Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Ragnarök: The Breaking of Helheim is the third volume of Walter Simonson’s series based on the Norse myths of the Twilight of The Gods, continuing to explore what happens after its terrible end. A near-unrecognisable Thor, son of Odin is the only God who did not die in battle, and after half a millennium chained in a fortress he has degenerated into an undead husk of his former vital self. But he is alive, he still has his hammer Mjolnir, and so far he has survived numerous attempts to kill him by his enemies. As seen in The Lord of the Dead, they’re incredulous at his reappearance and unable to understand how he managed to survive and remain hidden from them for so many hundreds of years.
The Breaking of Helheim begins with a vision of Odin appearing to Thor and telling him how all the Gods were slain, but most of their enemies lived. This was not how Ragnarök was fated to unfold, but Asgard was missing their greatest warrior. So now we know that Thor’s absence left the scales unbalanced, and the final battle resulted in the triumph of Evil. Where the God of Thunder was during this most crucial of all times, and why, remains a mystery. Meanwhile the devastated worlds that survive are places of great misery and suffering for the few humans constantly beset by demons, trolls and the draugar, walking dead viking zombies who come and go freely from Helheim to stalk the land of the still living.
Simonson’s introduction reveals how the many gaps and unexplained parts of Norse myth gave him an incentive to create his own answers to some of the more interesting questions. What is the relationship of Loki’s daughter Hel, to the land of the dead over which she presides? The Breaking of Helheim shows us his answer as Thor decides his next task is to enter Hel’s awful domain to stop the flow of draugar into the human world once and for all. Ragnarök continues to be as monumental in scale as it began, with gigantic action sequences of visually dazzling complexity, crackling with energies that make us wonder how a Thor who is less than his former self hopes to defeat a Goddess who was more than a match for him at his best?
This volume also includes a 27-page gallery of inks and finished colour covers drawn for the original six serialised issues, including a variant jam cover created by Simonson with Stan Sakai.