BHOC: THOR #259

A long time has passed since I first bought the comics that I talk about here, so sometimes the details of their acquisition become vague. I do remember that I got this issue, THOR #259, the same day that I got the previous one, discussed yesterday. But I don’t think they were in the same plastic-wrapped bundle, which means that I must have bought two such packages on that occasion. I wouldn’t have done so for these THOR books–while I liked the series well enough, it wasn’t a huge favorite–and, indeed, I was still waffling on how much I really liked it. But however it came about, I didn’t have to wait at all to find out how the Thunder God’s battle with the Grey Gargoyle and his space pirate minions turned out. And now, neither do you.

This issue was produced by the same creative team as the last one; writer Len Wein and artists John BUscema and Tony DeZuniga. On this issue, though, DeZuniga’s hand is a bit more noticable.I expect that Buscema did looser breakdowns on this story and DeZuniga had to pick up more of the slack, resulting in an end product that reflected his hand to a greater degree. Events pick up where they left off last time, with Thor’s attempt to organize his fellow now-freed slaves into a fighting force to overthrow the space pirates being interrupted by the sudden entrance of the main villain himself, the Grey Gargoyle.

But it turns out, the Grey Gargoyle isn’t there to fight at all. Rather, he’s come to ask for Thor’s help. To prove his good intention, the Gargoyle goes about freeing a number of the other captives still in their slave collars. He relates to Thor that, at the end of his last published exploit in which he battled Spider-Man and Captain America in an issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP, he had been shot off into space. There, he wound up being picked up by the space pirates in their usual fashion. But not content to be a workhorse, the gargoyle challenged the captain of the pirates, Sklaar, to personal combat. The captain was a much better fighter, but he had no idea about the Gargoyle’s grim power, and in the midst of their fight, he was turned to stone and then shattered. As a result, the Gargoyle took his position on the ship–one that he could only hold on to while his underlings feared his petrifying touch. But the Gargoyle is sick of life in space–he wants to return to Earth, and he’s hoping that Thor will convey him there.

So a bargain is struck in which the Gargoyle throws in with the asgardians in their plan to take over the ship and free all of the prisoners, bringing the scourge of the pirates to an end. Unfortunately, this conversation has been overheard by the aptly-named Fee-Lor, a Lionlike alien who lusts for the Gargoyle’s position as captain of the operation. Now that he knows the gargoyle is planning to betray them all, Fee-Lor informs the rest of the crew, and so when the moment comes, they are ready for it and well armed. Meanwhile, off in Asgard, we get another interlude with Balder, Karnilla, the Enchantress and the Executioner. The latter pair demands that Balder surrender the city to them, and the Brave One has them thrown out of the palace for their effrontery. But everybody is now aware that war is coming.

Back in space, it’s fighting time, and there’s not much to say about this bout (except that, perhaps, it seems like the sort of dust-up that Thor could have won out in all by himself–the space pirates aren’t really in his league at all.) But John Buscema makes even the most lackluster battle sequence look spectacular. He’d refined his Kirbyesque approach to a combat page to an art, to where he could practically do a sequence like this one in his sleep. On another note from yesterday, here even in the midst of battle, Volstagg is once again being mocked by his allies–in this case by the humorless Recorder, which makes it somehow all the worse (especially since Volstagg is literally in the midst of the fighting this time, not hiding under a table or some other cowardly place. But in the 1970s, fat-shaming was considered funny.)

One guy who doesn’t pitch in on the battle much is the Grey Gargoyle. He’s got nothing much as stake in terms of who wins–his only concern is in getting off the ship and back home to Earth. So while everybody else is fighting, he steals away to a launch bay, where he intends to make off with one of the craft’s shuttles. But Fee-Lor has been pursuing the Gargoyle, intent on killing him so as to establish his dominance over the pirate clan, and so as the Gargoyle begins his takeoff, he’s attacked by his former first mate, locked in a life-or-death struggle as the shuttle lifts off.

But as the two men struggle and Fee-Lor attempts to remain out of the way of his opponent’s petrifying touch, the Gargoyle’s hand brushes up against the controls to the ship–turning them into stone. This causes the shuttle to veer off course wildly and collide with an asteroid explosively, killing both inhabitants instantly. (Or at least so it appears. The Grey Gargoyle made a comeback elsewhere, though I don’t remember anybody ever explaining how he survived this seeming demise.) In any event, the space pirates are completely cowed, the prisoners have control of the vessel and can begin to return their numbers to their respective homeworlds, and Thor and company can get on with their seemingly-unending search for Orin among the stars once more.

3 thoughts on “BHOC: THOR #259

  1. The Grey Gargoyle’s next appearance, in Avengers #190-191, does indeed explain his survival, as he returns to Earth in a protective stone cocoon.

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  2. I think any time the credits read something like “John Buscema & Tony DeZuniga, Illustrators,” it’s indicating that John did not do full pencils. If he had, they’d have credited him as penciler and Tony as inker.

    But here, they’re eliding the distinction, because in this (and the previous issue, I’d bet), John is doing breakdowns, and the finished pencils and inks are by Tony. Although he may have done it all with brush and pen, rather than ever using a pencil.

    John was (as you know!) a very fast breakdown artist, and Marvel could give those loose pages to finishers like Palmer, deZuniga, Alcala, Janson and others, and get good-looking comics out of them. Much like when Walter Simonson was doing breakdowns on THOR, RAMPAGING HULK, STAR WARS and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, the aim wasn’t to make it look like the work of the breakdown artist, just to have their storytelling strengths, and let the finisher provide the drawing style.

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