This will be a discussion of Walt Simonson’s run on Thor. I’ll be covering issues of Thor from 337-382, as well as the Balder the Brave mini-series.

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Randy Jackson said:

I guess I get that, but still--why wouldn't Steve Rogers be worthy all the time? Why wouldn't Superman? 

I'm sure Steve Rogers is worthy all the time. As for Superman, I figure the Silver Age version certainly is worthy, and maybe the Bronze Age version, too. However, the post-Crisis Superman  is tainted by that whole episode of killing the renegade Kryptonians and having a nervous breakdown because of it.

Actually, it would have been simpler if Odin had decreed that Mjolnir can be lifted by Thor (or his alter ego) ONLY. Period. 

"...killing the renegade Kryptonians..."

Executing.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

"...killing the renegade Kryptonians..."

Executing.

Since I don't want to , I don't know how much energy I want to put into litigating that story. For now, I'll just say I found it unpersuasive on multiple points, including which word properly identifies Superman's actions.

"Since I don't want to , I don't know how much energy I want to put into litigating that story."

Agreed.

BACK ON TOPIC: 12 Other Characters Who Have Lifted Thor's Hammer

Thor #339

Something Old, Something New...

Writer: Walt Simonson

Penciller: Walt Simonson

After declaring himself the victor in his battle with Thor, Beta Ray Bill collapses himself. Odin bids the Asgardians to take them both to the infirmary so they can get healed. Both survive.


As they recover, they’re being taken care of by an unnamed nurse. She speaks to Lorelei about the attractiveness of Bill, but Lorelei only has eyes for Thor. Sif enters, and Lorelei tells her that she plans to offer Thor—well, herself. Sif defends Bill to Lorelei, and Lorelei suggests that perhaps Sif should look into that option for herself. She leaves,but Odin has seen the entire scene.

Odin goes to visit Thor, who is depressed and ashamed that he lost the battle. He’s ready to renounce his godhood, but Odin (amazingly) has words of wisdom for his son, telling him to wait until they’ve all discussed things before making any hasty decisions.

Odin goes to see Bill, who isn’t very happy either. He worries that the enchantment on the hammer may fail him in the future, and he’s uncomfortable at having defeated Thor, as he believes the hammer belongs to him. He asks Odin if there’s any way he can help, and Odin thinks he might. He tells Bill that as he owes him the life of his son, and as he has shown that he can wield great power responsibly, that he’ll bestow upon him a gift.

In the land of Nidavellir, a solitary traveler asks some dwarves if he might camp with them. One of the dwarves, Eitri, recognizes the traveler as Odin himself. Odin is actually looking for Eitri, as he is a famous smith and he wants him to do something for him. Eitri is willing on one condition—if he can send a woman who can defeat their mightiest warrior, he’ll do as Odin asks. If she is defeated, she stays with the dwarves forever.

A couple days later, back at the house of healing, Bill and Thor are having a bit of a pity party over their fight. Thor says he lost fair and square, but Bill says that perhaps Odin set him up, as their battlefield closely matched conditions that Bill was very familiar with. They see Sif riding off to battle in the distance and ask the nurse what’s up. She tells the two of them that Sif has gone to battle on their behalf, and that she might never return.

There’s a brief flashback to Odin asking Sif if she would fight this battle against the dwarven champion knowing the consequences, but Sif readily agrees. As she nears Nidavellir, she’s thinking about Beta Ray Bill. Suddenly, Sif is attacked by Throgg the Dwarf.

Volstagg is still sitting on Agnar, and telling the story of the death of Balder the Brave. I’m going ot skip the details of how he died (it was Loki’s fault, of course). After he died, he was tormented in Niffleheim, the realm of Hela, goddess of Death.

We skip back to the mysterious figure forging something. He is said to dwarf the stars and he mumbles about the sword.

Back on Earth, one Quebecois named Rene Baroque, a lighthouse keeper, is lamenting the purchase of a food processor from a traveling saleswoman. He hears what the thinks is a knock on the door, but instead the lighthouse is destroyed and Surtur breaks free of his seal, swearing vengeance.

Back in Nidavellir, Sif easily defeats Throgg. Eitri shows up and greets her warmly. He had hoped Odin would send her, s they wanted Throgg defeated (turns out he was a bit of a bully that nobody liked). He tells Sif to tell Odin that all will be ready when he returns. He then tells the other dwarves to get to work.

After she returns, Odin plans a trip back to Nidavellir to get whatever it is he asked the dwarves to make along with 3 companions. Sif begins spending time with Bill, as he explains his worry about his people. As he has completely healed, he wants to return t them. Sif asks if there might be a time when he returns to Asgard. He tells her that he sacrificed his humanity to protect his people, and that he doesn’t feel like he deserves to live in a place so perfect.

In the furnaces of Nidavellir, the dwarves are nearing completion on the item Odin asked them to create. Watched by Bill, Odin and Sif, the dwarves complete the forging of the item. Eitri calls out for the release of the enchantment. Odin then imparts his own power on the process. He then tells Bill to put on a gauntlet and grab the object from the fire. With instructions from Eitri, Bill pulls the object from the fire and it’s...A LAVA LAMP!!!!!

Just kidding. It’s another hammer. Odin names it Stormbreaker, and gives it to Bill. He then gives Mjolnir back to Thor.

Bill asks Odin about his people. Odin tells him that the demons are nearly upon them and that he must make haste. Thor interjects and says that he should join Bill so that they might fight together. Odin agrees, but says that they must remember that the power of the demons comes from their source, which they must destroy.

Bill is concerned about the length of time it will take to find his people, but then Thor calls to hsis enchanted goats Toothgnasher and Toothgirnder to drive his chariot to Bill’s people, as that will be much faster. Sif tells them that she is going to go with them, saying she has earned her right to come. Thor welcomes her, and they take off into space.

My rating: 8/10

Another solidly crafted comic. Big doings with Surtur breaking free, plus many plot points revisited. Simonson is doing g a great job of juggling subplots and keeping them relevant while telling his story.

Some other thoughts:

* I loved Sif’s old all white costume, as I felt wit was befitting—at the time—of a woman who was depicted as more princess than warrior. Her current red and white costume is a nice upgrade as her role has changed to m ore of a warrior

* Simonson is one of very few Thor writers that actually depict Odin as having wisdom. Sure he’s all-seeing (except when it comes to Loki) and all knowing (except when it comes to Loki) and all powerful (except when he’s sleeping), but usually he’s shown to be about as wise as DCs Guardians (the wisdom of a brick). I’m almost tempted to ask the question, “who are you and what have you done with the real Odin?”.

The Sif/Bill dynamic is interesting. I’m always surprised when there’s mutual attraction between characters of such alien origin. It makes sense with the like of the Skrulls or Dire Wraiths because of their shape changing abilities, but here Bill and Sif are so alien to one another that their mutual attraction is just surprising. I get respect and admiration, but for many that only goes so far.

To put it another way, Sif is a beautiful woman by human standards, but what does she look like to someone like Bill. Sure his race is humanoid, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t find her look s repulsive. Oh well, it’s all just comics anyway, and it the writer and artist want t a romance, they’ll get one.

Thor #340

Though Hel Should Bar the Way!

Writer: Walt Simonson

Penciller: Walt Simonson

Thor, Sif and Bill catch up to Bill’s people in outer space. The demons have begun attacking, and while they’re too late to save the last ship in the convoy, they vow to protect the other ships. Sif jumps out and begins attacking the demons. She tells Thor and Bill to locate the source they need to destroy to defeat the demons, and she’ll protect the fleet. Bill doesn’t want to leave her, but Thor tells him that only the two of them might defeat the demons on their home turf. They keep moving.

Thor and Bill follow the demons until they reach their source. It’s the remnants of Bill’s galaxy, where a portal has been set up to spew an endless array of demons. Thor and Bill attack the portal.

Elsewhere, the strange being is still forging...something. Monsters inside the Earth are waking up.

Back with the fleet, Sif is starting to falter when suddenly she’s rescued by Skuttlebutt, Bill’s ship, which has completed it’s repairs. Sif jumps onboard, and Skuttlebutt has the idea to lead the demons away from the fleet. They leave, pursued by the demons.

Back in Asgard, Volstagg is still telling young Agnar about the trials and tribulations of Balder the Brave, who traveled to Hela’s dimension of Niffleheim and seen many horrors there, including the dead bodies of men that he had slain. Volstagg relates that Balder couldn’t tell him any more, and then suggests that Balder has a gentle nature, much different than himself or Thor. He then tells Agnar that if he were to attack Balder, that he might forgive him, and Fandral might forgive him, but Hogun might feel differently. At which juncture Agnar find himself face to face with Hogun the Grim.

Back at the portal, Thor and Bill have been unable to force themselves inside the portal. However, Thor has an idea of how they could perhaps seal the portal. Throwing both hammers simultaneously, they attempt to destroy the portal.

Back aboard Skuttlebutt, Sif and Skuttlebutt are being overwhelmed by the demons. Skuttlebutt tells her that he has to protect his people and that he plans to use his self-destruct device. As he begins his countdown, the demons suddenly disappear. Skuttlebutt is able to stop the self-destruct sequence. They realize that Bill and Thor must have destroyed the source. They return to the fleet to rendezvous with Thor and Bill.

In New York, Lorelei and Loki have taken up residence. Loki cautions her that Thor will not be an easy conquest, and Lorelei asks Loki why he’s helping her. He explains it’s for his own amusement.

In Asgard, Thor Bill and Sif return to a celebration over their defeat of the demons(apparently Skuttlebutt is a “her” BTW). As they freshen up for the celebration, Bill tells Thor he’s reluctant to leave Asgard and return to his people, although he knows he must.

Odin has summoned Sif to his chambers. He tells her he knows about her interest in Bill, and cautions her that Bill is fairly melancholic. He doesn’t really understand it himself, and asks her for her opinion on the matter. She tells him that during the battle, she and Skuttlebutt talked a lot about Bill and the many things he had to go through to become the champion of his people, not to mention the physical alterations. Additionally, he is shunned by his own people for his appearance. Odin says that he’ll see what can be done.

After the feast, Odin addresses Thor and Bill. He tells them that he wants to bestow upon them an enchantment that had outlived it’s purpose. After casting the spell, he has Bill strike Stormbreaker on the ground. Bill does so, and his appearance changes to what it had been before his transformation, with Stormbreaker transforming to a cane. Bill is overcome with emotion. Thor congratulates him, but then asks Odin what about Donald Blake.

Afterwards, Sif says goodbye to Thor, as she plans to leave with Bill and Skuttlebutt. Having said goodbye, Odin teleports them to Skuttlebutt. Thor then asks Odin if he intentionally set him up in his fight with Bill. Odin suggests even a god can use a little humility, although he doesn’t confirm that he intentionally caused Thor to lose.

Out near Cape Cod, a tanker is tranquilly making it’s way when suddenly a monster springs out of the water and destroys it. It’s Surtur, and he declares that he’s coming for Odin and Thor.

My rating: 9/10

Another well crafted comic. It’s almost becoming monotonous at this point to say that.

Some thoughts:

* I wonder if Louise Simonson got the idea for smart ships from Skuttlebutt? Power Pack did debut after this.

* I kind of would have liked to see a little more of Sif fighting the demons. I know the comic is about Thor, but it seemed as if she and Skuttlebutt had a harder time than Thor and Bill, and it would have been nice to see a little more of her bravery in the situation.

* I like Loki more as a god of mischief than a god of evil. Seeing him screw around with people for his own amusement makes him a more interesting character than being evil for the sake of being evil.

* Once again, Odin shows wisdom by asking for Sif’s opinion. This is just too weird, as Odin is usually dumber than a box of rocks.

* Interesting that Odin never responded to Thor's question about Donald Blake.

Guess I misrembered. I thought it was Surtur first, Fafnir later. 


Jeff of Earth-J said:

I was hoping you'd find my PM before you posted again. I just wanted to point out that you mentioned "Surtur" twice in your treatment of #349; that should have been "Fafnir." Moving on, here's what I was going to say about #349...

#339: How do you know which are the best Marvel Comics? I don't know about now, but in August 1983, they were the ones affected least by "Assistant Editors' Month." Anyone reading in collected form may not even know, save for the little blurb where the UPC symbol goes. In the original format, the letters page was replaced by "Carlin & Simonson's Page o' Thor Stuff!" For those of you who may not know, Assistant Editors' Month" was one of Marvel's lamest stunts ever. The conceit was, for the month of August, while all of Marvel's editors were at the San Diego ComiCon, the assistant editors were in charge, with license to do whatever they wanted while the bosses were away. Never mind the fact that the deadline for those issues to have been in the can was probably May. If they wanted to make it at all believable, the changes should have shown up in the issues shipping in November. Simonson's Thor and Byrne's Fantastic Four went pretty much untouched; other than that, August 1983 was the month that all Marvel comics could have been safely skipped.

John Workman was probably the first letterer whose work I could identify without looking at the credits. A lot of that has to do with his sound effects, but it's more than that, really. The real craft of a letterer should go unnoticed, and for many years (other than his sound effects), Workman's did for me. But the more technical aspect of a letterer's job is to lead the reader's eye from balloon-to-balloon in proper order (just as it is the artist's job to lead the reader's eye from panel-to-panel). Simonson and Workman must have worked in close conjunction, because many times the story follows an unconventional panel layout and relies on the word balloons and captions to direct the reader. Simonson and workman have collaborated on many projects over the years.

Regarding your comments about Sif, what I find remarkable is that Simonson did not give her the stereotypal "super-heroine" figure but rather that of a real woman.

I said before that I haven't been in the mood to read any other runs of Thor, but this discussion has actually put me in the mood! 

Now to re-read #340...

#340: And just like that, Don Blake is gone. Odin may be acting wiser than usual, but he's still just as arrogant. He didn't ask or even tell Thor he was removing the enchantment. [Once again, Fafnir not Surtur.]

Thus ends the first storyline of Simonson's Thor. I haven't ridden this hobby horse in a while but, seeing as this run is my "go to" example for what I am about to discuss, I couldn't help it. Too often today, editors and fans use the term "story arc" to refer to a multipart story such as this. I think they borrow the term from television, in which certain series may have an "arc" of individual episodes which comprises the entire season. I don't like the misuse of that term as it connotes a certain inferiority of the comic book medium, as if those who use it would rather be working in television.

Simonson's run is told in arcs, proper arcs, but #340 is not the end of the story arc, it is the end of the first storyline composing that arc. The first arc goes through #353.

I just reread this run, courtesy of the omnibus, earlier this year. Loved it every bit as much as I did as a kid -- maybe moreso in parts, as I didn't have to wait a month to continue the story. 

And I'm absolutely of the same opinion as you guys regarding Volstagg. I really want to see a story where he has to cut loose!

Loved the scene on the tanker ship on the final page of #340. I bet readers at the time were counting the days til the next issue of Thor hit the stands.

Thor #341

The Past Is a Bucket of Ashes

Writer: Walt Simonson

Penciller: Walt Simonson

Thor has returned to Earth. As he flies over New York City, he realizes that since he’s no longer Donald Blake he needs to find a new place to live. He decides to ask the Avengers for assistance. After an amusing interlude with some kids on the street, he enters Avengers Mansion to be swept away by (presumably) Secret Wars.

Elsewhere in New York, Lorelei is looking for someone in a fairly nasty neighborhood. She’s accosted by a couple of street toughs but she uses her powers to make them fight tone another. Entering a subway tunnel, she finds the one she’s been searching for—a dragon (likely Fafnir). She attempts to bend the dragon to her will, but the dragon also has powers of persuasion, and overwhelms Lorelei , looking for information.

A couple of weeks later, Thor goes to visit Nick Fury, asking for assistance. He’s about to tell Fury what’s up when he’s stopped by a feeling of his name being called. He asks Nick to talk in private and Fury agrees. He then explains what happened in Asgard and how Donald Blake no longer exists. He says he doesn’t want to stay at Avengers Mansion because he fears it would isolate him from the people he’s sworn to protect. Fury tells him a new identity won’t be hard, but an apartment could be hard to come by, In the meantime, Fury sends him off with a costumer to style a new civilian look. After a while, Thor comes back. He’s dressed in normal civilian clothes, but he still looks too much like Thor. Fury then gives him a pair of glasses to complete the look. He even says “they always worked for that other guy”. To test the new look, Fury invites him to a press conference. As they’re leaving the office, they run into a familiar looking bespectacled reporter and a partner who calls him Clark. As he’s moving on his way, Clark thinks he recognizes the tall, blond man.

Back in Asgard, Odin is singing a strange melody. It’s actually a method to summon his ravens, Huginn and Munnin. He’s inscribed sigils onto their claws that allow them to go anywhere, and he sends them off to the demons dimension to try to figure out where the demons are coming from.

In Manhattan, Thor is attempting to get work on a construction site. He introduces himself as Sigurd Jarlson, and he has a reference from Nick Fury. The foreman is unimpressed and doubtful of Jarlson’s abilities. There’s a commotion from the work site, and Thor and the foreman go to investigate. There’s a girl hanging from a crane high above the city streets. Thor scales the building as the crane’s base begins to give way.

1thor manages to save the girl without giving away his secret identity, but then out of the river springs the dragon. Thor recognizes the dragon as one he defeated long before. It’s Fafnir, and Thor doesn’t have his hammer. The girl—Lorelei I presume—was set there as bait to draw the thunder god out.

Back to the figure at the forge, he continues his work. As he continues his work, he says “I summon the Dark Elf”. He commands the Elf to seek out Thor. A voice calls out that he will.

Back on Earth, Thor has retrieved Mjolnir and is using it to cushion his fall as well as that of Lorelei’s. As Fafnir continues to attack, he think s the fall killed Thor, but Thor strikes Mjolnir on the ground and is fully transformed into Thor.

Thor and Fafnir fight. Thor asks Fafnir how he got there, and Fafnir tells him that a recent upheaval of the earth freed him from his long slumber below the Earth.

Volstagg is searching for Balder. Although he finds him not at home, he decides to check out his larder just in case. Outside Asgard, Balder is attempting to isolate himself from the rest of the Asgardians as he feels he is no longer worthy of their company—plus he doesn’t want to run into any more

Agnars.

Balder stops and camps for the evening, unaware that he’s being spied upon from a distance. It’s Karnilla, Queen of the Norns. She’s liking the changes to Balder, and she tells her minions to not harm him.

Back in the battle against Thor, Thor calls down a rainstorm to put out the fires caused by the fight. Realising that Thor defeated him before with lightning, Fafnir decides to run away so he can fight another day. He burrow into the subway and flees. Thor attempts to follow, but the fight has broken a massive hole in the wall separating the subway from the river. Thor manages to seal the hole before any real damage is done, but Fafnir is long gone. Thor muses that Fafnir didn’t realize how much of a threat he was posing, as Thor was hardly able to move him.

Back in Asgard, Loki has been watching the fight. He muses that the second battle will likely not go in Thor’s favor. He thinks Thor will die in their next battle. He also muses about how Lorelei bit off more than she could chew against Fafnir.

Back at the construction site, Sigurd Jarlson is checking the rubble to make sure the cavity he created for the girl held up and protected her, which it did. As the foreman approaches, he tells Sigurd to call him Jerry—Jerry Sapristi. He tells Sigurd he’s got a job if he wants one. As Lorelei cuddles up in Thor’s arms, he hears the voice again—a voice that reminds him of ancient battles and a war from long ago.

My rating: 9/10

A number of new things happen this issue, and it all looks like it’s going to be fun. Some thoughts:

* The little digs at Superman had me laughing hard. I’d forgotten about them.

* One thing I appreciate was the small filling in of plot holes. For instance, one of my first thoughts when Thor was looking for a new place to live is “why not Avengers Mansion?”. I’m glad they answered that. So frequently little things like that aren’t addressed.

* I also appreciate how Simonson is leaning a little harder on Norse mythology than many of the previous Thor writers. I think introducing Thor’s chariot and Odin’s ravens has been a nice touch.

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