It’s more of the same story. This issue of THOR I got in another one of those 3-Bag bundles of recent comic books that were sold through toy stores and department stores during this period. I was still on the fence somewhat as a THOR reader–over the next couple of years, I would fall off from buying the title occasionally, but then pick it up again during a slow week where I had more ready cash than available new comics to buy. And so I never missed an issue for several years, despite the fact that I occasionally stopped buying them new. Fortunately for me, in most spinner racks of the period you could often find a copy of last month’s releases tucked in among other books, and I took advantage of that in this case.
I have to say, I enjoyed this issue of THOR a great deal, and a lot of that has to do with the inking of Joe Sinnott, who stepped in this month to help out when regular finisher Tony DeZuniga proved unavailable. Sinnott was my favorite inker in comics for many years, I loved his slick, clean, polished lines and his attention to detail. Here, working over Simonson, more of Walt’s work was able to shine through, and his Jack Kirby influence was heightened. The whole production simply looked better, and that made for a much more enjoyable reading experience. This book alone was probably a key factor in keeping me a THOR reader in that it delivered the sorts of thrills that I was looking for, and proved that the title could deliver them.
Story-wise, we were in the middle of a very typical Thor adventure. Writer/Editor Len Wein could dependably be relied upon to hit all of the key notes of the series he was working on while bringing a fannish enthusiasm to the proceedings. But on THOR and a few other strips, he sometimes wound up repeating and remixing elements of earlier stories, and that’s very much what we get here. With Odin taking one of his fabled Odinsleep, his adopted son the evil Loki has taken over the kingdom of Asgard in his absence, his minions having spirited the slumbering All-Father away. In order to prevent his sinewy brother from interfering, Loki has reactivated the dreaded Destroyer, an ultimate Asgardian weapon, and set it against the Thunder God. And unbeknownst to Thor (and the readers at this point, though it is teased relatively obviously), the life-force animating the Destroyer in this instance is that of his good friend Balder the Brave. So if Thor should be victorious, Balder will perish.
Meanwhile, the Warriors Three have failed in their quest to run down the Enchantress and the Executioner, the pair who have made off with Odin’s sleeping form. And they’re drawn in by the tremors caused by Thor’s conflict with the indestructible Destroyer, emerging into the chamber where the two titans are going at it. Heroic to a fault, Hogun, Volstagg and Fandral hurl themselves to the attack. But they make no difference in the outcome–the Destroyer is still just as unstoppable as ever. One of the nice things about Sinnott’s inking on this issue is that it preserves much more of Simonson’s natural sense of design–so the assorted idols carved into the walls and the stylized manner in which his figures are constructed are all mostly maintained. This looks a lot more like a Simonson issue than any previous one.
As a delaying action, Thor collapses the chamber they are in atop all five fighters, hoping that this will cause the Destroyer to pause while it digs its way to freedom. He realizes that only Odin had stop the Destroyer, and so he bids his Warriors Three allies to quit the battle and resume their hunt for Odin. This they do, leaving Thor once again alone to reckon with the titanic power of his seemingly-invincible enemy. The trio’s search swiftly leads them to Shaykar the Skulker, Magrat the schemer and Kroda the duellist, who are now having second thoughts about their part in teh scheme to overthrow Odin. They figure that the might be better off freeing Odin and pleading for mercy. But unbeknownst to them, as they hie to where the All-Father is secreted, they are trailed by the Warriors.
Back in Asgard, Thor is continuing to get his clock cleaned by the Destroyer, though he’s able to stay just far enough ahead of the tireless brute to remain alive. This can’t last forever, though, and eventually the Destroyer is able to lay hands on the Thunder God within a decorative fountain–and the murderous automaton begins to attempt to drown the Thunder God. The cavalry arrives in teh person of Lady sif and Karnilla the Norn Queen. Sif’s blows are just as ineffectual as everyone else’s, but Karnilla’s sorcery may not be so. She casts a spell designed to eradicate the Destroyer–but pulls up short at the last minute as she has a horrifying realization.
I’ve already spoiled that realization for you earlier: it is the life-force of Karnilla’s beloved, Balder, which inhabits the Destroyer. And so, she cannot dispatch the enemy without also dooming her paramour. Far away, Loki laughs while, on a mystic viewscreen, we see the Destroyer continue to pummel the fading Thunderer. To Be Continued! As an issue, this was pretty well just an extended fight scene with some interludes to move the plot along, but it was an exciting fight scene with sharp visuals, and so I and I expect most other readers of teh time didn’t really care.