Essential Thor

Essential Thor: Walter Simonson Part 3

Finish off our retrospective on Walter Simonson's epic THOR run!

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With the release of "Thor" on May 6, 2011 and "Captain America: The First Avenger" on July 22, 2011, Marvel.com presents the Essentials, a series of articles showcasing each character's expansive history and mythology  in the Marvel comics.

From character retrospectives to a look at memorable storylines and interviews with key creators, the Essentials will act as the perfect guide for fans both old and new! Look for new Cap Essentials every Monday and Thor Essentials every Thursday as we head toward the release of each film!

By Matt Powell

This week's Essential Thor marks the close of our examination of legendary writer/artist Walter Simonson's run on the character. One of Simonson's greatest achievements was humanizing the immortal Asgardians who seemingly "sit on high," something he excelled at through the end of his titanic tour as Thor's custodian. Now join us as we take our final look at the highlights of this master's tale.

Cherchez La Femme

Thor #359 cover by Walter Simonson

In humanizing the immortal Asgardians, Simonson used female antagonists motivated by seemingly "mortal" desires of love, greed and revenge. To get to the heart of his troubles Thor followed the old adage and literally went to "look for the woman."

The Enchantress' sister Lorelei, continued her plot to take Thor's love for her own through an even stronger potion that fully enveloped the Thunderer's mind, creating an artificial devotion to her. The enchantment proved so strong that it caused Thor to strike Lady Sif when she sought to come between Thor and Lorelei. Although he was under control of the spell, Thor's actions damaged his relationship with Sif and led her to question her trust and love for him.

Thor journeyed to the death realm of Hel with a warrior army to retrieve the lost souls of mortals wrongfully imprisoned there from the aftermath of the "Surtur Saga." To gain the souls' freedom, Thor fought Hela one-on-one with an agreement that should he fail his soul would be Hela's. The Odinson sacrificed himself to defeat Hela and scarcely survived her death touch which scarred his face.

Hela returned to avenge her previous defeat at the hands of Thor by crafting an ingenious spell that would have Thor's thirst for battle become his undoing. The dark magic would make Thor's bones as brittle as chalk causing them to break with any impact from battle while simultaneously refusing his body to heal the injury and not allowing him to die no matter how severe. The spell aimed to make Thor afraid of battle to preserve his life, however, after suffering extensive injuries Thor created a magical suit of armor preserving his body and warrior spirit and continued to fight his foes.

Under Lorelei's enchantment, Thor struck Lady Sif in THOR #359 and he defeated Hela in THOR #361, both collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 3. Thor learned the extent of Hela's spell in THOR #374 and he donned his armor in THOR #378, collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 4 and 5, respectively.

Unique Ventures

Thor #366 cover by Walter Simonson

In the latter third of his run, Simonson took some unique turns in his storytelling that still resonate today. Simonson brought mortal guns to Asgard utilized by Thor's warriors in Hel and in the last stand of Skurge the Executioner. The use of these weapons by the sword-and-shield warrior race shook up old perceptions and ushered the Asgardians into the age of modern warfare.

With the introduction of the Frog Thor storyline, Simonson anthropomorphized the human attributes of class, greed, and war as the Frog Thor aided his amphibian compatriots in a war against an empire of rats who sought to destroy the frog civilization. While the animal war only occupied a small portion of a park, the metaphorical impact of the conflict spoke volumes.

Thor was presented an armament of guns in THOR #360 and the warriors used the guns in their war in Hel in THOR #362, while Frog Thor waged war with the rats in THOR #364-366. All these tales may be found in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 3.

Epic Character Moments

Thor #381 cover by Walter Simonson

Simonson paced his tales with an engaging buildup that culminated in an almost cinematic climax. In Thor's demand for release from the love spell orchestrated by Loki, the Thunderer held his step-brother in his grip and hurled his hammer into the cosmos. Knowing his hammer would have to return to his hand, Thor blatantly told Loki if he did not release him from his spell, Thor would allow the hammer to behead him. As the panels showed the hammer's return journey to Thor, readers could believe that this time would be Loki's end and this perpetual thorn in Thor's side would be removed forever.

The strength of Thor has never been doubted, however when he was transformed to the diminutive size of a frog by Loki, that proved reason for concern. Desperate to return to Asgard to expose Loki's treachery, Thor could not make his trek back unless he took his hammer in hand. Empowered by the inscription on his hammer, the tiny frog mustered his strength and courage to lift the hammer and transform himself into the form of a god of thunder, albeit in a frog's body.

Death seemed a near certainty when Thor combated his fabled foe, the Midgard Serpent. The giant snake matched every blow issued by Thor and forced the hero to confront his unlikely mortality. The battle swept over the landscape of the Earth ultimately felling both combatants in the final, explosive clash.

Still a victim of Hela's enchantment which kept his injuries from healing while denying him death, Thor's body laid broken and immobile in the aftermath of his fight with the Midgard Serpent. When the indestructible Destroyer armor entered the scene, Thor took advantage of the armor's power and cast his spirit into it. Thor donned the armor and his hammer to force his way through the gates of Hel and demand his release from Hela herself! Blasting his way through every defense of Hela's, Thor gambled her life for his freedom and in her fear, she granted it.

Thor's bluff at Loki's life can be found in THOR #359, collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 2, and his ascension into godhood as a frog was in THOR #364-366, found in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 3. Thor fought and defeated the Midgard Serpent in THOR #379-380. Thor rampaged through Hel in THOR #381-382, all collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 5.

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