Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Jack Kirby's Writing

There's been a debate brewing on the blog Kirby Dynamics, responding to criticism about Jack's writing skill, after leaving Marvel Comics. Stan Lee took a lot more credit for his co-creations that he should, but the one thing he most definitely is responsible for, and should be proud of, is the dialogue. While Kirby essentially wrote the story and script, Stan Lee adding a more reader-friendly dialogue - which some fans missed when Kirby left Marvel for DC, and wrote his own dialogue.

You can read about the discussion here, and here.

You can read my response here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thor Retrospective Part 6: Ragnarok

Coming off of the impressive and long run by Dan Jurgens on Thor, sales had regretably not matched the quality of the series. This isn't that surprising - Jurgens big epic finale of Thor as Lord of Asgard demanded a lot from readers to keep up with. Around this time, Brian Michael Bendis was going to soon launch his career defining moment as writer of New Avengers. Yet to get to the "New" Avengers, the old had be given a finale or sorts. So Avengers: Disassembled was born! In addition to the 4-part story Bendis was writing in the main Avengers title, where Wanda the Scarlet Witch goes crazy and dismantles the team - the solo titles of Captain America, Thor, Spectacular Spider-Man and Iron Man had their own mini-swan songs - clearing the way for new creative teams on all fronts.

Thor's ending was, by far, the most impressive of the entire even - and I believe that is due largely to Michael Avon Oeming. Even though he was only writing the series, with Andrea Divito on art, Oeming came on board with a firm grasp of actual Viking lore. The Comic Book version of Thor, simply put, has never claimed to be exactly like the original myths. There of course have been diversions to try and conform the series more to the various myths, with varying degrees of success. Now, here at the end, Oeming defined Thor's universe, though the lens of the original Viking Myths, to give the Thor series it's most defining hour: that of Ragnarok!

Ragnarok, twilight of the gods, at first seemed like too startling a direction to see the series go in. Understand - when I was originally reading these titles month to month, Dan Jurgens epic Thor run had finally ended - and just on the cusp of the original Thor universe returning, nothing less than the annihlation of Asgard takes place!

Immediately, though, I knew how different and impressive this new series was going to be. What happened in Dan Jurgens run was not forgotten - as Thor, still Lord of Asgard, retains the memories of his elder self. He mourns the loss of his son, Magni, who now was never born. Asgard is now back in the heavens like it was before, with things supposedly going back to the status quo.

While Thor is busy with the duties as ruler, Loki had been taking advantage to sit at the the world seat, where Odin was once able to view everything in the 9 realms. Loki is searching for something very specific - something he would never be able to find on his own otherwise. Eitri, the Dwarf craftsman who had forged Thor's hammer Mjolnir, had supposedly lost the mold be had used to create that powerful weapon. Able to see all the 9 realms, Loki is able to discover the location of the mold.

A month later the Asgardians are in Mir-Krul, a rock based temple - where Thor and his friends are paying tribute to the passing of Eitri the Dwarf. (I'm not sure wether or not Eitri was killed by Loki, in obtaining the mold.)

Before anyone knows it, everything begins to shake and collapse. A flying boat crashes into the rock face - with Loki and an army of villains at his side.

Having obtained the mold of Eitri, Loki had the help of Surtur (who had revived since being killed by Odin) to forge weapons similar to Thor's hammer. Each of the villains there all held a hammer, including Loki himself.

Ulik the troll, and Fenris the Wolf Demon attack! (Of note, Fenris was a new villain to me -- but I was delighted that it was accurately pointed out that he is a son of Loki.)

Casualties are immediate; the Enchantress is dead, and Sif looses her left arm. Each attack of the enemies with their hammers is deflected by Thor - but the clashing of the similar hammers is blinding. Soon enough Thor is fighting against multiple foes - all striking his hammer, until Mjolnir finally shatters and breaks apart. Injured and facing even more menaces - Thor uses what remains of his hammer to transport him to Midgard - calling for the Avengers to Assemble!

Thor eventually returns to Asgard, now in the company of his two friends Iron Man and Captain America. They travel to the main city of Asgard, and are horrified to see the once shining city in ruins. Loki and his menacing horad are on hand - but Captain America and Iron Man are able fight back against them. Iron Man proves a match to fend off Loki's magics, and Captain America takes down Fenris. Thor is even able to steal one of the enemies' hammers. Loki and his group retreat. A young boy is saved among the wreckage and carried by Thor. Thor continues his search for his people - for besides the boy they are not to be found in the ruins of Asgard.

Thor eventually finds a gathering of survivors - but is saddened to see a long propheised death, that the gathered people are mourning over. Balder the Brave lies dead. Thor is told what happened - that Loki and his forces had come with hammers like Mjolnir. The dead where also invading, coming from Hel on a boat made of the fingernails of dead warriors. Each of these dead soldiers carried a spear, with the head made of mistletoe dipped in gold. (These details are closer to the original myths, and how Balder was prophesised to die, signaling Ragnarok.) Thor tells Iron Man and Captain America that there is no question, that this is Ragnarok - and as mortals they cannot be here for the end. Thor sends them back to Midgard - and rallies the people together - to face the end of days like warriors born!

Two months have passed, when Thor runs into one of his long lost friends: Volstagg. Volstagg, along with Sif, Hogun and Fandral, had been attacked by the Barge of the Dead, and only Volstagg was able to survive. He has been traveling aimlessly in the wintery woods for a very long time -- so long that he has lost a tremendous amount of weight from starvation. Once called Volstagg the Voluminous, he is now Volstagg the skinny. If ever there was a sign that it was the end of days, this was it.

Arriving in another kingdom, Thor and Volstagg find it overrun with giants and Trolls - lead by Fenris. Amazingly Sif is among the warriors fighting back! Volstagg had told Thor that he hadn't found Sif's body after the attack - so she must have survived and eventually made her way up here.

The battle is fierce - but Fenris is finally brought down by a very unexpected vistor: Beta Ray Bill has returned!

After the fighting, and everyone has gathered together, Thor finds that the young boy he had been traveling with had sadly died during the battle. Thor now knows there is more he must do. To be a true leader to his people, he would need more knowledge and power. A vision of the young boy, glowing in light and accompanied by two ravens, appears before Thor. This is the Odin Force, appearing to him to guide his journey.

Thor knows that he must now adscend to the hights Odin once traveled. Traveling upon the branches of World Tree Yggdrasil, Thor comes to the well, where Odin once gave up his eye, to obtain wisdom. Cautious about what he must sacrifice, Thor uses the Odin Force to percieve what he must do. The gaining of wisdom, like Odin had done, required sacrifice. So Thor similarly rips out an eye, and drops it down the well. Nothing happens.

Thor is angry, saying he was a fool to do this -- to which the vision of the young boy replies, that to travel the same path as his father means nothing. Thor must go beyond the sacrifice Odin made. Daring all, Thor rips out his other eye, and drops it into the well. The well, once baren and dry, now overflows with water. Splashing it into his face, and where his eyes once where, Thor now percieves everything. As for sight, the two ravens act as his eyes - one on each solder.

The next task is to face death - to gain the knowledge and understanding of the Runes - giving him the ability to see both the past and future. Thor hangs himself from a branch, much like Odin once did to obtain knowledge.

At the last second Thor resists, breaking his noose and falls down. He saw what he needed to see; and though death over takes him, and Hela appears before him to aquire his soul, Thor is able to draw a rune in the ground to summon the Odin Force, which saves him and restores him to life.

Inbetween life and death, Thor awakens in complete darkness - with large illuminated figures sitting above him. These are "They Who Sit Above In Shadows" - supposedly entinties even higher than the Asgardians, who have thrived and nourished themselves on the cycle of Ragnarok, Rebirth, Ragnarok, ect. It has never been detailed in any exact manner - but it is suggested that there have been multiple iterations of Asgard - forever forced throughout history to repeat the same events over and over. Thor is appaled by this, and threatens these loftier demi-gods, telling him they will no longer repeat a meaningless cycle! Asgardians never fear death - but instead fear death without meaning. This is the ultimate in astonishments for Thor to learn.

Returning to Asgard, Thor goes out to find his brother Loki. Fighting against more fearsome beasts, Thor handidly defeats Loki. Telling his brother that since he has taken the lives of so many men,  he will be made less than a man; Thor slices off Loki's head - using the power of the runes to keep him alive. Tied to his belt Thor continues on.

The Odin Force comments that Thor has truly surpassed him, as he can no longer see what Thor is going to do next. The reason behind this is because of the humanity Thor gained with the likes of Don Blake and Jake Olsen.

Next stop - a visit to Surtur,  Thor asks Surtur to repair and reforge his broken hammer. Surtur says if he did that, Thor would only strike him down with said weapon. Thor responds that he will not - saying that Surtur's successful campaign to kill everyone is a nessessary step towards fulfilling Ragnarok. Loki cries foul, as Surtur does as he is asked. Although Thor has the ability to reforge the power of the hammer himself, he sees great symbolism in having the creature who killed his father, repair Mjolnir - much in the mythic tradition.

Now with his hammer reforged, Thor allows Surtur to carry on. Surtur is finally able to achieve the goal he has always sought after: to burn the 9 worlds in fire!

Thor's friends and allies all fight valiantly - to the death. Surtur's and his army fulfill the requirements of Ragnarok. Thor, though, makes one exception; against his protests, Thor removes Beta Ray Bill from the realm; as an alien, his destiny is not to die in Ragnarok - and in addition Thor also says someone must survive to remember their deeds.

The final task takes place at the base of Yggdrasil - where a final, and true, ending to Ragnarok will be made! Three cloaked women command a loom, weaving an intercit cloth rising all the way to the top of Yggdrasil, detailing the entire Asgardian history.

These are the Fates, who weave destiny -- they say Thor has no power here. Thor protests, pointing out something he shouldn't have previously been ever able to see - a single stand hidden behind the loom recycles the weave from beginning to end. This is the cycle Thor seeks to stop - this is the cycle that has robbed the meaning and honor from every Ragnarok ever experienced by his people.

They Who Sit Above In Shadows cry out for Thor to stop - Loki is similarly screaming his head off! (literally!) Yet this is what Odin had planned all along! When Odin has cast Thor down to Earth, bound to a mortal body; this action had many purposes. One, to teach Thor humility. But a much more farther reaching plan was to allow Thor to see outside the cycle Odin and Asgard where trapped in. Gifted with the human perspective, Thor is able to see and destroy the string - ending the cycle!

Thus Ragnarok is completed - as Thor finally rests, in the void of nothingness. He will sleep for now. For a while, at least.

A LONG while after....

Marvel had planned to reboot Thor and give the series a new start, after Avengers Disassembled. That plan, obviously, fell through. So thus Thor remained dead -- a regular Thor title was missing from Marvel's line-up for years.

We saw a hint, though, of a possible return for Thor. During the Super Human Civil War - Thor unexpectedly appeared, fighting on Iron Man's side, and against Captain America and the resistance. This seemed out of character for Thor -- is ever there was a character who would have rebelled against Super Human Registration, it would be Thor.

Turns out - this isn't Thor. Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, and Hank Pym managed to clone a god - taking the DNA of Thor, and using it to create a half-clone, half robotic Thor.

This Thor Clone would ultimately be defeated at the end of the Civil War, struck down by Hercules who yelled out "Thou art No Thor!", which seemed very gratifying - having this fake taken out of the picture. However, the Cloned Thor would pop up every now and again in other titles in the future - now named Ragnarok. Ragnarok is even due to appear as a member of the new Dark Avengers, as part of a revamp of the Thunderbolts series.

After the appearance of the fake Thor, there would still be a while before the real Thor Returned -- though seeds for that where already being planted. J. Michael Straczynski was writing the Fantastic Four at the time - and introduced a slowly revealing subplot, of a hammer that had fallen out of the sky down to Earth, in Broxton Oklahoma. The Fantastic Four respond to the event, and are horrified to find that Doctor Doom has return from Hell - apparently being able to grab onto Thor's hammer as it fell through dimensions, one of which Doom was trapped in. Doom believes because of the contact he had with the hammer, which lead him out of his dimensional Hell, that it might be enough to allow him to wield the hammer, but he isn't able to.

After Doom retreats, Ben Grimm takes the opportunity and tries and pick up the hammer. (The Thing is a great guy, but apparently not hammer-worthy.) People from miles around would come and try their hand in lifting the hammer - always to no avail. That is until a man in a suit, carrying a briefcase with the initials D.B. came and picked up the hammer.

Next up, the proper return of Thor by J. Michael Straczynski!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thor Retrospective Part 5: The Reigning

In the last post, I detailed some of the high-light from Thor's intrusion on Earth, by bringing a floating Asgard over New York City. Not content to simply interact with mortals, Thor began a campaign of helping mortals in many interfering ways -- all of which lead to a predictable disaster, when Asgard was attacked and destroyed. Jake Olsen, the human half of Thor's soul, had been separated from him - and Thor lost the ability to wield his hammer when he killed Jake.

Thor, Prince and then King of Asgard -- has now ascended to an even loftier position - as conquer of Earth. We are given a preview of what this path has been like for Thor, as Jane Foster, in the year 2020, is attempting to secret a newly born child away. The first shot, of Jane looking up at the altered Mount Rushmore says it all. Once Thor's former lover, Jane can't believe the horror Thor has perpetrated on the Earth. Thor, no longer content to allow any resistance to Asgardian rule to remain, has every newly born child identified and registered - in the hopes of containing any mutant children, who may grow up to have powers. Jane Foster is protecting such a child - the daughter of the Scarlet Witch. She is picked up by Hogun the Grim, and eventually meets with Thor personally.

Jane is transported to New Asgard, a rebuilt city atop the old New York City. Thor arrives to meet Jane. Thor is now much more grim and imposing, with a stature more like his father. Amora, his wife, accompanies him - caring their baby child Magni. Thor wants Jane to divulge the location of the child. She refuses, and tells Thor the truth of how unrecognizable he has become to her. Thor gives her a second chance, but it is to no avail. The child has already eluded capture, and Jane Foster will not divulge his location. Thor orders for Jane to be processed -- what they once meant to each other no longer holds weight anymore.

The year is now 2170. In a shopping bazar, a young girl named Jordahl (her friends call her Jordy) is busy working her skill and trade - that of pick pocketing.

As Jordy is running away from her latest score - she is hit by a person falling out of the sky. The person is Thialfi, who has just exited the time travel portal he had originally gone through years and years ago, at the Fall of Asgard. He befriends this young girl, who he helps protect from assailing guards - trying to catch her for pick pocketing. Using his super-human speed, he carries her away in a flash. Thialfi is shocked by all the new sights and information he is given. Its unbelievable  to him, to hear of how Asgard was defeated, or that they are in the Bostogardd Harbor -- once Boston Harbor. When he asks for the date, Jordahl can only tell him its the year of the hammer. So much of the old world has been stripped away from humanity. Technology is simpler -- yet there is no war, no hunger, no disease. Taken to Jordahl's home, Thialfi is shown something very special in Jordy's room. She says she would be arrested if they knew she had this, but her curiosity made it hard to resist. She opens a cabinet to reveal an old TV set. Not even operational, she only vaguely knows what it was once used for. Once-modern technology, of any kind, is strictly forbidden by the Asgardians, though contraband like this is sometimes found. To Thialfi and Jordy's astonishment, the menacing visage of Loki appears before them in the bedroom; he has been using his magics to seek Thialfi out.

Thialfi and Jordy are brought to New Asgard, where Thor is delighted and astonished to be seeing his once thought dead companion alive again! Thor has changed much -- he is similar to how he looked in 2020 - but he now bears a missing left arm and left eye, and is accompanied by ravens and an imposing white wolf at his side. Thor looks more like Odin than ever before. Thialfi tells Thor of how he survived, accidently being transported by Zarrko's time traveling device. However he got here, Thor calls for a celebration. As for Jordy, Thor calls for her to be cleaned up and released.

Escorting Jordahl away, Loki stops for a second and realizes that he is being spied upon. The connection he senses in broke, but he leaps to the conclusion that this is somehow Jordahl's doing! She begins to flee from him; Loki orders the guards to capture her.

Jordahl, while running, away looks behind herself, and unknowingly runs right into the strong young man. He greets her kindly, and even misdirects the guards in another direction. Jordy is thankful, but also astonished -- this is no ordinary person, but the Prince himself! Prince Magni has red hair, and bears a striking resemblance to Thor in his youth. He has taken a liking to this young girl - and having always mistrusted his Uncle Loki, decided to help her. Moving through secret passages in the castle, Magni is able to get Jordy out to safety.

Thialfi, meanwhile, is being given a sweeping tour of the world, and how it has changed. Thialfi is shocked beyond belief by some of what he sees and is told. Sif is dead; Loki is in charge of world security. Even more troubling is that borders, between different countries, have been eliminated. All religions have also been abolished - something Thor sadly found necessary, to bring all the world into line under his rule. The core of Midgard, also, is tapped - allowing for unlimited energy to the people of Earth. Thor explains while it has been hard and challenging, the changes to the world are for the best; unencumbered by war, disease, hate, and want - he hopes to elevate humanity.

Later that day a lavish celebration is had - all in Thialfi's honor! While excusing himself after he is full, Thialfi, alone in the corridors outside the party, is confronted by an intruder - a woman who casts a spell on him. Thialfi finds himself being transported by the spell to another location.

Thialfi finds himself suddenly in a cavern, surrounded by guards - lead by the woman who transported him here, the sorcerous Kya Maximoff -- the long hidden daughter of the Scarlet Witch! Kya is the one who Loki sensed spying on him the day before.

Thialfi uses his incredible speed to disarm all the guards, and demands answers from these unknown people. Kya uses her powers to stop Thialfi and make him listen.

Kya begins to talk, and tell Thialfi how his appearance in this century had been foretold, by the Seer Zarrko. This resistance group, led by Kya, has been waiting a very long time for Thialfi's arrival. They tell him of how Thor has destroyed the world. She tells of how Thor had started with simple acts like enabling crops to grow and curing deadly diseases. In time Thor went far beyond that, abolishing governments, erasing national boundaries, and eradicating all religions except for Asgardianism. Thor has taken their freedom, and Kya and her group wish to reclaim it before its too late.

Thialfi does not take such accusations well, but is told of Loki's reconditioning centers - magically lobotomizing people who did not conform. Thialfi still protests, at which point Kya transports Thialfi to a slum somewhere in the world. She challenges him to see the parts of Midgard Thor had not shown him. Thialfi uses his speed to cross the world to many locations. At first what he sees makes him think the humans are ungrateful. Villages and buildings are found half made, as if the people didn't care if the work was completed. People reveling in items and technology of the past, and teaching of the old religions in the face of Asgardianism's prevalence. At first Thialfi thought the humans where ungrateful of the paradise Thor has made for them. Yet now Thialfi begins to see the truth - man's refusal to embrace Thor's gifts is because all challenges and struggles have been removed - like animals in a zoo, they are not able to have a full life. Mankind's freedom is gone, and it's spirit broken. Thialfi, distraught, cries out for Kya to bring him back. Before that, though, Thialfi encounters a woman, who works at a bordello, having lost her child. The mother, with a horrible appearance and lazy demeanor, says she hasn't seen her child since yesterday. Thialfi uses his speed to look all over, and is crushed to find the the child drowned in a lake. Kya returns Thialfi, and shows him the final piece of the presentation. Thor's hammer -- located in this cave -- unable to be moved from its spot. Thialfi thinks its a trick, and proceeds to try and lift the hammer. It will not budge for Thialfi, and likewise it can neither be lifted by Thor.

Magni, meanwhile, had that night escorted Jordy back to her home. When he departs, a spy of Loki's reports to him of Magni's interaction, and perhaps affection, to this mortal.

The next day Thialfi finds himself questioning what he saw last night. Kya returned him to the palace - armed with the truth. Still, Thialfi finds it all unbelievable. Thialfi tries to broach the subject to Thor, asking what happened to his hammer. Thor declares that it had been destroyed. When told that maybe he could have it back, Thor again declares that it was destroyed - and will hear no more on the subject.

While Magni continues to visit with Jordy, Thialfi is slowly coming to the conclusion that Asgard should not be here on Earth. His attempts to challenge Thor have made no difference in changing his mind. Loki, meanwhile, is requesting of Thor that the reconditioning centers be expanded -- a recent terrorist uprising, and suicide bomber, prompting this request. Loki, however, desires this for a particular reason - he wants to remove Jordahl's from the Prince's presence. Magi is shocked and appalled to find, when visiting Jordy once again, that her village is in flames. Asking witnesses what happened, they tell him that Jordy had been taken away by the Asgardians. Magni went in search of Jordy - leading to Loki's reconditioning center. Jordy is almost catatonic, to which Magni whisks her away - traveling to a remote snowy mountain. The person who greets him there says that its too dangerous, and that he shouldn't have come. Magni protests, and says Jordy needs help.

A scene in the past is detailed - as Thor is restless in his bed, remembering his greatest betrayal. It was when all the heroes of Earth, Wolverine, the Hulk, Doctor Strange and his fellow Avengers - had stormed Thor's palace, with the intent on killing him. Wolverine's attack costs Thor his arm, while the Hulk and the Thing beat him into submission. Dr Strange brings out their secret weapon - a magical talisman put around Thor's neck - robbing him of the Odin Force. Thor decries that this is beyond humanity's ability - to which Doctor Strange agrees - telling him that it, however, is not beyond the abilities of the Earth Pantheon Council. Thor fights back against them all - but is hurt the most by his brother in arms, Balder - who had lead the attack this night. In desperation, Balder snatches up baby Magni - threatening to harm him if Asgard does not depart Earth. He says this isn't Asgard's mission - and isn't what Odin would want. Loki, though, arrives in time to stab Balder through the chest and save little Magni. Captain America, the last one standing, makes one last attack on Thor - to which Thor vaporizes the Captain with his power.

When Thor awakes, and tells Amora of what disturbed him - he exclaims that it is the Odin Force, warning him. Sure enough, Thialfi makes an attack on Thor. Their words against each other are harsh - and Thialifi does his best to try and kill Thor. The Odin Sleep was coming up soon, so Thor is at this lowest ebb in terms of power. Thialfi almost has Thor dead to rights, as the battle has drained Thor, with him about to fall into the Odin Sleep. When Thor looses consciousness and collapses, Thialfi goes in for the kill - but is stopped and torn apart himself, as Thor's white wolf companion leaps up just in time to save his master. Thor survived -- but the seeds of renewed rebellion have finally taken root.

Up on the snowy mountain top, Magni speaks with an old friend of his. An older Sif, who has been a confidant to Magni over the years, whenever he and his father fought. Sif was helping to tend to Jordahl's mind, and is now resenting inside her home. Thor had said that Sif was deceased - yet she was instead exiled. Right after the destruction of Asgard, she argued with Thor that their presence on Earth has been a disaster. Thor will not hear of this, and Sif will not relent. Magni's relationship with Sif is not known, but she has been a help to him over the years - and now more than ever in helping Jordy. Sif tells Magi how much he reminds her of his father, even getting to know a mortal woman like Thor had in the past.

Magni returns to New Asgard, but is greeted with sad news by Hogun the Grim. He tells of how an attempt on Thor's life had been made. Magni had been aware of Thialfi's arguments with Thor, and even after a short time they knew each other, they had found similarities in their views. When asked by Loki if he knows anything that might shed light on Thialfi's motives, Magni claims ignorance. Magni, however, is then enraged when he hears that the assassins, who also helped in the plot and where captured, where to be publicly hanged. Magni says that Asgardians do not brutalize people -- that life imprisonment has always been the alternative. Amora and Loki, however, are effectively in charge - as Thor has succumbed to the Odin Sleep.

Watching  within the crowd of spectators, Magni hears the thoughts of one of the soon to be hung assassins. It is Kya - and she tells the Son of Thor to not intervene. She is hanged. Her spirit, however, lingers on. She speaks of how she knows that Magni is good, and wants to help her people. That he must walk a different path than that of his father. Kya's spirit leads Magni deep into the caves underneath the old transit system of New York. Magni is lead directly to the fallen hammer. The fulfillment of Kya's wishes have come to pass - being worthy, Magni is able to lift up the hammer and wield it!

Across the void in deep space - the awakening of Thor's hammer stirs another soul out of his slumber. Desak, having been asleep and brought back to life after all this time, now again comes to Earth.

Magni returns to Sif, bearing the hammer of his father. He wields it like he was born to use it. Sif tells Magni how monumental this is -- the fact he can hold the hammer means that what they have spoken about, of ending Thor's reign on Earth, is the correct path. Sif helps instruct Magni on how to transport to another dimension with the hammer -- letting them arrive on the Bifrost bridge, and that of the Asgard of Old. Sif explains that, the transport of Asgard to Earth had in fact been a split, of sorts, where the people where placed on Earth, and the Asgard that hovered over NYC was made with partial reconstruction of the actual city. The abandoned land shows Magni what Asgard once was - and here they meet an old enemy, that of Ulik the Troll. Supporting himself with a crutch, Ulik is no longer and monstrous threat he had been so many ages ago. He bears witness to Magni of how wrong Thor has been. He even declares, in all honesty, the greatness of Odin - something he did not recognize when he was younger. Ulik and the Trolls hated the Asgardians - seemingly the gods of heaven, while the Trolls mired away underground. Ulik now realizes the grand scheme of how it once was - as when the Odin Force left the land, everything began to wither and die. It was the Odin Force that had supported all the lands and races. Though they fought from time to time, they managed to co-exist. Sif asks what of his people. Ulik remarks in outrage, saying that they had been captured and enslaved by the Asgardians! Magni forcefully tells Ulik to calm down. Ulik tells Magni of how, now that he acknowledges how great Odin was - why do you suppose such a powerful being did not simply blink his people out of existence? Sif suggests that the All-Father has never been that harsh - which Ulik agrees with. He says, however, that it was more than that - Odin understood the balance between his people and the other races - the gods shined brighter with them, as they all benefited from this symbiosis. Thor, though, does not realize this - thinking of far more loftier future, while the rest of them wilt and die.

I really loved this scene with Ulik - as it pretty much confirmed the idea of the Asgardians being creatures of myth -- their struggles against the other races in the realm being as necessary to their existence as food and water -- sort of an acknowledgment that they are, really, fictional characters - and are tied to a given script based on the Viking Mythos. (I might be viewing this as too meta. Still, I enjoy this slight 4-th wall breaking.)

Magni and Sif return to New Asgard - where Magni challenges Thor to lift the hammer, and prove to everyone wether he is really worthy. Thor is angered by this, but eventually attempts to lift the hammer. It is only through the Odin Force that it can be levitated even a little towards his grasp. Before seeing if he can actually grasp it, a loud explosion is heard in the court yard. Going to see what the commotion his, Thor is shocked to see Desak having returned once again.

Thor and all his forces battle the destroyer of gods. Immune to Asgardian powers, Desak is able to fight through Thor's ranks - even beheading Hogun the Grim! Where once Thor had earned Desak's reprieve, that not all gods are evil - Desak now has more than enough evidence to know bringing down Thor is right. Magni enters the fray as well, but struggles just as much as his father does.

Loki, meanwhile, escapes to the dungeons down below - to let loose his ultimate trump card: The Destroyer! The Destroyer  is more than a match for Desak - but he senses something wrong with the robot. The Destroyer, in order to function, has always needed a soul to fuel it. Using the powers his guardian goddess had once bestowed upon him, Desak forces a sarcophagus out of the ground in the dungeons below - to reveal someone very important kept within: Tarene, aka Thor Girl, aka the Designate.

Thor is enraged with Loki. Loki says someone had to do the dirty work, and soon the crimes Loki has perpetrated in his position as chief of world security are shown to light. He has manipulated the humans, letting rebellion stir just enough to keep it on the surface - where it can always be watched and guided by him. Capturing and imprisoning Tarene, likewise kept the people under Asgardian control - as surely the Designate, charged with the mission to one day elevate humanity to a higher state, would have torn down Thor's kingdom.

Released from the sarcophagus - the Designate is let free. I really can't believe, until reading up to this point, I had never caught on to this big secret: The Goddess, who bestowed Desak with his god-killing powers - is in fact the Designate herself! Seeing the abomination that is New Asgard, Tarene travels back in time to give Desak the power he now has. Now that Desak's creation is completed, Tarene merges the god destroyer with another god killing machine: the Destroyer itself!

I have to say, I really loved this twist. This was the final arc of Dan Jurgens epic Thor run, and the ending couldn't come a moment too soon. Sales apparently weren't that great, after this very extended storyline -- so a conclusion was needed right away. Wether this was how Jurgens envisioned it all or not, I was pleased with this ending - even though it was a bit rushed. Not only was Tarene fulfilling her destiny as the Designate,  but her being Desak's patron goddesses made me realize how large and epic this story really was! Although this is only speculation on my part, I think this ending even tied in with the Destroyer's destiny as well. When Jack Kirby first introduced him, Heimdall mentions in passing that the Destroyer was created by Odin to protect Earth from threats in the future. This was obviously a toss-away explanation - but has since been added, for the Destroyer being Odin's weapon against the Celestials. I think it's origins, though, can be tied to this storyline as well - as here in the distant future the Destroyer is protecting Earth in it's most dire hour - from Thor and Asgardians! No wonder Odin made it a God-Destroyer machine! (That's my take on it, anyway.)

Thor and Magni fight valiantly against the Destroyer merged Desak - but their efforts are futile. Magni, even with the power of his father's hammer, is struck down so fiercely that he's sure to die if he doesn't receive care. Nothing seemingly able to stop it, Thor goes off to fight the Destroyer bound Desak himself. As Thor looks around at the carnage, wondering how it all came to this? Loki, having come with his brother, encourages Thor to kill them - to kill them both! Thor questions him "Kill the Designate?" Loki says that he must - to save themselves, but also to keep mankind in their place. An attack by the enemy disintegrates Loki into nothingness. The plain spoken truth of Loki awakens Thor to what he has been doing. How many people over the years - even his own son - have begged him to leave Earth, and never would be listen. Finally accepting that he was wrong, and that they where right, Thor is able to summon his hammer to him - and launches the hamme,  imbued with all his energy, to strike directly at Desak. The attack was enough to fell even Desak and the Destroyer combined!

Thor confronts Tarene, and they talk. He asks why she would create such a monster as Desak. Tarene counters, asking how can she elevate the servants when their masters would not allow it? Thor protests, saying he never sought to be anyone's master. He welcomed man's ascension -- that was why he saved Tarene all those years ago. That may be so, the Designate says, but Thor's actions tell another story. Mankind could never advance in an environment such as this. Thor asks what could be done? Tarene simply says Thor should repair the damage. Thor says that can't be done - though he'd give anything to reverse these events. Finally being in tune with the Odin Force, Thor realizes the answer. Bidding his son and his friends goodbye, Thor flies off with the Designate to the caverns down below the city. He had never been in full control of the Odin Force until now - and was directed to a missing piece of technology kept secret all these years. In the cave where the resistance met, Zarrko's time traveling pocket navigator resided. Using it, Thor and Tarene travel into the past. Once there, Tarene realizes the fault within Thor - that Thor had been compromised all this time, having been separated from his human half: Jake Olsen. Arriving right before Asgard's destruction, Thor first arrives and disables the soldiers ability to detonate their bombs. He tells them to contact their superiors and tell them Asgard and its people are leaving Earth. Thor next arrives and meets with Balder and Sif, who recognize that it is Thor, though an older and more battle-scared version of their Lord. He tells them that all their forces are to be return to Asgard. The older Thor arrives to where Jake Olsen and his younger self are facing each other. The elder Thor tells his younger self to use the Odin Force, and discern the truth - that he really is his future self, and is here to correct the mistakes being made today. The elder Thor merges Jake Olsen and the young Thor together once again - returning the human part of Thor's soul to him. The elder Thor leaves with his younger self all the memories he has - so that he will know what he once did, so he'll never repeat the same mistake again.

The story ends there, with a restored Thor. Yet, even though Asgard was returned to it's proper place - the things Thor did before then still stand. His effect on the world, though, would eventually fade. Yet Asgard's presence on Earth is not erased, up to the point where the soldiers tried to blow up Asgard. More on why that is a problem later.

Dan Jurgens seminal work on this title served as my first and biggest impression of the series and the character of Thor - and it lived up to expectations I would never have dreamed of! After this long and epic story - where the characters and universe of Thor have been used in such intelligent and insightful ways, it was time, however, to go back to the way things where. Though even a return to the old status quo wouldn't last long. Next up: Ragnarok!