No doubt Walter Simonson’s “Thor” run defined the character. Much of what we know and love about the big ole galumph stemmed from what he turned in with “The Mighty Thor.” In the last sequence, we were given a space-faring adventure, with gods and hammers and cosmic confrontations. It ended with Thor losing his Donald Blake alter-ego. These next several issues deal with the fallout from that action. it simultaneously sets us up for the next event Simonson has in store.
Written and Illustrated by Walter Simonson
Colored by Steve Oliff
Lettered by John Workman
At this stage in his run, Simonson was still figuring out what makes for a good “Thor” comic. He opened with a dazzler, sure, a classic of the genre. And he’s been inching the story toward this fantastic showdown with a power beyond comprehension, the seeds of which take up an alluring few pages in each issue. But then we fall into these in-between moments, the parts where the next pieces need to be set up and more of the plot points must be established. It’s here Simonson can get a little more . . . wild. He can throw in a subplot about Thor working as a construction worker. He can give us the 4-11 on what’s going on with Balder. And he can have a dragon attack New York City. These events have consequences, huge overbearing consequences in most cases, although the problems themselves tend to be resolved by the end of the issue.
The overarching plot of this sequence involves Lorelei and Fafnir the Dragon trying to entrap Thor, for reasons. Probably power and control, since that’s an easy trope to fall back on when you’re in a tough spot and have other things on your mind you want to explore. Lorelei has this ability to hypnotize people when they gaze deep into her eyes. (Generally, it’s men.) She uses it to start fights, get into places otherwise impossible to go, and stir up trouble. This leads us to lots of fun showdowns and the big splashes of action and mayhem that make Walter Simonson fun to read.
Quick side note: in the grind of monthly comics, artists have to find ways to cut corners and pencil faster in order to get the book out on time. Sometimes you see an artist who creates these insane opening pages, but by the end of the issue, they’ve resorted to drawing expressive shapes and abstracted figures. Certainly Simonson does this, but I think he manages to use it to the advantage of the story. There’s a scene “The Mighty Thor” #344, for example, where Balder and Loki confront each other. The background drops out, favoring Steve Oliff’s bold reds and one angry black; the compositions remain grounded and locked in medium-closeups of the characters. Yet he knows which gesture, what pen stroke to use to convey the intensity of the scene. The detail might fall out but the energy and mayhem remain in place.
Anyway, while we have the Dragon and Lorelei making a ruckus, the more driving conflict of this arc comes from Thor trying to figure out his new place among people, as a Viking god or whatever. Now that Donald Blake is gone, he cannot blend in anymore. Nonetheless, he wants to be with them. “I would prefer to be much closer to those I protect,” he says to Sgt. Fury. He dons a disguise, gets admired for his shoulders and size, and tries to maintain something like a normal life. Then, from far off, he hears a voice calling out to him. He discovers an old Viking warrior. The warrior tries to pick a fight with Thor, hoping he’d be obliterated and, having fallen in battle, granted access to Valhalla. Maybe it’s because his encounter with Beta Ray Bill humbled him, but Thor enlists the last Viking warrior as his shield-bearer in his confrontation with Fafnir. Simonson shows us a Thor who isn’t as interested in being above people anymore, in swooping down to be the hero, bask in glory, then disappear again. We see a Thor who instead tries to figure out what those he’s helping need from him. It might be a quick save, or it might be a final purpose.Continued below
All this is delivered with the typical superhero pomp and bombast. Simonson loves those big panels, filled with creatures destroying cities or mysterious figures leading a funeral procession charge, and he winds up to them with aplomb. You have thrilling surges of action, but a lot of humorous moments too. Simonson’s not afraid to crack a joke when needed.
It’s more a product of the time than anything that every single image seems to have a caption. Many of these could stand on their own, and I thought they worked much better when I skipped over the thought bubble, but hey, the ’80s.
Oh, there’s also a cameo from Clark Kent and Lois Lane. Which was a choice.
During “The Mighty Thor” #341-345, we see a Thor coming to terms with who he is as a Norse prince and who he is as a hero. Simonson’s imagination remains on full display and even if the story is smaller than the previous arc, it’s still something that pulls you in.