Issue(s): Thor #402, Thor #403, Thor #404, Thor #405
A David Metz writes in to issue #402 to complain about the style:
Methinks this doth become a bit much. Going back to the original flavor of the Lee/Kirby Thor is a noble idea, and so far DeFalco and Frenz have pulled it off admirably. Lately, however, instead of being an eighties comic done by eighties creators with suggestions of the sixties style, there are parts of Thor that seem to be merely attempts at imitation rather than tribute. Take page seven of #399, the art is merely a baldfaced attempt to mimic the King with little of Frenz's own (and very appealing) style evident. And the dialogue is getting overdone , too. Sure, Stan Lee characters in the sixties tended to speak melodramatically, but then the style was new and it seemed natural and fun. When those speech patterns are used now, as extensively as they have been here, they seem trite and forced... they've allowed their own ideas to be submerged beneath sheer mimicry.
The response is that a change in direction is in the works, presumably a reference to Thor's replacement by Eric Masterson.
These stories feature a quick succession of threats, and they're all shortened by 5 pages thanks to Tales of Asgard back-ups (that i won't be covering), so it's a quick blast of action, all of which is really just build up for the next arc that i'll be covering in a separate entry.
The issue opens with a scene like you often saw in solo books of Avengers, with the characters sitting through a meeting or (in this case) rushing off to do their own thing. This panel actually causes some continuity issues that i'll discuss in the Considerations.
The other information in the opening pages is that both Thor and Odin are experiencing bouts of weakness. Odin decides it's time for an Odinsleep, so he tells the Vizier to call Thor back to guard Asgard while he's Odinsleeping.
Also, the Enchantress' sister Lorelei is dying from injuries sustained during last arc's Seth war...
...and the (deceased) Executioner and the Death Goddess Hela show up and give the Enchantress the option of giving up her own life to save Lorelei. It's positioned as a win-win; Lorelei lives and the Enchantress gets to spend eternity with her supposed lover. But the Enchantress' self-interest gets the best of her, and she refuses.
That's significant both as the death of Lorelei as well as character development for the Enchantress, but it'll also be directly relevant to these issues in a bit.
In the meantime, we have Quicksand meeting with Mongoose.
He convinces her to join an alliance with him by showing her that he can restore her to her interesting Oriental human form.
But he only gives her a taste for now.
Notice that Mongoose has another, mysterious, ally. Their "master" wants to create a new race of gods.
And now we start with the wham-bam action. First, an incredibly spry drunk named Brute Benhurst shows up at Jerry Sapristi's construction site to get vengeance for being fired, and Thor, in his civilian identity, stops him.
Then Quicksand attacks.
It's during this battle that the Vizier contacts Thor and tells him to come home, something that Thor, in the middle of a fight, has to refuse. The Vizier is just shocked by this behavior; it's certainly never happened before!
While Thor is still fighting Quicksand, the Enchantress comes to Earth and turns Benhurst into a new Executioner.
In that same scene, we see what is almost certainly the first appearance of Marcus Stone, a supporting character that will appear in a number of different Marvel comics throughout the years
The Quicksand fight ends with her having distracted Thor long enough for Mongoose and his ally to use their Vivisector to get some tissue samples from Thor.
And then we go right into the battle with Benhurst.
Thor holds back, thinking that he's fighting the first Executioner, who had proved himself honorable in the end. But he realizes his mistake when this guy violently swats away Eric Masterson's son, Kevin.
Then Thor knocks him out in a hurry.
Thor gives Kevin a hammer bump...
...and Enchantress disappears with the Executioner's axe.
And then dad shows up to call his erstwhile son home.
Thor is of course given no opportunity to explain his misbehavior. He's also not told about Odin's dizzy spells; he's just sent to go party with his friends. Dad just likes him home.
Meanwhile, a killer stalks the streets, as Asgard, unmoored from the Rainbow Bridge, floats closer to the Negative Zone.
Thor eventually investigates, and finds terrible things.
Specifically, Annihilus, the Living Death that Walks.
As they battle, Asgard floats into the Negative Zone.
While that battle rages on beneath the streets of Asgard, Sif makes an appeal to Odin and says what we've all been thinking since these father/son tiffs first started.
It does seem to turn Odin around.
Annihilus makes his way to the royal court.
But Thor continues to hold him back.
Meanwhile, though, Mongoose and his friend have decided they need more cell samples from Thor, so Mongoose kidnaps Eric Masterson.
And so Thor's hammer picks up on the distress from Kevin's hammer, thanks to that hammer bump from earlier (which is said to have created a bond "with all of those who have ever been privileged to wield such a weapon).
Poor Thor. Needed in Asgard while he's on Earth and vice versa. Luckily, Odin has a deus ex reprievina from his weakness and sends Annihilus flying.
And Thor immediately begs to be returned to Earth. Thanks to Sif's talk, Odin grudgingly agrees. But thanks to Asgard's current location in the Negative Zone, Odin only barely has the power to send him back, and Thor winds up having to come out of the Fantastic Four's Negative Zone portal.
Thor heads over to the Masterson home, and finds out that Eric has been taken to Wundagore.
Your enjoyment of this is entirely a matter of perspective. As a pastiche of Silver Age awesomeness, it hits its mark perfectly, and it's a fun adventure story. And that's how i'm looking at it. But it can also come across as overly retro and regressive. In spirit, very much like Speedball, although i'd say less so in practice.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor #401 was a fill-in Tales of Asgard type story taking place entirely in the past. Thor #402 opens with Thor flying off after (according to the footnote) the Avengers' first battle in the configuration that included Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman. But after the various continuous battles on Earth and then going to Asgard and then back to Earth via the Fantastic Four's Negative Zone portal, we see that Reed and Sue have rejoined the FF and the Thing is in Ben Grimm form. Thor is with the Avengers in Avengers #301-303 while Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman are still on the team, so Avengers #301-303 must take place prior to these issues. Instead of ignoring the footnote completely, though, the MCP places the first two pages prior to Avengers #301-304. That means that Thor flies off without explanation but then returns shortly thereafter and participates in the Avengers stories before later showing up at Jerry Sapristi's construction site. I'm treating those first two pages as a flashback and therefore not listing Captain America or the Forgotten One as characters appearing. The Fantastic Four appearance in Thor #405 similarly requires a split, and the MCP place it during Fantastic Four #327. We're pausing here because there's a break, but Thor shouldn't appear elsewhere before his trip to Wundagore.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
Odin turns out to not be wrong in this matter - Thor comes back in time to battle Annihilus.
Posted by: clyde | September 16, 2014 7:13 PM
Odin's "Odinsleep" gets interrupted so many times from this point forward. I wonder why it was necessary to have it be so prolonged.
Posted by: clyde | September 16, 2014 7:30 PM
The retro style never really goes away during this run, though it does become less upfront when Masterson takes over as Thor, nearly 30 issues from this point. I guess by "a change in direction is in the works" they meant a couple of years away. I happened to enjoy the style as a kid (and now) but if you weren't a fan of it, Thor was not the book for you for the foreseeable future.
Posted by: Robert | September 16, 2014 7:55 PM
The first page is completely nonsensical- Cap was still the Captain, not Captain America, in Avengers 300.
Posted by: Michael | September 16, 2014 10:35 PM
as the avengers didnt reform until the end of 300, technically you could say that 301-303 was his first adventure with the reformed avengers. however, Gilgamesh is pictured with his silly helmet, that he lost in 301.
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 17, 2014 12:52 AM
Wow!This looks completely retro. In fact, I think David Metz's summary is perfect.
Posted by: JSfan | September 17, 2014 4:26 AM
@Michael, there's no reference to Annihilus' previous appearance. Maybe his unusual behavior of putting the Asgardians in pods and draining their life force has something to do with his recovery from his previous injuries.
Maybe that opening page is really a dream.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 17, 2014 7:50 AM
Actually i take it back about the opening page. The narration says that Avengers #300 happened "recently", not necessarily immediately prior to this. So it could take place after Cap #350-351 and still be before the Avengers' second mission as this group.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 17, 2014 7:55 AM
More than twenty-five years later, this regressive run still makes me mad. I know there are people who like it. But to me, this whole run is one giant step backward from Simonson in pretty much every respect. DeFalco and Frenz took everything he did with the book -- everything that turned Thor into my favorite comic at the time -- and just ripped it to pieces. Bad dialogue and characterization, story lines that have little to do with Asgard and more to do with Kirby-era scifi goofiness, art that is less tribute to Kirby than just manneristic copycatting -- ugh, ugh, ugh. Everything that had improved was turned back. Just terrible.
Posted by: Matt | March 9, 2015 5:39 PM
The very polarized comments concerning the DeFalco & Frenz issues of Thor definitely bring to mind that old saying "your mileage may vary."
As I said in a previous comment, I was a huge fan of these issues when I was a teenager. But, yes, I can certainly understand how some people who had been avidly following Walter Simonson's epic run would regard this period as a step backwards for the title and be disappointed with it.
It was cool seeing Annihilus show up here. He's one of my favorite Marvel villains created by Kirby, with an amazing & sinister design, and it's always interesting when he pops up outside of the pages of Fantastic Four.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 14, 2015 3:10 PM
I don't mind homages, so I don't mean this note as a knock, but here are the ones I noticed above:
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | November 14, 2016 3:02 PM
A cartoon that ran in the Comic Buyer's Guide from June 2, 1989 made note of the, um, similarities Frenz's work had to Kirby's original Thor stories...
Frenz himself recently posted a scan of this on his Facebook page, so at least he has a sense of humor about it.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 16, 2017 10:43 AM
Wow. Were some people implying that emulating Jack Kirby's style was a bad thing?!?!?
Posted by: mikrolik | June 16, 2017 12:56 PM
I guess they were saying that Frenz was emulating Kirby's style just a bit too closely. I can see the point, but I'd still rather have this than some of the stuff from the "hot" artists who were starting to pop up around this exact same time.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 16, 2017 5:00 PM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|