Episode 7: The Executioner’s Last Stand

BEHOLD: Thor #360-362! The Einherjar charge into Hel to keep an oath long promised! Hela and Thor grapple for mortal souls – and Thor’s own! And on the Bridge of Gjallerbru… Skurge stands alone.

21 thoughts on “Episode 7: The Executioner’s Last Stand”

  1. Adding to the impact of Skurge’s sacrifice is that he hasn’t come back to life. When the Enchantress tried to resurrect him in the fantastic Thor: God-Size Special, she nearly destroyed the nine realms… basically the universe doesn’t want his grand final moment to be undone.

    1. Right? So cool! The only other times we see him, he’s been in either Hel or Valhalla. (Or with the Legion of the Unliving that one time, but it’s probably best not to worry too much about that one.)

      I’d forgotten until I re-read it a few months ago for Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, but Skurge is one of the Einherjar who helps the New Mutants out when they’re trapped in Asgard for a second time! It’s almost as great as seeing Eilif among them during Surtwar!

  2. Have the savage beasts Beta Ray Bill was made out of ever been shown? I’m kind of curious about what they look like.

    1. That’s a really good question! When Asteroth becomes Omega Ray in the Stormbreaker miniseries, she looks all horsey too, but I think she was just basing herself off of Bill, not the original creature.

      Does anyone know?

  3. Loki’s wife Lorelei asks about would be Sigyn*. She is one of the two “wives”, at the very least stable partners, of Loki, and mother of his other children, in mythology… Loki has a LOT of kids.

    In Marvel comics she was the only woman Loki actually married, but also that version of the relationship was incredibly abusive, and ended when Loki finally got a divorce from Odin. She was last seen somewhere in the 90’s trying to be evil to get Loki’s attention again.

    * http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Sigyn_(Earth-616)

  4. Another excellent episode.

    A couple of scattered thoughts:-

    – I didn’t have as large a problem as our hosts with Sif having difficulties in getting over what Thor did. Part of that is that I find the moment where Thor strikes her extremely uncomfortable, spell or no spell, and I’d like to have seen more space spent on exploring Thor’s own horror at that moment. Whether or not Thor and Sif are actually together at that point, from the perspective of how Thor’s story has developed in Marvel comics over many years, Sif is always going to be the person that he “really” should be with (cf. Mary-Jane Watson in Spider-Man). So physical abuse is taking the relationship to some very dark places.

    But I think an aspect of this might be that from a mythic or folkloric premodern perspective, love-potions and the like are not regarded quite as we would.

    If you take Tristan and Iseult for instance, they’re in love because they accidentally drink a love-potion when they weren’t meant to. From a modern point of view, that’s an absolutely horrific situation fraught with all sorts of disturbing consent issues. But in the medieval romances, it’s no barrier at all to the (medieval) audience becoming invested in Tristan and Iseult’s love-affair. In fact it’s exactly the opposite – it serves to help the romances’ original audiences feel OK about the affair, despite Tristan betraying King Mark. And, to switch to Greek myth, in those stories there is no meaningful distinction between being possessed by sexual desire “on the inside” and being under the compulsion of Aphrodite as an external force: they’re the same thing.

    I’d suggest that perhaps Sif is being represented as thinking that way, but from the King Mark position: that Thor did what he did under a spell doesn’t make his actions categorically different in the way that it would for a normal modern person – they can still be “his” in some sense.

    Which, I suppose, may be Simonson’s point when he has the two talk about this. Sif knows that he did it because he was under Lorelei’s spell, but where the boundary is between “Thor would never do that if he was really himself” and “This is what Thor would be capable of if sufficiently infatuated with someone” is unclear, and Sif can reasonably feel that she may have learned something about Thor that she did not know before. After all, seeing Lorelei in bed with Loki was enough to break the spell – why should having to hit Sif not have been enough? So Thor has to clarify what he was actually feeling while under Lorelei’s spell.

    – You’ve commented on the “bizarre olde English, Shakespearian” Asgardian language. One thing that Simonson maybe deserves special credit for is how seamlessly well he controls that peculiar dialect.

    This is something that one doesn’t notice if it’s done well, but my God, does one notice if it’s being done badly. I’ve started reading Dan Jurgens’s run. It has its definite virtues: Jurgens has a great take on how Thor as a character is uniquely suited to exploit the secret-identity trope, for instance.

    But the language…. Two problems: 1) Excessive repetition of the same Simonsonesque phrases. No-one can ever answer a question in the negative except with “I say thee nay!”, people call out “For honor, for glory, for Asgaarrrd!” over and over again, Thor says “And there will be a reckoning!” in two successive issues….

    But (2) is the real problem. Archaisms are used incorrectly. A few examples:

    “Lest” does not mean “unless.” (I think someone must have pointed this out at one point, because it abruptly stops appearing after having been frequent.”

    “To serve the cause of Asgard is to curry favor with Odin.” – I am fairly certain that “to curry favor” has never had a positive connotation, but I don’t think Odin is meant to be saying “To serve the cause of Asgard is to be my servile, bootlicking, flatterer.”

    And my favorite. Thanos has just slaughtered the entire population but one of a whole planet. Thor, in his wrath, cries out “Thanos has transgressed every line civility requires.” Well, yes, I suppose genocide could be considered less than civil 🙂

    Simonson’s run is clearly a big inspiration for Jurgens (and to repeat, there is good stuff in Jurgens). But there’s nothing like that in Simonson’s run: he maintains the “Asgardian” dialect but keeps it varied enough to stay interesting, and he archaizes without falling into silly mistakes.

    1. I think your take on Sif’s reaction to Thor striking her is spot-on. It may not have come across correctly in the episode, but I think Sif being a bit bitter and aghast at Thor’s actions (even factoring in the love potion) is reasonable, especially from an emotional standpoint.

      What makes me feel a little iffier is simply that since we have so few sympathetic female characters in this book, Sif’s actions and reactions take on greater weight – so when she reacts in a believable but imperfect way to a situation, that can come off as being less about a character and more about women, although I know it’s not intended that way. With more heroic female characters (I’d love to see Simonson write Hildegarde, Brunhilde, or more Jane Foster), I’d have no issue at all with Sif in this arc. And, of course, I still absolutely love Simonson’s take on Sif!

      Regarding dialect, I also enjoy the way modern Thor comics have handled Asgardian speech – still clearly archaic-sounding, but without the thees and thous.

      1. Oddly, that’s how Thor spoke originally. Formal and bombastic but not anachronistic. The thees and thous came not long after. Which I wonder, is it supposed to be biblical rather than Shakespearean?

        On the subject, I’ve also always wondered why there’s so many thees and thous in the lyrics of Metallica’s black album.

    1. The cover with Kate attempting to saddle Beta Ray Bill is worth checking out for itself. There’s a pleasing folklore feel to it, with a lot of heart, if I remember correctly.

    2. Holy crap – how could I forget? I’ve been meaning to read that miniseries for ages!

      …and, in fact, I’ve read the first issue and a half between reading your comment and writing this reply! It’s really good – and Barron, you’re totally right. So much heart.

    3. I must read that! Miles sent me the cover to the first issue after he read this comment, I must find the time!

  5. I particularly like the art in these issues. The art throughout is great, but the less epic (everything is on a curve…) scale of the story allows Simonson’s figure drawing to sing, there’s sharpness to it that’s so exciting. So it’s pretty cool he let his assistant Carey Rothman sign that epic shot of Skurge as well. Talented and generous.
    While I’m on the art, I noticed that Christie Scheele was being named ‘Max’ for some of these issues. Turns out it was memorial to Marvel production manager Danny Crespo, who had died recently. Max was his nickname for her.
    Skurge and Amara first appear as the Enchantress and the Executioner in JIM #103. Does anyone know if it’s Simonson who names them? They only have titles in they’re first appearance. I think on the basis of that story that they haven’t been antagonists in Asgard for very long, only Loki knows the Enchantress isn’t good and she enlists the Executioner. Apart from that there are some familiar elements to the story. Loki suggests to Odin that the Enchantress might take Jane Foster’s place in Thor’s affections (he doesn’t come out and say it, but I think it’s reasonable he knows this is only going to cause friction between Thor and Odin). The Enchantress disguises herself as mortal and approaches Thor in his mortal identity of Don Blake…at which point I found myself wondering who really owns that blue dress we see Lorelei in so often… Also the Enchantress turns some of the Executioner’s limbs to wood (arms this time) when he annoys her.
    Something I find interesting about Skurge’s last laugh is how it hangs on despair. Amazing Spider-Man #33 works as well as it does because of the depiction of Peter’s defeat and departure. When Reed Richards takes away Ben Grimm’s choice, treating him like a thing as he turns him back into the Thing to fight Dr Doom (FF#40) it’s crushing. I read the Sailor Moon manga after listening to Shannon Manor talk about a scene in it where Usagi faces despair and I realised that this was her ASM #33. These stories aren’t all the same, though. Usagi and Peter are motivated by love and their connection to others not to give up in the face of despair. Ben and Skurge lose to despair and fight with the reckless abandon of a person whose life has no meaning to them any longer. It’s awesome and heartbreaking.
    Sif and Thor’s relationship problems must be set in the context of Odin’s loss. Those goofy kids are still in shock and should not be signing important legal documents for a few weeks yet…
    Frigga’s great and I really enjoy Simonson’s depiction of her grief. I write as a widow myself- I know, it was surprise to me too, but the 2015 UK census offered me three choices, single, married or widow, so a suppose it’s an everybody word now. Restraint is such a subtle emotion to convey, but Simonson keeps doing it.
    Oh yes, I enjoyed your appearance in MultiversalQ, more podcast ing goodness.

  6. Skurge’s last laugh at Gjallerbru always reminds me of Conan’s Prayer–

    Nobody will remember if we were good men or bad
    Why we fought
    Why we died
    All that matters is that two stood against many.
    That’s what is important.

  7. Odd bugbear- ‘Unsullied air of Asgard’ when the hosts return? Large parts of a city have recently been burnt, even if Asgard has a way to burn mostly wood (apparently) without any effect on air quality, surely you’d smell it now?

  8. I’m a week late to listening to this because I wanted to make sure I was in a place to enjoy a glass of mead while I read these issues. I had to be honest. I was very nervous because the ending of this story has been thoroughly spoiled for a long time and I didn’t think Skurge got a lot of setup to make it work, but damn if I wasn’t choked up when that ending occurred. It works far better than it should. Not only is it a great story, but it’s a story you could probably just read by itself (or recommend to a friend) and enjoy it as much as any in comics.

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