Episode 4: Surtwar, Part I

BEHOLD: Thor #349-351! The brothers of Odin face Surtur of Muspellheim at the dawn of time! Asgard’s antagonists come to its aid! And in the streets of New York City, gods and mortals unite!

13 thoughts on “Episode 4: Surtwar, Part I”

  1. Wow! These comics and your commentary are so much fun. You could consider Elisabeth’s ‘wheatfield’ line if you produce merch. One of the things that jumps out in these issues is that Simonson’s art is back to full epic levels. I wondered if in the last run of issues whether he had made an aesthetic decision to make the art more TV than cinematic in scale, because of the focus on the Willis family, sort of more mortal in scope. Perhaps that was involved, but I think he may have been getting a little ahead, so he’d have more time to make the art this great on a monthly schedule. There’s so much that’s wonderful here, lots of which you call out, but one of my favourites is Sif demolishing the fire hydrant as her reason masters her emotions. Although at that point I did think she might have mentioned Heimdall, you know, her brother?
    Other bits that caught my attention included:Odin sending Malekith to ‘the dungeon of no-escape’, presumably instead of ‘the dungeon of sporting-chance’, how meta Rogers’ argument about secret identity is, thinking about Nick Fury being Jerry’s cousin, brought to mind my personal canon that Nick has Irish roots, so now it’s a sprawling Irish Italian American family and I don’t like Fandral. Seriously, the fat-shaming, the womanising, the way he mocks his opponents while he’s killing them, he’s Fandral the ridiculously insecure, who’s driven to prove he’s better. He’s just lucky he fell in with a good crowd, or he’d have been the Asgardian Batroc.
    Karnilla’s headpieces are amazing. Simonson has found a place where the Venn diagrams of Jack Kirby and Alphonse Mucha overlap and understandably keeps going back there. Unfortunately for Hela, she may never win the award that’s named for her. Simonson’s version of the goddess is based on her second appearance in Thor #133. Her headgear is simple, dignified skullcap-cum-mask…surrounded by an amazing high collar and ensemble of horns, which presumably rest on a shoulder piece. It’s great and nice to see Simonson use it again, but I don’t think it’s a hat. Incidentally, the panel where Hela leads Harokin (yup, that Harokin) riding the Black Stallion of Doom, surrounded by an honour guard of valkyries, from the fortress and commands the living to avert their gaze is a big favourite.
    There were three stories in the Kirby/Lee period of this book where Odin and/or Thor fought and imprisoned Surtur. Maybe more in the interboredom before Simonson takes over. I’m pretty easy with Simonson’s relaxed approach to continuity, a useful servant and poor master, especially when we get such drama. Given that one of the ‘Tales of Asgard’ shows Thor as being instrumental in the origin of human life, there has to be wriggle room. That said, your discussion of young Sif has made me want Marvel to bring back ‘Tales of Asgard’ telling her stories, the way we’ve seen a lot of Thor and Loki’s early years.
    Odin’s attitude to mortals seems especially reprehensible given he recruits them for his wars, but wouldn’t want his son to go out with one.
    Oh yes, Simonson is interviewed in the latest Jack Kirby Collector. He talks about his current ‘Ragnarok’ series and how he hopes it’ll run as long as this Thor sequence. He doesn’t say much about Thor as he addressed that in JKC #24.

    1. I grin every time the Dungeon of No-Escape proves to be anything but. Which… happens a lot.

      You’re totally right about Hela’s headgear – I’d forgotten that in this run it’s an impressive collar, not an impressive helm! We may make an exception… It’s in the head region, at least, right?

      Simonson’s current Ragnarok is so much fun. We need to talk about it on the show soon!

  2. Huge fan of Walter Simonson’s run on Thor, but I never actually read any other Thor stuff. Are there any runs, issues or storylines you recommend?

    1. Absolutely! My top two are probably:

      Jason Aaron’s run – all of it. It starts with Thor: God of Thunder from 2013, continued into Thor (2015), and is currently still running in The Mighty Thor (2015). Literally every issue has given me chills – it’s an excellent follow-up to Simonson’s epic run.

      Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. It’s a sort of cross between the comic and movie versions of Thor, but is mainly just charming as hell. If you’re looking for a lighthearted but earnest take on why Thor is awesome, this book is perfect.

  3. Another enjoyable episode.

    I was struck by our hosts’ comment that the inhabitants of Marvel New York wouldn’t have been through this sort of massive invasion that often before. A corollary of that is obviously that it hadn’t been done that often in superhero comics, and I think that’s true.

    It wasn’t unprecedented, of course. For instance, Kirby had a horde of flying Deviants in the shape of demons invade the city in Eternals #4.* But I do think that, if one were reading these issues of Thor at the time, one would have a sense of something unfamiliar being done with a familiar setting and familiar characters.

    Which is probably not the case nowadays: this is nowadays a really common kind of superhero story. E.g, the concluding section of The Avengers film.

    *Because Kro wanted the humans to think that the Celestials were Satan. Why else would you do that?

  4. Debbie Harry was also the basis for Harley Quinn’s look in the Suicide Squad movie. Both are dead-on and yet they could hardly be more different from each other.

  5. The main similarity I’ve noticed over the years between comic books and soap operas is watching your favourite character go completely out of character when a new writer gets their hands on him. When the plotline outlives the creative team things can get frustrating very quickly.

  6. I’m surprised more hasn’t been done with Villi and Ve. Presumably there was a lot of stories about them back in 1100, but to us they’re basically a blank slate. A clever writer with an understanding of mythology, like Simonson or Gillen, could do all sorts of amazing things with them.

  7. As for where the X-Men are, the Casket of Ancient Winters opens while Storm is recovering from losing her powers in Dallas. So, Rogue, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and she are fighting Dire Wraiths, while Wolverine and Kitty are in Japan. HOWEVER, Storm appears in the foreground of a panel towards the end of 352, holding a sword and slashing the heck out of a fire demon. Which means that she beat up some Dire Wraiths, got on a plane, got a sword, and went straight into battle against some fire demons…all while still recovering from losing her powers. Because Ororo Monroe is the best.

  8. Also, yes to convergence of comic book and soap opera fandom! I’m actually trying to use my fiance’s love of soaps to get him into X-Men. It’s also why I think some of the CW shows get the superhero genre down pretty well…they embrace the soapiness. Likely because Greg Berlanti – creator of Arrow and the rest – was show runner of one of the most delightful primetime soaps, Brothers & Sisters, for years.

  9. I need to learn Icelandic so I can start a metal band that writes viking songs chronicling the Asgardians’ exploits in the Thor comic.

    I would call it The Metal Edda.

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