Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thor’s Day – Thor #347

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

Series:                                  Thor (Volume 1)
Issue:                                    346
Title:                                     “Into the Realm of Faerie!”
Story & Art:                         Walter Simonson
Colors:                                  Christie Scheele
Lettering:                             John Workman, Jr.
Editing:                                 Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief:                    Jim Shooter
Cover:                                   Walter Simonson

We open with Roger Willis hiding in the foliage outside of a castle in the Cotswolds of England, where there is an entrance to the realms of Faerie. He is worried that they are making a rash choice, bringing the Casket of Ancient Winters there, and worries that Thor has not been himself since drinking the Golden Mead. It appears that his fears were justified as he is attacked by three armored Dark Elves and seemingly knocked unconscious. When one of them gets close enough, though, Roger elbows him, even though they cannot be seen by mortals, since he has “fought in darker places than this.” All of this serves to distract the Dark Elves so that they don’t notice the approach of Thor, who knocks them all out with a single blow from Mjolnir. This attack is a little too forceful, however, as it breaks the vials of The Oil of Vision, which will help them see their enemies. Thor pours what little remains over Roger’s eyes, since Asgardians can see some of the Dark Elves, even if it is dimly. Once the Oil takes hold, the castle they are outside of now is shown as truly being ruins.
In Asgard, Balder the Brace is fighting a giant Sand Devil to protect a woman, and he is armed only with a stick of wood. He makes good use of his weapon, though, as he shoves it between the beasts armored plates, hurting it and causing Balder to be thrown to the ground. Impressed by his bravery and skill, Agnar of Vanaheim, who has been following Balder in order to kill him, throws his sword into the fray. Balder uses this gift to strike the Sand Devil inside its mouth, the only vulnerable spot, causing it to flee. The woman thanks him for rescuing her and promises a reward. She and Balder disappear, leaving Agnar alone in the dessert.

Back in England, Thor and Roger have entered the castle, which is the outer gate to the realm of Faerie. They head down a staircase and end up in an underground river, where they are attacked by Water Elementals. Thor creates a water spout by swinging Mjolnir and the entire river is transported away, revealing the great gates. Roger asks that they call in some reinforcements, but Thor is driven by the danger that Melodi (really Lorelei in disguise) is in. An army of Dark Elves waits on the other side of the gates, but Thor smashes through the wall next to them, catching the assembled group by surprise. All of this is being watched by Malekith and his lieutenant, Wormwood, who are planning on using Thor’s attraction to Lorelei to finally defeat him.

Somewhere beyond the great dessert, Balder finds himself in the entrance to a large cavern along with the woman he saved. She reveals that she is one of the Norns, the three sisters that control each individual’s fate, be they mortal or immortal. She and her sisters have been waiting “…since the dawn of time to speak to Balder the Brave at this time and place.” We will have to keep waiting, though.

Thor is so focused on finding Melodi that he gets far ahead of Roger, separating them in the battle. Thor enters a chamber and sees Malekith  throw Melodi to the Water Elementals. Roger calls to him that it is just an illusion, and that Thor had transported that danger away, but Thor pays no heed and charges in. He is attacked from behind by Algrim the Strong, a Dark Elf wearing ebony armor so that he could blend into the shadows. Thor is knocked to the ground, Mjolnir flying from his grasp.

Back in Asgard, Odin has summoned The Warriors Three to him. He commands that they gather and order the fighting men of the realm, so that they might resist the coming storm.

Meanwhile, Algrim has picked up Thor, getting ready to pull a Bane on him, when Thor punches him. At this development, Malekith gives the signal to open the pit trap, sending both Thor and Algrim to their deaths. Without any more support, Roger is captured and brought before Malekith, where he is relieved of The
Casket. Malekith then proceeds to shoot an energy beam at Roger, with the intention of blinding him, so that he will never have to see lesser visions than the land of Faerie. Roger flails around, bending over, and the beam hits him in the top of the head, where he has a steel plate. The plan doesn’t work, however, as he is blinded anyway. Malekith then prepares to open the casket while Surtur stands ready at a sealed gateway.

Where it comes from: The idea of there being access to other realms in England is in no way new. As far back as the tales of King Arthur there were instances of knights traveling to “the other side” in various enchanted forests. Cotswolds, England is actually in the Western part of the country, between Buckingham and Gloucester, pretty close to the Welsh border. Picture The Shire from Tolkien’s work and you’ve got the visual.

While the story is pretty straight forward in all aspects, one thing I have never understood was why the castle looks whole to mortals but is really a ruin. I would think that an intact castle would be far more interesting than a ruin, and I would think it would attract that much more attention.

Next time it all comes to a head as Thor and Roger try and prevent Malekith from opening The Casket of Ancient Winters!

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