Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Mighty Thor #340

"Though Hel Should Bar The Way!"
February 1984
Story - Walt Simonson
Art - Walt Simonson
Lettering - John Workman Jr.
Colors - George Roussos
Editing - Mark Gruenwald
Editor-In-Chief - Jim Shooter

And Walt Simonson’s run on Thor continues as we head into the final chapter of what was billed, to me, as the “Beta-Ray Bill Origin Saga.” The cover is your standard comic book action shot, featuring Thor and Beta-Ray Bill battling hordes of creatures in a one-colour landscape; it’s nothing too special, but Simonson makes it feel destructive and tense.
The issue opens with Thor, Bill and Sif riding towards battle on a ship carrying some of Bill’s people. They see a gigantic dragon-demon-thing straight away and launch themselves into battle; Sif moves away from the other two, taking on numerous demonic creatures by herself explaining that: “I will remain here and protect the fleet until you can reach the Demon’s Cradle and shatter it!” And there, kids, is our heroes’ task for the issue – get to the Demon’s Cradle, presumably the centre of their power, and destroy it, thereby saving everything. When the duo finally arrives at Bill’s home, they discover that it has been converted into some kind of glowing mechanical portal. Before they can react, they are attacked by more legions of demonic dragon things. There’s a blast of light, and the creatures start to retreat, but not for long.
We’re then treated to Walt Simonson’s favourite sequence of the series, as once more a mysterious figure continues his apparently endless task of forging a weapon in darkness. The sequence ends, as all others have with the loud proclamation of the word “DOOM!” only now we’re also informed that “In the deeps of the Earth, the monsters are waking.” This sequence is always a highlight for the book, despite how I tend to sell it as repetitive; it works, it’s setting up a threat that is oncoming, and with this particular addition, we know it’ll probably tie into Thor’s adventures on Earth, which we’ve not really seen a whole hell of a lot of.
Back in the battle, Sif encounters Bill’s ship, Skuttlebutt; this apparently has sentience and the pair team-up, leading the demonic hordes away from the Demon’s Cradle. Switch over to Asgard, and Volstagg is still sitting atop that guy who attacked him a few issues ago, telling him the story of Balder’s adventures in Hela’s domain (Hela being the Goddess of Death, if I’m remembering correctly). After a while, Volstagg finally gets bored and lets the guy go, only for him to immediately run into Hogun, who Volstagg explains: “Would never forget...or forgive!” implying that bad things are going to happen to this fellow by the time we see him next.
Thor and Bill finally manage to destroy the Demon’s Cradle, thanks to the combined strength of both their hammers. With the Cradle gone, the demons start disappearing, saving Sif’s life in the process. In New York, we get a brief scene of Loki scheming with Lorelei as they look out over Central Park. Clearly this is all part of some bigger plot that’ll come as the series progresses. Thor, Sif and Bill return to Asgard for a celebration; Odin speaks with Sif and comments on her love for Thor, through this we also learn more about Bill’s origin and learn that he is truly fucked up thanks to the machinations of his people. At the ceremony, Odin does some weird shit with the hammers and transfers the magical enchantment that allows Thor to turn into Donald Blake from Mjolnir to Stormbreaker, meaning that Bill can return to his true alien form, which he’s been unable to do since his people started screwing with his genetics. Despite his joy at Bill’s happiness, Thor does seem slightly more concerned over the fact that as a result Donald Blake no longer exists.
Bill departs, and Sif decides to go with him, kissing Thor passionately as she goes. Left alone with his father, Thor ponders what will become of them, to which Odin says he doesn’t quite know. And so our final page transports us back to Earth where a ship is attacked at sea by an enormous, demonic sea creature who screams loudly that he will have revenge on Odin and his son’s life is forfeit meaning that “THOR IS MINE!” and with that we end.
This issue was really just an action piece; it lacked much of the depth of previous issue, choosing instead to be more about the punching than the pondering. As a finale to this initial Beta-Ray Bill arc, it worked perfectly, though; we’ve had resolution to his character, its set up a lot of things to come, and also provided us with a new interesting piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Thor’s universe. Walt Simonson shines, again, in both art and story, with this issue’s artwork taking precedent over the natural progression of the narrative.
NEXT: “The Past Is A Bucket Of Ashes!

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