Issue(s): Thor #491, Thor #492, Thor #493, Thor #494
Ellis himself writes about the strangeness of this in an "intermission" to the trade reprint of these issues:
This was a strange job. My track record... didn't look like a recommendation to relaunch one of Marvel's oldest characters and one inextricably linked with the legacy of Jack Kirby... I associate THOR with Kirby's grand experiments of the Sixties, the essence of what another generation called "the sense of wonder".
Ellis says that he tried to bring back that sense of wonder back in his own cynical and British way, and there is a repeated theme in these issues regarding that wonder (the exact words "sense of wonder" are even used). But what Ellis really does is similar to what he did for Druid. He goes back to the source material (the Celtic or Norse myths) and brings out the most dark and scary readings of them. The mythic elements referenced here - Ragnarok and Yggdrasil the One Tree - won't be unfamiliar to dedicated readers of Thor. Many Thor writers - notably Roy Thomas, Walt Simonson, and of course Lee & Kirby, but others as well - used elements of Norse myth, and we've been through too many Ragnaroks to count at this point. But Ellis emphasizes the weirdest elements, and makes it all particularly nasty. To give a superficial example to start with: Odin's always been a dick, but he's downright cruel in this story.
We'll get into the weirder stuff later. But this is a good example of the tone, and shows how Ellis is restoring the "sense of wonder". Yeah, Odin's always been bad to his son, but we've come to know him as curmudgeonly with a good heart; too human, really. The guy in those panels above, he's an unknowable All Father. Thor is left holding onto the idea that Odin's parting words, "Die well", show that he still maybe cares about him a little bit.
Ellis is only here for this story, and the revamp won't really hold that well (and in any event, the whole line is due for a shake-up next year). But the artist for these issues, Mike Deodato, will continue on the series after Ellis leaves. This is Mike Deodato at his best - he's doing full pencils and inks, not just rough breakdowns for someone else to finish and not (as far as i can tell) being backfilled by "Deodato Studios". "At his best" still means he draws women with legs more than twice the size of the rest of their bodies, of course.
Deodato will continue through the end of this series next year and into its replacement, Journey Into Mystery, although by that point it really will be just "Deodato Studios".
The basic plot begins with Thor waning in power and dying of an unknown disease. When the disease doesn't affect him fast enough, he's attacked by weird semi-mechanical zombies.
Thor traces the zombies back to their source and finds that Yggdrasil has been afflicted with similar mechanical devices. But he's knocked out before he can investigate further. The person who knocked him out isn't responsible for the attacks; it's a thrall of the Enchantress, who actually wants to help him. Her position is that now that they're both banished from Asgard, they might as well consummate their long smoldering desires.
There's a scene with Beta Ray Bill choking to death near the World Tree in Asgard.
There's no resolution to his situation here but it'll be picked up on in Cosmic Powers Unlimited.
Also in this story is Detective Inspector Curzon, Ellis' standard Hellstorm/Pete Wisdom/Spider Jerusalem cynical, hard drinking/smoking, above-it-all non-combatant character.
Don't worry about him; he does nothing but provide Ellis with a chance for some near-first person exposition of the Norse myths (and Marvel variants).
He gets eaten by the Enchantress at the end of the story.
Curzon's supposition that the zombies that attacked Thor are the next generation of humans created by Yggdrasil is on the right track, but not quite correct.
The truth is that a complete random scientist, aided by psychedelic mushrooms, had a vision about Ragnarok. So he built a "World Engine" in a facility meant to restrain German superhumans during World War II.
The goal was to convince the World Tree that Ragnarok could already happen, so he could see what would come next. He's also provided the tree with genetic material from Thor and the Enchantress, left behind during an unspecified "super-hero battle in New York some years ago". That's how the zombies were created. But now we get to see the New Men that Yggdrasil intends to produce after Ragnarok.
But the irony is that the new humans can't survive in the current world.
It's a twist worthy of any Journey Into Mystery type story, and it really doesn't need Thor and the Enchantress for the resolution. Thor - in a new "costume" designed by the Enchantress - simply destroys the Worldengine after the new beings all die.
It's a cool, deliberately anticlimactic story. Deodato's art, especially on the Norse exposition pages, help sell an epic mood, but if anything the story is really subdued. The lasting legacy is that Asgard has been distanced from Thor "in an ultimate way", replaced by Thor's partnership (romantic and otherwise) with the Enchantress.
The one thing that i think is wanting is Thor's new costume, which isn't that different than Thor's last new costume (he's just even more shirtless). I get the idea of not making him look like his 1960s version, and the 1990s "street" version had already been covered by Thunderstrike, while doing something more authentically Nordic - similar to Deodato's awesome design for Odin here - would go against the intention of removing him from Asgard (and also might have been preempted by the recent Red Norvell design). So i don't know what kind of design i'd have given him. But just having him go shirtless with giant wrist bracers, while keeping the superhero tights, doesn't really work.
Aside from that, though, a really great story. We'll see how William Messner-Loebs handles the set-up next.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor has been avoiding the Avengers and when they're contacted by the police, he's said to have "disappeared".
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Thor: Worldengine TPB
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|