Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thorsday Thrills! The Mighty Thor 205

Thor #205 (November 1972)
"A World Gone Mad!"
Gerry Conway-John Buscema/Vince Colletta

Doug: Welcome to the second installment of a month of random Thors. Last week the God of Thunder and his father were caught up in a tiff with the uber-nasty, Infinity. Today's heavy-hitter is the epitome of nasty.

Doug: Did you check the creator credits above? Yep, after last week's familiar art team featuring the inks of Joe Sinnott, this week we get Vinnie Colletta. And it's not a match made in heaven. While most of us may even applaud the Kirby/Colletta pairing on Thor, this mash-up isn't so hot. Colletta overpowers many of the faces, and the figures drawn with the reader at a distance can appear clunky. I'd also argue that Vinnie gives off a Frank Robbins vibe at times, too. And I have no idea if anything was erased...

Karen: You know, I didn't mind Vinnie here, but then, I did like how he looked with Kirby on the title. However, I'll agree that there are better inkers for Buscema.Doug: This story is not unlike one of the Mephisto/Silver Surfer yarns played out in the Surfer's mag, or some of the later graphic novels. Where this book differs is that the God of Thunder has a certain brashness about him, and while just as noble as Norrin Radd, Thor's just not gonna take the devil's crap lying down. As we begin, the entire cast is in the depths of Hell, as Mephisto threatens to take over the Earth. But in order to do so, he must vanquish Earth's most noble soul -- Thor's. And to do that, the Thunder God will face trial after trial.

Karen: I think you nailed it. Thor is subbing for the Surfer in this story. Although I've never thought of the thunder god as being particularly messianic. Uncharacteristically chivalrous for a Viking god, yes. But not Christ-like.Doug: The first trial is against an army of demons. Strong, fighting tooth and nail amidst the blazing fires, the demons stick to Thor. But with the enchantment of Mjolnir, he scatters them. Mephisto then goes right to his best trump card, a possessed Lady Sif. She comes at Thor with an axe, and raises it to smite her beloved. Thor dodges, disarms his lady, and tells Mephisto that he will not win with such tactics. So the demon-lord moves to his next strategy -- the possession of men of influence from around the world. But before that plan can even see its fruition, Mephisto segues right into the next dark machination -- an attack by Balder the Brave and the Warriors Three.

Karen: Hmm, this book was published in 1972. Would readers have been shocked at the idea of politicians possessed by demons? Even before Watergate, that doesn't seem too big a leap!

Doug: Well, there must be some explanation... Thor will have none of this plot, either. Rather than lay a hand on his devoted friends, the Thunder God first defends himself and then uses Mjolnir to create a vortex. The entranced Asgardians are transported to the top of a rocky tower, and the mystical hammer then propels boulders after them to encase them -- a barrier of protection from Mephisto. As Thor turns to face his tormentor, a spell is cast and the evil one summons those who have worshiped him throughout history -- some of the vilest men to have ever walked the Earth. Among them scowl the visages of Genghis Khan, Blackbeard, Jack the Ripper, and Adolf Hitler. Along with the Fuhrer comes a ragtag band of SS... the God of Thunder shows no mercy, as Mjolnir tears through the assemblage. Thor uses his mallet again to dispense the Mongols.

Karen: It's absolutely amazing all the stuff that hammer could do! Thor really was Marvel's Superman back then. I'm just waiting for Mjolnir to somehow give Thor the power of ventriloquism! Of course, seeing Thor take on hellish Nazis was fun, even if only for a panel or two.

Doug: Mephisto is now getting a bit more than peeved. He screams at Thor that he must have his immortal soul. Thor again wades through an army of oppressors to finally reach the devil himself. But upon laying a hand on Mephisto, the Thunder God begins to burn. As Mephisto turns up the heat (literally), Thor whacks him full across the chops with his hammer, staggering the demon. When Mephisto tries to bury Thor with a boulder, the Thunder God instead launches himself right into the devil's gut and puts him in a choke hold. Picking the dark lord off the ground and holding him high, Thor propels him headlong into a pit of lava. As Mephisto surfaces defiantly, Thor rains down tons and tons of rock, effectively sealing the demon beneath the lava. Beginning the journey back to the surface world, Thor fears that he must now face life alone. He is jubilant to find that when Mephisto fell silent, his spells over the Asgardians were broken.

Karen: How tough is Mephisto anyway? He really gives Thor a tussle here. I'd always thought of him in a more metaphysical sense, causing heroes to go through spiritual crises, but in this ish he goes mano a mano with Thor quite impressively.

Doug: This issue was sort of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, you really can't beat John Buscema's rendering of Mephisto... he simply owns that character. And while Buscema's figurework was evident, Colletta's sometimes-sloppy inking often buried the grandeur of those pencils. As to Conway's script, it was definitely serviceable, but not wholly unpredictable. That the endgame was brought about by Thor's figuring out that had he struck back against any of his friends Mephisto would have owned his soul, was a fair conclusion. In the end it was one big battle issue, and for a superhero mag that can't be all bad. That it took place with all sorts of vile characters did make it visually interesting.

Karen: The story itself was, as you say, serviceable, but not Conway's best on the title. It was however, a nice showcase for the thunder god's innate nobility, as well as his sheer power.


William Preston said...

So whose fault do you think it was that the word "conscious" was written for "conscience" on the first page, the writer or the letterer? (And of course one has to blame the editor in the end.)

Chuck Wells said...

Gaffes like that were common back then, but it didn't detract from how fun those issues of Thor actually were.

Doug said...

Re-reading that line a few times, I'm not certain that Conway is wrong. Mephisto is claiming that Thor knows nothing of Hell, and has no frame of reference for what he sees, feels, and smells. Mephisto has yet to discuss Thor's morality -- which would be his "conscience". I think "conscious" was correct as used.


Anonymous said...

I always thought Mephisto was pretty powerful. He went toe to toe with the Surfer and he seems to play around with the cosmic set. Great Kane cover....busy, but nicely structured.

I like Colletta. He is indeed a great leveller, though, for good and for ill. Whenever you see anything he inked, you always recognise his inks before you recognise the penciller. On some occasions, I didn’t recognise the penciller at all. This is good when bad to middling pencillers are pulled up, but bad when good ones are pulled down or distinctive aspects of artist’s style are wiped out. Kirby managed to shine through Colletta’s inks and it was good on Thor...blocky and solid, but it suited the character and the stories....Kirby is not a better artist than Neal Adams, but he knew the requisite width for Thor’s forearms and no mistake. (Now that was a strange sentence).

You’re right about him not being the ideal inker for Big John, but then we always come back to the same problem, don’t we? Tom Palmer had that terrible physical disability.

(He only had one pair of hands!)


Dougie said...

Sorry- I also read it as "petty conscience". The "conscious" reading doesn't make sense to me with that choice of adjective. The correct alternative would have been been "consciousness"; I was brought up to think of "conscious" as an adjective, not a noun. Conway was just a boy,anyway,albeit a talented one!

Edo Bosnar said...

Like with Don Heck, I'm neither a big fan nor ardent detractor of Colletta. I agree that he's certainly far from the best fit for Buscema - but I have to admit he didn't overpower him too much in these pages you've posted here. Some of those panels showing full figures and action scenes actually look rather nice.

david_b said...

I don't mind Colletta too much, but from what I've seen, he's basically 'a softener' with a very distinctive style. You can always tell by the face details. Vince's not too bad on John's layouts, but I've seen him over-power Sal's art a few times (like CA&F 188), and I didn't like Vince too well on Avengers inking either. On less-than-strong artists (won't name any now..), he simply over-powers the layouts too much.

All in all, this looks like an awesome issue for action. Would love to pick it up, being a big fan of Conway action issues.

Anonymous said...

Big john Buscema - the most abused penciller in the history of the medium. I'd like to get a Historic Preservation grant to fund competent re-inking of the guy's entire catalog of work (minus a quantity of recognized gems, of course)...hell, while I'm at it I could sponsor a movement to de-pig-nose all of Gil Kane's otherwise amazing art too.

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