Issue(s): Thor #457, Thor #458, Thor #459
Eric Masterson goes to Asgard so that he can go through the Gauntlet of the Grim Guardian to find the real Thor. The Gauntlet involves him getting hooked up to an Asgardian machine so that he can be sent into his own mind, where he fights a variety of illusions. He's guided by an avatar that looks like his younger self and calls himself Sparky the Lightning Kid (a name originally given to Eric by Absorbing Man).
The MCP treat Sparky as an actual character; he's got one more appearance in the Thunderstrike series.
I guess the illusions are a nice way for Ron Frenz to say goodbye (but if i were EiC-For-Life, i would still ban all "fight illusions in your heads" plots).
Eric locates Thor in his subconscious mind and releases him. But it turns out that Eric can still turn into Thor.
While Eric was in the Gauntlet, we saw Sappy Sif still wearing Eric's jacket and wondering if she loves Eric or Thor. The Enchantress overheard.
Thor suggests that Eric take Mjolnir and return to Earth to be its protector while he stays in Asgard to marry Sif. But since Sif and Eric both think they are attracted to each other, that doesn't seem like as pat a solution as it should be. But Eric does return to Earth.
In the first back-up, the Enchantress goes to Heimdall, who asks if she might want to get married. She says the idea of being confined to a single lover is madness, and then teleports away to make some mischief. She steals the jacket Sif has been wearing.
Eric goes to his ex-wife Marcy's house to pick-up his son Kevin, and he learns that Marcy is having some unspecified trouble with her husband Bobby. Talking further with Kevin, he learns that Bobby has been disappearing, and the timing of one such disappearance coincides with the appearance of Bloodaxe in the previous arc.
Later, Eric goes to break up a bank robbery and finds that it's being led by Shatterfist. This is Shatterfist's first chronological appearance, but Eric knows Shatterfist from when he met him during a time vortex. And in fact he's been confident about his ability to survive all his battles due to the knowledge that he hadn't fought Shatterfist yet (i guess no one told Eric about alternate timelines). So even though Shatterfist's power is that he's spent too much time using the Nintendo Power Glove, the confrontation leaves Eric rattled.
In fact, Eric has to be rescued by an elderly security guard.
Eric then goes to Avengers Mansion for a pep talk from Captain America. Sif (seemingly) shows up there, wearing his jacket, and she gives him a kiss. But of course she's really the Enchantress, and now he's under her thrall. She sends him back to Asgard to fight Thor for the real Sif.
Odin contacts the Enchantress to tell her that he knows whats she's up to, but he doesn't put a stop to it.
While Eric and Thor fight it out for a bit...
...we see Odin meeting with Eitri, the dwarf that (in most tellings) created Thor's hammer, as well as Beta Ray Bill's.
During a pause in the fighting where both Thors are knocked back, Sif runs to the real Thor, causing Eric to realize that Sif really loves Thor, not him. And that seems to break the Enchantress' spell (or maybe Odin was just ready for the fighting to be over). He says goodbye to Sif and Thor brings him back to Earth. But Thor leaves him with a cane that turns out to transform him into a "Thor" anyway. Except the stick becomes a mace instead of a hammer, and it's engraved with the word Thunderstrike and a surprisingly sentimental message from Odin.
Eric doesn't officially take the name Thunderstrike yet.
This ends a very nostalgic, often corny, run on Thor. I think it's interesting that the series was indeed very retro but at the same time it introduced a new Thor who had more of an attitude and was less bound by a code of honor than traditional super-heroes. It's a good symbol for Tom DeFalco's run as Editor in Chief. Another aspect of the series was the long running mysteries, like where Thor was banished to, and the mystery of Bloodaxe, that were often peppered with red herrings. Very similar to DeFalco's handling of the mystery of the Hobgoblin's identity during his and Frenz's Amazing Spider-Man run. And of course the Bloodaxe mystery isn't resolved yet, and DeFalco and Frenz (and Milgrom) aren't really going away. They're just splitting off to the Thunderstrike series where they'll continue with the same tone.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted in the entry for the previous arc, there's a gap before the end of Thor #456 so that Eric-As-Thor can appear in other books before going to Asgard to quest for the real Thor. Eric doesn't quite become Thunderstrike in this issue; he takes that name and modifies his costume in Thunderstrike #1 (Jun cover date), which means any appearances of Eric as Thunderstrike need to take place after that issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showArko, Balder, Black Knight (Dane Whitman), Captain America, Eitri, Enchantress, Fandral, Heimdall, Hercules, Hogun, Jarvis, Kevin Masterson, Marcy Masterson Steele, Odin, Shatterfist, Sif, Sparky, Susan Austin, Thor, Thunderstrike, Volstagg
I had a letter published in Thor #459!
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 2, 2016 9:05 AM
Really, DeFalco's script have their corny charm but I never noticed before how seriously they emulate post-1980s Stan Lee scripts on the rare occasion he would write a comic. "Still, it's better than Fido!" DeFalco could ghostwrite for Stan and one would never know the difference.
Posted by: Wis | January 28, 2017 12:27 AM
I finally finished re-reading the whole DeFalco & Frenz run, minus a dozen or so issues that I'm still missing after all these years. I thought this stuff was *much* better when I was in high school -- it was pretty much the perfect material for my 16 year old Marvel Zombie self -- but I still find it pretty enjoyable, if also corny & overly melodramatic. I guess I will always possess a certain fondness for these comic books.
DeFalco is one of those writers who is well suited to creating superhero material for a teenage audience. Really, there's nothing wrong with that. I actually prefer that over someone who all these decades later is yet again attempting to create the sort of "sophisticated" nonsense that comes from aping Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns for the umpteenth time.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 24, 2017 4:58 PM
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