Characters Appearing: Hercules, Kevin Masterson, Loki, Marcus Stone, Marcy Masterson Steele, Samantha Joyce, Susan Austin, Thor, Thunderstrike, Ulik
Issue(s): Thor #414
I can't help laughing when i see Eric's lovesick assistant Susan Austin staring moonfully at Eric when Samantha tells Eric that being married is a big advantage in a custody battle. Oh, Eric, Eric, my darling Eric, if only you could see that we were meant to be together.
Samantha calls Eric "whitebread" twice within the span of 5 panels. And frankly, i can see why. I have trouble telling Eric apart from Quasar. Both have the slicked back blond hair and the annoying civilian-side problems that bog down the characters' potential for epic cosmic stories. This custody battle storyline, especially combined with the overtly Kirby-homage art, makes me realize that the target audience for this book was 40 year old divorced dads. To jump ahead to the end of the book for a minute, Eric's wife is depicted as a straight-up, er, witch.
But this feels like a really biased depiction to me, or rather it's a set-up for a conflict that is really cheap and uninteresting. The truth is that Eric was late to the meeting with his lawyer, and in this issue he's also late to a meeting with a customer and then has to run out in the middle of the meeting because of a super-hero crisis (just like Quasar). He really shouldn't be trying to raise a son when his personal life is in such disarray because of his super-hero responsibilities, and if he's got an ex-wife in a more stable situation that wants to take care of the kid, then it's selfish to try to keep him (unless, as depicted, the ex-wife is just 100% evil as shown here, which is why this is a cheap conflict). There's potentially a tragic element to explore here - the fact that Eric has to give up his kid because a life-threatening injury forced him to have to merge with Thor - but that's not examined and instead we're being treated to a stock 'good dad has to fight to not lose custody of his kid to his evil wife' plot. You'd think he'd at least recognize that the child welfare inspection situation is likely not going to go well.
Anyway, Eric next goes to the meeting with his client but has to run out when he hears that Hercules and Ulik are battling in the warehouse district. Hercules continues to be facing bouts of terror.
Loki had given Ulik a magic amulet that temporarily increases his power, and Ulik activates it when Thor arrives.
But that barely makes a difference against Thor, especially once Ulik angers Thor by taking a hostage.
However, Hercules screws things up by regaining his courage at the last second, hoping to strike the final blow. And it doesn't go well.
Another thread in this fight is about the police lieutenant Marcus Stone, who, faced with an ultimatum from his wife, has decided to retire. But on his last day on the job, he first goes to try to intimidate a mob boss with little success...
...and then he responds to the Ulik situation. So when Thor is busy digging Hercules out of the pile of cars that fell on him (and winds up getting pinned under the cars himself, resulting in the old 'dropped my hammer for more than 60 seconds' routine), Stone goes after Ulik on his own.
He eventually gets lucky and causes Ulik to fall off a building, which knocks him out.
Eric then manages to reach his hammer, and brings a despondent Hercules home (and it's at that point that Eric's ex-wife Marcy comes home with Kevin, as shown above).
I'm willing to ride along on Ron Frenz's Kirby nostalgia trip if it means awesome fights and such, but i could really do without the worse-than-1960s human drama side.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This begins "barely an hour" after the end of Acts of Vengeance in Avengers West Coast #55. Since AWC #55 ends with the start of a story (not featuring Thor) that runs more or less directly through AWC #58, i've placed this entry after that run, with the idea that this issue is happening concurrently
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The crimelord turns out to be Loki, which is kind of odd. It's possible Loki set up the crimelord alias in advance, of course. But this makes Amazing Spider-Man 329 weird- so Loki was sending the Tri-Sentinel to destroy New York City at the same time he was pretending to be a crimelord?
Posted by: Michael | April 27, 2015 8:21 PM
Upon being divorced, he is now free to fight rock trolls. The true tragedy of the situation however, was that the divorce aged him. Had she been killed or erased of their memory together, things might have been different...
Posted by: Max_Spider | April 29, 2015 7:22 PM
"This custody battle storyline, especially combined with the overtly Kirby-homage art, makes me realize that the target audience for this book was 40 year old divorced dads."
Nothing brings out the bad comic storytelling than pandering to THAT particular demographic (as a certain imfamous storyline can attest to.)
Fnord12, THANK YOU for pointing out all the problems with the "custody" subplot. Even as a youngster with little previous knowledge of these characters, felt this representation was crashingly unsubtle and biased, like one of the glut of TV-movies that were popping up around the time (Meredith Baxter-Birney IS Marcy Masterson!) Even when she's not featured, you'll get lots and lots (and lots) of of Eric's civilian life of character after character basically just bad-mouthing her nonstop. The constant hammering of this one note felt a bit eye-rolling uncomfortable to me.
"Samantha calls Eric "whitebread" twice within the span of 5 panels. And frankly, i can see why. I have trouble telling Eric apart from Quasar. Both have the slicked back blond hair and the annoying civilian-side problems that bog down the characters' potential for epic cosmic stories"
I wonder if this was the reason Thunderstrike started affecting a "biker" look.
Posted by: Jon Dubya | April 30, 2015 7:07 PM
Well thankfully DeFalco & Frenz's characterization of Marcy gradually did get more nuanced over time, instead of remaining stuck in the "stuck-up bitch" depiction seen here. But, yeah, way to make a negative first impression!
As with Michael, I did think it was really odd that Loki was already back to being a significant presence in this series, with hardly a break between this and his massive defeat in Avengers West Coast #55. It's almost like there was a missing scene from thirty seconds after that AWC issue ended where Loki squeezed himself out of that crevice he'd been trapped in, casually dusted himself off, and announced to no one in particular "Well, back to business!" And, yeah, he found the time to fit in the creation of the Tri-Sentinel in attempt to destroy NYC while setting himself up as a Kingpin-wannabe.
Posted by: Ben Herman | June 14, 2015 4:43 PM
Stone's battle with Ulik seems like a complete lift of Kirby's "Terrible" Turpin story from New Gods v.1 #8.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 8, 2015 7:16 PM
@Ben Herman: It's possible that the crimelord business here was just a back-up plan in-case his Acts of Vengeance idea didn't pan out, while the Tri-Sentinel and Hydroman bits in Spider-Man and Avengers West Coast could be diversions to keep the other heroes off his back for now.
Posted by: D09 | May 30, 2016 10:43 PM
@Omar Karindu: Yeah, I didn't realize it when I first read this issue in the early 1990s. Several years later, when DC published those black & white collections of the Jack Kirby's Fourth World saga, and I read "The Death Wish of Terrible Turpin" from New Gods #8, the similarities to this story immediately leaped out at me. Thor stands in for Orion, Marcus Stone stands in for Dan Turpin, and Ulik stands in for Kalibak. This is one of those occasions when DeFalco & Frenz went more than a little overboard with their homages to Kirby.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 8, 2017 10:22 PM
You don’t have the panels here fnord but the sequence where Stone faces Ulik on the roof interspersed with Eric’s attempts to reach the hammer ... Frenz’s artwork may be old fashioned but he sure can tell a story. Those panels for me rescued an otherwise cliche story.
Posted by: Jeff | April 22, 2018 4:31 PM
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