Thor, God of Thunder volume 4: The Last Days of Midgard


By Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Agustin Alessio, Simon Bisley, R.M. Guera, Ive Svorcina & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8991-6

Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, The Mighty Thor began his stellar career delivering an unceasing procession of spectacular fantasy-flavoured adventures which encompassed everything from crushing crime capers and smashing sinister super-villains to crushing mythical monsters saving entire universes from cosmic doom.

As the decades passed he survived numerous reboots and re-imaginings to keep the wonders of fabled Asgard appealing to an increasingly more sophisticated – and therefore jaded – readership. An already exceedingly broad range of scenarios spawned even greater visual variety after the Thunderer’s introduction to the pantheon of cinematic Marvels and his ongoing triumphs as a bona fide movie sensation.

A relatively recent publishing iteration of Marvel’s most tempestuous hero began by simultaneously focusing on the Storm Lord in the past, present and future. Thor, God of Thunder ended with #25 with this compilation gathering #19.NOW through to that momentous anniversary climax (cover-dates April to October 2014) bringing that conceit to its natural, if staggeringly apocalyptic, conclusion.

Crafted primarily by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic, this chronicle visits two vastly separated eras as the Lord of Storms tackles two ultimate enemies of Earth in two distinctly different times.

‘The Last Days of Midgard’ opens with an appraisal of how, across the universe, many worlds are inexplicably expiring even as, on Earth, Thor is renewing his ineffable bond with the blue planet he loves so much.

Having recently made the acquaintance of junior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Rosalind Solomon and been more than a little impressed, he is thus on hand when she begins her job in the agency’s new Environmental Hazard Division and uncovers a high-tech underwater Japanese whaling fleet hunting inside a UN undersea preserve.

As her solo assault fails Solomon is surprised – and a tad annoyed – to be rescued by the almighty storm god who soon routs and destroys the poachers. Meanwhile in Alaska, the new CEO of super-corporation Roxxon is unveiling his latest moneymaking scheme…

Unctuous yet menacing wunderkind Dario Agger is proudly publicising his new project to bring clean – albeit exorbitantly expensive – mined ice for drinking water from Jupiter’s moon Europa. Of course, he neglects to mention his company’s covert countervailing activities: secretly polluting water tables, melting Earth’s icecaps and befouling the atmosphere to maximise the profit potential of Roxxon’s newest line….

Under his new business model Roxxon intends to ecologically destabilise the planet so that they can monetise their brand of high-tech stopgap solutions…

Agger’s first foray goes embarrassingly awry when Thor hijacks his press launch; hand-delivering an entire mountain of clean ice and promising all Earth might ever need…

Furiously brushing aside Agent Solomon’s thinly veiled threat that S.H.I.E.L.D. is onto him, the self-proclaimed god of money vows vengeance and brings in his lawyers and lobbyists. Superheroes and even S.H.I.E.L.D. enforce laws, but corporations own the politicians who make and – where necessary – rewrite them…

In the far distant future the universe is winding down and All-father Thor is a weary, maimed but still stubborn god. The end of time has almost no deities left in it, save the aged, one-eyed, one-armed Last King of Asgard, with only his (recently liberated from slavery yet ferociously independent) granddaughters Atli, Ellisiv and Frigg for company.

He spends his days sitting on and mourning the burned-out, nigh-dead Earth he loves so much, but Thor’s ancient passions for the planet are stoked back to blazing fury when world-devourer Galactus arrives, determined to consume at last the only celestial morsel ever to frustrate his unending hunger…

‘All Worlds Must Die’ opens in that aforementioned far distant future as All-Father Thor banishes his tempestuous granddaughters back to Asgard whilst he prepares to die at long last defending his barren charge. Back in the Now his younger self has returned to the town of Broxton, Oklahoma; a place he sometimes calls home.

After a previous Ragnarok brought the extra-dimensional realm of Asgard to destruction and scattered the souls of the gods, a mysterious voice summoned the deceased Thor back to life – on Earth – in a crack of shattering thunder. Revived for an unspecified purpose the solitary godling swiftly set about retrieving the souls of his fellow Aesir, all scattered and hidden inside human hosts, and set up Asgard-on-Earth a few paltry feet above the ground of Oklahoma…

Following many battles and conflicts the mystic floating city – now dubbed Asgardia – was officially declared an Embassy of the Gods by the US government, and life for the rural humans below settled down to a pattern of strangely heightened, intense friendly cooperation with their amazing neighbours…

Outraged at what Solomon has told him of Roxxon and contemptuous as ever of mortal laws, Thor then causes the destruction of all the corporation’s flying pollution factories, provoking Agger to move the hero up his agenda and retaliate…

In his corporate lair the billionaire revels in the power of money and science whilst murderously “inspiring” his ineffectual think-tank to find solutions to his god problem. The gorily bloodletting brainstorming session soon arrives at a perfect response, but also inadvertently reveals a stunning secret about the cruel plutocrat…

With Agger setting his plans into motion in the present, at the end of time the last King of Asgard refuses to surrender his beloved Earth to Galactus and, as the battle ferociously escalates, readies himself to die gloriously with his wounded world…

‘God, Inc.’ sees the apparent defeat of the elder god, whilst in his past the unstoppable power of money and influence as applied by Roxxon has moved clerical mountains and brought misery to the younger Thunderer.

The corporation has moved into Broxton with a spurious scheme to bring jobs, prosperity and progress to the isolated farming town. Of course the first step is buying up all the land they can and splitting up the community. That is quickly followed by establishing a second wave of atmosphere-poisoning flying factories over their bewildered heads…

Correctly assessing what Thor’s furiously impatient response will be, smug Agger is waiting with a legion of lawyers and writs waiting to serve the god with injunctions, cease-&-desist orders and damages suits. After the CEO refuses the Asgardian’s offer to buy back Broxton with the unlimited wealth of the Eternal Realm, only Rosalind’s frantic pleading stops the enraged Thunderer from blowing his top and getting himself arrested and even deported from Earth…

In a distant Tomorrow Galactus has defeated the ancient Thunder Lord and thrown his battered body into space, whilst in the Now Agger initiates the next phase in his blueprint for vengeance, summoning monstrous troll Ulik and his troglodytic legions to literally undermine Broxton and Asgardia and slay Thor when he inevitably intervenes…

‘For Thor So Loved the World’ finds the world-devourer preparing to render the defenceless future Earth to rubble when the incomparable and ever defiant Atli, Ellisiv and Frigg return, bearing an arsenal of god-killing weapons, whilst in present day Oklahoma Thor resorts to guile and patience – two things he is legendarily short of – whilst Rosalind leads the fight back against Roxxon.

Things soon go wrong though when she is targeted by hungry trolls…

As defeated King Thor rallies at the end of the universe and storms towards the place where the most ultimate of weapons is cached, in the present Thor confronts Agger and is astonished to see him transform into a bloodthirsty beast-monster easily the match of a mere god…

‘Blood of the Earth’ features even more spectacularly climactic cataclysmic combat on two time-fronts with ravening monsters equally served their just deserts, topped off with a brace of twist endings each serving to set the scene for forthcoming dramas, but the graphic drama does not end there.

Thor, God of Thunder #24 featured ‘The Last Days of Midgard Epilogue: Adieu, Midgard, Adieu’ (illustrated by Agustin Alessio & colourist Ive Svorcina with Ribic), offering a rather downbeat conclusion to the bombastic epic as – beaten but undeterred – Dario Agger pleads possession by uncanny forces and puts all Roxxon’s resources behind a campaign to remove the terrifying, alien, immigrant Asgardians from American – if not Earth’s – holy soil…

Amidst an aura of almost constant super-powered strife, it’s ludicrously easy to sway public opinion and All-Mother Freyja decides its time for the repaired and fully restored city of wonders to leave for another, more welcoming place in the unending cosmos. But before they go, Thor has one last invaluable gift for all the friends in Broxton he feels he has failed…

Closing this collection and that era of the never-ending chronicles of Thor comes issue #25, disseminating ‘Tales of Thunder’ written as always by Aaron who takes the opportunity to delve into the secret histories of many of the lesser characters whilst laying the foundations for Thor’s Next Big Evolution.

This would happen as a result of the Original Sin Crossover Event which ended with a completely different Thunderer holding the Hammer of Thor…

Cloaked in a framing sequence where All-Father Thor’s granddaughters are forced to study excerpts from history the lessons begin with ‘The 13th Son of a 13th Son’ (limned by R.M. Guera and coloured by Giulia Brusco) which luxuriously details the sordid development of an elf sold into slavery by his mother. Rising from that cruel and demeaning state due to his ruthlessness and affinity for sorcery, the goddesses’ research shows how and why Dark Elf Malekith the Accursed became leader of the Wild Hunt and enemy of all that lives…

Next Simon Bisley spectacularly illuminates a tale of Thor’s Boyhood when he rode with the Vikings of Midgard against invading Frost Giant’s in a war of ‘Blood and Ice’. Despite emerging triumphant, the young prince of Asgard made an error of judgement which would cost him dear in centuries to come…

The school session ends soon after the last war maidens of Asgard consult a forbidden tome and learn of a woman who held mighty Mjolnir after the son of Odin was found to be ‘Unworthy’ (art by Ribic & Svorcina) which tantalisingly leads into another book for another time…

This blistering book of battles, trickery, triumphs and tragedies affords furious thrills and fabulous Fights ‘n’ Tights furore no fan of mythic cosmic adventure could possibly resist, so why not surrender to an irresistible force of full-on fun?
© 2012, 2015 Marvel Characters. All rights reserved.

Thor Epic Collection: The God of Thunder


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Robert Bernstein, Joe Sinnott, Al Hartley, Don Heck & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-8835-3

Even more than the Fantastic Four, The Mighty Thor was the arena in which Jack Kirby’s restless fascination with all things Cosmic was honed and refined through his dazzling graphics and captivating concepts. The King’s string of power-packed signature pantheons began in a modest little fantasy/monster title called Journey into Mystery where – in the summer of 1962 – a tried-and-true comicbook concept (feeble mortal transformed into god-like hero) was revived by the fledgling Marvel Comics to add a Superman analogue to their growing roster of costumed adventurers.

This gloriously economical full-colour tome – also available in eFormats – re-presents those pioneering Asgardian exploits from JiM #83-109, spanning summer 1962 to October 1964 in a blur of innovation and seat-of-the-pants myth-revising and universe-building…

Cover-dated August 1962, Journey into Mystery #83 saw a bold costumed warrior jostling aside the regular fare of monsters, aliens and sinister scientists in a brash, vivid explosion of verve and vigour.

The initial exploit followed crippled American doctor Donald Blake who takes a vacation in Norway only to encounter the vanguard of an alien invasion. Fleeing, he is trapped in a cave where he finds an old, gnarled walking stick. When in his frustration he smashes the stick into a huge boulder obstructing his escape, his puny frame is transformed into the Norse God of Thunder, the Mighty Thor!

Plotted by Stan Lee, scripted by his brother Larry Lieber and illustrated by Kirby and inker Joe Sinnott (at this juncture a full illustrator, Sinnott would become Kirby’s primary inker for most of his Marvel career), ‘The Stone Men of Saturn’ is pure early Marvel, bombastic, fast-paced, gloriously illogical and captivatingly action-packed. The hugely under-appreciated Art Simek was the letterer and logo designer.

It was clear that they whey were making it up as they went along – not in itself a bad thing – and that infectious enthusiasm shows in the next adventure…

‘The Mighty Thor Vs. the Executioner’ is a “commie-busting” tale of its time with a thinly disguised Fidel Castro wasting his formidable armies in battle against our hero. Dr. Blake’s nurse Jane Foster is introduced; a bland cipher adored from afar by the Norse superman’s timid alter-ego. The creative team settled as Dick Ayers replaced Sinnott, and with #85’s ‘Trapped by Loki, God of Mischief!’ the final element fell into place with the “return” of a suitably awesome arch-foe; in this case the hero’s half-brother. This evil magician and compulsive trickster escaped divine incarceration and his first thought was to bedevil Thor by causing terror and chaos on the world of mortals he was so devoted to.

Here a new and greater universe was first revealed with the tantalising hints and glimpses of the celestial otherworld and more Nordic gods…

Issue #86 introduced another recurring villain. Zarrko, bristling at the sedentary ease of 23rd century life, travelled to 1962 to steal an experimental “C-Bomb”, forcing the Thunderer into a stirring hunt through time and inevitable clash with super-technology ‘On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man!’ On his return Blake became a target of Soviet abductors. Those sneaky spies even managed to make Thor a ‘Prisoner of the Reds!’ before eventually emerging unscathed and triumphant…

‘The Vengeance of Loki’ saw the god of Mischief’s return in #88 as the malevolent miscreant uncovered Thor’s secret identity and naturally menaced Jane Foster whilst ‘The Thunder God and the Thug’ was adventure on a much more human scale wherein a gang boss runs riot over the city and roughshod over a good woman’s heart, giving the Asgardian a chance to demonstrate a more sophisticated and sympathetic side by crushing him and freeing her from Thug Thatcher’s influence.

Issue #90 was an unsettling surprise as the grandeur of Kirby & Ayers was replaced by the charming yet angst-free art of Al Hartley, who illustrated Lee & Lieber’s stock alien-invasion yarn ‘Trapped by the Carbon-Copy Man!’ A month later the Storm Lord tackles ‘Sandu, Master of the Supernatural!’, with Sinnott handling all the art, in a thriller starring a carnival mentalist who – augmented by Loki’s magic – comes catastrophically close to killing our hero…

Sinnott drew JiM #92’s ‘The Day Loki Stole Thor’s Magic Hammer’ (scripted by Robert Bernstein over Lee’s plot) which moves the action fully to the mythical realm of Asgard for the first time as Thor sought to recover his stolen weapon after Loki ensorcelled the magnificent mallet. Kirby & Ayers momentarily returned for Cold War/Atom Age thriller ‘The Mysterious Radio-Active Man!’ – again plotted by Bernstein – as Mao Tse Tung unleashes an atomic assassin in retaliation for Thor thwarting China’s invasion of India. Such “Red-baiting” was common in early Marvel titles, but their inherent jingoistic silliness can’t mar the eerie beauty of the artwork. With this tale the rangy, raw-boned Thunder God completed his slow metamorphosis into the husky, burly blonde bruiser who dominated any panel he was drawn in.

Sinnott illustrated the next three somewhat pedestrian adventures. ‘Thor and Loki Attack the Human Race!’, ‘The Demon Duplicator’ and ‘The Magic of Mad Merlin!’, but these mediocre tales of magic-induced amnesia, science-fuelled evil doppelgangers and an ancient mutant menace were the last of an old style of comics. Stan Lee took over full scripting with Journey into Mystery #97 and a torrent of action wedded to soap opera melodrama resulted in a fresh style for a developing readership.

‘The Lava Man’ in #97 was again drawn by Kirby, with the subtly textured inking of Don Heck adding depth to the tale of an invader summoned from the subterranean realms to menace humanity at the behest of Loki. More significantly a long running rift between Thor and his stern father Odin was established after the Lord of Asgard refused to allow his son to love the mortal Jane.

This acrimonious triangle was a perennial sub-plot fuelling many attempts to humanise Thor, because already he was a hero too powerful for most villains to cope with. Most importantly this issue was notable for the launch of a spectacular back-up series. ‘Tales of Asgard – Home of the mighty Norse Gods’ gave Kirby a vehicle to indulge his fascination with legends. Initially adapting classic tales but eventually with all-new material particular to the Marvel pantheon, he built his own cosmos and mythology, which underpinned the company’s entire continuity. This first saga, scripted by Lee and inked by George Bell (AKA old Golden Age collaborator George Roussos), outlined the origin of the world and the creation of the World Tree Yggdrasil.

‘Challenged by the Human Cobra’ introduced the serpentine villain (bitten by a radioactive Cobra, would you believe?) in a tale by Lee & Heck, whilst Kirby – with them in attendance – offered ‘Odin Battles Ymir, King of the Ice Giants!’ a short, potent fantasy romp which laid the groundwork for decades of cosmic wonderment of years to come.

The same format held for issues #99 and #100 with the main story (the first two-part adventure in the run) introducing the brutal ‘Mysterious Mister Hyde’ – and concluding a month later with ‘The Master Plan of Mr. Hyde!’ The modern yarn dealt with a contemporary chemist who could transform into a super-strong villain at will and who framed Thor for his crimes whilst in primordial prehistory Kirby detailed Odin’s war with ‘Surtur the Fire Demon’ and latterly (with Vince Colletta inking) crafted an exploit of the All-Father’s so different sons in ‘The Storm Giants – a tale of the Boyhood of Thor’. As always, Lee scripted these increasingly influential comicbook histories…

JiM #101 saw Kirby finally assume control of the pencilling on both strips. ‘The Return of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man’ sees Odin halve Thor’s powers for wilful disobedience just as the futuristic felon abducts the Thunder God to help him conquer the 23rd century. Anther two-parter (the first half inked by Roussos), it was balanced by another exuberant tale of the boy Thor. ‘The Invasion of Asgard’ sees the valiant lad fight a heroic rearguard action that introduced a host of future villainous mainstays such as Rime Giants and Geirrodur the Troll.

‘Slave of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man’ is a tour de force epic conclusion most notable for the introduction of Chic Stone as inker. To many of us oldsters, his clean, full brush lines make him The King’s best embellisher ever.

This triumphant futuristic thriller is counterbalanced by brooding short ‘Death Comes to Thor!’ as the teen hero faces his greatest challenge yet. Two females who would play huge roles in his life were introduced in this brief 5-pager; the young goddess Sif and Hela, Queen of the Dead.

On a creative roll, Lee, Kirby & Stone next introduced ‘The Enchantress and the Executioner’: ruthless renegade Asgardians determined to respectively seduce or destroy the warrior prince in the front of JiM #103 whilst the rear revealed ‘Thor’s Mission to Mirmir’ disclosing how the gods created humanity. That led one month later to a revolutionary saga when ‘Giants Walk the Earth’.

For the first time Kirby’s imagination was given full play after Loki tricks Odin into visiting Earth, only to release ancient elemental enemies Surtur and Skagg, the Storm Giant from Asgardian bondage.

This cosmic clash saw noble gods battling demonic evil in a new Heroic Age, and the greater role of the Norse supporting cast – especially noble warrior Balder – was reinforced by a new Tales of Asgard strand focussing on individual Gods and Heroes. ‘Heimdall: Guardian of the Mystic Rainbow Bridge’ was first, with Heck inking.

Issues #105-106 saw the teaming of two old foes in ‘The Cobra and Mr, Hyde’ and ‘The Thunder God Strikes Back’; another continued story packed with tension and spectacular action, proving Thor was swiftly growing beyond the constraints of traditional single issue adventures. The respective back-ups ‘When Heimdall Failed!’ (Lee, Kirby & Roussos) and ‘Balder the Brave’ (Lee, Kirby & Colletta) further fleshed out the back-story of an Asgardian pantheon deviating more and more from those classical Eddas and Sagas kids had to plough through in schools.

Journey into Mystery #107 premiered a petrifying villain in ‘When the Grey Gargoyle Strikes’, a rare yarn highlighting the fortitude of Dr. Blake rather than the power of the Thunder God, who was increasingly reducing his own alter-ego to an inconsequentiality. Closing the issue, the Norn Queen debuted in a quirky reinterpretation of the classic myth ‘Balder Must Die!’ illustrated by Kirby & Colletta.

After months of manipulation the God of Evil once again took direct action in ‘At the Mercy of Loki, Prince of Evil!’ With Jane a helpless victim of Asgardian magic, the willing assistance of new Marvel star Doctor Strange made this a captivating team-up to read, whilst ‘Trapped by the Trolls’ (Colletta inks) showed the power and promise of tales set solely on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge after Thor liberates Asgardians from Subterranean bondage.

Bringing down the curtain on this increasingly cosmic carnival, Journey into Mystery #109 was another superb adventure masquerading as a plug for recent addition to the Marvel roster.

‘When Magneto Strikes!’ pits Thor against the X-Men’s greatest foe in a cataclysmic clash of fundamental powers, but you couldn’t really call it a team-up since the heroic mutants are never actually seen. The tantalising hints and cropped glimpses are fascinating teasers now, but the kid I then was felt annoyed not to have seen these new heroes… oh… wait… maybe that was the point?

The Young Thor feature ‘Banished from Asgard’ is an uncharacteristically lacklustre effort to end on as Odin and Thor enact a devious plan to trap a traitor in Asgard’s ranks but the vignette hinted at much greater thrills to follow…

These early tales of the God of Thunder show the development not only of one of Marvel’s core narrative concepts but, more importantly, the creative evolution of perhaps the greatest imagination in comics. Set your common sense on pause and simply wallow in the glorious imagery and power of these classic adventures for the true secret of what makes comicbook superheroes such a unique experience.
© 1962, 1963, 1964, 2014 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marvel Adventures Avengers: Thor and Captain America


By Paul Tobin, Scott Gray, Todd Dezago, Ronan Cliquet, Ron Lim, Lou Kang & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5584-3

Since its earliest days Marvel has always courted young comicbook consumers. In 2003 the company instituted the Marvel Age imprint to update and reframe classic original tales by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others for a fresh-faced 21st century readership.

The experiment was tweaked in 2005, becoming Marvel Adventures. The tone was very much that of the company’s burgeoning TV cartoon franchises, in execution if not name. Titles bearing the Marvel Adventures brand included Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Super Heroes, The Avengers and Hulk. These iterations ran until 2010 when they were cancelled and replaced by new volumes of Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

Almost all of those yarns have been collected in digest-sized compilations such as this one which gathers a selection of fantastic feats starring the God of Thunder or Sentinel of Liberty and their friends, comprising four all-ages tales from the second volume of Marvel Adventures Super Heroes #13-16 (spanning June-September 2011).

The action opens with a mythological masterpiece by Paul Tobin, Ronan Cliquet & Amilton Santos wherein plucky novice hero Nova is invited by Avenging comrades Thor and Valkyrie to accompany them on an annual errand for Odin the All-Father.

In the distant past when Asgardians warred with Trolls, a godling messenger named Glane failed in his mission and was banished to the ghastly Fields of the Fallen to pay penance by continually battling the Golden Realm’s vilest enemies.

Periodically Thor has been sent to add new tasks to the sinning failure’s heavy burden, and this year as the Thunderer and Valkyrie ready themselves for the trip, they invite the starstruck Nova to tag along.

However, as the trio battle their way through horrific monsters and overwhelming odds, Nova finds himself increasingly uncomfortable with the sentence meted out to Glane and even begins to doubt the motives of his immortal mentors. All that changes once he meets and battles beside the convicted penitent…

Originating in MASH #14, ‘Out of Time!’ is by Todd Dezago, Ron Lim & Scott Koblish (inspired by Gerry Conway & Ross Andru’s tale from the original Marvel Team-Up #7) and sees the Lord of Storm intercepting Spider-Man after the wall-crawler is blasted high into the sky whilst battling raving maniac the Looter.

That happy coincidence occurs just a bizarre force freezes time around them. When the heroes discover that only they have escaped a devastating weapon deployed by Trollish tyrant Kryllk the Conqueror to paralyze and overwhelm both Asgard and the mortal plane, they must divide their strength to simultaneously smash the conqueror in both Manhattan and Asgard if they are to set time running free again…

Captain America takes the spotlight in #15 as ‘Back in Time’ (Tobin, Cliquet & Santos) finds the Star-Spangled Avenger battling Neanderthals with ray-guns in a National Forest after tracking down rogue geneticists who have stolen a huge amount of plutonium.

A mere mile away, Peter Parker’s girlfriend Sophia Sanduval is getting back to nature and chilling with her furry, scaly and feathered friends. As Chat, the mutant teen’s power to communicate with animals makes her a crucial component of the mystery-solving Blonde Phantom Detective Agency, but even she has never seen anything like the wave of extinct creatures which appear after Cap begins battling the tooled-up cavemen.

Soon she has been briefed on the deadly experiments of rogue technologist Jerrick Brogg – whose ambition is to build an army out of revived extinct creatures – and swears to help Cap put the maniac away and save all the beasts he has recreated from short painful lives of terror and brutal exploitation…

Wrapping up the action comes ‘Stars, Stripes and Spiders!’ by Dezago, Lou Kang & Pat Davidson (based on Len Wein & Gil Kane’s tale from Marvel Team-Up #13).

When a certain wall-crawling high-school student and occasional masked hero stumbles into Captain America tackling an AIM cadre stealing super-soldier serum, the nervous lad learns a few things about the hero game from the legendary guy who wrote the book. Sadly, not making that lesson any easier is petrifying super-villain Grey Gargoyle, whose deadly touch almost ends Spidey’s homework worries – and continued existence – forever…

Never the success the company hoped, the Marvel Adventures project was superseded in 2012 by specific comics tied to those Disney XD television shows designated as “Marvel Universe cartoons”, but these collected stories are still an intriguing, amazingly entertaining and superbly accessible means of introducing characters and concepts to kids born sometimes three generations or more away from the originating events.

Fast, furious, funny and enthralling, these riotous mini-epics are extremely enjoyable yarns, although parents should note that some of the themes and certainly the level of violence might not be what everybody considers “All-Ages Super Hero Action”…
© 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marvel Adventures: Thor – Bringers of the Storm


By Tony Bedard, Jeff Parker, Louise Simonson, Shannon Gallant, CAFU, Rodney Buchemi, Jon Buran & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5197-5

Since its earliest days the company we know as Marvel always courted the youngest comicbook consumers. Whether animated tie-ins such as Terrytoons Comics, Mighty Mouse, Super Rabbit Comics, Duckula, assorted Hanna-Barbera and Disney licenses and a myriad of others, or original creations such as Millie the Model, Homer the Happy Ghost, Li’l Kids and Calvin, or in the 1980s Star Comics – an entire imprint for originated or licensed comics targeting peewee punters – the House of Ideas has always understood the necessity of cultivating the next generation of readers.

These days, however, general kids’ interest titles are all but dead and, with Marvel’s proprietary characters all over screens large and small, the company usually prefers to create child-friendly versions of its own proprietary pantheon, making that eventual hoped-for transition to more mature comics as painless as possible.

In 2003 the company instituted the Marvel Age line which updated and retold classic original tales by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko, mixing it in with the remnants of the manga-based Tsunami imprint, all intended for a younger readership.

The experiment was tweaked in 2005, becoming Marvel Adventures with the core titles transformed into Marvel Adventures: Fantastic Four and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man and reconstituted classics supplanting original stories. The tone was very much that of the company’s burgeoning TV cartoon franchises, in delivery if not name.

Additional Marvel Adventures series included Super Heroes, The Avengers and Hulk. These iterations ran until 2010 when they were cancelled and replaced by new volumes of Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes and Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man.

This digest-sized collection re-presents some the yarns associated with – if not starring – the ever-popular Prince of Asgard, culled from Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes (volume 1) #7 & 11 and Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #5 & 15 – gathered to accommodate the Thunderer’s transition to the live-action silver screen in 2011.

If you’re of a slavish disposition continuity-wise, these epic illustrated Eddas all occur on Marvel’s Earth-20051 and begin with ‘The Trickster and the Wrecker’ – by Tony Bedard, Shannon Gallant & John Stanisci from Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #5 (November 2006) – with the Thunder God notably absent as a new team of Earth’s Mightiest tackle the insidious threat of someone who claims to be Norse god Loki for the very first time.

Although Captain America, Storm, Iron Man, Hulk, Spider-Man, Giant-Girl and Wolverine initially drive off the magical mischief-maker, they are subsequently unable to stop the trickster investing a crowbar-wielding petty thug with the blockbusting might of an unstoppable juggernaut…

Next up are Jeff Parker, CAFU & Terry Pallot who introduce us to Thor in ‘Bringers of the Storm’ (Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #15, October 2006) wherein the team follow mystic ravens Hugin and Munin to Asgard to battle Malekith the Dark Elf and an army of Frost Giants to save the ensorcelled gods from petrification and slavery…

As written by Louise Simonson, the final brace of tales are both starring vehicles for the Storm Lord emphasising humour as much as action.

‘Lip Service’ (Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #7, March 2009 and illustrated by Rodney Buchemi) sees Thor in his mortal identity of Dr. Don Blake taking his beloved nurse Jane Foster and precocious kid to a herpetology show at the zoo. As if a clash with the cunning Cobra was not peril enough, the doughty hero is unaware that crafty Loki has hexed Jane’s lips in anticipation of the thunder god stealing a kiss that will change his life – and appearance – forever…

The mythical madness then bombastically ends in ‘Fire and Ice’ (Marvel Adventures: Super Heroes #11, July 2009, with art from Jon Buran & Jeremy Freeman) as the trickster inveigles a young Frost giant to attack Thor on Earth before further stacking the deck with a crazed fire demon. The mischief-maker foolishly assumed that Giants are creatures without honour or morals and is foiled when the little colossus proves that even bad guys have lines they won’t cross…

Never the success the company hoped, the Marvel Adventures project was superseded in 2012 by specific comics tied to those Disney XD television shows designated as “Marvel Universe cartoons”, but these collected stories are still an intriguing, amazingly entertaining and more culturally accessible means of introducing characters and concepts to kids born sometimes three generations or more away from the originating events.

Fast-paced, enthralling and impressive, these riotous super stories are extremely enjoyable yarns, although parents should note that some of the themes and certainly the violence might not be what everybody considers “All-Ages Super Hero Action” and might perhaps better suit older kids…
© 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Essential Thor volume 6


By Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Bill Mantlo, Len Wein, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6329-9

Whilst the ever-expanding Marvel Universe had grown ever-more interconnected as it matured through its first decade, with characters literally tripping over each other in New York City, the Asgardian heritage of Thor and the soaring imagination of Jack Kirby had most often drawn the Thunder God away from mortal realms into stunning, unique landscapes and scenarios.

However by the time of this sixth Essential monochrome compendium, the King had been gone – and was in fact readying himself to return to the House of (mostly his) Ideas – for five years and only echoes of his groundbreaking presence remained. John Buscema had visually made the Thunder God his own whilst a succession of scripters struggled to recapture the epic scope of Kirby’s vision and Stan Lee’s off-kilter but comfortingly compelling faux-Shakespearean verbiage…

When these monthly episodes (from Thor #221-247, March 1974 to May 1976) saw print, the Thunder God and his cosmic companions had become a quarrelsome, self-doubting band of fantasy spacemen generally roving the outer limits of the Marvel Universe, only occasionally touching base with Earth and Asgard, but that editorial policy began to change here as more and more adventures began – and ended – in the troubled lands of Midgard…

With scripter Gerry Conway firmly in the driving seat and legendary illustrator John Buscema (aided by inker Mike Esposito) delivering the art, the mythic mayhem opens with ‘Hercules Enraged!’ as the Thor brutally invades Olympus, in search of the Grecian Prince of Power. Asgardian maiden Krista has been abducted and All-Father Odin has seen a vision of her enchained in Hades with the Thunderer’s trusted ally gloating over her beside vile netherlord Pluto

By the time lordly Zeus has stopped the shattering clash that follows, half of the celestial city is in ruins, but in that breathing space he proves Hercules is innocent of the atrocious act and the abashed comrades turn their attentions to the true culprit…

Inked by Joe Sinnott, Thor #222 finds the earnest comrades in search of Hercules’ insidious impersonator and taking advice from a scary sorceress even as war-god Ares receives an eldritch summons to meet his co-conspirator ‘Before the Gates of Hell!’

Sadly he is intercepted by the heroes before he gets there and receives the sound thrashing he deserves, prior to the enraged companions storming their way into the netherworld itself.

At the moment of their triumph however Pluto snatches up his hostage and vanishes. His trail leads to Earth where one final confrontation results in ‘Hellfire Across the World!’ (Esposito inks) and leaves kidnapped Krista near death…

Issue #224 finds Thor resuming his alter ego of surgeon Don Blake to operate on the Asgardian even as elsewhere in Manhattan a rash scientist accidentally reactivates Odin’s unstoppable battle construct and discovers ‘No One Can Stop… the Destroyer!’

With Krista saved Thor joins the sorely pressed Hercules and although outmatched by the Asgardian killing machine they devise a way to stop its human power source – only to then face ‘The Coming of Firelord!’ (inked by Sinnott).

The tempestuous, short-tempered herald of planet-consuming Galactus has been sent to fetch Thor and will brook no refusals…

Issue #226 finds the voracious space god on Earth, beseeching the Thunder God’s aid in ‘The Battle Beyond!’ (Esposito) against living planet Ego, who has seemingly gone mad and now poses a threat to the entire universe…

“Homaging” Jack Kirby, penciller Rich Buckler joined Conway and Sinnott in #227 as the Thunder God and Hercules – with Firelord in tow – go ‘In Search of… Ego!’ Penetrating deep within the raving planet and defeating incredible biological horrors, the trio reach his malfunctioning brain and relive the incredible origin of the “bioverse” in ‘Ego: Beginning and End!’ before contriving an earth-shaking solution to the wild world’s rampages…

In a final act of unlikely diplomacy the Thunderer then finds a replacement herald and secures Firelord’s freedom from Galactus…

Safely back on Earth a new kind of terror manifests in Thor #229 as ‘Where Darkness Dwells, Dwell I!’ (Conway, Buckler & Chic Stone) sees Hercules uncover an uncanny string of suicides amongst the mortals of Manhattan. After consulting the Storm Lord and his recently returned lover Sif, the Prince of Power is ambushed by a shadowy figure and himself succumbs to dark despondency…

Plucked from psychological catatonia by Iron Man and the recuperating Krista, severely shaken Hercules recovers enough to lead Thor under the city to jointly confront and conquer a horrific lord of fear in #230’s ‘The Sky Above… the Pits Below!’ (Buckler & Sinnott).

Of greater moment is the revelation in Asgard that almighty Odin has gone missing…

John Buscema returned in #231, inked by Dick Giordano to limn ‘A Spectre from the Past!’ wherein Thor learns that his former love Jane Foster is dying. Whilst doting Sif fruitlessly returns to Asgard seeking a cure, the grieving Thunderer is momentarily distracted when Hercules is attacked by anthropoidal throwback and disembodied spirit Armak the First Man who possesses the body of an unwary séance attendee and runs amok in the streets.

Since gaining his liberty Firelord had been aimlessly travelling the globe. Lured by Asgardian magic he becomes wicked Loki’s vassal in ‘Lo, the Raging Battle!’

Heartsick Thor meanwhile will not leave Jane’s hospital bedside, prompting Sif and Hercules to travel to the end of the universe to retrieve the mystic Runestaff of Kamo Tharnn. No sooner do they depart than the ensorcelled Firelord attacks and whilst incensed, impatient Thor knocks sense back into him, his evil half-brother leads an Asgardian army in a sneak attack on America…

With ‘Midgard Aflame’ (Buscema & Stone) Thor leads the human resistance and learns for the first time that his father is missing. Odin’s faithful vizier reveals that the All-Father has divested himself of his memory and chosen to reside somewhere on Earth as a hapless mortal…

With the humans preparing to unleash their atomic arsenal against the Asgardians, the invasion suddenly ends with a savage duel between Thor and Loki in ‘O, Bitter Victory!’ (Buscema & Sinnott) after which the Thunderer returns to Jane’s side, unaware that he is being stalked by a merciless old enemy. At the same time Sif and Hercules have clashed with he ‘Who Lurks Beyond the Labyrinth!’ and secured a remedy for Thor’s mortal beloved…

Thor #236 opens as the Storm God revels in furious combat with the Absorbing Man. Unknown to the blockbusting battlers, at that very moment Sif is expressing her own love for her wayward prince by using the Runestaff to fix Jane in ‘One Life to Give!’

…And somewhere in California an imposing old man called Orrin ponders his strangely selective amnesia and wonders how he can possibly possess such incredible strength…

With battle concluded Thor hastens back to Jane and finds her completely cured. His joy is short-lived however as he realises that Sif is gone, seemingly forever…

Issue #237 finds reunited lovers Don Blake and Jane Foster cautiously getting reacquainted and pondering Sif’s incredible sacrifice when a horde of Asgardian Trolls led by ‘Ulik Unchained’ calamitously attack New York. Before long they have made off with the recently restored Jane under cover of the blockbusting melee that ensues…

Gerry Conway concludes his run with Thor #238 as the Thunder God capitulates to his hostage-taking foe and is taken below the worlds of Earth and Asgard on the ‘Night of the Troll!’

Ulik wants to overthrow his king Gierrodur and is confident his hold over mighty Thor will accomplish the act for him, but he is utterly unprepared for the new martial spirit which possesses his formerly frail mortal hostage Jane…

…And in California old man Orrin decides to use his power to help the poor, quickly arousing the ire of the local authorities…

Writer/Editor Roy Thomas and artist Sal Buscema join Sinnott in Thor #239 as the Thunder God brutally ends his association with the trolls even as in California Orrin’s rabble-rousing civil unrest is cut short when a colossal pyramid containing Egyptian gods erupts from the ground in ‘Time-Quake!’

Thor knows nothing on the latest upheaval. He has taken off for distant Asgard, uncovering a mysterious force draining his people of their power and vitality. Warned by duplicitous seer Mimir the anguished godling rushes back to Earth and clashes with the puissant Horus ‘When the Gods Make War!’ (Thomas, Bill Mantlo, Sal Buscema & Klaus Janson). The depleted Egyptian pantheon have desperate need of an All-Father and have conditioned Odin/Orrin to believe that he is their long-lost patron Atum-Re

Jane is already waiting in California when Thor arrives and she is present when the elder deity devastatingly assaults his astounded son. Happily her cool head prevails and soon the warring deities are talking. An uneasy alliance forms and the truth comes out. Horus, Isis and Osiris are in a final battle with vile Death God Seth and need the power of a supreme over-god to assure a victory for the forces of Life…

The cosmic conflict concludes in #241 as ‘The Death-Ship Sails the Stars!’ (Mantlo, John Buscema & Sinnott) with the ghastly Seth and his demonic servants repulsed and Jane again playing a major role: even shaking Odin out of his mind-wiped state…

A semblance of creative stability resumed with #242 as writer Len Wein joined John Buscema & Sinnott, beginning their tenure with epic time travel tale ‘When the Servitor Commands!’ The colossal all-conquering construct had scooped up Thor, Jane and visiting Asgardians Fandral the Dashing, Voluminous Volstagg and Hogun the Grim at the behest of malevolent chrononaut and old enemy Zarrko

The Tomorrow Man is claiming to be on the side of the angels this time: looking for heroes to help stop a trio of entropic entities travelling back from the end of time and destroying all life as they go. Although suspicious, the assemble crusaders agree to help stop ‘Turmoil in the Time Stream!’ caused by the diabolical Time-Twisters

Constant clashes with vagrant monsters and warriors plucked from their own eras barely slows the heroes but neither do they hinder the widdershins progress of the Armageddon entities in ‘This is the Way the World Ends!’ However by the time the voyagers discover ‘The Temple at the End of Time!’ which spawned the Time-Twisters and end the crisis before it began, Zarrko has already reverted to type and tried to betray them… much to his own regret…

This bombastic battle book then concludes with a 2-part rematch between Thunder God and Flaming Fury as #246 reveals ‘The Fury of Firelord!’, following the unworldly alien’s meeting with a lovely witch working for Latin American rebel and would-be tin pot dictator El Lobo.

However, whilst Thor heads south to stop a civil war in Asgard, his boon companion Balder comes to a staggering conclusion: Odin may be back in body but his spirit is still ailing. In fact the All-Father might well be completely insane…

When Thor also succumbs to sinister gypsy enchantments and ‘The Flame and the Hammer!’ unite to crush the feeble democracy of Costa Verde, once again vibrant valiant Jane is there save the day…

To Be Continued…

The tales gathered here may lack the sheer punch and verve of the early years but fans of ferocious Fights ‘n’ Tights fantasy will find this tome still stuffed with intrigue and action, magnificently rendered by artists who, whilst not possessing Kirby’s vaulting visionary passion, were every inch his equal in craft and dedication, making this a definite and decidedly economical must-read for all fans of the character and the genre.

©1974, 1975, 1976, 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thor: Son of Asgard


By Akira Yoshida & Greg Tocchini & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1456-3

In the middle of 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby launched their latest offbeat superhero creation in anthology monsters-and-mysteries title Journey into Mystery #83. The tale introduced crippled American doctor Donald Blake who took a vacation in Norway only to encounter the vanguard of an alien invasion fleet. Fleeing in terror, he was trapped in a cave wherein lay an old, gnarled walking stick. When, in helplessness and frustration, the puny human smashed the cane into the huge boulder obstructing his escape, Blake’s insignificant frame was transformed into the bold and brawny Norse God of Thunder, Thor!

The series grew from formulaic beginnings battling aliens, commies and cheap thugs into a vast, panoramic and breathtaking cosmic playground for Kirby’s burgeoning imagination. Anthological Journey into Mystery inevitably became Mighty Thor where, after years of bombastic adventuring, the inconsistencies of the Blake/Thor relationship were re-examined and finally clarified to explain how an immortal godling could also be locked within a frail short-lived mortal.

That startling saga took the immortal hero back to his long-distant youth and finally revealed that the mortal surgeon was no more than an Odinian construct designed to teach the Thunder God humility and compassion…

As decades passed the series underwent numerous reboots and re-imaginings to keep the wonders of fabled Asgard appealing to an increasingly jaded readership. An already exceedingly broad range of scenarios spawned even greater visual variety after the Thunderer’s introduction to the pantheon of cinematic Marvels with his ongoing triumphs making him a bona fide blockbuster movie star.

In this scintillating traditional fantasy yarn (collecting Thor: Son of Asgard #1-12, May 2004-March 2005) scripter Akira Yoshida and illustrator Greg Tocchini – with the initial inking assistance of Jay Leisten – expand on the largely unexplored childhood of the Prince of Asgard, with special attention paid to his closest companions; a bold, brave and imaginative lad named Balder and the only female student in Warrior School – raven-haired tomboy Sif

After a beguiling pictorial introduction to the Eternal Realm, the action opens in ‘The Warriors Teen’ as the heir of All-father Odin strives with increasing frustration to lift mystic hammer Mjolnir, an arcane artefact which can only be wielded by one who is worthy…

His latest failure is made worse by the gut-busting laughter of his best friends Balder and Sif who have seen this scene played out many times by the impetuous, impatient warrior in waiting. Also watching is the Prince’s foster-brother Loki. The malevolent child attends the sorcery school rather its martial cousin and everybody but Thor knows him to be mean-spirited, if not outright evil…

The hidden watcher quickly proves everybody right when he prankishly turns harmless bugs into ravening giant monsters, subsequently forcing the children to fight for their lives.

Drawn by the sounds of battle Odin arrives and, impressed with the carnage, deems it time to send the trio on a Warriors Quest. Without pausing to ask, Thor accepts the dangerous obligation and cannot understand why his friends are so angry with him…

Only after despatching the youngsters to gather four rare articles from the far corners of the Nine Realms to create a new magical weapon does the All-Father turn his attention to his other son…

As the intrepid youths set out to collect the scale of a dragon, the feather of a snow-eagle, a mystic gem and water from an enchanted lake, no one in Asgard is aware that spiteful eyes are watching and planning further harm…

One of Marvel’s richest seams of pure imagination, the Nine Realms impacted by the mighty races of Asgard and its satellites have always offered stirring, expansive tales of a non-traditional nature to comicbook readers. The full range of those worlds of wonder are explored when the heroic trio enter the Hidden Hills only to be confronted by a monstrous dragon somehow warned of their coming and quite prepared to unleash ‘The Heat of Hakurei’.

Only by the most inspired teamwork do the heroes succeed before travelling on to the frozen wilds of Jotunheim to battle undying ice pixies before scaling ‘The Nest of Gnori’ and winning a feather from the mighty avian deity’s wing.

After such extremes the idyllic green jungles of their next destination are a welcome break. Luxuriating by a limpid pool the boys are placed in embarrassing straits when skulking Loki – who has secretly followed – orchestrates a scenario where oafish Thor accidentally stumbles upon Sif bathing.

However her rightful wrath soon turns to something gentler after she boxes her blushing friend’s ears, leaving Loki to agonise about what he must do to destroy the comrades’ regard for each other…

The answer comes later as the trio traverse scorching sands to reach mystic mines and are all – even Loki – dragged down unto ‘The Jaws of Jennia’ by emotion-sucking imps. Once more cool, logical Balder saves the day where all Thor’s strength cannot…

As they make their way back to the surface and their final task, the trio do not realise that their invisible stalker Loki has been abducted by a truly inimical enemy…

The quest then takes a dramatic turn as the Prince of Mischief escapes the clutches of evil sorceress Karnilla and finds the wandering heroes en route to the final element at ‘The Lakes of Lilitha’.

Owning up to many attempts at sabotaging them, the trickster begs them to return him to Asgard as Karnilla is planning an imminent attack and the Realm must be warned. Thor, always more blind to his brother’s schemes than his friends, is in a quandary over how to proceed but ultimately decides Balder and Sif should return with his brother whilst he completes the final task alone.

After overcoming immense and outrageous ordeals the boy tastes nothing but frustration when he finally reaches the enchanted lake to discover it is nothing but a dried-up pit of sand…

Fuming with fury he rushes back to Asgard only to arrive as an army of giants and dragons breach the city’s walls. Joining the fray he helps repel the invading horde but is struck down by vengeful Karnilla at the moment of the Aesir’s triumph…

Suffering the vengeful fury of Odin, the sorceress is unable to see how Sif’s tears and the magic articles gathered in the quest bring the heroic prince back from the Land of the Dead in ‘The Trio Triumphant’. Nevertheless the witch makes one last defiant gesture by trying to kill Odin’s other son. With all Asgard stymied, once again cool Balder’s quick mind saves the day…

Their grand adventure over, the young Asgardians return to their studies in the 3-part follow-up ‘The Enchanted’ but something has changed between Thor and his combat classmate Sif. As the city gradually rebuilds there is unseemly tension between the comrades and after the prince humiliates her in a practice duel Sif uncharacteristically storms off.

Elsewhere Loki – the only boy in the city’s School of Sorcery – is accosted by classmate Amora, whose precocious preoccupation is spells of seduction. She instinctively knows why Thor and Sif are fighting and wants Loki to help her captivate the beautiful prince before he realises that cause is mutual attraction…

The Trickster of course is only too happy to sow more discontent…

Sif’s misery grows when a new girl joins the war classes. Brunnhilda is a vibrant, glamorous blonde every inch Thor’s equal in might and beauty and all too soon the dark-haired student is convinced the newcomer will steal Thor’s heart away…

The second chapter opens with a flashback revealing the vile prank perpetrated by Loki which made Sif the only dark-haired girl in Asgard (and an isolated, self-loathing outsider) before returning to the present where tensions boil over as she and Brunnhilda come to blows in class.

Repentant, angry and despondent, Sif is easy meat for the wily Loki who tricks her into stealing Odin’s magical Mirror of Mycha, with which she can enchant Thor into loving only her. Hating herself, the heartsick maiden liberates the looking glass but is ambushed by Loki’s confederate Amora who confiscates the stolen Mirror and uses it to make Thor her love-drunk slave…

When Sif tries to beat a confession out of the Enchantress, it is besotted Thor who roughly defends his smug new paramour but supposed rival Brunnhilda who sees what has truly occurred. In a quiet moment she approaches Sif and plans are laid to save the prince and punish the scheming perpetrators…

And with the status quo restored Sif and Thor finally find the perfect moment to speak their hearts and minds…

The final 3-part arc is based on Tales of Asgard back-up ‘Death Comes to Thor!’ (from Journey into Mystery #102, March 1964); an early Lee/Kirby classic 5-pager which introduced noxious King Rugga, The Norns, Sif and Hela, Queen of the Dead whilst revealing how Thor first took up his magic mallet.

The expanded version begins with the heir again struggling to raise Mjolnir before settling upon the singular notion of asking the terrifying trio of witches known alternatively as the Fates or Norns exactly how to become ‘Worthy’

Their answer is appalling in its simplicity: he must face Death.

Returning to Asgard Thor finds his home again under attack by brutal giants and learns with horror that Sif has been abducted. As Odin and the adult warriors ride off in pursuit, the All-Father orders his son to remain, but the headstrong, lovesick youth – filled with fury and passion – instead grasps the impossibly heavy magic hammer and storms off for the castle of King Rugga, smashing his way through the venal ruler’s colossal army with a revelatory display of power…

Decimating the villain’s Storm Giants, Thor learns that his beloved has been traded to Death Goddess Hela in return for immortality. Without pause he turns his attention to her… This confrontation goes very differently and none of the hammer’s awesome capabilities have any effect on the gloating goddess.

Cheated of Thor once, her plan was to take him again, thus delivering to Odin the most heartbreaking blow she can, but against true love even the Queen of the Damned is powerless…

Epic, rousing and astonishingly beguiling, this superb fantasy frolic also includes a full cover gallery by Adi Granov and Jo Chen, as well as Tocchini Sketchbook designs for Thor, Loki, Sif, Balder and Odin and a selection of inked story pages prior to the application of Guru eFX’s resplendent digital colours.

A little off the Thunderer’s regulation stamping grounds, Thor: Son of Asgard offers magic, mystery and coming-of-age drama to suit Fantastic Romantics of every type and persuasion…
© 2004, 2005, 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Mighty Thor: When Gods Go Mad


By Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, John Buscema & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-185-9

When the Thor films screened across the world, Marvel quite understandably released a batch of tie-in books and trade paperback collections to maximise exposure and cater to movie fans wanting to follow up with or even rekindle a childhood comics experience.

In the UK the company’s British adjunct Panini collected an unlikely assemblage featuring the Thunderer’s most turbulent transition for one of its handy Pocket Book Editions (130 x 198mm) which, much to my surprise, works exceedingly well as an introductory epic into the wondrous worlds of contemporary Asgardian mythology…

Whilst the expanding Marvel Universe had grown evermore interconnected as it matured, with characters constantly tripping over each other in New York City, the godly heritage of Thor and the soaring imagination of Jack Kirby had often drawn the Storm Lord away from mortal realms into stunning, unique landscapes and scenarios.

More than any other Marvel feature, The Mighty Thor was the strip where Kirby’s creative brilliance always found its greatest release in cosmically questing exploration of an infinite and dangerous universe and the strip suffered a sharp, sudden loss of imaginative impetus when he unexpectedly quit Marvel in 1970.

His departure left the series floundering, despite the best efforts of (arguably) the company’s greatest remaining illustrators, Neal Adams and John Buscema. The King’s dreaming, extrapolating and honing of a dazzling new kind of storytelling and graphic symbology, wedded to soul-searching, mind-boggling questioning of Man’s place in the universe – and all within the limited confines of a 20-page action adventure – appeared an impossible act to follow, but now with the perspective of passing decades it might be worth reassessing that judgement…

Collecting Thor #179-188, cover-dated August 1970 to May 1971 and scripted throughout by Stan Lee, the saga opens following a cataclysmic clash with fire-demon Surtur which saw omnipotent over-god Odin imprisoned by treacherous Loki in “The Sea of Eternal Night” whilst his subjects battled fiery Armageddon.

The forces of good naturally persevered and here and now the action commences with ‘No More the Thunder God!’ as warrior companions Sif and Balder are dispatched to Earth to arrest the fugitive Loki in the wake of Thor’s early departure on the same mission.

This story was Kirby’s last tale of the Thunderer and he left on a cliffhanger with the Thunder God ambushed by his wicked step-brother. By mystically switching bodies, the cunning Lord of Evil gains safety and all the powers of the Storm Lord whilst Thor is fated to endure whatever punishment Odin decrees for the arch-schemer…

The epic resumed in ‘When Gods Go Mad!’ which introduced the totally different style of Neal Adams to the mix – even if inked by the comfortably familiar Joe Sinnott – as the true Thunder God is sent to Hades and the tender mercies of infernal demon-lord Mephisto, whilst on Earth Loki uses his brother’s stolen body to terrorise the United Nations Assembly and declare himself Master of the World…

Faithful lover Sif, however, knowing the truth leads the Warriors Three Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg on a rescue mission to the Infernal Realm, leaving valiant Balder to struggle against the power of Thor and malice of Loki in the concluding chapter ‘One God Must Fall!’

Eventually Mephisto is worn down by the innate nobility and unflagging courage of the Asgardians, banishing them from his vile domain and leaving the true Thunder God free to battle his brother and inevitably set the world to rights….

The new era truly began with Thor #182 as John Buscema assumed the artistic reins for ‘The Prisoner… The Power… and… Dr. Doom!’ as the First Son of Asgard becomes entangled in Earthly politics after a young girl entreats him to rescue her missile-designer father from the deadly Iron Monarch of Latveria.

The decidedly down-to-Earth and mismatched melodrama concluded with human alter ego Dr. Don Blake ‘Trapped in Doomsland!’ until Thor could retrieve his mislaid mallet and teach the insidious dictator the true meaning of power…

Lee, Buscema & Sinnott then began their own ambitious cosmic saga in #184 with ‘The World Beyond!’ wherein a sinister and implacable force began devouring the outer galaxies, and the subsequent psychic reverberations began to unravel life on Earth and in Asgard. With all life imperilled Odin departs to combat the enigmatic threat alone…

Sam Grainger inked ‘In the Grip of Infinity!’ as the cosmic calamity intensified and the All-Father fell to the invader whilst ‘Worlds at War!’ revealed the true architect of the conflagration, leading to a desperate last-ditch ploy uniting the forces of Good and Evil together in ‘The World is Lost!’ before one final clash – inked by Jim Mooney – answered all the questions and led to ‘The End of Infinity!’

Although vast in scope and drenched in powerful moments revealing the human side of the gods in extremis, this tale suffers from an excess of repetitive padding and a rather erratic pace. At least this book wisely excludes the ponderous epilogue (from Thor #189) which saw the true architect of the universal rampage come calling for ill-considered revenge…

All in all, When Gods Go Mad offers a grandiose and bombastic series of battles and incipient ever-encroaching doom in the best Fights ‘n’ Tights tradition, illustrated by three of the most brilliant artists American comics have ever produced.

The Kirby Thor will always be a high-point in graphic fantasy, all the more impressive for the sheer imagination and timeless readability of the tales. With his departure the series foundered for the longest time before finding a new identity, yet even so the artists who followed him – whilst not possessing his vaulting visionary passion – were every inch his equal in craft and dedication.

Thus this book (which also includes covers by Adams, Sinnott, John Romita Sr., Marie Severin, John Buscema and John Verpoorten) is still an absolute must for all fans of action and inspirational, unearthly adventure.
™ & © 2013 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Thor, God of Thunder: The Last Days of Midgard


By Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Agustin Alessio, Ive Svorcina & various (Marvel/Panini UK)
ISBN: 978-1-84653-603-8

Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, The Mighty Thor began his stellar career in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962), delivering an unceasing procession of spectacular adventures which encompassed everything from crushing crime capers and smashing sinister super-villains to saving entire universes from cosmic doom.

As the decades passed he survived numerous reboots and re-imaginings to keep the wonders of fabled Asgard appealing to an increasingly jaded readership. An already exceedingly broad range of scenarios spawned even greater visual variety after the Thunderer’s introduction to the pantheon of cinematic Marvels and his ongoing triumphs as a bona fide burgeoning movie franchise.

The most recent publishing iteration of Marvel’s most tempestuous hero began by simultaneously focusing on the Storm Lord in the past, present and future with this compilation (gathering Thor, God of Thunder #19.NOW to 24, cover-dated April to September 2014) bringing that conceit to its natural, if staggeringly apocalyptic, conclusion.

Crafted primarily by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, this chronicle visits two vastly separated eras as the Lord of Storms tackles two ultimate enemies of Earth in two distinctly different times.

‘The Last Days of Midgard’ opens with an appraisal of how, across the universe, many worlds are inexplicably dying, whilst on Earth Thor is renewing his ineffable bond with the blue planet he loves so much. Having recently made the acquaintance of junior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Rosalind Solomon and been more than a little impressed, he is thus on hand when she begins her job in the agency’s new Environmental Hazard division by uncovering a high-tech underwater Japanese whaling fleet hunting inside a UN undersea preserve.

As her solo assault fails Solomon is surprised – and a little annoyed – to be rescued by the almighty storm god who soon routs and destroys the poachers. Meanwhile in Alaska the new CEO of super-corporation Roxxon is unveiling his latest moneymaking scheme.

Unctuous wunderkind Dario Agger is proudly publicising his new project to bring clean – if exorbitantly expensive – mined ice for drinking water from Jupiter’s moon Europa. Of course he fails to mention his company’s covert activities: deliberately polluting water tables, melting Earth’s icecaps and befouling the atmosphere.

Under his new business model Roxxon intends to ecologically destabilise the planet so that they can monetise their brand of high-tech stopgap solutions…

Agger’s first foray goes embarrassingly awry when Thor hijacks his press launch; hand-delivering an entire mountain of clean ice and promising all the Earth might ever need…

Furiously brushing aside Agent Solomon’s thinly veiled threat that S.H.I.E.L.D. is on to him, the self-proclaimed god of money vows vengeance and brings in his lawyers and lobbyists. Superheroes and even S.H.I.E.L.D. enforce laws, but corporations own the politicians who make and – where necessary – rewrite them…

In the far distant future the universe is winding down and All-father Thor is a weary, maimed but still stubborn god. The end of time has almost no deities left in it, save the aged, one-eyed, one-armed Last King of Asgard, with only his (recently liberated from slavery yet ferociously independent) granddaughters Atli, Ellisiv and Frigg for company.

He spends his days sitting on and mourning the burned out, nigh-dead Earth he loves so much, but his ancient passions for the planet are stoked back to blazing fury when world-devourer Galactus arrives determined to consume at last the only celestial morsel ever to frustrate his unending hunger…

As the second issue opens King Thor banishes his fiery granddaughters back to Asgard whilst he prepares to die at long last defending his barren charge even as back in the Now his younger self has returned to the town of Broxton, Oklahoma; a place he sometimes calls home.

After a previous Ragnarok brought the extra-dimensional realm of Asgard to destruction and scattered the souls of the gods, a mysterious voice summoned the deceased Thor back to life – on Earth – in a crack of shattering thunder. Revived for an unspecified purpose the solitary godling swiftly set about retrieving the souls of his fellow Aesir, all scattered and hidden inside human hosts, and set up Asgard-on-Earth a few paltry feet above the ground of Oklahoma…

Following many battles and conflicts the mystic floating city – now dubbed Asgardia – was officially declared an Embassy of the Gods by the US government, and life for the rural humans below settled down to a pattern of strangely heightened, intense friendly cooperation with their amazing neighbours…

Outraged at what Solomon has told him of Roxxon and contemptuous as ever of mortal laws, Thor then causes the destruction of all the corporation’s flying pollution factories, provoking Agger to move the hero up his agenda and retaliate…

In his corporate lair the billionaire revels in the power of money and science whilst murderously “inspiring” his ineffectual think-tank to find solutions to his god problem. The gory brainstorming session soon arrives at a perfect response but inadvertently reveals a stunning secret about the cruel plutocrat…

As Agger sets his plans into motion, at the end of time the last King of Asgard refuses to surrender his beloved Earth to Galactus and, as the battle ferociously escalates, readies himself to die gloriously with his wounded world…

The third chapter sees the apparent defeat of the elder god, whilst in his past the unstoppable power of money and influence as applied by Roxxon has moved clerical mountains and brought misery to the younger Thunderer.

The corporation has moved into Broxton with a spurious scheme to bring jobs, prosperity and progress to the isolated farming town. Of course the first step is buying up all the land they can and splitting up the community. That is quickly followed by establishing a second wave of atmosphere-poisoning flying factories over their bewildered heads…

Correctly assessing what Thor’s furious impatient response will be, smug Agger is waiting with a legion of lawyers and writs waiting to serve the god with injunctions, cease-&-desist orders and damages suits. After the CEO refuses the Asgardian’s offer to buy back Broxton with the unlimited wealth of the Eternal Realm, only Rosalind Solomon’s frantic pleading stops the enraged Thor from blowing his top and getting himself arrested or even deported from Earth…

In a distant Tomorrow Galactus has defeated the ancient Thunder Lord and thrown his battered body into space, whilst in the Now Agger initiates the next phase in his blueprint for vengeance, summoning monstrous troll Ulik and his troglodytic legions to literally undermine Broxton and Asgardia and slay Thor when he inevitably intervenes…

Issue #22 opens with the world-devourer preparing to render the defenceless future Earth to rubble when the incomparable and ever defiant Atli, Ellisiv and Frigg return, bearing an arsenal of god-killing weapons, whilst in present day Oklahoma Thor resorts to guile and patience – two things he is legendarily short of – as Rosalind leads the fight back against Roxxon.

Things soon go wrong though when she is targeted by hungry trolls…

As defeated King Thor rallies at the end of the universe and storms towards the place where the most ultimate of weapons is cached, in the present Thor confronts Agger and is astonished to see him transform into a bloodthirsty beast easily the match of a god…

The final chapter features even more spectacular cataclysmic combat on two time-fronts with ravening monsters equally served their just deserts, topped off with a brace of twist endings each serving to set the scene for forthcoming dramas, but the graphic drama does not quite end there.

Thor, God of Thunder #24 featured ‘The Last Days of Midgard Epilogue: Adieu, Midgard, Adieu’ (illustrated by Agustin Alessio & colourist Ive Svorcina with Ribic), and here offers a downbeat conclusion to the bombastic epic as beaten but undeterred Dario Agger pleads possession by uncanny forces and puts all Roxxon’s resources behind a campaign to remove the terrifying, alien, immigrant Asgardians from American – if not Earth’s – holy soil…

Amidst an aura of almost constant super-powered strife, it’s ludicrously easy to sway public opinion and All-Mother Freyja decides its time for the repaired and fully restored wonder city to leave for another, more welcoming place in the unending cosmos. But before they go Thor has one last invaluable gift for all the friends in Broxton he feels he has failed…

This blistering book of battles, trickery, triumphs and tragedies comes equipped with a gallery of covers-&-variants by Ribic, Alessio, Pascal Campion, Jenny Parks, Simone Bianchi, Nic Klein, Clay Mann and Ron Garney, plus bunches of extra content available via the AR icon option (providing special augmented reality content available exclusively through the Marvel AR app for iPhone®, iPad®, iPad Touch® & Android devices and Marvel Digital Comics Shop).

Furious, fun and fabulous Fights ‘n’ Tights furore no superhero fantasy fan could possibly resist.
™ & © 2014 Marvel & Subs. Licensed by Marvel Characters B.V. through Panini S.p.A. All rights reserved. A British Edition published by Panini Publishing, a division of Panini UK, Ltd.

Thor: Wolves of the North


By Michael Carey, Alan Davis, Peter Milligan, Michael Perkins, Mico Suayan, Tom Grindberg & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5614-7

Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, The Mighty Thor debuted in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962), heralding a procession of spectacular adventures that came to encompass everything from crushing petty crime capers to saving universes from cosmic doom.

As the decades passed he also survived numerous reboots and re-imaginings to keep the wonders of fabled Asgard appealing to an increasingly jaded readership. An already exceedingly broad range of scenarios spawned even greater visual variety after the Thunderer’s introduction to the pantheon of cinematic Marvels and his ongoing triumphs as a bona fide burgeoning movie franchise.

This slim but surprisingly gripping chronicle compiles material from Thor: Wolves of the North (February 2011), Thor: the Truth of History (December 2008) and Thor Annual volume 3, #1(November 2009), concentrating on clashes with Asgard’s worst menaces and Earth’s other gods and monsters.

‘Wolves of the North’ by Michael Carey, Michael Perkins and colourist Dan Brown takes us to embattled Viking village Redhangir, where valiant warriors are under constant assault by hellish forces. When chief Thorvald is mortally wounded by the marauding ogres’ impossibly huge king, the mortal’s last acts are to make his daughter Einar his successor and order the warriors to never surrender…

This doesn’t go down well with the community’s priesthood who believe the best way to end the conflict is to sacrifice the bellicose young woman to Death Goddess Hela

A tense standoff between church and state is suddenly ended when Thor falls out of the sky in a blast of thunder. Severely depleted, he reveals that Asgard itself is under siege, with the Queen of the Dead sneaking the warrior-legions of her demon-king ally Skald into battle via the backdoor through Midgard. The creatures have but dallied at Redhangir for the sheer sport of bloodletting…

Moreover, although the Storm Lord has been despatched to close the invaders’ devious route, his journey has depleted him. To be effective on Earth he needs a mortal anchor. Selflessly, Einar Thorvaldsdottir offers herself, knowing full that what harms one now will injure both…

A refreshed and reinvigorated Thor starts a cataclysmic rout of the demons, but canny Hela knows all and has her mortal priests attempt to secretly sacrifice Einar, knowing her death means the Thunderer’s defeat and Asgard’s demise.

Of course the Cold Queen and her demon ally have no conception of Thor’s furious determination or a merely mortal chief’s unfailing resolve to save her people…

That grimly compelling fable leads directly into riotous, Kirby-inspired swashbuckling romp ‘The Truth of History’ by writer/penciller Alan Davis, inker Mark Farmer and colourist Rob Swager which opens rather quietly with two archaeologists debating the puzzling climate of ancient Egypt and odd, post-construction alterations to the monolithic Sphinx.

The answers to those great unknowns are then explained by plunging back nearly four thousand years to a time when Thor and a trusty band of Asgardians stopped sorceress Queen Nedra from using an unsanctioned portal to Midgard.

Although the Aesir were victorious, bumbling blowhard Volstagg subsequently fell through the activated gateway and was lost, compelling the Prince of Asgard and boon companions Fandral the Dashing and Hogun the Grim to follow…

The mystic journey lands them in Egypt where their pale skins mark them as demonic invaders whereas the immortal Northmen can only see signs of drought whilst slaves toil building pointless stone monuments and enfeebled peasants starve under the pitiless gaze of fat priests and bestial halflings.

In times long past the world’s scattered pantheons geographically divided up humanity, each abiding over and caring for their worshippers in their own way. Now, as the Asgardians see how the gods of Heliopolis minister to their adherents’ needs, they wonder at the wisdom of the pact…

Elsewhere Volstagg is having the time of his life, fed and feted by glamorous women and guzzling gallons of heady sweet wine. Eventually his questing comrades reach the city of Giza and are welcomed by priests under the stern gaze of a colossal stone griffin.

When the Asgardians throw the sumptuous feast they are offered to the starving peasants outside, they earn the enmity of arrogantly pompous pharaoh Neb-Maat and provoke a pitched battle with his unearthly retinue of beastmen.

Whilst that fight grows in intensity, far below their feet in the catacombs their soused and happy kinsman is being offered up as a sacrifice to an ancient horror, and when his screams reach Thor’s ears the Storm Lord rips the palace apart to reach him. He soon finds himself facing the awesome beast which inspired the griffin statue.

The resultant clash reshapes the fate of a nation and echoes down through history…

This stellar spectacle of blistering intoxicating old-fashioned entertainment is marvellously tinged with wry knowing humour to counterbalance the bombastic bravado and furious action and serves as a perfect palate-cleanser for the darker fare which follows: a chilling and poignant tale of modern vintage.

From Thor Annual volume 3, #1 comes ‘The Hand of Grog’ by Peter Milligan, Mico Suayan, Tom Grindberg, Stefano Gaudiano, Edgar Delgado & J. Roberts, set in the aftermath of the apocalyptic Siege of Asgard.

The story opens in Celestial Heliopolis where Egyptian Death God Seth is summoned by a prognosticator to hear some glad tidings. Despised Thor has suffered an emotional collapse after being tricked into slaying his own grandfather Bor.

The once formidable Thunderer is a broken being ready to accept his ending, but although eager to make it so, Seth is a cautious deity and instead dispatches his servant Grog the God-Slayer and a pack of bestial pawns to hunt down the ailing warrior…

On Earth Thor has vanished. The spirit-sickened hero has taken refuge inside Dr. Don Blake, a pale ghost hiding from his responsibilities. That all changes as soon as the horror squad arrives and begins attacking innocent mortals in an attempt to draw out their prey…

Despite believing himself deprived of his godly might, a stout defence of the weak and helpless resoundingly reinvigorates Thor, but once the danger has passed, he soon reverts to his despondent state…

However when Grog returns to finish off the human survivors in hospital, Blake seizes a slim chance to break his alter ego’s psychological chains. And if it doesn’t work, there won’t be anyone left alive to complain about his radical kill-or-cure remedy…

Frantic, furious and ferociously enthralling, Wolves of the North is a pure blast of mythic Fights ‘n’ Tights fun and frolics no action-loving fantasy fan could possibly resist.

© 2008, 2009, 2011 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Thor: Ages of Thunder


By Matt Fraction, Patrick Zircher, Khari Evans, Clay Mann, Dan Brereton, Doug Braithwaite, Michael Allred, Miguel Ángel Sepúlveda, Victor Olazaba & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3568-5

Since his creation by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby in Journey into Mystery #83 (August 1962), the spectacular adventures of Thor have encompassed everything from crushing petty crime capers to saving universes from cosmic doom. As the decades passed he has also survived numerous reboots and re-imaginings to keep the wonders of fabled Asgard appealing to an easily jaded readership.

An already exceedingly broad range of milieux and scenarios spawned even greater visual variety after the Thunderer’s recent introduction to the pantheon of cinematic Marvels and his ongoing triumphs as a bona fide burgeoning movie franchise.

From the cod mythology of the company’s own bowdlerized Aesir whilst simultaneously drawing upon established ancient of Scandinavia, in 2008 Matt Fraction and a doughty band of artists crafted a saga spanning a number of specials and one-shots which riotously examined the early days of the bellicose Lord of Storms in the fantastic prehistory of the Nine Realms of existence, and this slim bombastic fantasy tome collects the opening blasts with Thor: Ages of Thunder (June 2008), Thor: Reign of Blood (August), Thor: Man of War (January 2009) and Thor: God-Sized Special (February 2009).

The legendary adventure opens with the eponymous ‘Ages of Thunder’ – rendered in painterly manner by Patrick Zircher, Khari Evans & Victor Olazaba – which sees the gods of Asgard arrogantly gloating after their gory victory against the ferocious Frost Giants of Jotunheim; monsters who had rampaged to the very gates of the city and even breached one of the great walls before Thor’s mighty hammer ended their threat with lethal finality.

The complacent victors then feasted mightily, gorging themselves on the golden apples of immortality which were the source of their power and could only be gathered from the magnificent World Ash Yggdrasil by lovely enchantress Idun.

…All but dour Thor, who shunned the festivities and as usual saved his share of the magic fruit against imagined times of future peril…

Some time later a human stonemason came to the gates of Asgard and bargained to repair the broken wall. Sensing sport, Allfather Odin and duplicitous Loki dickered with the mortal and imposed what they considered impossible conditions and a ludicrous deadline for the task, secure in the knowledge that what the man promised was impossible and they would never have to pay his preposterous price…

Of course the smug war gods were completely wrong and in a terrifyingly short time the mason was almost done: looking forward to carrying off his reward… beautiful, irreplaceable Idun…

Faced with humiliation and the loss of the source of all his people’s strength, Odin ordered the master of mischief to fix the problem, which the conniving cheat accomplished with barely a day to spare. Unfortunately this only provoked the furious mason to reveal his true identity – one of the recently defeated Frost Giants – and his bloody revenge was only ended by the arrival of the red-handed, increasingly aloof Thunder God.

For his part in the near-calamity Loki was banished to the icy wastes where, amidst horrendous cold and privation, he was approached by a giant eagle – another shapeshifting giant – who offered to save and feed him in return for Idun…

This bargain the trickster kept, delivering the golden goddess to the giant’s icy harem. Soon the Aesir were ailing as their mighty powers faded with the last of the apples they once devoured so profligately…

As heroic gods searched the Nine Realms for the missing enchantress, Odin and the court resolved to beg Thor for apples from his miserly hoard, but the Thunderer refused their entreaties. All-wise Odin reasoned Loki was the cause of their trouble and with dire threats forced him to retrieve Idun, but knowing his adopted son’s nature then beseeched Thor to follow and make sure the task was done properly…

This the murderous, sour- spirited Thor accomplished but an awful rift was driven between Allfather and sons…

The tale resumes in ‘Thor: Reign of Blood’ (illustrated by Evans, Zircher & Olazaba) as the Frost Giant’s tragic yet formidable daughter enacts a plan of icy vengeance which begins as a savagely relentless winter grips Asgard. Sheltered in his cavernous, echoing Great Hall, Odin reveals that in his youth he had a dalliance with the icy maiden which almost cost his life and has despised her ever since.

Nevertheless Spring must come so they will negotiate…

With Loki as envoy she is invited to Asgard and demands the greatest treasure in existence before she will rescind her endless freeze. Charged with cleaning up the mess, the trickster commissions three wondrous artefacts from the artisan dwarves of Nidavellir: a gold-propagating armband, a magical necklace and a giant-killing broadsword…

Unable to help himself, Loki then enters into a deadly side bet with the craftsmen over which treasure Odin will deem best…

When the gifts are displayed, the Allfather suddenly succumbs to his long-suppressed hatred and uses the sword to dispatch the Frost Giant’s Daughter before she can choose her tribute, effectively, if dishonourably, ending the eternal winter.

Once Loki weasels his way out of his bet with the dwarves the matter seems settled, but Idun is increasingly beguiled by the metal-smiths’ magical necklace…

Travelling to Nidavellir she sells herself for the gleaming trinket, and when Odin learns what she has done his rage knows no bounds. In response The Enchantress curses the entire world, causing legions of the dead to arise and attack the helpless living.

Once more mighty Thor is called upon to risk everything and end an overwhelming threat created by his family’s arrogance and cupidity…

‘Thor: Man of War’ (Clay Mann, Zircher & Olazaba) finds the Thunderer driven into berserker rage by the antics of his people, rampaging like a maniac through all the Nine Worlds. Enraged at the disruption of the natural order, Odin orders his beloved Valkyries to stop his errant heir by any means necessary.

Soon their leader Brunnhilda has engaged the demented Thor in all-out combat, but their cataclysmic clash awakens a colossal Storm Giant and soon both Asgardians are battling for their live against the ravaging pernicious primal entity. Before it finally falls, the furious fighters need the timely assistance of godly comrades Balder, Hogun, Fandral and Volstagg

However, rowdily celebrating their victory in Svartalfheim, the victorious heroes and war women soon fall into fighting each other and watchful Odin is compelled to personally teach his wayward son the meaning and responsibilities of godhood…

Closing the chronicle, from Thor: God-Sized Special #1 comes ‘The Death and Life of Skurge the Executioner’ by Dan Brereton, Doug Braithwaite, Michael Allred & Miguel Ángel Sepúlveda, which traces the life of a former villain who redeemed his many grievous sins at the gates of the underworld to save the hosts of Asgard and Earth.

After a rousing visual recap, the saga moves on to a bizarre mystery as the assembled warriors of the golden realm realise that their memories of Skurge have been tampered with.

Travelling to the underworld, Thor, Loki and Balder find that even Death Goddess Hela has succumbed to the mystic meddling.

Given leave to continue by the terrifying queen of the damned, the voyagers press on and find that the cause of all their woes is the seductive Enchantress… but her motives for the worlds-shaking spell are nothing they could have suspected…

With extra features including covers by Marko Djurdjevic, a section on his preliminary production process and impressive pencil sketches and roughs by Zircher, this is a bloodily beautiful fairytale fable which would not be out of place amongst the true Elder Eddas.

Frantic, furious and ferociously enthralling, Ages of Thunder is a superb slice of mythic Marvel madness no action-loving fantasy fan could possibly resist.
© 2008, 2009, Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.