Issue(s): Thor #305, Thor #306
The tricky part about setting-up Thor on Earth so he can fight super-villains is that Thor is really powerful and not many villains can survive that long against him. But former heralds of Galactus certainly fit the bill, and luckily Earth has a few.
We haven't seen Air-Walker active since his first appearance, but we did see him on a slab during Captain America's fight with Machinesmith, and since then, his self-repair circuits have been putting him back together.
What's a little frustrating to me is that from the appearances of some other robots in Machinesmith's lab in those Cap issues, specifically the Magneto robot and the Manipulator, we were meant to infer that the Machinesmith was behind their previous appearances. But by Air-Walker's presence, it's clear that the Machinesmith also collects robots that he otherwise had nothing to do with. So until those revelations are spelled out more clearly much later, it's left a bit ambiguous.
Gabriel the Air-Walker is even more confused than me, though, because he doesn't really believe that he's a robot. He thinks that the Silver Surfer turned him into a robot in order to defeat him.
Machinesmith's secret lab was in a barn owned by a recently widowed Beverly Matheson. Her son Kevin, raised on science fiction, is unfazed when Air-Walker exits the barn, and asks to join Gabriel on his journey. Needing someone to explain the world to him, Air-Walker agrees.
Air-Walker takes a liking to Kevin, but he's still under the impression that Galactus is going to destroy the Earth.
Air-Walker is interested in settling things with the Silver Surfer. He heads to the Baxter Building and tells them to contact him, and then locks the Baxter Building in a forcefield.
He must get impatient, though, because rather than waiting for the FF to try to contact the Surfer, he creates a cosmic wind that he expects the Surfer will detect. That doesn't happen. But Donald Blake, currently adjusting to the new type of medical problems he'll have to deal with at the clinic (Blake has been hired at the clinic and also finds an apartment during this arc)...
...does detect it, and he transforms to Thor, quells the wind...
...and then faces off against the former herald of Galactus.
It's worth noting that despite what looks like fire or an energy blast coming out of Air-Walker's hand, it's described as a "concentrated blast of air".
The battle turns when Air-Walker succeeds in temporarily holding Thor's hammer.
This allows Thor to deduce that Gabriel is really a machine, so he sets his hammer to "destroy".
Robot or not, Gabriel the Air-Walker was a herald of Galactus, so it's surprising to see that Thor only had to stop holding back to defeat him. Also worth saying that Thor is friends with several robots (Vision, Jocasta, the Rigellian Recorder), so the idea that it's not ok for him to kill an ordinary super-villain but it is ok if it's a robot seems odd.
Anyway, needless to say, Kevin is not happy with Thor's actions.
Neither is Firelord, who is currently being worshiped as a Djinn by some Saudi Arabians.
He shows up and attacks Thor, telling Thor that he never mentioned Air-Walker because Galactus must have suppressed his memories.
Firelord acknowledges that, given the circumstances, attacking Thor doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but "it will ease my conscience... assuage the gnawing frustration I have inside".
After much fighting, including some underwater, which doesn't affect Firelord in the slightest...
....Thor uses the noble sacrifice gambit, ceasing his attack and allowing Firelord to kill him uninhibited. This causes Firelord to calm down.
From there, Firelord tells his and Air-Walker's origins. It turns out that both Gabriel and Firelord (First Office Pyreus) were both Xandarians. One day, Galactus took Gabriel and transformed him into a herald.
But he was killed by the Ovioids (the race of aliens that taught Dr. Doom the power of mind-transference), and Galactus replaced him with a robot duplicate.
Later, after the robot Air-Walker was defeated on Earth, Pyreus caught up with Galactus, and agreed to become his herald if Galactus would reveal what happened to Gabriel.
But Galactus later wiped the memory of the robotic Air-Walker's location from him.
Pyreus describes himself as having been very close to Gabriel. "I wanted most to please him -- to share the lonely burdens of command. Became close in the process."
After this telling, Firelord takes the robotic remains of Gabriel to an asteroid in the Xandarian system.
Pretty cool stuff. As with a lot of Mark Gruenwald works it tends to use a history lesson approach (i don't mean to always neglect Ralph Macchio, and it's interesting how they wrote as a team here, but Gruenwald is the Handbook guy), starting with the revival of Air-Walker in Machinesmith's lab and then the extended flashback scene that ties both Firelord and Air-Walker together and to the Xandarians from Nova. But it's in the service of a nice story. I do think that Thor's callous attitude towards robots, which felt like it might have been building to something with Kevin Matheson's continued claim that Thor was the bad guy here, goes largely unaddressed.
In the Tales of Asgard, Karnilla arranges for Balder to fall in love with an Asgardian named Nanna.
She then threatens to kill Nanna if Balder won't marry Karnilla. He agrees after Karnilla swears that the marriage will be dissolved if Karnilla brings about Nanna's death "in any manner". So, in a kind of role-reversal, Nanna gears up to save Balder from an unwanted marriage.
But her solution is to kill herself, thus making Karnilla indirectly responsible for her death and freeing Balder from his vow.
Poor Balder. I mean, poor Nanna, too, sure, but for Balder this is coming on top of his recent trauma in Valhalla. One person definitely taking note of all of this was Walt Simonson, who will utilize these stories in his Thor run. Or maybe it's that Ralph Macchio was Simonson's editor.
This arc starts with Thor breaking up what he thinks is a mugging on a sidewalk Santa, but it turns out Santa was a drug-pusher and the "muggers" were really vigilantes. Thor says he disapproves of them taking the law into their own hands, and then vows that he'll take care of Santa.
I know Thor is officially sanctioned thanks to his membership in the Avengers, but it's still a bit rich to hear a super-hero telling people not to take the law into their own hands, especially when the super-hero is also a viking god.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The FF's appearance here is context free.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
"I know Thor is officially sanctioned thanks to his membership in the Avengers, but it's still a bit rich to hear a super-hero telling people not to take the law into their own hands, especially when the super-hero is also a viking god."
This reminds me of an item I found on Caveboard on Yuku message boards, in a note on an introduction to a Green Hornet anthology by Martin Grams*:
I find it intriguing that, in fact, by the early 1940's most of the prominent indigenous comic book heroes stood as deputized or associated with the authorities. (Wonder Woman working with G-2 perhaps or the U.S. military, Captain America obviously did.) In contrast, many of the prominent masked adventurers of prose and radio thrillers such as the Green Hornet (who crafted the cover story of operating as a thief for profit/racketeer), the Shadow, Zorro and the Spider acted as outlaws, proscribed by the authorities. Max Allan Collins pointed out in Amazing Heroes#119 that they adopted alter egos since the cops would have arrested them on the spot (and in Zorro's case, the Spanish army would have possibly executed him).
* "In context, since Grams discusses the Adam West show preceding the 1966 Green Hornet series, I will not object to "before him" [as the Green Hornet debuted on radio in 1936, long prior to the debut of Batman in Detective Comics#27 in 1939]. However, since he specifically refers to the Adam West show in this paragraph, I will have to civilly note that he made a mistake".
Posted by: PB210 | November 29, 2013 6:59 AM
I get your point about Machinesmith, but on the other hand it would seem unlikely that Galactus gets his robots from Machinesmith.
Also, since that earlier story featured Dragon Man (who we saw get invented by some professor with an assist from Diablo), we know Machinesmith is using other people's robots anyway.
Posted by: S | November 30, 2013 8:44 PM
Fnord, you really should add a new trope: "Firelord attacks a hero because he is a complete jackass." That one would appear in almost every Firelord appearance.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 25, 2015 1:07 PM
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