Essential Thor

Essential Thor: Heimdall

The vigilant guardian of the rainbow bridge Bifrost enters the spotlight!

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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!

Heimdall in the present day

By Matt Powell

This week in Essential Thor we take a look at an Asgardian as steadfast as the tallest mountain overlooking the landscape below it, Heimdall, Sentry of Asgard. Brother of Sif, Heimdall uses his keen sense of perception to govern over Asgard as its first defense against intruders, guarding the rainbow bridge Bifrost. Stoic yet selflessly serving his people, Heimdall stands as a beacon of the might of Asgard.

The Origin of Heimdall

Heimdall stands guard

The realm of Asgard is such a powerful kingdom that it does not go long without rampaging enemies with dreams of conquering its walls. Aware of this, Lord Odin knew precautions needed to be made to protect his empire and his people. Because Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge connecting Asgard and Earth, is the most direct way to enter the empire, Odin sent out a call for a guardian of the bridge. Out of many, three warriors assembled to proclaim their qualifications to Odin for the role: Agnar the Fierce, Gotron the Agile, and Heimdall the Faithful. While Agnar and Gotron sought to impress Odin with boasts and feats of strength, Heimdall displayed his extrasensory abilities of keen hearing and dimension-piercing vision, which made him the best candidate to warn Asgard of impending invaders.

For the full story of Heimdall’s rise as Asgard’s sentry, read the classic JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #104, collected in THOR: TALES OF ASGARD.

When Heimdall Failed

Heimdall defeated by Surtur

King Brimer of the Storm Giants sought to conquer Asgard, but the presence of Heimdall discouraged him from storming the kingdom's gates. Brimer sought the help of the sorceress Nedra and devised a plan to summon an air creature of the Vanna race, a people nimble enough to sneak past Heimdall's detection and spy on Asgard. The spy made it past Heimdall, but not completely out of his range of perception. In sensing a disturbance, Heimdall swung his sword in defense at seemingly empty air. Heimdall felt uncertain in his abilities of detection, but still feared for Asgard's safety.

As the agile Vanna creature made its way through meetings and conversations of Asgardians, Heimdall sent word to Odin of the possibility of an invader who made it past his post. When the Vanna creature made it to Odin's meeting place, Odin heeded Heimdall's warning and used his Odinpower to detect the invader. The Lord of Asgard captured the spy and Heimdall confessed his failure and surrendered to Odin. Instead of punishment, Odin rewarded Heimdall for his loyalty to Asgard--even at the expense of exposing his own failure--and returned the warrior to his post.

Heimdall suffered another defeat at the hands of the fire demon, Surtur. Surtur stormed the Rainbow Bridge to gain access into Asgard to recover the Eternal Flame stolen from him by Odin and essential to his plan to bring about the world-ending Ragnarok. As guardian of the gate, Heimdall valiantly held his post, but was swiftly defeated by the demon who rivaled Odin in power. Having disposed of Heimdall, Surtur smashed the Rainbow Bridge to pieces.

The tale of Heimdall's humility can be found in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #105, again collected in THOR: TALES OF ASGARD, while his defeat by Surtur came in THOR #351, found collected in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 2.

Heimdall Versus Thor

Heimdall denies Thor entry to Asgard

In a revenge plot orchestrated by Thor's half-brother Loki, the evil duo of Cobra and Mr. Hyde kidnapped Jane Foster, Thor's mortal love. With Jane's life in jeopardy, Thor allowed the pair to escape while Odin watched on in disgust of his son's failure. Unaware of the circumstances that forced Thor to let the villains escape, he banished his son from Asgard for his neglect of duty. Thor sensed Loki's role in this deceit and immediately sought entry into Asgard. Heimdall knew of Thor's banishment and warned the Odinson not to enter. Hesitant over attacking his ally, but not to be denied, Thor hurled Heimdall's own flamed power back at him and ultimately fell the warrior with a gust from his hammer with the force of the winds of a thousand worlds. Some time later, Odin commanded that his son should not leave Asgard. A reversal of Heimdall's role compelled the guard to deny Thor his exit from the kingdom, and to conquer his present foe, Thor struck Heimdall with his hammer powerfully enough to make the warrior buckle and forcefully grant Thor his exit.

The clash between these two allies can be found in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #110, collected in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THOR VOL. 2 and ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 1, and issue #125, found in MARVEL MASTERWORKS: THOR VOL. 4 and ESSENTIAL THOR VOL. 2.

Heimdall Lord of Asgard

Surtur breaks the Rainbow Bridge

With the Rainbow Bridge destroyed after Surtur's attack, Heimdall lost his post but began to move closer to the land and the people he protected. For living such a solitary life as the sentry of Asgard, Heimdall made a bold move in revealing his feelings for Amora the Enchantress and consoled her through the loss of her paramour, Skurge the Executioner. When Odin returned weary and weak from his battle with Surtur, the Lord of Asgard needed to replenish his power in the nourishing Odinsleep. Before embarking on this state of renewal, Odin sought a successor to lead Asgard in his absence. For his devotion and unswerving loyalty, Odin chose Heimdall and granted him with a portion of his Odinpower, which Heimdall used to immediately repair the destroyed Rainbow Bridge.

Heimdall's relationship with Amora can began in THOR #376, found in THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON VOL. 5, and he restored the Rainbow Bridge in THOR #426.

From Ragnarok to Rebirth

Heimdall reborn

As with many of his fellow Asgardians, Heimdall fell in the world-ending Ragnarok with his spirit lingering in the mortal realm. Later, as Thor revived himself and restored Asgard on Midgard in Broxton, Oklahoma, he sought out his compatriot. His search on Midgard led him to New Orleans after the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, and to a man named Ezra. Consumed with grief over the loss of life suffered, Ezra stood guard at a bridge and vocally urged people to stay away from it while under his care. Thor sensed the spirit of Heimdall within Ezra, and utilizing the power he had as Lord of Asgard, the Thunderer restored Heimdall to his true form.

During the Siege of Asgard by Norman Osborn and Loki, Heimdall was instrumentally assaulted by the villainous pair due to his foresight and possible attempt to forewarn the new King Balder of the pair's plan to take over Asgard. With Asgard freed of its oppressors, Heimdall willingly returned to his post for continued watch over his people.

The death of the Asgardians during Ragnarok is detailed in THOR #80-85, collected in AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED: THOR. Heimdall returned to life in THOR Vol. 3 #3, collected in THOR BY J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI VOL. 1, and his role in the Siege of Asgard is collected in SIEGE.

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