Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thor’s Day – Thor #348

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

Series: Thor (Volume 1)
Issue: 348
Title:         “The Dark and the Light”
Story & Pencils: Walter Simonson
Inks:          Bob Wiacek
Colors: Christie Scheele
Lettering:         John Workman, Jr.
Editing:         Mark Gruenwald
Editor In Chief: Jim Shooter
Cover: Walter Simonson

We open mere moments after the end of last issue, with Malekith levitating the Casket of Ancient Winters into the air. He is preparing to blast a hole to the mortal world, specifically the Cotswolds of England, and then open the Casket, paving the way for his master, Surtur, to enter Midgard. Roger Willis, the mortal who accompanied Thor to Faerie, is starting to regain his sight after being blasted by Malekith. The Oil of Vision, the only thing that allowed Roger to see the Dark Elves, was wiped away by the spell, so all he can see if Melody (the disguised Lorelei) and the Casket floating in the air. Taking a chance that Malekith is directly below the Casket, Roger fires his pistol and wings the Dark Elf. Wormwood, one of Malekith’s minions, catches the falling Casket before it can shatter and freeze Svartalfheim. While the Dark Elves search for Roger, Thor, along with Algrim the Strong, is falling down a pit toward a pool of magma. Thor calls Mjolnir to him and the hammer rescues him in the nick of time.

Balder, meanwhile, is speaking with the Norns, weavers of the fates of all beings. They lament that he has lost the will to live due to his warrior’s prowess being at odds with his gentle nature. They hand him the only pure white strand on their loom, his own thread of life, and tell him to snap it if he truly wishes to die. Balder hesitates and the thread yanks him into the great tapestry woven from all of the life threads of all of the living beings in the universe. Balder is ensnared by his own life and he is able to see the results, both good and ill, of his actions or inactions. His decisions reverberate and affect all those around him. Not able to stand it anymore, Balder rips free of the tapestry, but this causes it to begin to unravel, dooming reality. Finally realizing that he cannot ignore his responsibilities, Balder seizes his thread, broken in his escape, in order to repair the damage. As soon as he grabs it, though, it becomes the reins of Silverhoof, his horse, and Balder is riding through the great dessert and back toward Asgard. He thinks that it was all a dream until he sees a ring made of pure white thread on his finger, reminding him of the lesson he learned. Balder then comes across Agnar of Vanaheim, who is recovering the sword he lent to Balder last issue. Balder swings Agnar up behind him and the pair ride to Asgard, with Agnar mentally changing his vow from one of revenge to one of homage.

 Back in Faerie, Thor and Roger are reunited and concoct a plan to deal with Malekith. The Dark Elf tracks Roger to the cave with the pit trap, and attributes the godly presence he senses to the death of Thor. He spots a figure and blasts it with a spell to make a mortal a slave, but it’s Thor in Roger’s jacket and hat.  Thor fills the room with continual lightning, preventing Malekith from fleeing into the shadows. Malekith transforms into a huge warrior and battles Thor, but the Thunder God is in no mood to mess around and quickly beats Malekith into unconsciousness.

In Asgard, the Warriors Three are assembling the Host of Asgard and Odin is preparing for the coming battle, but he is fearful that they will be vastly outnumbered. Still, he orders his armor readied.

Thor and Roger make their way to the main chamber, where Melody and the Casket are being guarded by only three guards. These are quickly dispatched and Melody is scooped up into Thor’s arms. Roger is not convinced all is as it seems, however, and throws his empty gun at Melody. It turns out that Wormwood was disguised an Melody and, since Roger couldn’t see anyone, he knew that something was up. Melody is found as the Dark Elves return in force. Thor blasts the ceiling, letting in daylight and driving the enemy back. Malekith, however, has regained consciousness and grabs Roger’s discarded weapon, throwing it at the Casket even though it causes him great pain since it is made of steel. The gun his the Casket, shattering it and releasing the elemental cold contained within. This freezes the sealed gateway before Surtur, which he shatters using the sword, Twilight. Surtur is free and in Midgard.

Where it comes from: This issue advances the Malekith/Surtur story to it’s climax, but that’s not what I want to talk about. What I think is much more interesting is the Balder subplot. In this issue we get probably the best summations of the Heathen mindset that I’ve seen. When Balder is trapped in the tapestry he sees the effects of his life choices. His line is: “For every action I take, I see the spreading consequences, the lives I have saved, the lives I have not. And to my left, where the white skein lies still, I see those people whom I have not touched, whose lives I might have changed but left alone. There, too, I see the consequences, the lives I have not saved, the lives I have! For I am bound within the great weave and everything that I do or do not do echoes throughout the fabric around me!” That, right there, is the mindset of a Heathen. We are the sum total of our lives, all of our decisions, actions, and even inactions are part of who we are, and send ripples out into the world to affect those around us. We are all 100% responsible for our actions and must, therefore, accept any consequences of our decisions. While others affect our lives as we affect theirs, no one else can take responsibilities for our lives. Heavy stuff, I know, but Simonson seems to get it.

Next time we find out how Surtur was sealed away and how Odin lost his brothers.

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