Thor annual #9
Issue(s): Thor annual #9
This is a pretty bad Thor story but it really seems more like a Sif/Jane Foster story that wasn't allowed to reach a proper conclusion.
Thor is on a boating expedition with his Asgardian friends when he gets injured by a boat mast falling on his head during a sea serpent attack.
This seems to be one of those cases where Thor, who can shrug off punches to the head from the Hulk, is much more vulnerable when he is adventuring in his home dimension. We'll learn that Umar was actually responsible for his injury, but that is meant in the sense that she created an illusion of Sif to distract him, not that she did something magical to cause him an injury. Umar does use her magic to ensure that Thor will see certain things and she "magically increas[es] his natural concern so he would act hastily, without thought". So Thor is softly mind-controlled for this story and Sif is out to stop him from doing something rash, and that's why i say that it's not a good Thor story but works better if you think of Sif as the protagonist.
The plot is that Odin has gotten himself into a chess match against Dormammu. The game is hosted by Master Order and Lord Chaos...
...and if Odin wins, Order wins, and if Dormammu wins, it'll usher in an age of Chaos. But as any D&D player knows, Order and Chaos aren't the same thing as Good and Evil, and Odin is actually trying to arrange a stalemate so that the natural balance between the two will continue. But under Umar's manipulations, Thor is trying to start a crisis in the Dark Dimension so that Dormammu will have to return home and forfeit the game, which would mean that Odin wins until Dormammu turns around and claims that Odin cheated. So Odin sends his ravens to get Sif to stop Thor.
...but after that he's strictly in show, don't tell mode, showing her heroically rescuing Thor...
...and later investigating the Dark Dimension and facing Umar.
Sif is placed onto the G'uranthic Guardian and bathed in the light that saps her strength. This has the interesting effect of turning her back into Jane Foster.
When Thor sees Umar, he says that he knows about her because Dr. Strange told him about her. I've always hated that; i find it to be a really tortured way to acknowledge that Umar is a Dr. Strange villain. I find it really hard to believe that Dr. Strange would have mentioned Umar to Thor, especially with enough detail that he'd remember her now.
Thor battles Umar for a while (by the way, those were not the clothes Jane Foster was wearing when she transformed into Sif), and calls her "an affront to womanhood".
There's no point in being offended by that, though. Umar herself laughed at the idea that she was a woman back in Doctor Strange #9.
Jane doesn't have Sif's memories but (per Umar) her woman's intuition tells her that she still needs to stop Thor. Even as Jane, she/Sif is able to fight and prevent Thor from ruining the chess game by freeing the Mindless Ones in the Dark Dimension.
When her plot fails, Umar launches a final attack on Thor and Jane, but Thor just teleports back to Earth. Jane notes that it's out of character for Thor to flee from a fight. Thor responds that Jane's memories are out of date. As far as i know, nothing's changed about Thor in this regard; i don't know if Claremont really had anything specific in mind.
Jane gets to spend a few minutes as herself but then transforms back into Sif and "all is... as it was".
I wonder if the idea here was originally to separate Sif and Jane in this annual. The G'uranthic Guardian could have been the device to do it. Or maybe to fully merge the two. It's kind of odd to acknowledge the weird dual state of Sif and Jane and yet do nothing about it.
Assuming there wasn't some last minute change to the plot, this is a pretty weak story. A chess game between two cosmic entities feels cliched (although i guess it's a device Claremont will return to with Roma/Adversary) and it's odd for Master Order and Lord Chaos to have chosen these two for their game (i would have said that Dormammu was more Lawful Evil than Chaotic, and clearly Odin was the wrong choice for Master Order considering he threw the game). And as i've mentioned, the title character isn't even acting under his own free will in this story.
Luke McDonnell has some fun with the Dark Dimension scenes, in any event.
Before Thor consults Mimir, he checks in to see if Loki is responsible for what he thinks is going on. I mainly point this out to show poor Sigyn and Loki bound together while they are sleeping. That looks so uncomfortable! You can't even roll over.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Thor #303 and #304. I don't like that placement, but i don't see anything better. The issue opens with Donald Blake being "on duty" in the emergency room at Bellevue hospital. Circa #303, Thor had just recently returned to Midgard with plans to reestablish a life for Don Blake. His practice had closed down and he was in between jobs; in #304 he applies for a job at a medical clinic. It's hard to see how he could be on duty at a hospital at this point. For insurance reasons, i can't imagine that hospitals accept volunteer surgeons. And it's hard to reason why Blake would be looking for a job when he's working at the hospital. But also in this issue we see Loki and Sigyn bound by handcuffs, a status quo that begins circa Thor #300. And after the clinic, Thor's next job is with Tony Stark and then in Chicago. So there's no better time for him to be working at Bellevue. So i guess we'll assume that Blake was doing volunteer work or maybe even did get a job at the hospital but was looking for something with more flexible hours (although you'd think he would have mentioned that in his interview at the clinic in #304).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBalder, Dormammu, Fandral, Hildegarde, Hogun, Huginn, Jane Foster, Loki, Lord Chaos, Master Order, Mimir, Muninn, Odin, Sif, Sigyn, Thor, Umar, Volstagg
This is not the last time Dormammu is referred to as an agent of chaos- apparently several writers disagreed with you.
Posted by: Michael | July 14, 2013 4:20 PM
I wonder how this annual came about. Claremont doing a random annual in 1976 was one thing, but by 1981 he wasn't exactly a fill-in writer. And as Fnord notes, this annual is definitely fill-in quality.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | July 14, 2013 9:26 PM
It makes no sense for Hogun to worry about Sif; she's been a warrior goddess for a long time. Claremont probably made him do that just so he could throw in some anti-sexism lines.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 20, 2013 1:10 PM
I came across some interesting info in the Marvel Universe Handbook Deluxe edition #1 which would help explain why Thor was injured by the falling mast.
On page 31 of the Asgard entry it states "While the gravity of Asgard is roughly analogous to Earth's, commmon matter is considerably denser on an average. Consequently a chair made of Asgardian wood would be more massive (and heavier)than a chair made of analagous Earthly wood."
Posted by: Rick | August 2, 2015 9:55 AM
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