I had sort of backed into being a reader of THOR, and it was a title that I occasionally stayed from over my prime Marvel buying years–typically only for long enough to have to pick up two issues simultaneously. But as I’ve related before, THOR struck me, especially in the 1970s, as feeling more like a Barbarian comic than a super hero title, and I didn’t have any interest in such things. They felt too much like history class to me. But I had picked up the prior issue of THOR, which turned out to be an entertaining adaptation of a genuine Norse myth (and one that I had read in school) so when the following issue arrived at my neighborhood 7-11, I said, “What the hell” and dropped 35 cents for it. I was going to read something that week, after all.
At the close of the previous adventure, Thor had run across news reporter Harris Hobbs, a figure from a number of earlier Stan Lee and Jack Kirby Thor stories that writer Roy Thomas likely read as a fan. In those days, Hobbs had blackmailed Thor into taking him to see Asgard firsthand. Here, Hobbs ups the stakes by suggesting to the Thunder God that he wants to broadcast an entire television special from there. He reveals to Thor that, despite his memories have being erased at the climax of their last encounter, he remembered their adventures in his dreams, and a helpful psycho-therapist helped him to unlock those buried memories. So Thor’s deft touch with the memory-eraser wasn’t quite so deft.
Thor listens to Hobbs’ story (and his multiple-page flashbacks to not only the original stories but what had come since) before telling the nosey reporter to get bent. But as the Thunder God soars away, the dejected newsman is approached by a shadowy figure on the rooftop–one that looks like the Phantom Stranger if the Stranger was getting his wardrobe at Goodwill. The figure claims that he can help Hobbs, but before he does so, he wants to hear more about the contents of Hobbs’ dreams. Harris has nothing to lose, so he proceeds to give us still more lengthy flashbacks–this batch a retelling of yet another genuine Norse myth, in which Thor goes fishing and catches the Midgard Serpent, the creature whose long body encircles the Earth and who is destined in legend to be Thor’s end on Ragnarok, the final day.
Hearing the details of Hobbs’ story, the shabby figure reveals himself as Loki, God of Evil–who of course he was from the start. He tells Harris that he’ll be as good as his word and permit him and his television crew access to Asgard for his own reasons. And he laughs at the pitiful human, merely a pawn in his great gambit. Elsewhere, Thor goes in search of his friend Tony Stark and Stark Industries–and finds instead Wilson Travers, a new Stark hire. Honestly, this looks to me as though it was penciled to be Tony Stark, but because Iron Man was in the middle of a multi-part space adventure at that moment, a decision was made to change it. Which is kind of an overreaction if you ask me, but such was the way that comics at Marvel were done then. Thor is here to pick up a computer crafted from Adamantium–which is quite a thing to have made–that had been used by the menace known as Faust a few issues earlier. He has arranged to dispose of the dangerous thing by transporting it to Asgard.
The haughty Thunder God is bemused and a little bit of a show-off when Travers wonders just how he intends to get the multi-ton device where he wants to take it, and Thor casually just picks the thing up to walk off with it. But once he gets outside, before Goldilocks can launch himself and the computer in the direction of Asgard, he’s brought up short by a sinister arrival: it’s the Midgard Serpent, straight from Harris Hobbs’ nightmares. Undaunted, the Thunder God throws himself into combat with the enormous serpent, reasoning that if he can defeat and kill it here, his prophesied demise at its jaws on the day of Ragnarok might be averted.
This proves to be impossible, alas, as the Thunder God goes soaring directly through his foe. It’s not the actual Midgard Serpent at all, but rather some manner of illusion. Thor suspects Loki’s hand in this, but cannot fathom what his half-brother got from it apart from a moment’s amusement. With the Serpent vanished once again, Thor takes up his task, vortexing himself and the Adamantium Computer to Asgard. There, he finds both Odin and Sif in absence, and Balder troubled by strange dreams himself. But before he can ponder this situation further, Volstagg touches a bit on the computer and a panel pops open–and Harris Hobbs and a two-man film crew spill out. Now the reason for the Midgard Serpent illusion is revealed, it was a diversion to give Hobbs time to secret himself and his compatriots inside the device so that they would also be transported to Asgard.
This is all the work of Loki, who now reveals himself. Despite his recent depowering and exile by Odin, he has returned, powers intact. And he reasons that the reason it is thus is that Harris Hobbs’ dreams must be prophetic–meaning that the day of the true Ragnarok is upon them all! And on that dire note, and this very attractive closing splash page by John Buscema and Tom Palmer, the issue closes out–but not before promising death of Balder in the next release! I didn’t especially know or care about Balder yet, but that sure all sounded dire. I wasn’t yet aware of just how often the creators in THOR had played the Ragnarok card. Even so, Roy was about to try to do it for real, influenced heavily by the ancient Norse myths in the manner that he put together the CONAN comic book from not only Robert. E. Howard’s Conan stories, but other bits of writing that he had done over the years. We’ll find out how this all goes over the coming weeks and months.