Thor: Vikings


By Garth Ennis, Glenn Fabry & various (Max Comics/ MARVEL)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-1175-7 (TPB)

It’s the anniversary year of Marvel’s thunder god. Here’s a strange saga sparked during that time that will delight some and annoy the leather pants off others. Still, in my fathers’ Valhalla there are many mansions… unless the drunken warriors have wrecked them…

In the middle of 1962, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby launched their latest offbeat superhero creation in anthology monsters-and-mysteries title Journey into Mystery #83. The tale introduced disabled 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. To be frank, there were always comics ventures that allowed for some fairly broad interpretations of the god and his universe, such as this rousing yarn…

In this scintillating gore-spattered traditional fantasy yarn – collecting Thor: Vikings #1-5, which originally ran from July- November 2003 – scripter Garth Ennis  and illustrator Glenn Fabry indulge their inner barbarians with a yarn strictly not for the young or sensitive…

In 1003 AD, pitiless reiver Harald Jaekelsson has just finished destroying the village of Lakstad when its shaman curses the lawless raiders who have destroyed his family and friends.

Maybe, if Harald hadn’t butchered him at that moment, allowing the elders’ blood to feed the runestone he held, the sadistic killer’s ship and crew would not have spent the next thousand years crossing the ‘Endless Ocean’ to the New World…

On finally arriving in the port of New York, the undead accursed monsters set about their old ways of rapine and slaughter, before their rampage is briefly halted by a challenge from the sky as Thunder God Thor demands their surrender…

Sorcery-stained zombie lord Harald is unimpressed and as his undead crew grotesquely devastate Manhattan, he savagely beats the god nigh unto death. With his longship now sailing the skies above the city, the northman basks in carnage in his new-won ‘Kingdom of Iron’, unaware that the Thunderer still lives and has been joined by Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange

As Harald builds his throne on the city’s highest tower, the magical medic sees to Thor and marshals resources to battle a foe that outmatches him in mystic might. ‘Time Like a River’ finds the embattled heroes exploring chronal echoes, seeking a solution to the old wise man’s curse… and finding it in the blood he spilled casting it.

To counter Harald’s horde, Strange searches history for the old man’s bloodkin, and plucks them from their own times to battle the rapacious revenants. Outcast and frustrated Viking battle-maiden Sigrid, Teutonic knight Magnus of the Danesand disillusioned Luftwaffe Ace Oberstleutnant Erik Lonnroth arrive in the ravaged city just after the Marines are slaughtered and Mighty Avengers admit defeat and regroup.

Horrified by the atrocities being perpetrated, the time-strayed trio determine to ‘Fight the Good Fight’, suitably enhanced by Strange’s sorceries…

As Jaekelsson squats on his high seat, the heroes go to work with a will, and soon the Viking lord is compelled to join the battle. Once more easily outmatched by the ruthless reiver, the outraged god needs all he’s got to win the day and save his people in ‘See You in Valhalla’

Although shocking at the turn of the century, the Asgardians and greater Marvel pantheon have by now fully integrated into our movie-led culture, and contemporary readers won’t be taken aback at the themes and uncompromising action scenes so lovingly crafted here. Thor: Vikings is bold and brutal, filled with action and leavened with dark, dark humour and well worth any thunder follower’s time and attention.
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