Tuesday, February 08, 2011

You can't buy your way into heaven, or trick your way into Valhalla...I guess.

In Thor #342, as Walt Simonson is getting rolling on the best run on this book ever, we meet "The Last Viking." After rescuing a damsel-in-distress in his civilian identity, Thor hears something, faintly: "Someone...calling to me from a great distance in the language of the vikings." Investigating, Thor follows the voice to Antarctica, and finds a mysterious valley warmed by a volcano, green and pleasant, and home to a seemingly-deserted Viking village.

Following along a cemetery, Thor explores a cave, and is attacked by a series of traps, finally finding "the visage of death!"

Felling his foe, Thor finds it is but an old man, once stout and mighty, now almost decrepit. The last chieftain, and last survivor of his people, Eilif the lost had hoped to use their labyrinth to trick Thor into killing him, in hopes of earning his seat in Valhalla; the alternative being "the 'straw death' that sends men down to Hel." (I wasn't sure if just dying sent you to Hel; I thought you had to be a bit of a bastard to get sent there. Dying in battle got you to the good heaven in Valhalla, though; but I thought there was a middle option.)

Eilif laments that he will die in bed, but at least he got to see Thor before he went. Thor tells him, no, his life is no longer Eilif's own, but Thor's. Back in New York, the dragon Fafnir is looking for a rematch with Thor, and is demolishing the city in an effort to call him out. Thor tells Eilif to suit up, since he'll be going into battle with him. Thor asks Odin for a boon, and gets his chariot, drawn by Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher. For Eilif, Cloud-rider, a huge, winged stallion.

All well and good, but Eilif is still an old man, too frail for battle. Thor tells him there's no cheap seats in Valhalla, and he's not talking to the old man, but to the warrior that dared face Thor. He bids Eilif to touch Mjolnir, and gives him back some strength. Together, they ride to face Fafnir, who looks like a chattier, pot-bellied Godzilla.

We'll finish up this look at Eilif, Fafnir, and the Norse afterlife in Marvel Comics; next Tuesday. Scans from Thor #342, "The Last Viking" and #343, "If I Should Die Before I Wake..." Art and story by Walt Simonson, inks in #342 by Terry Austin, letters by John Workman Jr, and colors by Christie Scheele.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

This really does sound good, I'll have to go nosing about and try and pick it up.