Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Onslaught Crossover and Thor

Marvel recently digitized Thor #502. This was the last continuous issue of Thor dating back his first appearance in Journey into Mystery #83 (prior to that Journey into Mystery was a horror comic. It continued to be "Journey into Mystery Featuring the Mighty Thor" for years and kept the numbering when the name was finally changed).

The early 90s were not kind to the original set of Marvel heroes. Tony Stark was replaced by a teen-age version of himself. The Human Torch had married the Thing's girl friend who later turned out to be a skrull impersonating Alicia. The Thing had gone through various mutations and scars.

Thor was replaced with an architect for a while then went crazy. In the last few months leading to issue 502 he lost his powers and started speaking like a regular person. He regained his powers and got a new, rather silly, costume. He and Odin had one of their many arguments and Odin created a "new" Thor from a mortal named Red Norvell. The rest of the Asgardians, including Odin, had been transformed into humans to hide them from the god Seth.

As far as sales were concerned, Spider-Man and the mutant titles were doing great but the other comics sales were doing poorly.

The Solution was a total reboot. This came about through Onslaught - a company-wide event. Onslaught was a psionic being in almost indestructable armor. Once his armor was breached, he could be destroyed if enough humans entered his psionic body. The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and the Hulk did this, apparently dying.

As part of the continuity-wide event, the comics for the various heroes would would "die" had a final issue taking place the night before the final battle. This is where Thor #502 comes in.

Thor and Red Norvell are camped across the river from Manhattan, preparing for the battle ahead. At one point Thor tries to induce a berserk rage and fails. He reminisces about his early life and how be came to be transformed into the mortal doctor Don Blake. His old girl friend, Jane Foster, appears and asks for his help as a doctor. Near the end of the issue the death goddess Hella appears and offers Thor a spot at her side. He considered the offer but opted to fight beside his companions even if it meant certain death.

It was a quiet recap of Thor's run and a nice finale to his original run.

The follow month the comic book Thor again became Journey into Mystery with a rotating series of stars.

In the meantime, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four were transported to a different world with a similar history to ours. In this world, Thor was trapped in ice instead of Captain America and the newly-formed Avengers freed him. That Thor turned out to be unstable and was killed and replaced with our Thor.

Eventually the heroes returned to the Marvell Universe.

Journey into Mystery continued until #521 when the heroes returned. It was replaced with a new Thor title and the numbering was started over at #1. With the "Heroes reborn", Marvel put new creative teams on all of the relaunched books. Most of the continuity from the last few years was conveniently forgotten and the new creative teams were given a blank slate to work from.

In Thor's case, he was merged with another mortal, this time an EMT named Jake Olsen, and sent to free the missing Asgardians.

The Thor comic book started using a dual numbering until it was canceled with issue #85/#587. It was brought back as volume three with a new #1 but picked up the original count at issue #600.

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