Recently, I was thinking about some of the earliest comic books I ever got. Not… not the first ones I ever bought with my own dollars—I actually couldn’t even begin to recall that—but the first ones I ever owned. It turns out, I started buying comics right about the turn of the decade as the leather and big hair of the 1980’s gave way to the flannel and dropout drawers of the 90’s.
In case you were wondering, the very first comic book I am likely to have owned is Detective Comics #602, with a publication date of July 1989:
Now THAT is a badass cover. What eight year old WOULDN’T buy that book?
The point is, the 90’s would be my formative years as a comic book fan. Even as a kid, I did a lot of back issue hunting, but most of what I bought was the as-it-was-happening stuff, and man… the 90’s. Say what you will, but the 1990’s was definitely… an era where comics were being published. I still joke that I’m waiting for MCU’s “phase seven” of their films, so I can get MY Avengers of Black Knight, Hercules, Sersi, Crystal, white Vision, and Thunderstrike. All wearing bomber jackets, OF COURSE.
Yeah, the 1990’s has a bit of a… reputation for funnybooks. But not everything published in the 90’s was bad!
TITLE: Blood and Thunder
Writer and Artist: Ron Marz and Jim Starlin writing. Tom Grindberg, Angel Medina, Tom Raney, Kris Renkewitz, Andy Smith, MC Wyman, and Bruce Zik at pencils.
Protagonists: The Infinity Watch, Silver Surfer, Beta Ray Bill, Sif
Antagonists: Thor, Valkyrie
…but some definitely are.
Now this here might be the part of the article wherein I describe the plot of the book I am reading. What is the story? What is the quest? How are the characters motivated? What is the underlying theme?
Blood and Thunder ain’t got time for plot. This is strictly a beat’em up book. It’s a thirteen issue fight scene; it’s just the combatants that change from chapter to chapter. In all seriousness:
Chapter 1: Thor fights Beta Ray Bill
Chapter 2: Thor fights Silver Surfer
Chapter 3: Maxam and Pip The Troll fight some racists.
Chapter 4: Adam Warlock fights Thor
Chapter 5: The Infinity Watch fights Thor
Chapter 6: Okay, this is the breather issue. Warlock and Surfer go recruit Dr. Strange.
Chapter 7: The Infinity Watch fight some trolls
Chapter 8: Adam Warlock fights Olik (brother to Ulik)
Chapter 9: EVERYONE fights Thor
Chapter 10: Thanos fights Thor
Chapter 11: Everyone fights Valkyrie
Chapter 12: Everyone fights Asgard’s army
Chapter 13: Odin fights Valkyrie
Fight fight fight fight fight fight fight. Thirteen issues of Ron Marz and Jim Starlin saying “Oh! I really want to write X fighting Y!” “That’d be great! And also, X should fight Z!” “Capital idea! Elsewhere, N should fight M!”. And this goes on for quite some time.
And, I mean, I read comic books, all right? I get it. I’m down for some big fights. But these aren’t even particularly good fights. For starters, the art ranges from middling to poor, and that’s with Andy Smith and MC Wyman doing their best impersonations of Ron Lim and Andy Kubert, respectively. For being a big bombastic book of brutal beatings, there aren’t a lot of pages of which you can just marvel at the majesty. Some of the art is certainly worse than others (looking at you, Tom Grindberg and Angel Medina), but none of it is worthwhile. Wasn’t the 90’s supposed to be the era of the artists?
Beyond that, everything starts feeling repetitive early on and never lets up. Thor has gone crazypants and everyone wants to stop him without hurting him… okay, I get it. The most noteworthy battle moments in the run are when Thor punches Drax in the tummy and the latter coughs up his Power Gem, and when Odin and Valkyrie grow to the size of mountains inside Thor’s mind to swing swords at each other. Thirteen issues of fighting, and the fighting is all so “meh”.
So yeah, the reason for the whole ordeal is that Thor has an imaginary friend—the warrior woman Valkyrie—who has him under a spell of warrior madness and just going berserk. And that’s it. Thor’s invisible friend just told him to wreck everyone’s day. It’s ultimately revealed that the cause for all of this were the ordeals Odin has put Thor through in his misguided attempts to teach his son humility. Somehow this put a sexy warrior lady in Thor’s mind? I suppose because the urge to surrender to the purely destructive way of a mad warrior is a seductive choice? Doesn’t really explain how she was given a physical form when Moondragon pulled her out of Thor’s mind, though.
Talking Point: Man, the 90’s were big on extended fight scene crossovers. This, Maximum Carnage. X-Cutioner’s Song. Death of Superman. Those all spring immediately to mind, and this might be the worst of them. But what are the best? Or, at least, the most palatable?
This is bad. It’s a tedious read, and by the time the heroes made their way to Asgard just to have a time-killing fight with the forces of that realm, I was beyond bored with it. It was a struggle to get through the last three issues. Definitely needed more bomber jackets.