This job is getting too easy. I’m sure there’ll be more than a few less-than-stellar Thor comics in my future,but this week turned out to be a blast. Thor had a truly Asgardian adventure,fought the combined “talents” of two of his earlier foes,and today,he takes on a new one,the Grey Gargoyle.
While the Gargoyle is interesting enough as a villain,the real excitement in this issue is that the hero of this tale is actually “lame” Donald Blake. Thor does his part,throws the hammer,what have you,but this issue is a great story for Blake and for his relationship with Jane. An interesting villain rolling out of it was really just a bonus.
The story,appropriately,starts off with Blake reflecting on the events of last issue. Specifically that Jane had rebuked him for “betraying” Thor to Hyde &Cobra. As he prone to do when he gets worked up,he hastily changes to Thor. But this time Jane walks in immediately afterward. Uh oh…
I was expecting Thor to quickly set Jane straight about the whole ordeal. To make up some lie about how Blake and him had some agreement or something equally ridiculous that would right the course of the Blake/Jane relationship. What happened was much,much better. Thinking quickly,Thor launches into a rage and says he wants to have words with Blake over this apparent betrayal. And just when you’re not quite sure what’s going on,Jane jumps to Blake’s defense. And in pleading Blake’s case,she tells Thor how much she loves the good doctor.
Hot damn,right? The look on his face at this revelation had me smiling,but the next sequence literally found me laughing out loud. Thor promises to not hurt Blake and quickly takes his leave. He then proceeds to fly through the air,looping around airplanes like a giddy schoolboy. Again,I know I shouldn’t speak in such terms about a tough thunder god,but it’s really cute.
While he’s celebrating,we switch our focus to a strange man on the plane. He’s come to defeat Thor in battle and while he appears to be normal,it turns out that he’s turned everyone on the plane into a statue. That’s so Fringe…
We’re treated to a heavy flashback detailing the origin of this man,Paul Duval,a.k.a. the Grey Gargoyle. Similar to Cobra,he was an underling scientist that inadvertently exposed himself to some bad chemicals. He gained the ability to turn anything he touched into stone – including himself. Lucky for him though,because he just becomes a powerful rock monster while everything else turns into an immobile statue. After months of joyless robberies,Gargoyle wants something more. After reading about the events of last issue in the French press,Gargoyle sets out to steal “Thor’s immortality”or at least his hammer.
By the end of the flashback,word of the people on the plane (and later,a cab driver) being petrified spreads around the city quickly and reaches Thor. He quickly realizes can’t do much in his Thor guise and reverts to Blake in an attempt to treat the cab driver.
Grey Gargoyle watches from afar as Thor take the man to Blake’s office. He breaks in,but finds only Blake. After a quick escape to change into Thor,readers are treated to a nifty superhero slugfest. The funny thing is that it really doesn’t go well for either of them. Gargoyle spends most of his time on the run,but does get a chance at grabbing the hammer. He can’t lift it,of course,but he does get close enough to turn Thor to stone. With police on their way,Gargoyle makes a calculated retreat. First Battle:Thor:0,Gargoyle:0.
Stone Thor wasn’t terribly stable,so he falls over. But fear not,he doesn’t shatter into a million pieces like he probably should,he just “breaks”into two. Thor &his hammer! Fortunately,this causes Thor to revert to an unpetrified Blake. He quickly decides that brute force might not be the best way to combat the Gargoyle. He devises a plan and calls in a deus ex machina device from Iron Man’s “good friend”,Tony Stark. It has a fancy name,but it’s essentially a holographic projector.
After some Stark technicians hook it up to a motorcycle,Blake drives around and projects an image of Thor to lure Gargoyle out of hiding. With the pieces set,the game is on. After realizing “Holographic Thor”was intangible,Gargoyle goes after Blake &the motorcycle. After a brief chase scene,both Gargoyle and Blake end up crashing off the end of a pier and falling into the harbor.
Frankly,Blake’s a genius. The project and motorcycle chase was a bit over the top of it,but the plan itself is really simple:drop the stone man in the water.
The story closes out with Gargoyle trying not to die (I’d fathom he makes it…sorry) while Blake is credited for saving the city. In an amusing twist,instead of Blake &Jane having a trite moment with Thor’s name in the headlines,the roles are reversed. Thor again comes searching for Blake,but finds Jane reading about Blake’s exploits in the paper.
In all,this issue was pretty awesome. Gargoyle didn’t get a ton of characterization,but he got enough for a freak of the month villain and I know he’ll get more as the decades wear on. If I remember right,I even had a toy of him when I was younger…
The real highlight here is the Jane-Blake-Thor dynamic. There’s no stupid love triangle (those are dumb &cliché,please note that if you happen to be retconning an entire universe to get it back!) and seeing Jane profess her love for Blake to Thor was a lot better than seeing her pine over Thor as she did in the early issues. Thor’s reaction was easily the best part of the issue too. I have to say that these latest issues really make me forget that I’m reading comics that are nearly fifty years old and that might be the best compliment they can be given. Great stuff.
The Tales of Asgard backup served as sort of a sequel to Balder’s origin story last issue. We don’t really get much out of this one (though perhaps the spotlight was stole by the great main story),but we do learn a little bit more about Balder. It turns out he’s invincible by means of everything living thing promising to not harm him (cool);everything,that is,except mistletoe (not cool,m-toe!). Loki,bearing some ill will for Balder being looked open so favorably,sets out to kill him! Loki learns of the mistletoe from the Norn Queen and has a weapon fashioned for him by a troll,but when it comes time to slay Balder,the Norn Queen interrupts and causes Loki’s weapon to burst into flame. See,the oath to not harm Balder also includes the provision that they protect Balder as well. Doh,silly Loki…
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #107 along with some scenes from Thor’s fight with the Grey Gargoyle…