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Great Moments in Comics: Thor Versus the World Serpent!

By (May 3, 2014) No Comment

thor coverFor our latest Great Moment, we harken back to the heady days of 1987, to Thor #380, with writing and page-layouts by the mighty Walt Simonson and very able artwork finishes by Sal Buscema. The issue is in many ways the climax of a storyline that had gone on for a year. In a fit of spite, the death-goddess Hela had placed a curse on our heroic thunder god – a twofold curse: his bones would suddenly become brittle, but no matter how badly they were damaged, he’d be unable to die. Over the course of many issues (in Thor’s own title, and also in The Avengers and even The X-Men), Thor had his arm broken, his ribs broken – all without the hint of healing or relief. Eventually he fashioned a suit of protective armor in an valiant but vain attempt to keep his body from deteriorating as he fought his, um, never-ending battle against the forces of evil.

In issue #380, “Mjolnir’s Song,” Thor and his armor are put to the ultimate test: he faces off against a creature every bit as much out of Norse mythology as he is himself: Jormundgang, the World Serpent who’s fated to kill Thor during the great final battle of Ragnarok.

In addition to being a fantastic storyteller, Simonson was one of the most inventive writers Thor ever had, and it shows in “Mjolnir’s Song.” He tells the story entirely in splash pages, and the artwork is grand and stylized, and the narration-boxes simulate a Norse edda recounting the action between these two as they fight and talk and fight some more.

But it’s the dialogue that makes our Great Moment. Jormungand has been mocking Thor for his curse-spawned weakness, and every comeback Simonson gave to Thor just snapped with signature deadpanning. It was all entirely out of character for Thor (nothing like it would have been recognizable to Stan thor panelLee, for instance), but boy did it make great reading – especially the moment when Thor launches himself straight at his enormous enemy and recites some classic Simonson lines:

You said it yourself, Jormundgand! The trouble with godhood is that it robs you of your finer judgment! And that is why we will never be the same. You are a mighty fighter, but in the end, you are only a selfish creature while heroes … heroes have an infinite capacity for stupidity! Thus are legends born!

When the two come together, the sheer force of the impact sends them both reeling – Jormungand seemingly destroyed, and Thor? Well, it’s an empty suit of armor that lands on the ground seven paces away, and readers had to wait a month to find out whether or not their Asgardian hero would remain a puddle of pulverized jelly for the rest of time.

 

He doensn’t, but as I mentioned at the time, Walt Simonson is one of the only comics writers I know of who could have made the monthly adventures of a puddle of pulverized jelly actually interesting.