With not a lot to choose from and some reasons to not dive into the Archives, there are spoilers ahead for…
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
“So today the dead make war! Valhalla says thee nay, demons of Muspelheim!”
When a comic is part of an ongoing story arc, as most are these days, if I’m going to write about it I prefer either beginnings or endings. The latest WicDiv is near but at the end of its arc, and I just wrote about The New Challengers not too long ago, and it’s not at the end of its arc either.
I have a special Archives post planned, but the fact that it’s “special” means that there’s some extra work involved, and I haven’t done that work yet, so…stay tuned for more on that at some point.
Plus, you can never really go wrong with Thor, which is at the end of its arc.
Thanks to the unwelcome arrival of Loki back in #1 over the past few issues we’ve gotten to experience a family reunion from hell, or rather, a family reunion in Hel.
The Odinsons – Thor, Loki, Balder, and Tyr – are all back together, just in time to face off against the armies of the Queen of Cinders that are laying waste to the lands of the dead.
Some time ago, in a Thor-adjacent comic I didn’t read, the goddess Hela was deposed as Queen of Hel, and replaced by Balder. That becomes a point of contention after Thor and his brothers capture some cargo being transported through Hel by Sindr’s army, and said cargo proves to be Hela and Fenris.
Once freed, Hela wants to reclaim her throne, but there’s the small matter of the invading army to attend to, so there’s no time for throne game-playing, and so the matter of who rules Hel will be decided, somewhat counterintuitively, through erotic means rather than thanatological.
Which is to say that Hel is set to become the ultimate destination wedding, as Balder and Hela prepare to prove that marriage, like war, is Hel.
Neither party really has much interest in the concept of connubial bliss, at least not with each other. Balder, after all, loves Karnilla, the late Queen of the Norns, who joined him in Hel after getting killed by the Mangog, and Hela has…Thanos?
The Mad Titan himself shows up just in time for the dramatic “I object!” moment of the wedding, but that’s only the second-biggest part of the wedding drama.
Thor realizes that though they have the legions of the dead at their disposal to fight Sindr’s armies, they’re not really the best and the brightest of the dead. This is Hel, after all. It’s not where the biggest, baddest, noblest warriors spend their eternity. Deciding that they need the help of the Einherjar, the warriors of Valhalla, he and Loki hatch a scheme to send Thor to Valhalla on a recruitment mission, doing so by allowing Loki to achieve his fondest wish: murdering Thor.
And that’s where we find ourselves in this issue, with Thor at the Gates of Valhalla, greeted by Brunnhilde, the Valkyrie (or just “Val,” as most of us who know – and love – her call her).
In Hel, Sindr and her soldiers go all Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and crash the wedding to add to the already high – if somewhat typical for a wedding, tbh – levels of chaos and drama.
It turns out that Thanos isn’t there to put a stop to the wedding, but is instead breaking up with Hela, so that he can go off and see an infinity war.
It also turns out that Loki didn’t really kill Thor, having merely cast a spell that would make him appear dead so that he could be transported to Valhalla, which is otherwise inaccessible to anyone who isn’t Odin or a Valkyrie.
Loki attaches a chain to the hammer that Thor left lying around, providing a way back to Hel for Thor once the hammer returns to his hand.
Even though he’s heckin glad that his master is still alive, Thori is mad at Loki for doin him a bamboozle:
“Thori still hate you. But Thori hate fire burps more! Death to all fire burps!”
The battle rages on, though the odds favor Sindr, until Thor shows up with the Einherjar and the Valkyries along for the ride.
Picking up Hela’s crown after Sindr knocks it from her head, Thor puts it on and becomes, for a time, the King of Hel, and God of the Deathstorm.
The tide turns, and Sindr decides to exercise the better part of valor.
With the battle won, it’s time for the war – which is to say, the wedding – to begin in earnest, but despite having been scorched by Sindr, Hela gets cold feet, and declares that she will not marry Balder.
It turns out that Hela is correct, as Karnilla slides the ring, which she snagged from Balder’s pocket during the battle, onto her own finger and declares, “I do!” binding herself in marriage to Hela
Over Balder’s objections, Karnilla takes his crown, Loki transports those assembled who are still among the living back to Midgard, and the pact is sealed, with Hela and Karnilla declared the Queens of Hel.
The Valkyries, with Tyr, who is dead, in tow, return to Valhalla with the Einherjar, though Val has decided to remain among the living in order to fight in the War of the Realms, joining Thor, Loki, Balder, Thori, and Toothgrinder on Thor’s boat.
Loki takes his leave soon after, declaring that he met the terms of the agreement he made with Thor back in #1 – though Thor disagrees that they ever agreed – and that he is leaving with his payment.
Thor assumes it’s some weapon kept on the boat, though Loki never said it was a weapon he wanted, and he sets his companions to try to find what isn’t there.
I don’t have too much to add about this; like every other issue of Thor, this was fun. It’s a good mix of drama, action, and humor – although it has been leaning more into the humor a lot more since Thor: Ragnarok landed in theaters, but that’s an observation, not a complaint – with some surprising twists and turns.
It will be particularly interesting to see the twists and turns that the marriage of Hela and Karnilla will take; I suspect that it won’t be quite so acrimonious as we – and they – expect it to be.
I was also glad to see Val show up, though I have to admit that I’m not keen on Del Mundo’s take on her. Val is a personal favorite. I like the Tessa Thompson-inspired version of Brunnhilde in Exiles, and I have no complaints whatsoever about Thompson’s Valkyrie, who was one of the many highlights of Ragnarok, but while she was a great Valkyrie, and Thompson made the character her own, she just wasn’t Val.
Brunnhilde in Exiles is kind of a perfect blend of the personalities of OG Val and the Ragnarok version, but I’m eager to see what Aaron does with classic Val.
There was a lot going on in this issue, but while the Hela/Thanos break-up was fun, the issue’s MVP was Thori, and his emotional journey, from believing that his master was dead, to distracting himself by murdering “fire burps” – which was, by his own admission, enjoyable – to realizing that he was home and that he could just find a place to settle down, and maybe find a new master, to ultimately committing himself to his “Thunder Master.”
My quibbles about the look of Val aside, I do like the art, but my original observation stands: it needs a stronger delineation. Everything tends to bleed together a bit too much.
But yeah. I enjoyed an issue of Thor. Big surprise.
That does it for the Spotlight. Be sure to come back on Saturday for the Showcase.