Wednesday, January 30, 2008

THE MIGHTY THOR #432 Marvel Comics, 1991

The Mighty Thor #432 is, as the cover informs us, the 350th appearance of Thor, one of the greatest comic book characters ever made. EVER.

It's sort of a strange milestone, because it's not technically the 350th appearance of the character in print, it's the 350th comic book published by Marvel starring Thor. They're not counting the Thunder God's appearances in The Avengers or What If? or Godzilla or even in Fred Hembeck Destroys the Marvel Universe, so it's probably more like the 1,213th appearance of Thor. But really, who wants to tally all those comics up? Not I.

As you might imagine, an "anniversary" issue like this one has a certain musky nostalgic odor, a quality present in all the comics of the DeFalco/Frenz/Milgrom run on The Mighty Thor. These guys tried - and usually succeeded - to capture the pomp and majesty and epic scope of those early Thor issues they clearly loved. This particular creative team didn't just drink from the creative wellspring of the first Lee/Kirby Thor comics, they chugged it greedily from a beer bong. One could fault them for not taking the character in new directions, but I prefer to be gracious and think of this era of the comic as Thor Done Right. But then, I am old. Old and bald.

To be fair, writer Tom DeFalco, a Marvel Bullpen veteran, did have a slightly different take on the Thor paradigm. Instead of using Thor's traditional human alter-ego Dr. Donald Blake, DeFalco introduced Erik Masterson as the new human host of Asgardian godliness. In this issue, Masterson's scrappy little son Kevin is held hostage by Thor's evil half-brother Loki, the Norse god of mischief (I named one of my dogs Loki, BTW), which really pisses Thor off. The two mortal, er, immortal enemies face off in a New York skyscraper in a final duel that only one god is walking or flying away from. At least until Marvel brought Loki back, that is.

The big brother vs brother fight that takes up the entire issue is suitably operatic and grandiose. Loki and Thor are evenly matched, and both are experts at Shakespearian trash-talking. Loki relies on cunning, magic, and a total lack of scruples, while Thor relies on his ability to hit things really hard, including Loki's face (see greatest panel ever, right).

But Thor's no idiot, regardless of what people say. In the sequence below he exploits his bro's greed and power lust by tossing him mjolnir, his enchanted mallet. Of course, only the truly worthy can wield mjolnir, a fact that Loki forgets. He catches the hammer - and promptly plunges through thirty-odd stories of skyscraper.


Thrown into the mix is Code: Blue, the NYPD's special anti-supervillain SWAT team who were regular supporting characters in the DeFalco/Frenz era. I loved these guys and have always been disappointed that they never caught on and became permanent fixtures of the Marvel Universe. Led by the stoic Lt. Marcus Stone, Code: Blue was a team of bad-ass misfits with names like Fireworks, Mad Dog, and Rigger. Maybe they were a little corny, but I'd pit Code: Blue against Hardcase and the Harriers any day of the week.

Here's the team leaping into action. Now either their SWAT van has a custom siren or they are all yelling "YA-HOO!!" as they bail out the back - I can't tell which. And look out, Lt. Stone! You're about to step on that very small woman and her very small car!

Incidentally, my wife and I often refer to toddler potty and poo incidents as Code: Yellow and Code: Brown. I don't even want to think what Code: Blue would denote.

Anyway, the happy-go-lucky cops remove young Kevin Masterson from harm's way so Thor can kick the shit out of his rival without stressing about the lil' youngster getting hit by a stray blast of Asgardian voodoo. The Code: Blue guys also attempt to arrest Loki, which doesn't go so well. I'm not sure what kind of procedures NYPD has for detaining evil Norse gods, but I imagine flexi-cuffs and a paddy wagon wouldn't be adequate.

Thor finally gets to cut loose, verbally and physically:

"I'd like to dedicate this act of violence to innocents everywhere - to children all around the world." Thor is a class act, I'm telling ya.

Long story short: Loki zaps one of the more expendable supporting characters, which is just one evil act too many for Thor. In defiance of some stupid Asgardian law, Thor sucks all the life energy out of Loki with mjolnir, killing him (for now.) For some reason, this upsets both Lt. Stone and Thor's dad Odin, although I can't imagine why. You'd think slaying the God of Evil would get him a pat on the back at least, but no.

After the dust clears, Thor and Stone have a heart-to-heart over some coffee outside the battle zone. "You did wrong, Thor!" Stone tells him. "No one should take the law into his own hands! Not even a thunder god!"

That's some bullshit right there. What charges would the District Attorney's office file against Thor, exactly? "Your honor, the accused um, he sucked the victim's soul into his magic hammer and the victim, um, exploded we believe. What kind of world do we live in if we allow people to blow up evil gods? The accused is a flight risk, literally, and we ask that bail be set at two million gold pieces."

In the end, Thor faces the justice of the gods and gets his own soul sucked out of him, or something. Because if there's one thing ancient Viking gods cannot condone, it's killing. Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me, either.

However! That doesn't diminish the awesomeness of Thor #432. Well, maybe a little. But as an added bonus, they reprint Journey into Mystery #83, by Stan and Jack, the first appearance of Thor. In this story, Stan Lee establishes the time-honored tradition of smack-talking that continues to this day in Thor comics:

"I have proven the power of the hammer and the might of the thunder god are invincible! Nothing can conquer Thor! Nothing!! "

Aye, verily.


Pj Perez said...

Thanks so much for this post. I am actually a HUGE fan of the DeFalco/Frenz Thor era, and this was one of the most powerful issues they did (as was that one a few issues later where Eric loses custody of Kevin and there's that great moment where Eric just loses it in Hercules' embrace).

Oh, and congrats on your new gig. Ye gods, I know professional blogging ain't easy.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the new job.

And I see you've already broken the one rule they set you. WTG!

But I'm a little confused on the math here.

The comic is Thor. One would presume that most, if not all, issues of Thor would feature the character. The issue number is 432. So how is it that this is only appearance number 350?

Andy Goldman said...

Yeah the whole issue #432/350th anniversary thing is a little confusing to me too. Did the first 82 issues of Thor not actually have Thor in them? ("Yeah, it was an oversight. Took us a while to fix, but with issue 83, it should be all better now.")

David Campbell said...

It's Asgardian Maths

Unknown said...

What Thor do you have in the shower with you? Is that early Marvel Legends one, or something else? If we can't check out that sweet tail of yours, at least provide me that consolation prize!

I guess they'd be mad at Thor for killing Loki, because, seriously, it's the one thing that's keeping Heimdall going. At Ragnarok, whenever that goes down (and let's not forget, Loki's a key player in kicking that big show off), Heimdall gets to be the exclusive member of a sweet, sweet club: the stab Loki in the face with a sword club. It's a thankless job, standing on the rainbow bridge, listening to hair growing on goats or some shit like that. But Thor took that away from him.

And seriously, Thor should have some diplomatic immunity. He's like, a prince. If Doom gets diplomatic immunity even though he's like every dictator ever on acid on speed on crack, then Thor should too. I guess the UN doesn't have the cajones to recognize Asgard.

Anonymous said...

Re: the 350th appearance - they rolled over the issue numbering of Journey into Mystery into Thor. He 1st appeared in Journey #83.

Anonymous said...

As a Public Defender, I want you to know this is the type of case Prosecutors bring against Defendants on a daily basis.

Jeff Hebert said...

Note the awesome sound effect (which I dub OnomontoPOWia) as Loki goes plummeting through the floor -- "KRASH!" I love it when they take a regular word and change one letter, turning it into a noise, it's like a little bit of magic right there on the page.

Gratz on the new gig, too, Dave, glad to see it. Is it a full-time deal?

Anonymous said...

"No one should take the law into his own hands! "

Yeah, he's a GOD. It's fine. Really. Relax. He's one of the few who actually CAN take the law into their own hands.

Because he's a GOD.


Anonymous said...


I love it when you post about comics that I have actually read/owned. First, Suicide Squad, them Batman Year Two and now THOR #432

I bought this comic in Thailand when I was in the service and read it in my hotel room. It was either that or other activites...and since I was happily married at the time, I decided to buy and read this.

And yes, this book was flat out awesome. Until you just ruined it for me by calling BS on Thor's punishment. (I actually liked that at the time; it made Thor even more badass and heroic - if that is possible. But you are right, it's a load of bull)

That said, I did enjoy the crap out this one.

Anonymous said...

Dave's nipples! I saw Dave's nipples.

Metz77 said...

Ah, Dave, it wasn't the same without you doing questionable things with action figures in the shower.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. After the glorious Walt Simonson run, going to Defalco/Frenz/Milgrom truly represented going from the penthouse to the outhouse.

Anonymous said...

Are those LEGO minifigs on your shower curtain?

John said...

Verily, I hereby demand a video intro for every post from neigh forward.

Sorry, I'm a little Thor.

Anonymous said...

C'mon - of course Odin's gonna be pissed off about getting his son killed. Even if his son is the God of Evil. Plus, he's also the God of pranks, and probably the only Asgardian with a sense of humour besides Volstagg.

I was never a fan of the DeFalco run on Thor - mostly because it followed the incomparable Simonson years, which imho were the greatest comics published by Marvel not signed by Lee/Kirby/Ditko.

Also: very confused by the 432/350 conundrum.

Anonymous said...

My first comic book (besides Archie) was the issue of Thor where this same story line started up, and when I saw this issue I about freaking lost my prepubescent mind!
This run on Thor and Avengers first got me reading comics as an 8 or 9 year old, and it is this issue that is still in my mind what a "special issue should be." No stupid hologram or multiple covers, but an awesome battle with a major plot point and reprint of an old issue in the back!
Frenz is like Kirby to me man. At least his old school style taught me to hate Leifeld and his ilk even as I bought issue after issue of X-force.
Of course Odin is pissed at Thor and banishes him because (spoiler!) it wasn't Odin at all! It was really LOKI the Norse god of Bastards, who had planned the whole thing (even his defeat) to take over the All-Father's body and power! Duhn-dum-dum!!!
Security word mgskhycn- a guy who hasn't read a real comic in over a decade but can remember every panel of this comic.

Anonymous said...

I was never much of a fan of DeFalco/Frenz era Thor- or a fan of DeFalco period- but every so often he'd pull out a winner, and that bit with Loki getting PWNED by Thor throwing the hammer to him is great.

Ununnilium said...

"Did the first 82 issues of Thor not actually have Thor in them?"

Nope, they didn't. As Anonymous mentioned above, Thor first appeared in the anthology series Journey into Mystery, which over time featured more and more Thor stories, until finally they changed the name.

Teddy said...


Loudspeaker: "Attention, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Dave Campbell, please come to ABC HR."

*door opens*

Dave: "Yes, you wanted to see me?"

Faceless HR: "You're fired."

Dave: (opens trenchcoat and reveals Neo-Matrix style weapons galore) "No, YOU'RE FIRED!"

Gunplay ensues

And scene

Andy Goldman said...

Ted, given Dave's shower scene, I really thought you were going to go someplace else with the whole "Dave opens trenchcoat" line

Anonymous said...

Okay, so Thor's book wasn't called Thor for the first 82 issues. And it didn't star Thor for those issues. So that's why this is the 350th appearance of Thor in this book, even though it's issue number 432.

Got it. Thanks for the explanation. That part makes sense.

Now, can someone explain why they suddenly took a book 82 issues in (almost 7 years), put an entirely new character in the starring role, retitled it, and kept the numbers?

I mean, if you're going to cancel one book and launch another, with no relation between the two at all except that it happens the same month, why would you transfer the numbering over?

Hoping to keep established readership for the old book instead of attracting new readership for the new book?

But if that's the case, and the established readership for the old book was that good, then why...

Urk. I think my head is going to explode.

Word verification: dbboww - sound of my head exploding while attempting to figure out Marvel editorial decision-making.

Anonymous said...

If you think that's confusing, Iron Man #288 celebrated the 350th appearance of Iron Man, calculating the issues of Tales of Suspense.

THEN Two issues later they did a 30th Anniversary special!

Anonymous said...

In response to Paul: If my memory of Les Daniels' book serves, Marvel was a struggling young company at the time that was limited to having only eight titles in their range. Hence new characters were featured and/or double billed in anthology titles like Journey Into Mystery and Tales To Astonish.

As for not renumbering series' when the title changed; believe it or not, there was a time when a first issue wasn't that big a draw for a title; try finding silver-age issue 99 of Captain America, or 101 of The Hulk. I read once that the first issues of some golden age books were published with higher numberings to create the impression that they were already established titles. Quite a difference from the present, when we've had about seven "first" issues of the Avengers in the last decade or so.

Unknown said...

I just realized that Lt. Stone is a stone cold commie. Captain America takes the law into his own hands . . . and Stone says no one should! So Stone doesn't think Cap's in the right, which can only mean one thing: Code Blue hates America.

Anonymous said...

In the GREATEST PANEL EVER of Loki's face being distorted by Thor's fist, my first thought was that Thor had thrown his disembodied fist rather than the hammer. Substitute his hammer, and you have a standard Thor-throws-awesome-magical-hammer-into-bad-guys-face panel.

Anonymous said...

I like both runs, Simonson's and DeFalco's. Sure, DeFalco had some cheesy dialogue at times, but the stories were a lot of fun.

Highlights of what I read in that run:

-Code: Blue, Eric Masterson, and the Warriors Three attacking Asgard and battling a power-mad Heimdall who had taken Odin's throne with Odin was in the Odin-sleep. Code: Blue fought Uroc AND Ulik...and won! Don't mess with the NYPD, man.

-The unlikely quintet of the Warriors Three, Arko the Guardsman, and the Enchantress attacking Asgard to remove Loki from the throne.

-the startling revelation that Loki was possessing the body of Odin, and Mephisto had Odin's soul hostage.

-Eric Masterson's journey into his own mind to rescue the imprisoned Thor.

Anonymous said...

I just moved my longboxes into my new apartment and I grabbed a random comic out of each one. This issue was the last I pulled and I just had to sit and enjoy the hell out of it just like I did when I was 9 when it came out.

Jonathan said...

I love the intro.

Anonymous said...

Good stuff--just solid old-fashioned storytelling. But after reading your post, I was picturing this issue as an episode of Law & Order. (Law & Order: Mythological Victims Unit, maybe?) The battle would be the first half (Viewer Discretion Advised, due to Disembodied Hand Fu), with Lt. Stone and Odin providing the judicial part in the second half.

I always get a kick out of it when the writers have Thor pull some wacky Mjolnir power stunt completely out of his ass, like the trick with draining Loki's soul. Sometimes it's cool, sometimes it's ridiculous--possibly both--but it's usually memorable. One of my favorites for sheer WTF? action was when Thor was worried about the danger to innocent bystanders while fighting with Durok the Demolisher. (THOR #192, if you're keeping score.) Does he lead the nigh-unstoppable magical automaton away, or just knock him into the next county and continue the fight there? Nope, that would be too easy, and the God of Thunder doesn't do things the easy way. Instead he takes a break in the middle of the fight to whirl up a vortex and suck all the people into fucking Limbo. While delivering a Shakespearean soliloquy, naturally. The clown injury is just a bonus.

Anonymous said...

IMO, clown injury is ALWAYS a bonus. Also an excellent name for a band. And Thor is the Asgardian shizzle.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or does Loki look as muscular as Thor on that cover? I remember him being more lean and (definitely) mean, but there he looks like he's been Pumping Up with Hans & Franz. He could poke an eye out with that helmet, too, which is probably intentional, knowing Loki.

CalvinPitt said...

chad sexington, it's been awhile since I read this issue, but I remember Loki saying something about having stolen the Wrecker's power, so that he was Thor's physical equal (or as close to it as the Wrecker comes), in addition to having his usual bag of magic and trickeration. So that's probably why Loki's bulked up.

Bill Reed said...

I adore the DeFalco/Frenz era, despite its flaws. Eric Masterson is my favorite Marvel character ever and Marcus Stone is the greatest badass of them all.

My favorite line of dialogue from this issue, however, is still one of the Code: Blue guys slipping on the floor while saying "Oops! I slipped on the floor!" Awesome.

Anonymous said...

Chris Claremont must have guest-written that dialogue.

Anonymous said...

"He could poke an eye out with that helmet, too, which is probably intentional, knowing Loki."

Yeah, I used to have a sig on some comic book MBs about that. Odin telling little Loki that the helmet may seem cool, but it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye...

K. D. Bryan said...

Oh, man! I'd actually forgotten about the nifty Code: Blue. My favorite bits with them involve the issue that also had Excalibur in it, if memory serves.

No, you may not see my bathing suit area.

Tease. :P

Chris Arndt said...

Paul and Amadeus Feldspar are the sorts of newbies that justify my existence with their lack historical knowledge!

Alas that anonymous renders me (slightly) redundant.

The second Captain America and Hulk title, as well as the first Thor title were all started as continuation of others comics with
their numberings.

They didn't start with issue 1s.

I think a lot of people give DeFalco a bad wrap because he wasn't Simonson. Bah!

Simonson and DeFalco are both different brands of awesome.

Except for DeFalco Spider-Man. DeFalco Spider-Man is wounded mammal.

DeFalco Spider-Girl is pretty good.

Anonymous said...

I’m always surprised that Loki is so muscular, being as he’s the god of sneakiness and cheating. Maybe it comes from the fact that he’s half-giant?

Anonymous said...

“Simonson & DeFalco” would be an excellent name for a cop show.

Anonymous said...

Felicity said...
I’m always surprised that Loki is so muscular, being as he’s the god of sneakiness and cheating. Maybe it comes from the fact that he’s half-giant?

That half is (wait for it) his pants.

Anonymous said...

What an "honor" it is to have a landmark issued drawn by Sal Buscema. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Actually, that was Ron Frenz penciling and Al Milgrom doing the finishes, as Dave mentioned up above. But I was never a big fan of Sal either.

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