Thor. The God of Thunder. The Avengers are often referred to as "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", and Thor on his own could certainly live up to that boast. He's also become a bit of a movie star in recent years, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic universe. And since his third cinematic adventure, Thor: Ragnarok, will be hitting theaters in a few months, I thought it would be nice to review an old-school Thor comic!
However, I wonder which one to review, until remembering the Thor: Ragnarok trailer hit me with some inspiration. We do see a brief glimpse of Karl Urban as Skurge wielding machine guns, and I thought, hey, why not cover the issue that gave Skurge a moment of awesome? So, I whipped out my copy of Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Vol. 3, and decided to cover Skurge's last stand. Pour yourself a flagon of mead, everyone! Get your swords, shields, and horned helmets! Prepare your best battle cry! We're going to Hel!
The cover is really awesome! Thor is riding into battle, on his godly chariot, driven by his goats, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder. One may notice that Thor's mouth is covered by his cape. Don't worry, there is an explanation for it. Behind him are the charging Einherjar, the Heroes of Valhalla. And looming over them is Skurge firing a pair of M-16s. It's an awesome cover, which gives a really good idea of what you'll get in the issue.
"Like a Bat Out of Hel!"
Writer: Walter Simonson
Artist: Walter Simonson
Letterer: John Workman, Jr.
Colors: Max Scheele
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-In-Chief: Jim Shooter
The issue begins with Thor and his war party, in their trip through Hel, encountering a large ship.
Thor explains that the ship is called Naglfar. It was said that the ship has been building since the dawn of time, made from the fingernails of dead men. Must've been a LOT of dead people in Hel for it to get that many fingernails. Do you know how tiny fingernails are?! Look at the size of that ship! Anyway, Thor explains that when the ship is finished, the dead will sail her to Asgard to destroy the gods. Yeah, this ship would cause the Norse version of a zombie apocalypse. I'm not sure if it's part of Ragnarok, but I'm thinking that it might be.
Balder hopes they never have to see that ship again, but Thor reminds him that they have the mortal spirits that they came to rescue from Hel. You see, in previous issues, some mortals' souls ended up in Hel. They weren't supposed to go there, but Hela, being a jerk, said "Nope, I am keeping them." In response, Thor decided to get a bunch of his allies (and Skurge came along), and invade Hel to get them out.
You are probably wondering why Thor's face was covered by his cape. In the previous issue, he fought Hela herself, and she gave him a taste of her Hand of Glory. The Hand of Glory was essentially her giving Thor a magically-charged smack in the mouth that wrecked his face. Back to the comic, Balder explains they are not much further until they are away from Hel. All they have to do is cross the bridge called Gjallerbru.
Balder says that he doesn't trust Hela, doubting she would let the leave Hel so easily, especially since they came to get some souls she wanted to keep with her. He asks how Thor is doing, since his face got wrecked.
O hai Magma! Yup, we get a glimpse of the New Mutants' resident volcano queen. I think that at the time Thor was raising Hell in Hel, the New Mutants were getting up to some shenanigans in Asgard. Anyway, Thor remarks that his face hurts, but as long as he can free the mortals from Hel, the pain is worth it.
Hela makes her appearance, and Thor demands to know what she is up to. Hela then reminds him that essentially, he forgot Skurge. Skurge the Executioner had come with Thor to Hel, but ran off. And the Enchantress is with him.
...No, not that one.
Yeah, that one! Seriously, both Marvel and DC have a character called "Enchantress", and they're both fond of the color green. That is weird.
Another thing that's weird? Neither Amora nor Balder have ever appeared in the MCU yet. Seriously. They're two of the most major character in Thor's mythos. Amora's sister Lorelei appeared in Agents of SHIELD, but there was not even a hint of Amora. Since the sisters don't really get along very well in the comics, one could assume that maybe Lorelei just didn't mention her because she hates her. Still, a mention of Amora at least may be nice. Maybe we'll get a hint of her in Thor: Ragnarok, since Skurge will appear.
Thor remembers that Amora the Enchantress has always had a hold on Skurge's heart, and Skurge tells him he will defend her against the nine worlds if he has to. Balder reminds Skurge that they're in Hela's domain, and things are never what they seem here. Amora tells Skurge that Balder's just running his mouth. Skurge is not so sure, as Balder is not known for being a liar. So, Skurge decides to check by using his axe's ability to cut through illusions. I can think of a few detectives who could use that axe.
It's actually Mordonna! Mordonna is a sorceress and shapeshifter who Hela used to impersonate Amora, because Hela's a troll, I guess. Skurge is rather unhappy with being deceived, and decides to so a little science experiment. What would happen if his axe met Mordonna's head? Mrdonna screams that she didn't betray the Asgardians. Fortunately for Mordonna's head, Hela whisks her out of danger. Skurge pleads for forgiveness, saying he had no idea that this was happening.
Hela explains why she pulled this trick on Skurge. When the time is right, Skurge will captain the Naglfar, leading the dead of Hel against Asgard. Skurge is none too fond of the idea. And considering he's already mad at Hela and Mordonna over their little trick, Skurge expresses his thoughts on captaining the ship. He tosses his axe, using its powers to cleave dimensions to unleash the energies that bind the nine worlds together. The energy-charged axe flies towards the Naglfar, and...
The fingernail ship goes up in an explosion. Millenia of work, up in smoke. Hela takes it well. So well in fact, she arranges for Thor to meet an energy blast. Balder's able to block it with his sword, but he ends up de-horsed and with a numbed arm. Agnar, his squire of sorts, rushes over to protect him. Balder has been a guide to Thor through Hel, and Hela decides to kill him first, so Thor and his party will never be able to leave. However, Hela ends up with a faceful of Mjolnir thanks to Thor, and the party flee.
The monsters and misfits of Hel rise to stop the party, but the heroes of Einherjar are ready for them. They form a line, and...
...open fire on them. Yup. Thor's party got prepared by bringing some mortal weapons with them, mainly some M-16s. Vikings using machine guns. I love comics.
The M-16s are a help, allowing the party to run through Hela's monsters and creatures like a hot knife through butter. Hela then summons the dead to fight for her. Yup, she's bringing out the zombie Vikings. They form a line, and Thor urges the men on, and decides to do something freaking awesome.
Thor and his chariot leap into the fray, Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder smashing foes underneath their thunderous hooves, Thor's hammer sending lighting into the enemies' hearts, and the Einherjar feeding them sword steel and bullets.
The group reach the Helway, the way out of Hel. All they have to do is pass the bridge Gjallerbru. The bridge is guarded by Modgud, who welcomes new arrivals, and ensures no one escapes Hel. She has never left her post.
Until now. First time for everything. She can handle crazy Vikings, but crazy Vikings with guns? Yeah, Hela does not pay her enough to deal with that. The party reaches the foot of the bridge. Problem is, they aren't going to be able to get over the bridge before getting overtaken by Hela's army of the dead. Thor entrusts Balder to get the mortal souls out, while he holds the army off at the bridge. Thor figures that his hammer may allow him to escape to the other worlds thanks to its ability to cross dimensions. However, someone complicates things.
Skurge knocks Thor out, and the party is furious. He begs Balder to hear him out. Skurge explains that people have laughed at him. Enchantress, despite his love for her, only ever used him as her muscle. Mordonna and Hela tried to trick him. In essence, he's had enough. He's been laughed at his whole life, and it's had an effect on him. He does feel a little bit expendable, so he agrees to take Thor's place. He'll hold the bridge.
Balder and the party leave him some ammo and a couple extra rifles. He asks Balder to apologize to Thor for him and for them to have a drink in his honor. Hel's army marches over the distance, and Skurge readies his guns. When they're in range, he opens fire.
Skurge fights valiantly, laughing and taunting the demons. Come and get it, army of Hel! Christmas has come early, and Santa Skurge got hot lead for everybody! It's Skurge's Last Stand, and in a way, his last laugh. Skurge, in his final act, is getting to stick it to Hela and Amora, everyone who has ever mocked and laughed at him.
Despite his efforts, Skurge is eventually overrun and killed. However, according to the narration, Skurge won Hela's respect. Yup, his final act actually makes Hela bow her head in respect. That is awesome. Skurge got some respect after all. You know how awesome this page is? If you look closely, one can see that Simonson gave it his dinosaur-shaped John Hancock.
The party rolls on, and Thor is made aware of Skurge's sacrifice. The group presses on, and encounters Garm, a big brown wolf. Thor walks through him.
He knocks Garm out, and figures that he won't be any further threat for a while, considering he's all chained up. With the final obstacle overcome, the party makes it out of Hel. Thor prepares to return to Midgard to bring the mortal souls home. The Einherjar return to Asgard, but warn Thor to hurry back, as Loki is up to his old tricks. Balder decides to return to the Norns' realm, as he promised Karnilla that he'd return to her there if he survived this adventure.
Balder has a moment where he laments his encounter with his former love Nanna in the previous issue, and wonders if he is cursed to doom everyone he loves. Thor tells Agnar to keep an eye on Balder, and be a friend to him as he could use one. He also hopes Karnilla will help Balder through his funk. The issue then ends on Thor taking the mortal souls home, ruminating on recent events. The book then promises that next issue, Thor will battle Kurse as part of a tie-in to Secret Wars II.
This comic...is AWESOME. Skurge was one of Thor's original villains, and his last stand is amazing to read. Simonson's art is a bit unusual in style, but I have no issues with it. It's nice to look at. Next time, we give the Distinguished Competition some love, as we take a look at an adventure of the Green Lantern...