Well, Thor and Eric Masterson. And Thor thinks to himself, "Never did I dream that Mongoose was so formidable a foe. E'en without his uncanny speed, his strength is easily the equal of a deadly rock troll." I'm assuming that's a compliment. Thor is getting battered by the Mongoose, so Eric decides he needs to jump in.
And he briefly picks up Thor's hammer before getting blasted.
Hercules returns at this point and the Mongoose flees rather than fight both him and Thor. But Eric is dying. Earlier in this issue we were told that Thor had one remaining charge on his hammer to make contact back with Odin in Asgard. And Thor uses it now, not to return home as Odin hoped, but to ask for Eric to be saved. And Odin agrees, although he says that the cost is high.
And we then jump ahead to Eric returning home with his friend "Harry Cleese", and later we see that Eric has now been merged with Thor.
In the lettercol for issue #406, this restoration to a Donald Blake style status quo is confirmed as the promised changed that i mentioned was promised in the lettercol for Thor #402. Ironically, that promise was in response to someone complaining that Thor had become too retro and too obviously a mimicry of the Silver Age. So in response to complaints about that, DeFalco is making the book even more like Silver Age Thor. The mind boggles.
Another comment on the retro nature of these books. It's not just that all these elements are core Kirby concepts. If you look back at Thor #131-133, you'll see that Thor is with the Rigellians and exploring the Bio-Verse at the same time we're being introduced to Tagar and the other New Men for the story that leads into the introduction of the High Evolutionary. So it's not just a retro look or a return to Kirby ideas; it's literally the same concepts from specific Kirby issues just jumbled up a bit. Definitely crosses the line from homage to rehash. Beautiful imitation Kirby art and cool concepts, but what's the point? Especially since DeFalco won't commit to any new information about the Celestials.
Also like those older issues, there are Tales of Asgard back-ups in two of the issues here. I haven't been covering them since i don't think they'll have any impact on current continuity, and in a way that's even more accurate than i realized. In one of the previous issues, there was a Tale that showed a first meeting between Thor and Sif that contradicted all previous information about her, and the first of the stories here shows Thor and the Warriors Three being present while an Asgardian wizard named Ulagg creates life on Earth with a twig from Yggdrasil the World Tree. When questioned about these contradictions in the lettercol for issue #408, the response is "Maybe you should just go with the one you like best!".
The Tales of Asgard back-ups are good as artists showcases, though, for Tony DeZuniga in #406...
...and Mike Mignola in #408.
And i would be remiss if i didn't mention that the Mignola story introduces Uroc, a creature made entirely out of Uru. Uroc will appear again in modern days, so i guess that's one Tales of Asgard story that does have some relevance.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I've just left a little room for Thor to catch his breath and fly to Wundagore between last arc and this one. Since this does more or less continue directly from last arc, and since last arc has to take place after Avengers #304, that means that it's the bonded Eric Masterson Thor that appears in Avengers #305-310, even though there's no indication of that and it raises some (minor) questions about Odin's actions in that arc.
I should also mention that the MCP has Eric Masterson's estranged wife Marcy appearing in both Thor #405 (last arc) and #406 here. Unless she's disguised in full body New Man armor or hiding under the couch in the scenes with Susan Austin and Kevin, i don't see her in either issue, and i haven't listed her. I'm also not sure if the living Celestial that appears in the Black Galaxy is one that has been named; the MCP does not list any specific Celestials as appearing so i assume not.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): show
FNORD - I'm not sure why you think this Bio-Verse was used previously for birthing Celestials. I assumed it was a new place that they decided to use for this next Celestial birth because of the arrival of the High Evolutionary and Hercules. I thought that was what drew them to it in the first place.
Posted by: clyde | October 5, 2014 5:46 PM
You'd think the Evolutionary could be bothered to destroy the tech he left with the Savage Land Mutates, since that will cause problems in future X-Men issues.
Posted by: Michael | October 5, 2014 5:47 PM
Clyde, your interpretation could be correct too, but i'd wonder why there were so many other Celestial helmets in so many different sizes sitting around. Perhaps the Black Galaxy Saga circa Thor #419 will offer some clarification that you already know; it seems pretty undefined at this point.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 5, 2014 6:17 PM
I never got the impression that those helmets were there the whole time. I figured they were brought there at this point in time to start the birthing process.
Posted by: clyde | October 5, 2014 6:53 PM
IIRC the Tales backups do become more relevant later in the run, with the backup stories eventually paying off in the main stories.
Posted by: Robert | October 5, 2014 6:59 PM
"Another comment on the retro nature of these books. It's not just that all these elements are core Kirby concepts. If you look back at Thor #131-133, you'll see that Thor is with the Rigellians and exploring the Bio-Verse at the same time we're being introduced to Tagar and the other New Men for the story that leads into the introduction of the High Evolutionary. So it's not just a retro look or a return to Kirby ideas; it's literally the same concepts from specific Kirby issues just jumbled up a bit. Definitely crosses the line from homage to rehash. Beautiful imitation Kirby art and cool concepts, but what's the point? Especially since DeFalco won't commit to any new information about the Celestials."
FNORD - Having never read those early Thor issues, this was all new to me. I had no idea those stories existed. (This was before I knew of your site, of course).
Posted by: clyde | July 10, 2015 1:58 PM
After all the greatness of Simonson, including finally getting rid of the Don Blake concept that had been an increasing drag, now we just reverse all of that? That's not retro, that's just stupid.
Another retro bit is Hercules suddenly going back to his old costume.
I never much liked Hercules but I have to admit he has two fantastic lines in this one:
"We must honor this joyous homecoming in a manner befitting the occasion! Bring on the dancing girls! The minstrels! And an ocean of wine!"
"Thou hast the fashion sense of a blind ogre! None else would parade about in a gaudy crimson cape and an absurd winged helmet!"
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 27, 2015 7:09 AM
I dug my copies of Thor by DeFalco & Frenz out of storage, and I'm currently re-reading them. As I've mentioned in other comments, while I definitely found these comic books much more exciting & cool when I was a teenager, at 41 years old they're still entertaining.
I don't see Thor bonding with Eric Masterson as exactly a restoration of the Don Blake status quo. It was established quite a ways back that Blake was actually an artificial identity constructed by Odin, i.e. Blake was just Thor with amnesia. In contrast, it is very clear that Eric Masterson is a completely separate person from Thor, with his own history & personality. So, to split hairs, yes, it's similar, but it's not the same.
So what the heck is Mongoose anyway? For years I thought he was one of the High Evolutionary's New Men, but re-reading these issues I see that I had forgotten that Tagar explicitly says he isn't one of them. Maybe I should ask Tom DeFalco on Facebook... assuming he remembers after all these years!
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 8, 2017 3:53 PM
Ben, the 'blake status quo' refers to the fact that for years they hadn't explained why Thor shared his existence with a, as far as we knew, a completely different being.
Donald Blake and Thor were two actually different beings until the explanation came (in 1969!) that Blake wasn't real.
Posted by: will | December 16, 2017 2:46 PM
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