February 1987: Thor 379 – Just because we are about to kill one another, no reason not to be civilised about the whole thing.

Synopsis: There were Giants in those days was written by Walt Simonson with art by Sal Buscema and opens as Loki sits in the wreckage of his laboratory. The Frost Giants attacked and he was at their mercy but was saved by his brother Thor who took Iceman, the member of X-Factor abducted by Loki. Loki wants revenge, but knowing that Hela has cursed Thor to have brittle bones, but cannot die, condemning him to an eternal life full of agony. So Loki focuses on the Frost Giants and their leader Grundroth who has fled Asgard for Midgard (Earth) in particular he arrives on a Fjord in Norway seeking to take advantage of Thor’s recent vunerability. Loki wants Grundroth’s head and sends his astral form to Midgard to keep an eye on him.

Elsewhere in Asgard, the transformed Dark Elf now known as Kurse simply sits. He is in the hall of Volstagg the Voluminous, whose children are crying. Kurse rises and walks to the children, who do not recoil from his monstrous appearance. They cry because their father Volstagg and mother Gudrun as well as Volstagg’s compatriots Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim and Sif are unconscious. The children are scared and ask Kurse to take them to Balder, the current ruler of Asgard. He is also unconscious, slumped upon the throne. Near him are ravens, one drops a silver bauble into the waiting hands of the children, no one knows what is going on.

 

Back on Midgard (Earth) Thor, clad in his new armour to protect his brittle bones, drops Iceman off at X-Factor headquarters. He muses on the rough deal that mutants get and returns to the apartment he rents as steel-worker Sigurd Jarlson. He rests, grateful for the quiet, so he can contemplate what happens next.

 

Grundroth and his giants set sail for the North Sea on a broken off ice-floe and use a long fishing rod to wake up Jorgamund, the World Serpent. Well at least that is the intent, what they actually do is wake up Fin Fang Foom (who for some reason is now orange, rather than green) and he reacts as well as I do when I am awoken. Hint… not well. To prevent his own being eaten, Grundroth tells Fin Fang Foom of his plan to get Jorgamund to kill Thor. Fin Fang Foom is curious enough to not eat the Frost Giants and flies off looking for Thor who is sitting on a bench in Bay Ridge Brooklyn.

Fin Fang Foom drops in on Brooklyn and asks the red-caped man where he might find Thor. Thor (the one he asks) doesn’t answer straight, but preferring to avoid collateral damage wants this inevitable battle to take place elsewhere, somewhere more secluded. Both acknowledge that they are going to fight, based on the roles they are destined to play. Before they leave he is challenged to lift Fin Fang Foom’s foot. It’s a great challenge, but he manages it.

The pair fly off and talk of heroic times past, illusions and symbols and it’s all very civilised. Both men (?) are completely unaware of whom they speak to. Finally far from cities and followed by news helicopters, the pair land and prepare for battle. Fin Fang Foom sheds his outer flesh and reveals himself to be Jorgamund: the World Serpent who only knows the fear of his destined opponent, Thor.  Now aware of who he faces, Thor reveals his names to Jorgamund, Vingthor Longbeard’s son, Hrodr’s freeman, Veur, Unhappy Hrungnir’s playmate, Hlorddison, but mostly he is known as Thor Odinson, the Thunderer.

Their destined battle begins enow.

Notes: This is Thor as mythical epic. One of the best things about the Simonson run, is that he accepted how much larger than life Thor is, then placed him in stories that were large enough in scope to match. This was one of its great strengths. So I am not going to pretend that this was anything other than great. Even the lower end of the Simonson run is still pretty damn good compared to its contemporaries and this isn’t one of those.

The art maintains the same feel as the previous issues even with a different penciller, with Sal Buscema aping Simonson’s style to give that sense of continuity, his Thor looks like he has done for months as does Loki. The art throughout this story is solid and keeps the epic feel that was the hallmark of this title at that time. The art is so good in fact, that the first time I read this, it didn’t even register as a problem that Fin Fang Foom was orange.

The writing maintains this high quality with Loki’s point of view being wrong, but still completely understandable. The sub-plot with Kurse coming to the aid of the children is brilliantly done, so much conveyed with so little said. But the true strength of the story is Fin Fang Foom and Thor. From the farcical unawareness of identity to their long conversation about illusions and the overall civility of this whole build-up to the epic fight. This is a comic where very little happens, but it is compelling from start to finish. When the reveal happens, you are actually excited, especially with the stakes for each character being raised so high.

Overall, there isn’t much I can say to this, it’s a chapter in the epic tale of Thor being told in this era and that whole era is something pretty special. I could go on, but it all ends up the same way, buy this run, enjoy it, it lives up to the hype.

Next time: I realise that my job isn’t so bad.

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