Issue(s): Thor #431, Thor #432, Thor #433
Anyway, this arc has a significant change for Thor. He's already been merged with Eric Masterson, but this arc gets rid of Thor entirely giving Eric the power of Thor. Instead of Eric transforming into Thor, with Thor's traditional personality, Eric's personality will be in charge the whole time. So even though Eric has been sharing Thor's body and memories for a while now, this change starts a period where Eric is a "newbie Thor". It's definitely a shake-up for the book.
We start with Loki and the Wrecker. Loki captured the Wrecker in the previous arc, and since then he's been torturing him and absorbing his Asgardian power. He also delves into the Wrecker's background, giving us an unnecessary and generic motivation for the Wrecker; he was the product of an abusive father.
Meanwhile, the Enchantress, who has been quietly manipulating poor Susan Austin, finally pushes her over the edge into fullblown mind control.
Susan kidnaps Eric's son Kevin and brings her to the Enchantress and Ulik, both of whom are working for Loki. Susan is then found by Eric and his ex-wife, Marcy, but she doesn't remember what happened. Eric goes looking for Kevin as Thor and finds Loki's building a little earlier than expected, so Ulik is sent out to delay him while Loki finishes up absorbing the Wrecker's power.
The Enchantress flees when she hears that Loki intends to truly kill Thor, which is apparently against a law set by Odin that Asgardians may not kill other Asgardians.
Ulik is defeated...
...but a powered up Loki comes out next.
We are into the Ron Frenz art now.
The battle between Thor and Loki causes the Asgardian Vizier to proclaim that an Asgardian will die, but he doesn't know which one, and no one wants to wake Odin, who is sleeping in his adorable pajamas from Journey Into Mystery #118.
Mephisto is pretty sure it's going to be Thor, though.
Thor manages to rescue Kevin and get him to Code: Blue for safety.
Thor tries to get Loki to relinquish his hate for him, but Loki will not. Thor says that he cannot bring himself to kill Loki. But then Loki blasts into the crowd of bystanders, injuring Susan Austin.
The bolt was actually headed for Marcy and Kevin, but the Enchantress, worried that Susan might implicate her in Loki's scheme, caused Susan to be aware of the blast and take the hit instead.
Enraged by Loki's act, Thor does (seemingly) kill him.
This wakes up Odin, who is enraged. Heimdall is sent to deliver his punishment. Thor asks only that the Earth not be left without a protector.
And so Thor is "henceforth banished for all eternity" and seemingly fills Mephisto's soul shroud...
...and Eric Masterson becomes "the new Thor".
Eric's first fight as Thor is against Ulik, who attacks the hospital where Susan is being treated. Code: Blue actually seemed to have things in hand, so Eric just screws things up.
Ulik is able to escape. Erik then awkwardly avoids talking to the Avengers.
If i were in his shoes, i would go directly to the Avengers for help. Well, after i flew around the city shouting "Whooohoooo!" a bunch of times. But flying is actually a problem. Erik seems to have control of his abilities when he doesn't think about it, but when he does think about it, it's a problem.
But he takes some time to practice, and then his first act upon getting home is to sketch up a new costume for himself.
Eric can still transform between his human (Eric) form and Thor, but he's now got a secret ID when he's Thor as well.
Here's the new costume.
In Erik's rematch with Ulik, we see a different fighting style, one that is less "honorable" than the real Thor's.
He's the Thor of the 90s.
And in the 90s, the good guys play hardball too.
It's kind of sad to see nostalgia buffs Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz turning one of the most classic and heroic of Marvel's Silver Age characters into a reflection of the 90s attitude towards violence, but, for DeFalco at least, it's not surprising. He is of course also the Editor in Chief at this time. He's aware of what's selling, and he's helped design books like Darkhawk that are trying to capture that same zeitgeist (in his debut, Darkhawk said things nearly identical to what Eric-Thor says here about the heroes of the 90s). The situation does also provide the opportunity to do stories about a character learning the ropes of super-heroism, which seems like something closer to Defalco's true sensibilities, but you can see from the above that in issue #433 alone we already transitioned from that to his new rougher fighting style.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Wrecker has been a prisoner of Loki since last arc and shouldn't appear elsewhere in between (and i don't think there's a time limit on how long he's been held). Thor and Eric Masterson are split in this arc, with Thor not being seen again until Thor #457 and Eric becoming a new Thor, easily distinguished by his beard. This entry could probably be broken up with a gap between Thor #431-432 and Thor #433 but it seems like they take place in short succession. I originally had issues #434-435 in this entry as well, as reflected in some of the Comments below, but i've split them out to make room for Infinity Gauntlet.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): show
Sif is borrowing Karnilla's look from the mid-80's.
Posted by: david banes | September 23, 2015 2:20 PM
I've made no secret of my fondness for the DeFalco-Frenz run. I admit it's part nostalgia based but still, for the most part, they're fun uncomplicated comics I enjoy. I welcomed this status quo change at the time. I liked Eric and I thought the last few issues before this were not the greatest. I was old enough to love the real Thor while young enough to enjoy the new "cool" one. Plus I knew it was a temporary thing, like with Cap and Iron Man and Green Lantern before. I was fine with that more than I would be as I grew older and these sorts of stunts started to get on my nerves. When I started to dislike this particular storyline was when it became apparent DeFalco was really going to do nothing special with the concept of Eric as Thor. Then I started looking forward to #450, assuming that would be when real Thor came back. I'll save my thoughts and feelings on that until we get there but that marked the beginning of the end for me as a regular Thor reader.
Posted by: Robert | September 23, 2015 2:55 PM
Fitting these issues into Infinity Gauntlet is impossible. "Odin" is awake and Thor is trying to hide his identity when She-Hulk and Captain America are present. (Although, it's possible that Eric trusted Cap but not Jen for some reason.)
Posted by: Michael | September 23, 2015 9:52 PM
What is it with the 1990s and this "I can't be bothered to avoid answering violence with anything more mature than further violence" attitude so eloquently expressed by Eric in these stories (but seen aplenty elsewhere)?
Did anything happen that triggered such a noticeable wave of immaturity in readers?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 23, 2015 10:14 PM
Sorry, my wording in the previous piece became overtricked, garbled.
Anyway, it is weird how violence became so popular in these times. A consequence of the war propaganda of Desert Storm, perhaps?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 23, 2015 11:28 PM
432 was hyped to the high heavens as the absolute, last time, final, this-time-we-mean-it conflict between Thor and Loki, and they absolutely swore that Loki would not, in no no way, be returning never, ever, ever.
Anyone know how long before they backtracked on that? I liked some of DeFalco and Frenz's run, but I gave up after I saw the ridiculous new Thor.
Posted by: Bob | September 23, 2015 11:46 PM
Loki's death was always intended to be a fakeout- I don't want to spoil it for anyone that doesn't know but the clues to what REALLY happened are there if you read the above panels and fnord's synopsis carefully.
Posted by: Michael | September 23, 2015 11:50 PM
Why does Eric-Thor get a beard when he transforms? Eric doesn't have a beard and Thor never became bearded when he transformed from Don Blake, so it seems incongruous. Not that I mind because I much, much prefer bearded Thor. I also don't understand why being an architect means he can design a "new" outfit, and how he'd then make said outfit? I've never seen Thor being bothered by ripped clothes before, he just transforms back and forth and is all nice looking again.
You have to love the notion that Amora doesn't want to end up killing Thor, because Odin forbade it? Odin forbids lots of things, far lesser than, you know, killing a fellow Asgardian! And Loki is seriously serious about it now? He wasn't serious all the previous times?
Love the Frenz art, I know he riffs on Kirby but it often seems so much tighter/cleaner than Kirby. He takes the best elements of Kirby and polishes them into something smoother.
Both here and in the Avengers #333, Trimpe is a lot less good than he used to be on Hulk. I guess he really needs the right inker to embellish him? I wonder what a Trimpe inked by Sal Buscema would look like. (Since Frenz/Sal are awesome together whenever they do Spider-Girl, and since Sal inking his own work also looked great. I like his crispness)
So Annihilus is now just a tiny big in armor again, based on that last page? He seems to constantly change. I also can't remember when he shows up next after this. I get the feeling he wasn't in DeFalco/Ryan's FF at all? I wish Annihilus would be used more out of the FF, both he and Blastaar work great for other heroes since they'd be so unfamiliar with them. I also wish Kang would've involved himself with Eric-Thor instead of Zarrko, coming up soon.
Posted by: PeterA | September 24, 2015 2:03 AM
That panel of Heimdall addressing Thor is amazing.
Posted by: Bob | September 24, 2015 3:10 AM
I think the violent attitude wasn't so much a 90s thing (despite DeFalco's constant cries "It's the 90s, dude!" in the script), but an outgrowth of the grimdark rot of the late 80s.
After Frank Millar's Dark Knight, Claremont's Wolverine and Moore's Watchmen, we kept getting subjected to more and more imitations of grimdark. But, by the time the 90s rolled around around, any nuance and subtlety was lost (not that Miller had it, anyway), and it just became bloodthirsty revenge fantasies.
The worst I remember comes in the form of Cable, who, a few short months later in X-Force, will gun down and seemingly murder a completely surrendered Black Tom Cassidy in cold blood. And, sadly, this vigilante lynching is not depicted as anything other than "Hey, kids! Isn't Cable cool and extreme? He totally means business, unlike those wussie Avengers and Fantastic Four!"
Posted by: Bob | September 24, 2015 3:30 AM
Regarding the costume, Erik does take his design to a tailor to get made. You can see him picking it up in the panel where i mention his ponytail.
Annihilus next appears in Infinity Gauntlet #5 with no reference to his fate here.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 24, 2015 7:27 AM
I don't know- I think the late '80's were in some ways even more extreme than the '90's- look at 1987. We had Strange blowing up a child, Iron Man freeing 5 super-villains, who go on to badly injure the guards, Scott hallucinating and nearly killing Jean and Storm nearly killing Alex because,um,reasons. And it continued in the late '80s- Inferno would have never seen the light of day even 5 years earlier.
Posted by: Michael | September 24, 2015 8:18 AM
I enjoyed reading Thor during Tom DeFalco's run up to this point. Eric Masterson as Thor causes my interest to decline.
Posted by: Steven | September 24, 2015 9:53 AM
God, I hated DeFalco's Thor run.
When Rhodey took over as Iron Man (both times), Tony Stark was still in the book. When John Walker stole the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers, Steve was sill in the book -- and even still superheroing as the Captain. When Eric Masterson takes on the power of Thor... Thor is simply gone. And for the next 25 issues.
Basically, this seems like a way to turn Thor into just another New York superhero. Couple this to the total mischaracterization of Kitty Pryde's powers and personality in the preceding arc; to the aping of Silver Age tropes in every facet of the book; and worst, to the complete undoing of most of the interesting stuff that Walt Simonson did with book both thematically and visually -- ugh, ugh, ugh. I just hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate this.
Posted by: Matt | September 24, 2015 12:16 PM
giant flying fist=the Dreadful Flying Glove from Yellow Submarine?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 25, 2015 5:47 PM
I've always believed that the whole Infinity Gauntlet event must have taken place between Thor #433 and 434. If that were the case, then that would mean that during the IG storyline Annihilus would be alive, Sif would be in her old costume and Eric would still be trying to fool everyone into thinking he was Thor. And "Odin" was awakened when Thor killed Loki and hadn't gone back into Odinsleeep before IG happened and he had to meet with his fellow sky-gods. Is there some reason why this placement couldn't work?
Posted by: Don Campbell | October 6, 2015 2:07 AM
I'll be looking at Infinity Gauntlet in detail soon, but what you're saying makes sense (Sif's costume being a clincher) and i'll look into splitting this out.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 6, 2015 7:38 AM
I would agree with Don Campbell. Just recently reread IG and the most annoying thing about it was the couple of asides where Eric is trying to cover for the fact that he's not the real Thor. His aside about people being missed and thinking "Got to cover for the fact that I'm not the real Thor." is perhaps the single most distracting moment in all of IG. I had to stop and think, what the hell is that about?
Posted by: Erik Beck | October 6, 2015 9:01 AM
When Infinity Gauntlet came out here in Finland, no post-Simonson Thor comics had ever been translated to Finnish, so as a kid I remember being quite baffled by this guy who looks like Thor but says he isn't him. I think Starlin should've simply omitted those references from IG altogether, it's not like Thor has a big role in the series, so all it did was confuse people like me who weren't up to date on what's happening in his solo series.
Posted by: Tuomas | October 6, 2015 9:18 AM
Yeah, it would have been useful to read these before reading IG. But then I would to have read these and the more I see of DeFalco's Thor run the less I like it.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 20, 2015 9:42 AM
In what sense is Thor punching Ulik "playing hardball?" Before "the 90's" and Eric Master-Thor, Thor punched people all the time!
More DeFalco nonsense.
Posted by: Matt | May 9, 2016 6:54 PM
It's really interesting to re-read these issues knowing what came afterwards, that what was actually happening here was that Loki, due to a time travel encounter with Eric Masterson as Thor, knew he was destined to be killed in battle with Thor. So he worked with Mephisto and manipulated all of these events to push Thor into seemingly him, when in fact his soul slipped into Odin's body, and Odin's soul ended up in that sack in Mephisto's realm. Then, of course, Loki-as-Odin arranged for Eric to gain Thor's powers, so that future events would play out as they were supposed to.
Interesting long-term plotting by DeFalco & Frenz here, as well as a nice use of what Doctor Who would later refer to as "wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff."
Posted by: Ben Herman | April 9, 2017 10:52 AM
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