Doug: Edo Bosnar is back today with another Bronze-feeling gem from the 21st century. Join him as he walks us through an Alan Davis/Mark Farmer Thor romp. And yes -- for those scoring at home this is our third Thor post of the last four days!
Edo Bosnar: Once, when Karen and Doug reviewed Avengers 1.5, the post had the title “Finding Silver Well Past Bronze.” Well, I think this book kind of fits that category, although the story has more of a Bronze Age feel.
Thor: The Truth of History (2008)
Alan Davis-Davis/Mark Farmer
Although this book was published in 2008, it could have very easily been released as an annual in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s and nobody would have batted an eye. It is very much like one of those fun, done-in-one stories from that period. (Even the art, except maybe the coloring, wouldn’t have been too out of place: as far as I know, Davis was already working for Marvel UK in the early 1980s).
The story starts with a prologue in modern-day Egypt. Two archeologists (who bear a striking resemblance to Laurel and Hardy) are discussing the sphinx, and some controversies surrounding the hieroglyphs on it, which may or may not speak of a great rainstorm in ancient Egypt. One of the scholars is receptive to the idea, the other is dismissive.
Well, the scene then shifts to the distant past, and we see Thor, Sif, Balder, and the Warriors Three storming a fortress inside Asgard held by Storm Giants. There’s a mystical gateway in the fortress that the Storm Giant queen wants to use to access Midgard, which is apparently a no-no due to an agreement reached between all of the pantheons, as Thor explains to the queen. Volstagg, enjoying the heat emanating from the portal, gets closer to warm his posterior, and – of course – ends up falling through it.
This prompts Thor, together with Fandral and Hogun, to go through themselves to retrieve their voluminous comrade. They emerge in a desert, note the furnace-like heat, and then see a construction site nearby and set off for it. The workers are quite frightened at the site of the Asgardians, pointing out that they must be demons since they have the appearance of “blood-drained corpses.” A nice touch here as that neither understands the other (even though I recall reading a Thor comic once in which it was pointed out that Thor understood pretty much every human language). In the first sign that something is seriously amiss in Egypt, the overseer of the workers, a demonic-looking beast, interrupts the attempts at communication and attacks the Asgardians. Thor dispatches quite him easily.
In a an attempt to ease the fears of the workers, he uses his hammer to cut the remaining stone blocks for them, saving them a few days’ work at least. However, this makes them angry, as they shout that he deprived them of their right to “cut the sacred blocks.” Oh, well.
Thor then spies a city in the distance (Giza as it turns out), and they figure that may be where Volstagg ended up. They hope that he’s had a better welcome. And sure enough, Volstagg seems to be having the time of his life – and not really questioning why everyone is content to ply him with food and drink.
Thor and the Warriors Two make their way to the city, where they see, among other things, a pyramid being built. Thor is none too impressed.
They eventually run into a priest who seems to speak a little Asgardian. Specifically, he keeps repeating, rather awkwardly, “wine, mead, food, hungry.” Thor and his companions immediately conclude that Volstagg is somewhere nearby.
While being led through the settlement, the Asgardians also make some disparaging remarks about the Egyptian (they call them Heliopolitan) deities, which seems a bit like the pot calling the kettle black – because anyone who’s read any mythology knows that many of the gods of any of the various pantheons were often than not rather petty and disagreeable sorts.
Anyway, they also pass by the sphinx, which indeed has a different head than the one with which we’re all familiar – it’s also some kind of demonic-looking beastie. The Asgardians are led to a table set for a feast, but Thor is rather disgusted by the fact that this abundance is being offered to them while the common people seem to be on the verge of starvation. So he picks up the table and tips it over so everyone can get some.
At this point, the pharaoh shows up with a rather unusual entourage, and he’s not very happy with Thor’s act of generosity. The Asgardians don’t understand a word, but wonder how Volstagg is involved in all of this.
And the scene switches again to Volstagg, being carried on a litter (I had to sympathize with the guys carrying it). They take him to a dark chamber, where there’s several lamp-wielding priests, some kind of cairn and a pile of human bones. Volstagg finally puts 2 and 2 together and shouts for help, loud enough so that Thor and his companions hear him, and rush to his rescue. The three fight their way to the sacrificial chamber, where Volstagg is now tied to the obelisk, about to be eaten by a giant griffin-like creature that looks exactly the sphinx statue.
Thor takes the (fire-breathing, as it turns out) creature on, and the next few pages contain a nicely drawn battle sequence. The demon puts up a good fight, but Thor eventually smites him down, and in the process summons up a massive thunderstorm.
Oh, and during the fight, much of the head on the sphinx statue gets broken off. Thor muses that the griffin and the other demons must have been some kind of discarded pets of the Heliopolitan gods whom the pharaoh thought he could tame. He also says he will dispel the thunder, but not the rain…
As the Asgardians head back toward the portal, they wonder if their unexpected Egyptian adventure was somehow decreed by fate, seeing as how it caused the downfall of a tyrannical pharaoh, the vanquishment of a demon, and much-needed rainfall in the impoverished and drought-stricken land. Indeed, Volstagg says that the day it rained in Egypt will be recalled “as long as men walk this Earth.” And that brings us back to the present day and the two debating archeologists in the epilogue …
This is a fun little story, and the art is simply a joy to look at. I think it’s still really easy to find this cheaply, and it’s included in a TPB called Marvel Tales that also collects a few annuals done by Davis.