Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thorsday Thrills! The Mighty Thor 186

#186 (March 1971)

"Worlds at War!"
Stan Lee-John Buscema/Joe Sinnott

Doug: Hi! For the next four weeks I'll be taking a peek at some random issues of Thor -- all of which were culled from the giving hands of a couple of eBay sellers several months ago. Today we'll begin shortly after Silver became Bronze, and next week we'll jump ahead to the 20c "framed cover" era. My Thor collection is long gone (converted to cash on behalf of the quest for the complete run of the Avengers), and I don't have the Essentials that contain these issues... so when I say this is random, well you'd better believe it's going to be random! On with the show --

Doug: And truthfully, you and I are thrust headlong into the middle of a story -- and we'll be thrust headshort out of it that way, too! Odin is in pitched battle with Infinity as we "splash", and the text box on said page states: "Ruled by a super-powerful being known only as Infinity -- the far-off world beyond threatens to destroy the universe! Seeking to save the cosmos, lordly Odin has dared to enter the world beyond -- together with the mysterious Silent One. But now, as Odin battles Infinity -- he senses danger to the mighty Thor, who has followed -- to aid his father --" Odin is blasting away, and the strain on him is obvious. But as he battles, he senses that Thor has reverted to his human form and is facing great menace. Indeed, the Allfather is able to divert his attention slightly, where he spies a hulking warrior with four massive arms closing on Dr. Donald Blake. Knowing that only Mjolnir will save the royal offspring, Odin wills that it should appear. In time, Thor now stands opposed to his would-be killer.

Doug: With one mighty blow, the Thunder God fells his nemesis. But as he turns to leave, hoping to reach Odin in time to assist him, the giant is hit by an energy bolt from the darkness of Infinity, and rises. Having declared that he is indeed an agent of Infinity, it makes sense why he's come back for more. Well, Goldilocks wallops him upside the head again, and down he goes -- again. But wait for it -- yep, one more time. And one more time down he goes. This time, though, Thor (being smarter than the average bear) uses his mystical mallet to encircle the would-be assassin in a dome of energy that repels the predictable blast from Infinity. Case closed.

Doug: Now speeding through time and space to find his father, Thor comes upon the mysterious Silent One, waving the Thunder God back. Offended at this, Thor raises his hammer to smite the elderly one, but is stopped by the roar of Odin. As is typical, the brash son questions the father -- uh uh. Not advisable. It's now Odin who threatens a good smiting, and Thor accedes. Suddenly the Silent One gestures for Thor to follow him, and the Thunder God feels that perhaps he will at last have an answer as to what is happening. We then get a couple of cutaway scenes, as the impact of the battle with Infinity is felt around the cosmos. On Earth, astronomers struggle to explain what is happening as natural disasters strike American cities. And on Asgard, the noble Warriors Three are under a trance-like spell. Sealed in a heavy cell, they break out as Lady Sif and the Vizier talk about the Odinsword. It has begun to inch out of its sheath, and as all know -- once it is out, Ragnarok will come!

Doug: Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg have burst forth with an oath to finish withdrawing the Odinsword. Sif opposes them, and then Balder the Brave enters the fray. Banging a gong (get it on), the Vizier summons the warriors of Asgard. Under the shear weight of the masses, the Warriors Three succumb. But the threat of Infinity is not over, as even watchful Heimdahl remarks that time and space are not right -- as he's never seen it. Cut back to Thor and the Silent One, who continue to journey. Finally reaching their destination, Thor is shocked when the old man falls suddenly forward in worship -- of Hela, Queen of the Dimension of Death. What the?!? It seems the Silent One was an emissary of Hela, sent to be her eyes and ears. It was his job, her will, to bring Thor to the Netherworld. And Hela doesn't plan on him leaving! Thor resists, but he's no match for her as a force of nature. He begins to wither away, eventually looking older than the Silent One. But something unforeseen happens -- as the last of Thor's lifeforce is about to evacuate his body, the Silent One steps forward and touches the Thunder God. A tear in his eye, the craggy old man donated his own lifeforce to save a god!

Doug: Now restored, Thor speeds back through time and space to aid the Allfather Odin. But as he approaches, Infinity has seemingly overwhelmed Odin -- he falls! But as Thor approaches, the Lord of Asgard rises -- with the same entranced look we saw earlier in the Warriors Three! As the teaser for the next issue bellows, "Thor vs. Odin!"

Doug: This was an action-packed issue! I am not wholly certain what the heck was going on... a look at the covers around this issue tells me that this was a four-issue arc. The art team of John Buscema and Joe Sinnott was stellar as always -- we've beat the dog dead that Sinnott exerted a lot of influence on Big John's pencils, but for me it's a comfortable, reliable look. I would criticize one point, however, and that's the lack of backgrounds in approximately 10% of the panels. You may think that's a nitpick, but I'd offer that for the most part it seems that the panels are rendered with great detail. It almost makes me wonder if Vinnie Colletta didn't wander by and see the pages laying on a table! Speaking of panels, and of panel lay-outs: Can anyone recall off the top of their head if Big John very often burst the bounds of the panel line, a la Adams, Steranko, or Colan? Seems to me that Buscema remained pretty conventional. Stan's script is fine -- nothing spectacular (no truly memorable Stan-isms), but by 1971 most of us are aware that Stan was releasing his hold on his writing chores to head to the realm of publishing.


Anonymous said...

Great cover. Is it just me, or are there times when Joe Sinnott’s inking makes John Buscema look more like Sal Buscema? It’s either because the fine detail of his inking dials down JB’s broad strokes and moves it closer to SB’s smaller-scale, fine lines.....or it’s because there are certain similarities between the two anyway and Sinnott lives in the middle ground.

Or it could be that I’ve spent far too much time looking at comics and need to stagger out, blinking, into the sunlight once in a while.

Too close to call really.


Doug said...

I think there are two things that are very interesting about the cover to this issue: the coloring on the staggering Thor is effective, and that Mjolnir is strapped to Thor's wrist and not raised in defense. This is a submissive Thor we see...


Inkstained Wretch said...

This issue is collected in Essential Thor, Vol. 4, but I haven't gotten to it yet. I put the volume down shortly after I made it through the final Kirby issue.

Mental note: Read it when I get home tonight.

Doug said...

Inkstained --

You know, I didn't even check that Essential Thor volume, which I have; I thought it ended before Buscema took over the art chores! I, too, shall check it out!


Simon B said...

I love this comic! It's one of the first I ever owned, so it has a special place in my heart for nostalgic reasons as well as for being a fine example of the Buscema / Sinnott team. Thanks for posting!

Fred W. Hill said...

I have this whole storyline, picked up fairly cheaply in comics shops some years ago as it took place when my collecting was still hit & miss. I seem to recall this saga being much longer than 4 issues though but my memory could be playing tricks on me and since my cat if comfy on my lap I'm too lazy to go to my collection to double check. This was Stan's one big Thor epic post-Kirby and prior to handing the writing reigns to Conway. Doesn't quite match Kirby at his best on the strip but still fun, and Big John drew some of the loveliest depictions of Sif, Karnilla and Hela. Thor was one of my favorite comics, in large part due to the supporting cast, which I'd rate as second only to Spider-Man's. Most of the early Thor's were dreadful until Stan & Jack started telling more epic tales and significantly expanded the cast.

Inkstained Wretch said...

This pretty good, with Buscema's art the main selling point. He had a hell of an act to follow, but I think by the time of this issue he had found his footing.

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