Thor Marvel Masterworks volume 10

By Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, John Buscema & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5046-6 (HB)

With the constantly expanding Marvel Universe growing ever more interconnected as it matured, characters literally tripped over each other in New York City and its environs, but such was not the case with Thor.

The Asgardian milieu and the soaring imagination of Jack Kirby had long drawn the Thunder God away from mortal realms into stunning new landscapes. When the unthinkable happened and the increasingly discontented King of Comics jumped ship from the House of (His) Ideas for arch-rival DC in 1970 an era ended.

Left to soldier on, Stan Lee called in artist John Buscema to carry a seemingly unbearable burden…

In case you came in late: disabled doctor Donald Blake took a vacation in Norway only to stumble into an alien invasion. Trapped in a cave, he found an ancient walking stick which, when struck against the ground, turned him into the Norse God of Thunder! Within moments he was defending the weak and smiting the wicked.

Months swiftly passed with the Lord of Storms tackling rapacious extraterrestrials, Commie dictators, costumed crazies and cheap thugs, but these soon gave way to a vast kaleidoscope of fantastic worlds and incredible, mythic menaces.

This bombastic transitional compendium (available in hardcover and digital formats) reprints Mighty Thor #184-194, spanning January – December 1971 with the puissant Thunder God going both forward and back between mortal and godly realms.

The new era had actually begun with John Buscema delineating a rash clash between the Thunder God and Dr. Doom, but the real start came as this volume begins following the inevitable Introduction from Lee.

Here, then, Lee, Buscema and inker Joe Sinnott crafted their own ambitious cosmic saga, opening with #184 and exploring ‘The World Beyond!’ wherein a sinister and implacable force is discovered devouring the outer galaxies, with the subsequent psychic reverberations impacting and unravelling life on Earth and in Asgard.

With all creation imperilled, Odin departs to combat the enigmatic threat alone…

Sam Grainger inked ‘In the Grip of Infinity!’ as universal calamity intensifies and the All-Father falls to the enigmatic, seemingly all-consuming invader before ‘Worlds at War!’ exposes a hidden architect behind the ultimate Armageddon.

That revelation leads 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 – answers all the questions and culminates in ‘The End of Infinity!’

Although vast in scope and drenched in powerful moments highlighting the human side of the gods in extremis, this tale suffers from an excess of repetitive padding and a rather erratic pace.

Without pause, though, we plunge on as Thor #189 sees sepulchral goddess Hela come calling, demanding Thor feel ‘The Icy Touch of Death!’ to pay for all the souls she didn’t get in the recent sidereal showdown…

After a big chase around planet Earth she is finally dissuaded in ‘…And So, To Die!’, but the distraction has meanwhile allowed Thor’s wicked brother Loki to seize the Throne of Asgard and unleash ‘A Time of Evil!’

This typically tyrannical behaviour results in the deranged despot using Odin’s stolen power to manifest an unstoppable artificial hunter/killer dubbed Durok the Demolisher.

Unleashing his merciless engine of destruction on Earth, Loki gloats at the ‘Conflagration!’ (inked by Grainger) he has instigated…

Completing the retiring of the Old Guard, Gerry Conway came aboard as writer for double-length tale ‘What Power Unleashed?’ (#193, with Sal Buscema augmenting and inking brother John) to conclude the epic tale.

Prevented by vows from taking up arms against Loki’s puppet, Balder the Brave and Thor’s True Beloved Sif cunningly enlist the Silver Surfer to aid the embattled Thunderer as Asgard totters on the brink of total destruction. Free to act against the real enemy, Thor then retaliates with staggering power and ‘This Fatal Fury!’: stealing the usurper’s attention until wily All-Father Odin finally resumes his rightful place.

To be continued…

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 stories in this volume are still packed with intrigue and action and magnificently rendered by an illustrator who, whilst not possessing Kirby’s vaulting visionary passion, was every inch his equal in craft and dedication. This book (which also includes the covers to Thor Annuals #3 and 4, pertinent house ads and a brace of Buscema original art pages) is an absolute must for all fans of the medium.
© 1971, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.