Saturday, June 2, 2012

Thor Retrospective Part 7: J. Michael Straczynski

For quite a few years there was not a regular Thor Comic offered by Marvel. There was a beautiful painted Loki Mini-Series, detailing what would happen if Loki actually won - and conquered Asgard; finding out more about himself in the process. There was also a Thor: Son of Asgard Mini-Series, detailing the exploits of a young Thor. It was originally suppose to be 6 issues, but was extended for another 6 issues.

Beyond that - Thor was no where to be seen. He wasn't appearing in the Avengers - and the Son of Asgard mini-series almost came across as a cash-in on Lord of the Rings.

Beyond that no one would touch the Thor franchise. I remember hearing some vague talk of Neil Gaiman perhaps writing a reboot of the series -- but that may have just been that, rumors. Marvel seemed content to give the series a breather - which actually might have been a good thing, in the long run. Ragnarok, which Michael Avon Oeming fantastically ended Thor's universe with, was all about breaking the cycle of death and rebirth. If a new Thor series had been relaunched right away, it would have undercut Oeming's Ragnarok ending. By leaving Thor by the wayside, it actually ended up giving more validity Oeming's narrative. I also believe Marvel, if they did relaunch Thor, they wanted to do it right.

Civil War gave us a Thor-return fake out, but was eventually followed by a build up in the pages of Fantastic Four for a legitimate return of Thor to the Marvel Universe.

J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) foreshadowed, in the Fantastic Four, Thor's hammer falling to Earth. People investigate and try to pick it up. Only those who are worthy can wield the power of Thor - and a concealed man in a business suit, with the initials D.B. on a briefcase, came and lifted the hammer, and a bolt of lighting struck the Earth!

Don Blake, Thor's original mortal identity, had largely served his purpose by the time Walt Simonson took over Thor. At the time I thought that was a smart move - why does Thor need a secret identity? Does Namor need to hide himself on dry land, posing as J. Crew model? Not all Super Heroes need a secret identity - especially a prince of an otherworld Kingdom. Yet in retrospect, I believe JMS reminded us of the real reason Blake existed, and why he needed to exist again. It's because, with Blake as a duel identity, we're able to more easily examine the concept of gods and man.

Mirroring the last page of Oeming's final Thor issue, Oliver Coipel showed an image of Thor's face in the stars -- this time waking up, instead of going to sleep. In the void of nothingness, Blake and Thor meet. Thor protests the idea of returning -- he had experienced his life, and the idea of reviving once again, and beginning the cycle of rebirth and death anew, flies in the face of the finality, and meaning behind that glorious end his people had chased after for so long. Blake understands this - he's existed in the void of nothingness longer than Thor has - but says that Thor is needed again. A slight vision of a horrific future is shown - that Thor needs to return to stop this. (What event that was referencing, if any, doesn't really matter. The easiest thing to point to would be the Secret Invasion mini-series.) Blake also says that if his people revived - they would not be trapped in the cycle like before: they would be free, to live their lives the and write their own futures.

How do Thor and his people return, though? Blake says that if its for man to say wether the gods exist, then wouldn't that mean that they would live on in the hearts and souls of mortals? When the last Asgardian died in Ragnarok - that is when Blake mysteriously found himself existing again. Blake believes his revival meant the gods still existed, only trapped in mortal hosts. Eventually Thor agrees to the idea of coming back.

Thor is given a redesigned outfit -- which I have to say, is probably one of the best modern-alterations of a comic character's costume. It stays faithful and true to the design Jack Kirby created, but adds more realistic cloth, belts, cape - and chain mail. Thor also no longer speaks in the faux Shakespearian accent. He still speaks quite elegantly - and I honestly don't see the different that much; but his dialogue is more palatable and less goofy than it could be at times.

Also - unlike before, although merged, Thor and Blake are portrayed as different individuals. I suppose after being split apart by Odin, merging back together they would no longer be of one mind. They switch places with each other, and can hear and see whatever the other is doing at all times.

The series shifts to the unlikeliest of places, that of Broxton, Oklahoma. JMS was particularly interested in exploring the idea of gods on Earth. How would regular people react, living alongside gods? Blake settles into the town, and goes out to the widest expanse of land he can find. Tapping his wooden cane on the ground, and switching places with Blake, Thor restores Asgard to life again! The sweeping and magnificent castle looms large over the farm land.

Thor initially runs into some problems. The police, obviously noticing the rather large kingdom that just appeared, respond to it. Finally getting Thor's attention, they tell him that he can't just put his castle on the ground anywhere he likes. Thor considers this, and accommodates the request -- he uses his powers to make Asgard levitate off the ground. Now it's a floating castle. Thor is also besieged by the proper owner of the land - who, says he'd be happy to sell it - but since Thor had such interest in the land, the price would be a bit higher. Annoyed, Thor shows him to the vaults, where the gold and treasure of Asgard is kept. He tells him he can take as much as he can carry away. A truckload full of gold soon departs.

With Asgard once again established, the task of reviving his people comes next. It should be noted, that Thor is wielding a lot of power right now. Remember - he still has some of the experience from his Odin-like journey on the tree of Yggdrasil - and command of the Odin force. It's not as explicitly stated in these issues, though. He's not all knowing like he was before, when he sacrificed his eyes and his life for knowledge and wisdom. Likewise his power levels and use of the Odin force have diminished, but he still can utilize it when needed -- like when reviving his people. Thor is still more powerful than he previously was, but he isn't invincible.

Thor first goes to New Orleans, which has been ravaged by disaster in his absence. Heimidal is the first person Thor revives.

Later while still in the city Thor gets an unwelcome visit from Iron Man, who confronts him. Remember - during the Super Human Civil War, Iron Man helped to create a clone of Thor - a clone that went off the rails and killed another hero, Black Goliath. Right now Iron Man is in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D., and in charge of world security - and he's angry about Thor suddenly dropping a city right in the middle of the country.

This is a good time to point out -- we've of course been down the road of Asgard on Earth before. While the destruction of Asgard, and the horrible future that followed in it's wake, was erased with a little time-traveling -- Asgard's record of being friendly neighbors to Earth is pretty abysmal, even before Thor conquered the entire world. JMS doesn't address this, but supposedly Asgard's time floating over NYC still stands. That being said -- I can reconcile all of this with this simple fact: this time, Thor is not compromised (not missing his human half), and isn't intent on changing or improving the lives of mortals. It's simply Asgard on Earth - done right! Still, the question remains - why not recreate Asgard in the same space they once occupied? I think the answer to that is easy -- while recreating Asgard as it once was is not out of the question for Thor, his people are bound to Earth this time. Why not pack up and leave, after he revives all his people? Largely because this is a new start for his people. Restoring things the way it all use to be would defeat the purpose of their new finite existence. (There! How's that for some continuity patchwork?)

Iron Man tells Thor that things are different now. Superhumans have to be registered (Iron Man's side won the Civil War), and parking a freaking castle in the middle of the USA -- do you really think that wouldn't be noticed?! Thor, beyond angry about how his body and good name where defiled by Iron Man, fights against his once ally. Iron Man looses - and he looses pretty badly. Thor seems stronger -- which Iron Man comments on after being beaten into the ground. Thor, though, counters with a nice comeback, that he simply isn't holding back this time. Thor impresses Iron Man to tell his masters in Washington, that since all they understand is power, that if anyone one or any force comes uninvited to Asgard, he will show them what True Power is!

Injured, and quite frankly scared, Iron Man quickly proposes a solution. Asgard will be treated as an embassy - that will allow Asgard to be left alone, and give his people diplomatic immunity. Thor says it will suffice. His armor not working, Iron Man asks how he'll get home. Thor tells him to walk.

JMS is one of those writers who simply can't hide their political leanings. I gather Straczynski isn't a fan of George Bush; and it show whenever he portrays Mr. Government Run-a-Muck Tony Stark - often writing him out of character. (There where several contradictions between how Iron Man was in the main Civil War comic, and how he was portrayed in tie-in issues JMS wrote.) Here Iron Man isn't out of character, but he's pretty thoroughly humiliated. Later, an agent asks Tony what are they going to do about Asgard. Although his beating was earned and justified - this nicely showed the idea of how small humans could be in the face of gods. Iron Man says they are going to do nothing.

Thor next finds the Warriors Three, inhabiting the bodies of three mercenary soldiers working in Africa. Using his powers, Thor is able to release the spirits of his friends - separating them from their human hosts.

Heimdall, who has always had the power to ears all and see all - is enlisted by Thor to help in his search for all the others.

Before long Asgard is once again a bustling community. The town of Broxton invites the Asgardians to a town hall meeting - where there's some very funny and delightful jokes, about the clashing differences between the citizens of Broxton and it's new neighbors. When discussing work needed to be done on a septic tank and sewer system, Volstagg raises his hand with a question. He doesn't know what a septic tank or sewer system is. The people ask, then, what do they do with... you know?! Volstagg says they would throw such things over the castle wall. The goats would love it -- the frost giants, not so much.

There is one person Thor dearly wants to revive, but could not find - that of Sif. Her location cannot be gazed, even by the new starry-eyed Heimdall. Thor eventually find an underground prison, where numerous people are held captive. One set of eyes attracts Thor's attention - a young woman who is surely the human host for Sif. The guard of this prison, though, is the Destroyer!

Thor fights a savage battle against the Destroyer. Fearing for his peoples safety, in case he should fall during this battle, Thor flies up into the sky and uses his power to revive everyone en mass.

Thor eventually realizes that the Destroyer cannot function without a soul inhabiting it. Using his powers, Thor revives the soul trapped within: that of Balder the Brave. Why was Balder trapped in the Destroyer armor? Knowing all his life that his death would be the signal for Ragnarok - Balder always fought desperately to prevent such an occurrence. He had failed - and Asgard had been destroyed. Balder gathered that the anger he felt, his soul must have been attracted to the Destroyer - where his anger could be unleashed.

Going back to the cells, Thor finds the human hosts alive and well - but all of his people gone. All except for one person. The young woman Thor was so sure was Sif's host? Walking out of the shadows, a familiar, but different, person appeared - that of Loki -- but as woman!!! Thor is confused, and still angry at his "brother" for his part in Ragnarok; surely this is a trick of some kind. Loki claims ignorance - but posits a theory, that since he was half-frost giant, half-asgardian, perhaps his revival went a bit differently? Everyone supposedly having a brand new start, Thor grants Loki a reprieve - but warns him sternly what will happen if he goes back to his old ways.

I have to say, this twist is in keeping with the Viking Myths. Loki is shapeshifter, and in one myth he took the form of a female horse and gave birth to Sleipnir, Odin's eight legged horse. So the idea of Loki changing into a woman isn't THAT weird of an idea.

Still -- it was disconcerting to see Loki suddenly as a woman! Loki presented herself as completely reformed - instead of being the god of lies, this female Loki spoke nothing but the truth. Expectedly, this wasn't true. (And really, shame on them for not suspecting! Loki practically was playing the part of a snake, tempting people with an apple) Loki had planned this entire event. Able to flow about the world in his spirit/nothingness form, Loki was able to enlist the aid of Doctor Doom - who would figure into his plans later. A trap was set up - with Balder forced into fueling the Destroyer, and all the enemies of Asgard, likewise trapped in mortal hosts, where placed in those cells -- tricking Thor into reviving them all! Hela, The Enchantress, Ulik, the Norn Queen, Frost Giants, Trolls, and all other hosts of enemies where reintroduced into the world - carving out a space for their new lives on Earth.

Life of the Earth-Bound Asgard began to take shape. It's people interacted with the populous of Broxton in various ways. Hogun the Grim walked all the way to Texas to hunt wild bor, and came back the same way carrying a bor aloft on his shoulders, which stunned the people he passed on the road. Volstagg became acquainted with the cafe, run by Big Bill, Little Bill, and Bill Junior. (Grandfather, father, and son, respectively). One night Bill Junior came across a stunning and luminescent goddess, named Kelda, who was exploring the streets of Broxton at night. Kelda and Bill eventually began dating each other - though the cultural differences between them where many.

Still unable to find Sif, Thor went up into Earth's atmosphere and used all of his energy to revive everyone left on Earth. This drained Thor to such an extent, that he fell to Earth unconscious. His body retrieved, Thor was ushered back to the castle where he was put in a stone sarcophagus. Having spent all his energy, Thor was entering the Odin-Sleep, to restore himself.

Once Thor rested, something unexpected happened. Being in the Odin-Sleep, Thor is caught between life and death. Similar to Schrodinger's Cat, Thor is both alive and dead. This had an unexpected result - Don Blake found himself outside the box, released from Thor for a time.

Blake took this opportunity, without Thor being aware, to find Jane Foster. She's working in a hospital, nursing the aging and dying. Blake is surprised to find that Jane is divorced. She had married and had a kid during the years when writers simply needed her out of the way. Being a love interest of Thor/Blake -- I suppose Marvel wanted to make Jane single and available. This made for a horrible idea - of once hearing that Thor had returned, Jane divorced her husband and loosing custody of her child (because she could give no reason for the divorce). SERIOUSLY?! I know a Thor movie was in the works - but this really portrays Jane in a horrible light! Not that she got divorced, or fell back in love with Thor -- but she did it, ONLY for the possibility of falling in love with Thor again! A similar thing was done at the same time over at DC, with Carol Ferris, when Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) returned from the dead. Not even to be with their true loves -- Jane and Carol divorced their already established husbands just for the POSSIBILITY of being with their respective heroes again! I was pretty angry about this at the time, and I guess I still am. I know, I know - fictional characters, ect, ect. But its still a crummy way to portray marriage, even in comics. I gather these might have been company edicts, to clear the way for a romance in the future to tie into the movies - but it doesn't make it any less hard to swallow even now.

OK - besides Jane's brutal, heartless, and fickle reasons for divorce -- Blake essentially came to her, to ask if she might have any idea where Sif's soul could be. A long time ago Sif had been bound to Jane Foster - no doubt in some clumsy attempt to merge the two love interests. With this in mind, Blake thought Jane might have attracted Sif's soul - and perhaps was the reason her soul could not be found. Long story-short -- it's concluded that Sif must be unwilling to return, and thus can't be found.

Unknown to Blake and Jane, just around the corner in a hospital bed - an aging and dying woman is pleading for help, but isn't heard. A nurse walks in, raising a mirror to the old woman's face - mocking her. You see, Sif is trapped in this body -- and the Nurse, Loki disguised, is the one who engineered all of this! The hope for Loki is that Sif's mortal host will expire before Thor can find her.

While Blake visited with Jane Foster, Thor meanwhile found himself in limbo. Since he's caught between life and death, Thor enters this desolate realm, and is surprised to find his father, Odin, fighting against Surtur! Turns out Odin has been here all along since he died. Being healed and rejuvenated each day, Odin continually battles with Surtur - to force him to remain in Limbo, all while dying from his wounds each day. Surtur's spirit wants to grow and eventually be released - but Odin keeps smacking it down.

Thor is astonished by all of this, and says he would have tried looking for his father if he knew he was trapped here. Odin tells him that isn't true -- there's a reason Thor never revived Odin, like the others. Thor's reasoning for this is essentially because he knows a return of Odin would merely put his people on the same road they had been on once before, instead of moving forward. Still, Thor protests, and says he could only revive those who where alive at the end of Ragnarok; Odin died much earlier than that. Odin still says that isn't true - that if Thor truly wanted his return, nothing would stop him. Odin says he understands this, because he did it to his own father himself.

Much like a curse on the House of Odin, Odin describes how, countless ages ago, he saw his father, Bor, struck down and turned to snow by a wizard. Bor's last words where a plea for Odin to gather the best Wizards in their kingdom - and revive him, as his spirit still remained scattered in the snow. Odin, however, did nothing. You see - Odin had given life to humans Earth (just go with it) - something his father opposed. Bor had tortured the humans with countless disasters in revenge (he wasn't going to win father of the year, suffice to say). Still, Odin regretted his omission of inaction, but felt it necessary - fearing that a return of Bor would make things like they where; while as the new All-Father, Odin could protect the Earth and lead his people into a new age.

Still - the voice of Bor continued to whisper to Odin throughout the ages - which Odin knew would be repeated one day when he had his first child: Thor.

The voice of Bor finally delivered an offer: he would cease his messages from beyond the grave - if Odin did something very specific. He was told that there would be a child, of a slain enemy, who Odin must take into his house and raise as his own. After a war with the Frost Giants, such a boy appeared. Odin had always let a more worthy account of this story be told - of a baby found, orphaned, and taken in by the charity of the All-Father. This was a young boy, who was screaming that he would kill them all for murdered his father. This young boy, of course, was Loki. The voice of Bor ceased, and Odin thought himself granted peace. Yet now Odin knows the adopting Loki was nothing but a curse his father cruelly inflicted upon him.

Thor, seeing the horrible land his father was trapped in, and the curse he was perpetuating, explained that he would find a way to free Odin. Gladdened by his son's offer, Odin tells him that is not necessary - as merely offering to rescue him had broken the curse. Odin says he must stay here, to keep Surtur from returning to life once again. What more glorious afterlife could there be for a Viking god, to fight and die honorably each day? Thor told his father that, on this day at least, he would not die from his injuries, but fight alongside him against Surtur.

After Thor's revival from the Odin-Sleep, he and Blake where instantly merged back together. Having accepted that Sif did not want to return, and knowing Odin felt similarly, things where finally able to move forward. The spirit of the people, though, was not easy. The Viking gods where use to continual combat, honor, and glory. Balder, more than anyone, seemed unhappy with their new life. It is here that Loki begins to council poor Balder. There is little love lost between Balder and Loki, and "her" new reborn form did not change that. Still, if Thor was willing to give his step-"sister" a chance, Balder would as well. (With the warning that if Loki abused this trust, Balder would relieve Loki of his head.) Loki tells Balder of a place where he can recapture the experience of being in Asgard -- in the snowy mountains, where rumors floated of Frost Giants congregating there. Transported by Loki, Balder indeed felt the cold and clear air, and felt like he was home again. In the shadows of the snowy forest a forth a Frost Giant attacked, which Loki had tricked into believing he was setting up Balder to be killed. The giant attacked, and Balder fought it. Coming to the rescue at the last moment, Loki saved Balder's life. Loki merely exclaimed that she had come to see how Balder fared, and thought he needed help.

With Loki now in Balder's good graces, she gave him another piece of knowledge that Loki said Balder deserved to know. Kept secret from him all his life, Loki revealed that Odin was actually Balder's father! The reason for the secrecy being, since a prophecy had been made concerning Balder's death - signaling Ragnarok - Odin wished to protect Balder from his enemies by concealing his true linage from him. Balder does not believe this, until prompted to simply ask Thor. Sure enough, Thor admits that it is true.; he and Balder are in actuality brothers. Why keep it secret all these years? Thor gave his reasoning, based on Odin's wishes. Yet why continue to stay silent after Ragnarok had come and pass? Thor says that it was a hard truth to reveal, and the more time passed the harder it would be to answer. Thor, though, tells Balder that he is right - he should have been told. A ceremony is held, proclaiming the linage of Balder as a Prince of Asgard.

Loki's schemes where going wonderfully. There was just one task left to do, before the big event. Traveling to Los Vegas, Loki visits the substitute realm of Hela, the goddess of Death. Without her kingdom, Hela's status is left up in the air - merely cramming the bodies of the dead in an adjoining bedroom of her hotel. Loki exclaims that she needs Hela's help. Away from the prying eyes of her fellow Asgardians, Loki needed help in a spell, to transport through time. Hela is agreeable to this task, but asks why the pretense of this female disguise? Loki says he knew he would never be trusted by his fellow Asgardians with the same face. To travel through time, though, Loki would need to shed his current female form; because this was how he knew he needed to look in the past. Returning again to his male persona, Loki asks Hela to keep a good watch on the body he had just vacated.

Passing through countless ages, Loki arrives in the wintery mountains of the frost giants. Loki intercedes in a very specific point in time, in the age of the first All-Father, Bor. While fighting, Bor is lured away from the main group - and set upon by a spell, turning him to snow. Loki was the unknown wizard who had felled Bor. The scene transpires the same way Odin had described it. Now moving throughout of the years again, Loki - unseen - casts the voice of Bor, to haunt Odin throughout the years, until finally the final message of peace: if Odin adopts the child of a soon to be slain enemy.

Next Loki visits with a very specific person: himself! Finding his younger frost-giant self and addressing him by name, Loki approaches. The boy is confused, but can see the truth, despite appearances: this was him, but older and different. Loki talks to his younger self about the struggles young Loki has already experienced. How it seems the only purpose of the frost giants was to fight and die against the Asgardians. Yet young Loki hates his people more - his father beats him regularly. A meeting of minds is reached, and young Loki agrees with his elder self for things to change.

Told what to say to his father, young Loki tells him false rumor of the Asgardians encroaching into their kingdom. Hearing that their territory is breached, the Frost Giants go to War. The frost giants fight, and loose - and Loki's father is struck dead by Odin. Informed how he should react, the young Loki runs to the body of his dead father - and is seen by Odin as the orphan he is suppose to take in and raise.

After this is done and everyone has left, and Loki's own history is made, he approaches the corpse of his father. Taking a blade Loki bludgeons the corpse repeated, yelling that he will NEVER raise a hand against him ever again! After the blood has splattered everywhere, and Loki's rage subsided, he comments that if mortals in the future could that, millions would be saved in therapy.

Returning to Las Vegas, Loki tells Hela the purpose of his journey. He says it was a task he knew he needed to do, because he witnessed it himself when he was younger. Whichever came first, Loki doesn't care. Hela mentions, examining the body she was holding for Loki, that she found something very interesting about it. Loki asks her to actually say the word, of who's body this really is - if only to know his work is known and appreciated by someone. With a smile Hela simply says "Sif."

The final part of Loki's scheme came about in issue #600 of Thor -- the series reverted to it's original numbering for the big event. The groundwork already planned, again in "her" female form, Loki traveled to New York. Picking up the freshly laid snow, Loki makes it return Bor to life! Confused and disoriented, and given false illusions by Loki, Bor rampages through New York - thinking everything is an enemy! Blake is made away of the news and flies to New York. Thor realizes who this actually is - his grandfather! But how? Thor tried to reason with Bor, but failed to break him of the illusion that he was surrounded by enemies. Bor thought his son Odin was dead, and that after his death his kingdom had been destroyed.

An epic battle is waged, with civilians continually put in danger the more Thor and Bor fought. Thor now fought with all his strength, and eventually is forced to kill Bor to save everyone. Soon enough Balder and Loki arrive to see the aftermath. Loki, acting like the devilish snake that she is, exclaims how woeful this is! That Thor, however inadvertent, was forced to strike the first All-Father down. The law, apparently, is quite clear - for a crime such as this, there can only be banishment. This turn of events changes things in Asgard, as Balder is forced to become a new King, and Thor is exiled.

Behind the scenes Loki continues his grand plan! He begins rumors of a safe haven their people could take, where the wintery mountains and fresh game abound - a place that could feel more like home to the Asgardians, who where growing weary of the peace Broxton Oklahoma gave them.

I had to say, the revival of Thor in these issues by J. Michael Straczynski, couldn't have gone better! That, however, was not my attitude at the time when reading this. I suppose the large number of changes made to the Thor universe rattled me a bit -- but more because I was having a problem with JMS' writing. At the time I thought Straczynski was being too slow with the plot, too liberal with the plots, ect, ect. I eventually stopped reading at issue #9 - and have only recently been able to read the remaining issues up until the renumbered #600. Eventually JMS left the title - which was a real disappointment to many. JMS left to write Superman and Wonder Woman at DC, which turned into an even bigger abdicated disaster. I certainly wasn't singing any praises about it, about the prelude JMS wrote in Superman #700. I have simply been very critical of his writing - some of which has been fair, and some unfair. I loved his work on Amazing Spider-Man, which I still attribute to this day of JMS saving the character, who before he came on board was languishing with weak writing and horrid storylines. As I mentioned above - JMS is one of those writers, like Peter David, who can't hind their political leanings. I considered myself a Republican at the time, and found some of JMS' writing swung wildly in too far left. His Spider-Man issues, tying into the Civil War mini-series, are a prime example of this; Iron Man was wrote as a Bush stand-in, which JMS wrote in complete contradiction to how Tony was portrayed in the main Civil War series. So suddenly seeing JMS, a big Hollywood writer, depicting supposedly "regular" folks of Broxton, rubbed me the wrong way. My attitude, about it however has changed considerably. (And not just because the GOP disgusts me these days) I have to credit him now with saving Thor as well - as no other writer before him would touch the character. Having now read more of his issues, I now see where many of his plots where leading. I absolutely LOVE Loki's creation of his own history, and I now appreciate the idea of examining Asgard on Earth, as it has helped to mature the series and make it more accessible to new readers.

JMS departed the series only a few issues into the next arch - which saw the people of Asgard move to the home country of Latveria, under the care of Doctor Doom! Doom and Loki had arranged this from the beginning -- it allowed Loki to manipulate things to his liking, and it gave Doctor Doom people he could experiment on. OH! Didn't I mention, Doom is evil and all that? Well - Doom was kidnapping Asgardians in secret and transforming them into monstrous cyborgs! I don't know where this would have lead if JMS had stuck around, but suffice to say Thor came back, beat the living hell of Doom, ect, ect: THE END!

Well, not the end. Kieron Gillen came onboard and finished the Doctor Doom saga, and kept the series going for a while. The issues written by Gillen are actually pretty interesting - as backtracking I've found they cover a lot of the groundwork for what Gillen is doing now writing Journey Into Mystery, with the adventures of a young Loki!

Sif was finally revived and returned to her original body, before her elderly human host expired. At the same time Loki was of course made a man again.

JMS was able to give a farewell of sorts - doing a giant-sized one shot featuring Bill Jr and Kelda. Bill, who I gather moved to Latveria along with Kelda, found out about Doom's schemes. He fought like a warrior, and Doctor Doom's plot was revealed - but at the cost of Bill Jr's life. Since he died like a warrior, the Asgardians said goodbye to him in a Funeral Pyre, like any of their own fallen warriors. Kelda was heartbroken from that point on.

Next Up: Siege!

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