Review by Woodrow Phoenix
This is the third of five volumes collecting all the stories from Walt Simonson’s monumental run on The Mighty Thor. After the big, big ending of the previous volume it’s a lower stakes beginning to the next story arc as Beta Ray Bill and Sif fight armored bank robbers in New York, Lorelei finally manages to make Thor her love slave, thanks to Loki, and her sister the Enchantress adds some magic of her own to the situation. A fun comedy of errors releases the Thunder God who still has some serious wrongs to put right.
In the previous volume, Malekith turned humans into his slaves by forcing their souls out of their bodies and into Hel. As Midgard’s protector, Thor is bound to journey into Hel to reclaim them. This will require an army, and his warriors include Harokin and the Einherjar, Balder The Brave, the only one who knows the way to Hel because he’s been there once before and returned, and Skurge the Executioner, who needs to forget his torment at the hands of the Enchantress by inflicting some punishment of his own.
Simonson uses lots of actual Norse myth in his portrayal of Hel and its inhabitants, from Garm the giant wolf who guards the entrance, to the river Gjoll that marks the boundary of Hel, the bridge called Gjallerbru and its guardian Modgud, and even Naglfar, a ship made of the toenails of the dead. Thor’s combat with Hela herself to decide the fate of the souls she possesses is another superbly designed sequence that’s exciting and a little terrifying because after all, she is Death incarnate. Under that mask it’s not a pretty sight. In a fantastic fight to the finish she makes sure that win or lose, Thor isn’t going to be too lovely to look at either. Simonson almost tops that with one of the most memorable action scenes among a great number of them in these stories, when Skurge the Executioner takes centre stage in the final battle against the forces of Hela.
This volume also includes Balder the Brave, previously released separately, which explains just what he was up to in Nornheim with Karnilla the Norn Queen, what happens to her while he is away to join Thor in battle… and how he deals with it on his return. Simonson makes the formerly despicable Karnilla a surprisingly sympathetic figure, and her romance with Balder is classic star-crossed stuff. Sal Buscema draws this story, and he comes on board The Mighty Thor to take over drawing the rest of Simonson’s ongoing saga halfway through the next volume in a pretty smooth transition.
The only extra feature in this volume is a cover gallery. Previous editions Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson, Vol. 3 and Thor Legends Volume 3: Walt Simonson, collected a different number of issues from the original run. Both are now out of print.