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Thursday, November 14, 2013

X-amining Thor #373-374

"The Gift of Death" / "Fires of the Night!"
November-December 1986

In a Nutshell
Thor rescues Angel from the Marauders. 

Writer: Walter Simonson
Art: Sal Buscema
Lettering: John Workman
Colorist: Max Scheele
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Plot
Issue #373: Thor returns to Earth after a lengthy absence and gets back into the life of Sigurd Jarlsson, his secret identity. Learning from the frogs in Central Park about the massacre going on underneath the streets, he transforms into Thor and enters the Morlock Tunnels. Overhearing Angel's screams, he discovers the mutant being tortured by the Marauders, and fights them off. Issue #374: Thor once again fends off the returning Marauders as he endeavors to take the badly injured Angel to the surface for medical attention. Elsewhere in the tunnels, Blockbuster, chafing at being twice beaten by Thor, vows to kill him. Nearby, Thor encounters Artie, and offers to bring him to the surface as well, but just then Blockbuster attacks, breaking Thor's arm.


Jarred into consciousness, Angel does his best to distract Blockbuster, despite his injuries, giving Thor a chance to hurl his hammer at Blockbuster, killing him. Thor, Angel and Artie then continue their journey through the tunnels until they run into Marvel Girl and Cyclops, whom Thor recognizes as former X-Men. He turns Angel and Artie over to their care as Cyclops fashions a sling for Thor's broken arm. Thor tells Cyclops to leave the tunnels soon, for he intends to clear them of their dead. He then triggers a blast with his hammer that scours the tunnels clean, giving the dead some measure of a funeral. 

Firsts and Other Notables
Blockbuster becomes the last Marauder to die (in this storyline), as Thor hurls his hammer at him, crushing his skull, in issue #374.


At this point in time Thor lives on Earth as Sigurd Jarlsson, a construction worker whose identity he assumes by donning a Clark Kent-ish pair of glasses and tying his hair into a ponytail. In issue #373, he is unknowingly cursed by Hela, and in issue #374, he learns of the curse: as a result of actions Thor took in issues #360-362 to rescue mortal souls Hela had stolen, she has made his bones brittle and unable to heal (which is how Blockbuster is able to break his arm), yet also made him unable to die, so that he will fear going into combat and live the remainder of his life in agony. The curse will remain with Thor for the remainder of Simonson's run on the title (which will end with issue #382), and lead to him donning a bitchin' suit of armor to hold together his broken bones.

As a result of being taunted about the curse by Hela, Thor triggers the energy blast which scours the Morlock Tunnels clean (as seen in most of the other "Mutant Massacre" tie-ins) sooner than he anticipated - he did in fact warn Cyclops to leave the tunnels as soon as possible, telling him he would take care of the bodies (not that this would have helped other people in the tunnels at the time that Thor didn't warn, like Wolverine).


X-Factor penciller Walt Simonson, who began his acclaimed run as writer and artist on Thor with issue #337, turned over artistic duties on the book as of issue #368 to Sal Buscema, who provides the art for these issues as well as the remainder of Simonson's run as writer on the book (save issue #380, which Simonson also draws).

The cover to issue #373 represents Thor's contribution to the Marvel 25th Anniversary cover theme.


The Chronology Corner
These issues occur between X-Factor #10 and #11, after Power Pack #27 and concurrently with Uncanny X-Men #212 and New Mutants #46. Angel, last seen pinned to a wall by the Marauders, his wings broken, is recused by Thor and turned over to Marvel Girl and Cyclops, who are seen returning to their headquarters with him in X-Factor #11.


A Work in Progress
Thor learns of the massacre from the frogs he befriended while transformed into a frog, in issues #364-365 of his series. He also met the Morlock Piper during that storyline.


Thor recognizes Cyclops and Marvel Girl from when the Avengers fought the X-Men in X-Men #9.


Teebore's Take
Like Power Pack #27, these two issues of Thor, from the perspective of "Mutant Massacre", are chiefly concerned with bridging the gap between X-Factor #10 and #11, in this case, specifically the fate of Angel,  though the "Viking funeral" Thor triggers shows up in other crossover titles as well. And like Power Pack, Thor's involvement in the crossover largely stems from the fact that the writer of his book also draws X-Factor (and his married to that series' writer), as Thor lacks even Power Pack's prior recent involvement with the X-Men and Morlocks (Thor's point of reference for Cyclops and Marvel Girl goes alllllllll the way back to X-Men #9). Unlike Power Pack, however, Thor's involvement doesn't automatically devalue the threat of the Marauders - he doesn't exactly struggle to defeat to them, but he is a god and a seasoned superhero, after all, and watching him dispatch Blockbuster after what he helped do to Angel, instead of making the Marauders look like chumps, ends up being extremely cathartic; along with Colossus killing Riptide and Jean smashing Prism, it stands as one of the few cathartic moments of the entire storyline. 

Next Issue
Tomorrow, Mephisto rampages across several teams in the Mephisto Vs. limited series, and next week, we check in with Dazzler in Uncanny X-Men #214 and continue time traveling in New Mutants #49. 

14 comments:

  1. I've read these issues twice in recent years, once as part of the Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson trades, and then again in the Mutant Massacre hardcover, and I like them quite a bit. I agree with you that seeing Thor finish off Blockbuster is a cathartic experience. The fact that he does it so easily is pretty funny, too. I know Blockbuster had reason to be cocky, but that boast, followed immediately by a fatal hammer blow to the face, is pretty funny.

    Also, I usually have the opinion that heroes should never kill, but there are certain exceptions. Thor, being a Viking god, is one of those. I don't want to see him killing random bad guys like the Absorbing Man, but I feel he's well within his bounds to finish off bad guys like the Marauders. I would be dismayed if he just charged into battle and killed Blockbuster first, without realizing the extent of what he's done, but Simonson lets us see Thor's anger over the deaths of the Morlocks first, perfectly justifying Thor's actions in the end. The sentence fits the crime, here.

    "The curse will remain with Thor for the remainder of Simonson's run on the title (which will end with issue #382), and lead to him donning a bitchin' suit of armor to hold together his broken bones."

    I've never understood the love for Thor's armor. The visual design is fine, I suppose, but I've always found the blue-and-yellow color scheme to be garish and unappealing. It would look much better with some more subdued hues. Gray and dark blue, maybe?

    (I do like that the helmet was eventually colored silver and used for the Eric Masterson version of Thor, though.)

    The beard, on the other hand, I wish he had kept forever after Simonson's departure.

    "...Walt Simonson, who began his acclaimed run as writer and artist on Thor with issue #337, turned over artistic duties on the book as of issue #368 to Sal Buscema, who provides the art for these issues..."

    Sal did some great work on Thor, in my opinion. His art was maybe not as dynamic as Simonson's, but I really feel like the Thor setting and characters suit him.

    "(Thor's point of reference for Cyclops and Marvel Girl goes alllllllll the way back to X-Men #9)"

    This is something I miss about the Marvel Universe as we used to know it. Everyone didn't know everyone else. The fact that Thor hadn't crossed paths with the X-Men in roughly twenty years of publication time is astounding! I just read an issue of Iron Man last night from 1981, where Iron Man obliquely mentions Nightcrawler, who he had not yet met, six years after the character's debut.

    I feel like nowadays, all the heroes have brunch together every Sunday, which kind of sucks the size out of the Marvel Universe. It feels too small and clustered together, now.

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    1. Great point. I don't mind subtle Easter eggs, (eg: when Such-and-Such needs a lawyer, so they get Matthew Murdock, or when Peter David's X-factor spoke to a psychologist, who was revealed to be Doc Samson), but the quarterly cross-overs, multiple Avengers titles, and the willy-nature nature of mixing and matching characters in team books (ie: Spider-man is in the Avengers, AND the FF; Wolverine is in two X-men teams, AND Avengers) has diluted the impact of the 'shared universe'.

      I too was astonished to learn that Thor had not seen the X-men in TWENTY YEARS (real time), and details like this make the shared universe *more* exciting because it happens so rarely!

      PS: Another great example was in Peter David's Hulk run. X-factor investigates a newly suspected mutant. When someone suggests it could be the Hulk, Jean says "But the Hulk is Green", obviously showing she's a year or two behind current events.
      In the same issue, the Grey Hulk sees X-factor and calls them 'The X-men', meaning he's a solid 10 YEARS behind in current events.
      And props to the editor for not spoon feeding one of those idiotic "Editor's Notes" to *explain* why the characters had less knowledge about the characters than the readers did.

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  2. @Matt: I usually have the opinion that heroes should never kill, but there are certain exceptions. Thor, being a Viking god, is one of those. I don't want to see him killing random bad guys like the Absorbing Man, but I feel he's well within his bounds to finish off bad guys like the Marauders.

    I'm right there with you on all counts.

    I've never understood the love for Thor's armor

    For me its the visual design and, I think, the texture it lends Thor on the page. It just pops in a way I really like. I'm not married to the color scheme; a darker one certainly wouldn't be bad, though the blue and yellow one does have roots in Thor's usual attire.

    I also really like the helmet and, like you, much prefer bearded Thor. Thor should almost always have a beard.

    I feel like nowadays, all the heroes have brunch together every Sunday, which kind of sucks the size out of the Marvel Universe

    I guess for me I feel like the more connected heroes of today are just a logical development. Like, for the first few years of the Marvel Universe, all these characters didn't know each other or hang out that often, but as they crossed paths and teamed-up more, they became more familiar with each other so that now it's not uncommon to see them hanging out together/talking to one another regularly.

    For example, in 1981 it makes sense for Iron Man to mention Nightcrawler obliquely, because he hasn't met him yet. But nowadays, after teaming up with Nightcrawler countless times in countless crossovers (theoretically, for the purpose of this example), it also makes sense that he would be more familiar with Nightcrawler.

    (Of course, this would require someone at Marvel to keep track of how often certain characters actually have interacted with others, so as to ensure the only characters having brunch together, so to speak, are ones who are familiar enough to be doing so, and we know that ain't happening. But in general, I feel like enough heroes have crossed paths/been on a team together by now that it makes sense for them to be more familiar with one another).

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  3. " (Thor's point of reference for Cyclops and Marvel Girl goes alllllllll the way back to X-Men #9)."

    " The fact that Thor hadn't crossed paths with the X-Men in roughly twenty years of publication time is astounding!"

    Well, in fairness, Marvel Girl was "dead" for some of that time. But it is strange that Thor didn't cross paths with Cyclops at any point between X-Men #9 and Mutant Massacre.

    ...

    (Secret Wars? What's that?)

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  4. @Jason: But it is strange that Thor didn't cross paths with Cyclops at any point between X-Men #9 and Mutant Massacre.

    ...

    (Secret Wars? What's that?)


    Ha! Good point. Does seem like that should be the point of reference for Thor. I suppose you could argue that Cyclops was off with the X-Men in their own little camp for most of that, but still.

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  5. @Matt: Totally agree about Thor keeping the beard. That sexy, sexy beard...

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  6. "Ha! Good point. Does seem like that should be the point of reference for Thor. I suppose you could argue that Cyclops was off with the X-Men in their own little camp for most of that, but still. "

    In fairness, it's not as if Thor's dialogue reads "The uniforms are new, but I recognize the names 'Cyclops' and 'Angel' from that one single event in my life and not from anything else, as that was the only time I ever met any of you."

    Sometimes we comic-book fans can get a bit hung up on stuff like this, I think. He's basically just saying that he remembers the Lucifer incident as a time when saw all three of these characters together, as part of the same team. Not necessarily the most recent time, or the only time. It's just an easy point of reference for everyone involved.

    Of course it's not entirely our fault for being anal about this, if we grew up reading during the Mighty Marvel Age of obsessive editorial footnotes. And while I'm harping on that, what was up with that bit in New Mutants Special Edition #1 when the Enchantress sees the captured New Mutants and says "These are not the X-Men I remember," and a footnote says "She met them briefly during Dazzler issues 1 and 2"? Why would that be the Enchantress' point of reference for the X-Men? She was on Battleworld too.

    WHY DO ASGARDIANS NOT REMEMBER THE MUTANTS THEY MET DURING SECRET WARS????

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  7. So the Marauders are driven out by Thor just to come back a few pages later at the issue break without any reinforcements, fight a little, and then run away again.

    Harpoon: "I sure would like to have nailed him, but he was way out of my league."
    Me: "…"

    While I get what you guys are saying, it feels a little weird to me that when placing where he's met Cyclops before Thor goes all the way back to his first encounter with the X-Men (as part of the Avengers) in X-Men #9 and doesn't reference the much more recent Secret Wars. Neither Angel nor Marvel Girl were on Battleworld, sure, and if anyone's going to be a bit detached from the Midgardian superhero scene it's Thor, I guess. However, Thor also crossed paths with Angel circa Super-Villain Team-Up #14 when Angel and Iceman were in the Champions with Thor's frenemy and sometime Avenger Hercules, and Thor clearly does not recognize this angel creature as that Angel despite his costume being the same except for the torso.

    Of all the Mutant Massacre crossovers, Thor's would be the issues that got me to continue with the series. In fact, outside of the Alan Davis art on X-Men #213, Thor #373-374 are probably the best issues of the entire bunch — including the main titles — largely but not only for the sequences specific to its own ongoing narrative. [For those not reading along: I'm talking about stuff that Teebore didn't synopsize (and I don't blame him; it was irrelevant to his focus).]

    I'm right there with Matt on Thor dispatching Blockbuster, too, as well as with the art. This is pretty much the best stuff of Sal Buscema's I've ever seen, maybe because he was doing full pencils and inks. Also also, I too prefer bearded Thor.

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  8. @Jason: He's basically just saying that he remembers the Lucifer incident as a time when saw all three of these characters together, as part of the same team. Not necessarily the most recent time, or the only time. It's just an easy point of reference for everyone involved.

    That was kind of my revelation as well. It's not that he doesn't remember Cyclops from Secret Wars, but having Jean (and Angel) there, he simply recalls them all being together, which would be the Lucifer incident.

    WHY DO ASGARDIANS NOT REMEMBER THE MUTANTS THEY MET DURING SECRET WARS????

    Ha! More importantly, why do editors keep forgetting about Secret Wars? :)

    @Blam: Harpoon: "I sure would like to have nailed him, but he was way out of my league."
    Me: "…"


    Ha! At least Harpoon is realistic about his chances. Thor *is* way out of his league.

    This is pretty much the best stuff of Sal Buscema's I've ever seen, maybe because he was doing full pencils and inks.

    Whatever the reason, yeah, this is probably the best I've seen from Sal - though his later Spectacular Spider-Man run with JM DeMatteis is pretty good too.

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  9. What makes Thor's presence really weird here is that he would quickly be drafted into ANOTHER big "event" soon after this (Indeed I think this story was happening roughly around the same time that "Avengers: Under Siege" was happening.)

    Since I read this story from a trade, the Thor contributions seems especially bizarre, since there are whole bunch of unrelated Thor subplots that come off as jarring in the middle of the Mutant Massacre narrative (this, of course is fine for regular Thor readers but breaks the flow of people reading only reading the crossover. Thor doesn't even properly go into the tunnels until about the END of issue 373. The only other thing is that THOR's "magical lightning" trick at the end did seem like kinda an asspull (and a dangerous one at that, since as shown in the other books, everyone else barely escaped. Not very clear thinking on Thor's part, eh?)

    Nevertheless, I did enjoy much about this issue. It was a good move to injure Thor giving him a literal handicap to make this an even fight and prevent Thor from wiping the floor with the Mauraders. Plus the mild attempt at descention in the ranks gave the villians a slight bit of characterization.

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  10. @Jonathan: Indeed I think this story was happening roughly around the same time that "Avengers: Under Siege" was happening.

    Yeah, I don't believe they run concurrently, but I'm pretty sure they overlap at some point.

    Since I read this story from a trade, the Thor contributions seems especially bizarre, since there are whole bunch of unrelated Thor subplots that come off as jarring in the middle of the Mutant Massacre narrative

    I can imagine all that Thor stuff is pretty jarring to read in a collected edition, especially for anyone coming at it for the first time.

    You'd almost think they could just cut #373 from the collections, but of course, there's just enough Massacre material in that issue for #374 to read odd if it was included on its own.

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  11. Yeek, I can't believe I forgot Secret Wars! I love Secret Wars! In that case, I'll buy into Jason's reading of Thor's dialogue.

    (Though I still maintain Marvel was better when all the heroes didn't hang out together every weekend.)

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  12. @Matt: Though I still maintain Marvel was better when all the heroes didn't hang out together every weekend.

    And *I* maintain it's the natural progression of Marvel's shared universe. Put it on the board!

    (Sorry. In-joke for anyone who listens to ESPN's Fantasy Focus podcasts...)

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  13. These are the only two issues of Simonson's run on Thor that I've read, but I absolutely love them. Even in these two issues - a crossover, nonetheless - he manages to contribute so much to the character and story of Thor whilst telling an amazing story. I've wanted to pick up his run for years; reading this post just reminded me how much I loved these issues.

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