Review by Win Wiacek
This power-packed hardback compilation gathers the contents of Thor’s adventures from December 1975 to December 1976, plus a solo for longtime supports Warriors Three. It leads with a forthright introduction from writer/editor Len Wein on his assumption of the title.
After a rapid, round-robin flurry of writers who detailed how lordly Odin went missing, was found and freed from bondage to a pantheon of Egyptian gods, a semblance of creative stability resumes as Wein joins John Buscema to commence their tenure with an epic time travel tale. In the 20th century, Thor, his lover Jane Foster (mystically imbued with the life force of goddess Sif) and visiting Asgardians Fandral the Dashing, Voluminous Volstagg and Hogun the Grim are abducted by despotic chrononaut – and old enemy – Zarrko the Tomorrow Man.
The time tyrant claims to be on the side of the angels this time: looking for heroes to help stop a trio of entropic entities travelling back from the end of eternity, callously destroying all life as they go. Clashes with vagrant monsters and warriors plucked from other eras ensue over four chapters concluding at the end of time. Will Zarrko revert to type and betray them all?
A rematch between Thunder God and Firelord follows the unworldly alien meeting a lovely witch working for would-be tinpot dictator El Lobo. Whilst Thor heads south to stop a civil war, in Asgard his boon companion Balder comes to a staggering conclusion: Odin may be back in body but his spirit is still ailing. In fact, the All-Father might well be completely insane!
Before that rolls out Wein delivers a tale of the Warriors Three. Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun are drawn into a tale of love on the rocks when their Manhattan carousing is interrupted by a woman’s suicide attempt. Her call for help impels the heroic trio to save her boyfriend from a life of crime and leads to action, adventure and ultimately matrimony!
Back in Thor’s continuity the build-up to an anniversary issue has the earthbound Asgardians called back to the Realm Eternal by bold Balder whose battered body is living proof that Odin has become a brutal, vicious tyrant. The heroes seek to ally with old enemy Karnilla the Norn Queen for a potential universe-shattering battle against Odin. In the aftermath a renewed search for the All-Father takes Thor into the underworld and cataclysmic combat against the legions of the dead. The quest continues, involving old foes Ulik, and won’t be concluded until Marvel Masterworks: Thor Volume 16.
However, this collection ends with a few more diversions. There’s a return for venerable back-up series Tales of Asgard, with David Anthony Kraft and Pablo Marcos providing a saga of Thor’s boyhood. The young warrior learns the value of restraint and self-reliance while learning how to wield Mjolnir in ‘The Weapon and the Warrior!’
We also have Steve Englehart and Buscema’s ‘War of the Gods!’, opening with the origin of Asgard’s gods and explaining the geographical limitations of pantheons and worship before adolescent Thor is drawn by his earthly worshippers into battle with a pantheon he never knew of. A territorial clash between Norsemen and invading Greeks escalates, but aloof Odin and Zeus know a secret that makes all the bloodshed simultaneously pointless and crucial.
The tales lack the sheer punch and verve of Thor’s early years but are stuffed with intrigue and action, magnificently largely rendered by Buscema who, whilst not possessing Jack Kirby’s vaulting visionary passion, is every inch his equal in craft and dedication.