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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Thor’s Day – Thor #337

Today we’ll be looking back at a classic comic from my collection.

Series:                    Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                      337
Title:                       “DOOM!”
Art & Story:           Walter Simonson
Colors:                    George Roussos
Lettering:                John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                    Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:       Jim Shooter
Cover:                     Walter Simonson

We open in space with a star exploding.  The remaining core of the star, in handy ingot form, is grabbed by a giant with a set of ornate tongs and then slammed on an anvil, the sound of which gives us our title:

We then go to a park in Chicago, IL.  Doctor Donald Blake is walking through looking at the people and musing that he would like, for a day, to be human and not the disguised God of Thunder.  These thoughts are interrupted as the lame physician is hustles into a car by two rather large gentlemen.  In the car is Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., and he’ got a flyting car and a problem.  On the way to the Helicarrier, currently over NYC, Blake changes to Thor and the light show dazzles Fury.

Thor and Fury are briefed by Stillwell, a S.H.I.E.L.D. Intelligence Officer, that their new warp probe has detected a ship on its way to Earth.  While the probe was recording it, the ship destroyed a star and sucked up the energy for fuel.  Once it was detected by the ship, the probe was destroyed.  Thor takes to the skies to attempt an intercept before the ship reaches earth.

Meanwhile in Asgard, Balder the Brave and Volstagg the Enormous are having a feast.  While Volstagg is enjoying himself thoroughly, Balder is less than pleased, just trying to lose himself in an activity, any activity, and thus forget his trip to Hel.  Sif enters and tries to tell her woes to Balder, among which are that Thor has forsaken her for Midgard, but Balder doesn’t want to hear it.  Sif then goes to see her brother, Heimdall, Guardian of the Rainbow Bridge.  Heimdall directs her to seek out Odin’s advice on the issue.

Thor has now almost reached an intercept with the ship and he is grateful for his mantle of the God of Thunder, as no human could sail through space and see the sights he has seen.  The ship’s speed is more than Thor thought it would be and it roars by him.  As he turns to pursue the sensors lock on to him and fire the guns.  Mjolnir it thrown against the hull, splintering it, and Thor himself opens the hole wider and enters the ship.  He is greeted by a crystal chamber with a figure inside of it.  When Thor gets close an alien hand bursts forth and grabs Thor’s face!

Back in Asgard, Loki is sitting in his tower, bored.  His revelry is interrupted by several warriors on a forbidden Troll Hunt.  The troll, a small, furry thing, hides in the high grass, where he sees a beautiful woman. This woman, Lorelei, persuades the troll that she will not hurt it, which turns out to be a lie as she grabs its tail and takes it to the warriors.  Loki arrives and offers her hospitality.  She accepts, despite the warnings of the others that “The open hand of Loki is not safe.”

Back on the alien ship, Thor has been tossed into a wall by the now revealed Beta Ray Bill., who refers to Thor as a demon.  The two battle, tearing up the inside of the ship, named Skuttlebutt, cause it to seek a planet to land on and make repairs.  The planet that Skuttlebutt find is Earth, and alters course to intercept.  As they approach Earth, Thor, who has dropped his hammer, turns back into Don Blake.  Beta Ray Bill uses this to his advantage and knocks Blake unconscious.  In preparation for the crash landing, Bill and Blake are encased in a stasis field, protecting them.  Major repairs are needed, which will take 40 hours to complete.  Meanwhile, Nick Fury and his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. surround the ship in high tech tanks, demanding that the occupants come out unarmed.

Desperate, Bill looks for Mjolnir and finds the stick that it changed into.  He angrily slams the stick into the wall, changing into a Thor-ified version of himself.  Bill and Mjolnir wreak havoc on the S.H.I.E.L.D. equipment until a sudden storm turns up.  This storm has been cause by Odin, summoning his son back to Asgard.  Bill is taken and Don Blake finally exits the ship.  He can tell that Odin was there, from the storm bearing his magical signature.  He is confused that Odin did not take him and fears that he might remain a mortal forever.  All he can do is shout impotently into the wind.

Where it comes from: For those of you that don’t know, Dr. Donald Blake was a creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby when they created the character in the 1960’s.  This was done to give Thor a secret identity (creatively) and to teach Thor humility (in the story).  Due to this, Thor reverts to Blake if Mjolnir is out of his grasp for more than one minute.  This was Thor’s kryptonite and was used to great effect in the Silver Age.  In my opinion, once the lesson had been learned, this should have been done away with.  Thor is a god, a literal deity, and really doesn’t have a need for a secret identity, especially not one that hampers him from protecting Midgard.

Similarly, the inscription on the hammer “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor” is another Marvel invention.  In the Lore, Mjolnir is just so heavy that the only god that can lift it is Thor, and he originally need the help of his Belt of Strength and Iron Gauntlets.  This was also added as part of the humility storyline above, but it does serve a purpose in making Mjolnir, essentially, unable to be stolen again, so I like that addition.  It is this inscription that allows Beta Ray Bill to usurp Thor’s power and has Odin mistake him for Thor.

Balder going to Hel is the start of the Ragnarok story.  In the comics, as in the lore, Loki tricked Hoder (Balder’s blind brother) into throwing a mistletoe dart at Balder, killing him.  Unlike the lore, Odin was able to forestall Ragnarok, but Balder was still sent down to Hel from which he had to battle his way back.  We will learn more about that trip in future issues, but it had the effect of making him want only escape from those memories.

Next time we’ll see what happens when Odin learns that he brought the wrong Thor to Asgard.  I can spoil this part, he isn’t happy.

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