Issue(s): Hulk #421, Hulk #422, Hulk #423
One of the nice things about Peter David's writing is that he uses these characters earnestly enough, but he also finds a way to provide a little commentary on them. So while Norvell isn't a complete joke in this story, there's a subthread with the Hulk trying to get the Warriors Three to acknowledge he's not the real Thor.
If you're in your "What is Marvel thinking?!?" stage, that reads as biting satire. Otherwise it's just a funny bit. (And for all i know, it's exactly what Asgardians are supposed to do when talking to outsiders about Thor's replacement.)
To back up a bit, this story is mainly about following up on Agamemnon. After he left the Pantheon, some revelations about him came out during the Troyjan War. In the meantime, he's been going around looking like Bucky.
Meanwhile, the Hulk is trying to manage his relationship with Atalanta and Ajax, with the added layer that Betty is now living at the Pantheon Mount.
Atalanta suspects that Hulk's recent decision to move her to another base was somehow orchestrated by Agamemnon, perhaps because she had learned the truth about his deal with the Troyjans (which not everyone in the Pantheon believes).
Hulk flies into a bit of a rage about this (and the specter of Maestro continues to float over him), but he asks for position papers from the Pantheon members on whether or not to look for Agamemnon. Betty helps Hulk stay in control of himself...
...and she also declares that she'll be joining the search for Agamemnon. She demonstrates her capability on the gun range.
Meanwhile, Agamemnon is being pursued by a "renegade" member of the Pantheon, Jason.
The Pantheon (actually just Ulysseus, Hector, and Cassiopeia) find Agamemnon and Jason at Fenway Park in Boston. Delphi had warned the Hulk to "beware the green monster", which turns out to be a reference to the famous wall at the stadium. Which turns out to be a portal to Asgard.
And that's when "Thor" shows up.
Hulk/Thor fights are very frequent requests among fans, but Marvel always finds a way to not give us a "clean" one.
Agamemnon escapes during the fight, and heads to a group of Frost Giants. He's friends with their leader, Siingard, who calls Agamemnon "Vali".
The rest of the Pantheon catch up with the Hulk (minus Ulysseus, who was injured during the fight at Fenway when his shield wouldn't deploy). Hulk notices that "Thor's" speech patterns aren't quite right.
Eventually things settle down and the Pantheon and the Asgardians (Norvell and the Warriors Three) discuss why they're in Asgard. The Asgardians agree to help stop the giants and get Agamemnon back. You might think that Betty would be overawed over being in a mythical realm, but i guess she's seen a lot in her day and she's jaded.
The giant's lair is supposed to be guarded by "the Hoarfen" which is a child of the Fenris wolf and Siingard's sister.
But the renegade Pantheon guy, Jason, kills and eats (!) the wolf.
And when the heroes attempt to raid the giant's lair, a giant wolf shows up (note his missing eye, like Jason).
The Hulk and Agamemnon get eaten by the wolf, and wind up in Hel.
So they have to fight their way out...
...while the Pantheon and the Asgardians battle the wolf and the giants.
The expertise that Betty demonstrated earlier comes in handy.
In Hel, the Hulk is losing control again. But Agamemnon apparently has a special relationship with Hela, and he convinces her to let them go.
With the Hoarfen out of control, the Frost Giants wind up helping try to subdue it, but it's the Hulk who kills it when he returns from Hel via its mouth. But the giants still blame Thor. The Pantheon and company depart Asgard, leaving the Asgardians and Giants to re-engage in their cycle of violence. As for Agamemnon, the Hulk turns him over to the Pantheon despite a promise he made. Note the scruffy beginnings of a Maestro-beard on his chin.
At the very end, we see Delphi withdrawing from her role as the Pantheon's oracle and joining her mother.
To a certain degree, your interest in this is going to depend on how invested you are in the Pantheon and the mystery of Agamemnon. But even if you don't care about that, the continued focus on the Hulk's grip on his self-control makes these issues essential regardless of the specifics of the adventure. And the inclusion of Thor (albeit a phony one) and the other Asgardians gives it a wider Marvel Universe appeal. And we continue to get great characterization and humor from David and excellent art from Gary Frank.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place between Thor #477-478.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAchilles, Agamemnon, Ajax, Atalanta, Betty Ross, Captain America, Cassiopeia, Delphi, Fandral, Hector, Hela, Hogun, Hulk, Jason (Pantheon), Paris, Prometheus (Pantheon), Red Norvell, Ulysses, Volstagg
So first Thor was Eric Masterson, and then Thor was mad, and then Thor is Red Norvell? How long until Thor is just normal Thor again?
I'm starting to realize I know nothing about 90's Thor. I vaguely recall him wearing a weird outfit in Onslaught and Marvel vs. DC, and that he was part of Heroes Reborn, but that's it.
Posted by: Berend | December 21, 2017 2:26 PM
I remember this soley because of the Green Monster reference to Fenway Park. I remember very loosely the whole Agamemnon plot, but don't remember the Asgardian bits. All the things I liked about PAD are on display as well as the things that tork me, like establishing his pet creations as heretofore important to other elements of the Marvel Universe. Hela loves Agamemnon and has for a long time? Puke.
With the references to Ag as Vali "halfling", are we supposed to believe he's actually some kind of stunted Asgardian giant (like Loki is, or what Roughhouse was implied to be originally)?
Posted by: Chris | December 21, 2017 2:59 PM
I guess if you're going to make changes to Thor, at least making him ginger is mythologically accurate.
Posted by: Stevie G | December 21, 2017 4:19 PM
@Berend: The original, normal, non-crazy Thor was on Earth at this time hanging out with the High Evolutionary.
Posted by: Ben Herman | December 21, 2017 5:00 PM
Not to dredge up old wounds, but at this point in Marvel's history, Betty Ross is more worthy of being made an Asgardian god than Jane Foster...
Posted by: Morgan Wick | December 21, 2017 7:05 PM
@Chris- the idea was that Agamemnon is Loki's son, and Hela's feelings for him are sisterly in nature. I didn't get that either when I first read this. One clue is that all of Loki's children are monsters- and so, in his way, is Agamemnon.
Posted by: Michael | December 21, 2017 8:07 PM
Hmm, a thought: wasn't Agamemnon a bit too complex and... over-packed, when it came to his nature / concept? He's a guy with lots of supertech, he's been given immortality by aliens, now it turns out he's also half-Asgardian. Too much?
If I may ask, what was the story with Red Norvell? Why did he become Thor? Another bout of Odin's "wisdom"?
Posted by: Piotr W | December 22, 2017 4:27 PM
According to his first appearance (http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/thor_272-278.shtml), Loki had him don Thor's Belt of Strength and some other artifacts combined to give him Asgardian powers.
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 22, 2017 4:58 PM
@Piotr W- Agamemnon wasn't given immortality by aliens. He was immortal as a result of having an Asgardian father, but he found that his offspring retained less of his immortality as time passed, so he made a deal with the Troyjans so they could use their technology to make sure his offspring were still immortal. I agree that part is needlessly complicated- there could have some other deal he could have made with the Troyjans to turn over Atlanta.
Posted by: Michael | December 22, 2017 6:25 PM
As for how Red Norvell was brought back to life- that WAS Odin's "wisdom". He and Thor were estranged, so he brought Red Norvell back to life and announced that he was replacing Thor as his son.
Posted by: Michael | December 22, 2017 7:16 PM
Ha! I knew it! OdinDickery again :)
Seriously, Odin is such a horrible father...
Posted by: Piotr W | December 24, 2017 1:12 PM
For someone who keeps getting called "all-wise" and "all-knowing" Marvel's Odin is a bloody idiot.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 24, 2017 1:41 PM
Personally, I don't get it: Odin's role in the Marvel version of Asgard is that of a wise (if stern) skyfather. But in practice, he behaves like a tantrum-ruled idiot, with a special axe to grind against his supposedly-beloved son. He keeps banishing him, scaring his girlfriend... even replacing him with surrogates. This is lunacy. And yet, it seems like nobody in Asgard realizes that Odin isn't really all that wise and great...
Posted by: Piotr W | December 24, 2017 2:14 PM
Either a) they're a bunch of sycophants, b) they have Stockholm Syndrome after living under his rule for millennia or c) they're bigger idiots than he is.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 24, 2017 6:06 PM
Thor getting replaced multiple times in the 90s is almost as bad as the dead-replaced-turned-turned evil crap Steve Rogers has had to endure for the last decade.
Posted by: Bob | December 24, 2017 7:48 PM
In the Prose Edda, Váli is one of Loki's sons, so Agamemnon's identity shouldn't be a mystery to anyone familiar with the Norse myths. I'm not sure if the Thor comics had yet firmly established Hela to be the daughter of Loki at this point, though?
Posted by: Tuomas | December 28, 2017 3:55 AM
She was firmly established to be his daughter in Simonson's run, starting with issue 375.
Posted by: Michael | December 28, 2017 7:51 AM
It's worth noting that Agammemnon's nature and identity are not entirely clarified here or in the next arc. Part of why this story isn't as memorable as perhaps it should be is that it never delivers directly on some of the answers it seems to promise, and Vali/Agammemnon remains rather undermotivated.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 27, 2018 6:29 AM
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