Surtur Ascendant

Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson Volume 2: written by Walter Simonson; illustrated by Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema, and Bret Blevins (1984-85; collected 2002): Writer-artist Walt Simonson’s 4-year run on Thor was one of the highlights of superhero comics in the 1980’s, an eclectic blend of sci-fi and mythology that took the title back to its heights, late in the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee years of the 1960’s. Simonson’s detailed, flowing, majestic but also nimble art made Asgard and the super-gods who lived there fun again without skimping on the melodramatically epic tone of the best Thor comics of the past.

In this second volume, Simonson’s lengthy opening arc comes to its conclusion. Surtur, the fire giant tasked by Norse mythology with setting fire to the universe at the end of time, is about to break out of his imprisonment in Muspelheim thanks to the nefarious shenanigans of the Dark Elves, who’ve managed to unleash all the winters of the world upon the Earth by shattering the Casket of Ancient Winters, until now safely in the keeping of a long line of human protectors. Got all that?

When fire and ice finally conspire to break the walls between worlds, Surtur will storm Asgard, the home of the gods, to light his newly forged sword at the eternal flame Odin stole from him long ago and bring an end to everything. But the road from Muspelheim to Asgard goes straight through Midgard. Or Earth as it’s more commonly known.

Gods, superheroes, and even self-interested supervillains and evil gods will have to unite to try to stop the end of the world. But Thor, one of Marvel’s heaviest hitters, isn’t powerful enough to stop Surtur on his own. Or, perhaps, even with a lot of help.

There’s a lot to love in this jaunty second volume. One of my favourite bits lies in Simonson’s visualization of Surtur, who had previously been drawn as pretty much a standard 500-foot-tall devil. Simonson goes with something a bit more impressionistic, and I think it works beautifully — Simonson’s a big Lord of the Rings fan, and his Surtur makes me wonder how he’d draw a Balrog. In any case, highly recommended if you’ve read the first volume.

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