Issue(s): Thor #437 (back-up only), Thor #438, Thor #439, Thor #440, Thor #441
The main story in these issues is "The Thor War!", which has three fake Thors - Eric Masterson, Dargo Ktor, and Beta Ray Bill - fighting Zarrko the Tomorrow Man.
Dargo Ktor is the Thor of the 26th century, which is a post-apocalyptic wasteland caused when a slang bomb got detonated, causing everyone to talk like this:
"What is this scrag--?"
The time traveling Zarrko the Tomorrow Man comes to this period, and sends his Servitor robot to wreak havoc until Ktor-Thor comes out. Zarrko shows Ktor evidence that Eric Masterson will cause a time virus that will wipe out Ktor's timeline (this virus is said to be produced via a relationship that Eric forms with an alien; they never warned me about THAT in health class).
"Meanwhile, in the present" (love those transitions), Tom DeFalco shoots down fan ideas about how Susan Austin might be brought out of her coma without Don Blake.
Note that DeFalco doesn't actually explain why these ideas won't work. He just dismisses them.
And then we get to the mysterious guy that's been lurking around Eric's apartment for "weeks". It's Bobby Steele, Eric's ex-wife Marcy's husband, and a guy that thinks it's normal to walk into the house of a guy that he barely knows and ask for a low sodium vegetable juice.
Steele wants to adopt Eric and Marcy's son, Kevin. Eric isn't too pleased about that, but either Eric is lamer than Donald Blake ever was or Bobby really is made of steel.
Eric is so mad he considers going after Bobby as Thor to beat him up, but settles on the less violent but also less mature option of causing a storm to ruin Bobby's convertible. When Bobby gets home, he tells Marcy that Eric didn't seem to care when he told him about their plans to adopt Kevin. Kevin overhears and gets upset.
The whole idea of Bobby lurking around Eric's apartment for weeks makes no sense. I can see Bobby wanting to tell Eric in person before they filed any legal paperwork, but he still could have called or sent a letter asking to meet instead of just hanging around outside his apartment for weeks hoping Eric would show up. It's either bad fake drama or else DeFalco and Frenz had no idea who the mystery man would be when they started this plot and went with this when they couldn't think of anything better.
But, back to our main story. Because Dargo Ktor apparently isn't enough to meet our weird slang quota, Stellaris shows up to attack Eric-Thor.
She's still trying to sound like Death's Head, too.
Dargo shows up at the same time, and they fight over who gets to kill Thor.
Eric immediately dismisses the idea that Dargo is here to stop a timeline problem ("I already sat through Terminator II -- and I'm not falling for any time paradox jazz"), but they form a truce when civilians are endangered by their fight.
And Stellaris then just decides to stop fighting and join a motorcycle gang instead.
Out in space, Beta Ray Bill is helping his people get settled on a new planet.
I think this is the first time that we've seen Bill's people (they've been in cryogenic storage). I am a little surprised to see that they look just like Bill when he's in his "civilian" form, but as Clyde notes in the comments, when Bill gets the ability to change in Thor #340, he says, "I am myself again", which does seem to indicate that it's his pre-cyborg form. I just find that to be a little odd since the enchantment, if it's working like it did when Thor had it, should be removing his Thor elements, as opposed to the cyborg elements (which were there prior to him ever getting Thor powers). But i guess "it's magic!".
Bill gets a twinge on his hammer telling him that something is happening on planet Earth. Bill's superiors tell him not to leave them, but he does anyway.
When Bill arrives on Earth, he's more willing to listen to Dargo than Eric was, and he's able to convince the reluctant Eric to join them in going after Zarrko (Bill seems to have convinced Dargo that Zarrko was lying, although that happens off panel) .
I am already a fan of Beta Ray Bill, but even if i wasn't, i think i would have liked him after this story, just in comparison to the other two "Thors". Between Dargo's belligerent slang and Eric's equally belligerent and inexplicable attitude, Bill comes across as the only adult in the room.
Bill traces Zarrko to his ship, where they face a bunch of old Thor villains plucked from time.
There is one Oort the Living Comet style character, Shatterfist, who is an enemy of Eric that he hasn't met yet. And also a character called Demonstaff that Dargo calls his greatest enemy. This is the first appearance, by publication date, of either of those characters.
After fighting the villains (and learning the value of teamwork!), Zarrko summons Loki for the boss battle. I'll note that when Loki confronts Eric, he detects no trace of the real Thor.
But Eric challenges Loki to look into his head and see his future, where he's killed by Thor.
And that causes Loki to give up the fight and go after Zarrko to try to get him to change that timeline. They both get tossed into the timestream while fighting.
Meanwhile, Dargo accesses Zarrko's computer files to learn more about the time virus that Zarrko told him would wipe out his timeline. I love that Dargo says that Zarrko "once" told him this, as if it wasn't about an hour ago storywise. What Dargo sees shocks him.
As the Thors are all departing after the fight, Dargo acts weirdly friendly and apologetic toward Eric, but doesn't tell him what he saw.
Eric gets home to find his apartment in ruins after the Stellaris fight. But he gets some good news from Susan Austin's Allman Brothers doctor, who has located Donald Blake.
After issue #437's story featuring the comedic stylings of Hercules and now the multiple Thor story (billed as the Thor Corps on the cover of #440), i have to wonder if Tom DeFalco is turning this into a comedy book without telling us.
In the five part back-up story, Balder and Sif go looking for the real Thor in Hel. They fight the Destroyer...
...who they think may be possessed by Thor's soul, but it's really Lorelei.
Sif keeps the Destroyer busy while Balder frees Hela from a crystal shell that she's encased in, and then Hela banishes the Destroyer to a portion of Hel reserved for "oathbreakers, murderers and monsters" which is full of tentacled horrors.
Hela is grateful, but doesn't know where Thor is.
These are very simplistic plots (both the main story and the back-up) and have very stilted dialogue more suitable for Marvel's Star comics. Aside from the novelty of the multiple Thors, the main long term drama comes from dropping mysterious hints and then dragging out their resolutions indefinitely, which is actually very similar to what we've been seeing in other Marvel books. Especially Ghost Rider, but it'll become a staple of the X-books as well. And i guess we can sort of blame Chris Claremont for popularizing the idea of lingering mysteries and subplots, but it's done here without any craft or subtlety. A guy hangs around in the shadows near Eric's apartment for weeks and it turns out to just be his ex-wife's husband who barely has anything to say to him. Future villains are dropped into the time travel story with, i am sure, no plans about who they are. Dargo sees something on Zarrko's computer screen and keeps it a secret from Eric for no reason. Balder and Sif spend five issues chasing a red herring. Personally i enjoy seeing Ron Frenz draw some classic Thor villains, but i'd probably have been happier with pin-ups considering their relevance to the (sparse inconsequential) plot.
Quality Rating: C-
Historical Significance Rating: 1
Chronological Placement Considerations: Since Captain America #394, Quasar #28, and the main story from Thor #437 (this entry only covers the back-up from #437) all take place at approximately the same time and Thor's appearance in Captain America #395-397 continues from Captain America #394, this story takes place after Thor's appearance in Captain America. There's potentially a complication regarding Zarrko, who impersonates Doom's manservant Boris for an indeterminate period of time. I'm not sure if Zarrko is appearing here while he's impersonating Boris or before or after that. But it's actually not that different than the usual problem for time-traveling characters, in that we don't really know if appearances of people like Zarrko or Kang take place from their perspective in the same chronology that we see them in. Note that i don't count the plucked-from-time appearances of the villains that Zarrko summons.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showBalder, Beta Ray Bill, Bobby Steele, Dargo Ktor, Destroyer (Asgardian armor), Fandral, Garm, Gary Paretsky, Heimdall, Hela, Hogun, Jerry Sapristi, Karnilla, Kevin Masterson, Lorelei (Norse Goddess), Marcy Masterson Steele, Servitor, Sif, Stellaris, Susan Austin, Thunderstrike, Volstagg, Zarrko the Tomorrow Man
"I guess the enchantment is transforming him into his pre-cyborg form, but that seems beyond the intent of the enchantment and it's not what i originally understood from Walt Simonson's run (although i could have been wrong)."
FNORD - you wrote this in the entry for Thor 337-340 -
Posted by: clyde | November 16, 2015 12:01 PM
Thanks Clyde. I think i wrote that knowing how things would turn out. I don't think the Simonson issues ever really said that it was his pre-cyborg form, but i guess that should be inferred by Bill saying, "I am myself again". I've updated this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 16, 2015 12:10 PM
Bill: "I say thee Nay."
Thor: "Well ofc you would, you're a horse bro."
Posted by: JC | November 16, 2015 5:26 PM
Re: Bobby shrugging off Eric's punch- we'll find out later that Bobby is abusing steroids.
Posted by: Michael | November 16, 2015 8:22 PM
By the way, fnord, I agree about the mysteries but I don't think that what Dargo saw on the viewscreen qualifies-it was obvious that he saw that Eric would die young and didn't have the heart to tell him.
Posted by: Michael | November 16, 2015 11:27 PM
I don't think it comes across very clearly for the most part, but yes, in retrospect it would seem that Dargo kept silent because he was too shocked by the sight of Eric's death.
This article elaborates on the matter:
Posted by: Luis Dantas | November 17, 2015 3:36 AM
Yeah, I always got the idea that the enchantment was Odin's gift to Bill; letting him shed his monstrous form and just be one of his people again.
Posted by: Thanos6 | November 17, 2015 6:20 AM
I've never read DeFalco's Thor run, so I'm a bit confused about this Dargo Ktor character... Is he supposed to be a future version of Thor Odinson? If he is, shouldn't he already know what Eric's ultimate fate is? And if he isn't, why does he look exactly like "our" Thor?
Posted by: Tuomas | November 18, 2015 4:00 AM
Dargo Ktor was an ordinary human in the 26th century that was invited to join a cult that worshiped the hammer of Thor, which was embedded in a rock. And Dargo was able to pick it up and gain the power of Thor, Donald Blake style (except with spiky shoulder pads, of course). In this arc, Zarrko tells Dargo that the hammer was left behind on Earth after Eric Masterson died before he was able to return the hammer to the real Thor. So based on that, what he saw on the viewscreen shouldn't have been that shocking, yeah.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 18, 2015 7:26 AM
But Zarrko was lying about that part- we know that Eric lives until after the real Thor gets his hammer back- so Dargo had no reason to think he was telling the truth about Eric dying. Besides, Zarrko told Dargo Eric stole the hammer, so he had no reason to feel sorry for Eric the first time around.
Posted by: Michael | November 18, 2015 7:55 AM
"a post-apocalyptic wasteland caused when a slang bomb got detonated, causing everyone to talk like this"
I think in one line you just summed up my biggest issue with Whedon's Firefly.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 10, 2016 7:19 AM
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