Friday, December 18, 2015

Doom! (Marvel Comics)
Thor #337 When: November 1983
Why: Walt Simonson How: Walt Simonson

The Story So Far...
When an experimental warp probe captures images of an unidentified, star destroying ship -- Director of SHIELD: Nick Fury has no choice but to call in the heavy artillery! With the probe destroyed by the alien craft, SHIELD has no way of knowing what will happen when it completes a light speed course headed straight for Earth!

So, why are Fury and his boys making a covert nab of a mild mannered physician who walks Central Park with a cane? Because Colonel Fury is one of the few men on Earth who knows Dr. Donald Blake is really The Mighty Thor - god of thunder! When he taps his cane, he becomes the only hero capable of travelling into deep space to confront the hostile space ship!

Little does Thor realize, his connection to the plight of the occupants inside goes far deeper than SHIELD's convenience -- and what he finds inside will be unlike anything he's ever encountered before!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Draw 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Draw 3 (Street Wise)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Draw 6 (Generator)
Agility: Draw 2 (Average)
Fighting: Draw 6 (Warrior)
Energy: Draw 5 (Lasers)

It's been nothing but close battles for the 10th Anniversary of The Comic Book Fight Club, but we're yet to have a match-up as literally even as this!
Inherently strong, and gifted with the weapons of Norse gods - both of today's competitors owe much of their renowned might to a mutual source. Differing more greatly are their origins, and the favour they receive from Odin. Factors that will weigh heavily into today's legendary superfight spotlight!

We've seen Beta Ray Bill in action just once before on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths, standing toe-to-toe with cosmic super heavyweight: The Silver Surfer [Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #2]! That's a resounding endorsement of Bill's power, but there's a big difference between that 2009 story, and his first appearance in today's 1983 issue: He doesn't yet have the Uru forged hammer Stormbreaker!

Bill's no slouch when unarmed. He's a Korbonite redesigned by his people to be their ultimate warrior! Through bio-engineering and technological enhancement he possesses phenomenal super strength, enhanced endurance, stamina, and reflexes. He's also a supremely skilled hand-to-hand fighter. A living weapon strong enough to stand up to the demon hordes of Surtur - their primary threat!

The original hammer-meister of Marvel Comics is, of course, Thor! A Norse god by birthright, he's wielded his enchanted hammer Mjolnir in recorded victories against: Super-Skrull [Thor #465], Dr. Doom [Heroes Reborn: The Return #4], Red Hulk [Hulk #6], and two titans of DC Comics: Captain Marvel [Marvel versus DC #2] and Superman [JLA/Avengers #1]!

As résumés go, it's one of the finest, showcasing an ability to beat some of the most powerful characters in two universes - but it isn't perfect! Thor and the Avengers were overwhelmed by the raw power of the unstoppable Destroyer armor in Thor (Vol. 2) #1, and they succumbed to surprise tactics from Ghost Rider in 1981's Avengers #214!

Ghost Rider wasn't worthy enough to wield the enchanted hammer Mjolnir, but he was able to use its natural return trajectory against its master! Sometimes the Odinson takes his weapon for granted, and it's around this time he will revert to frail mortal Dr. Donald Blake when separated from his hammer for more than sixty seconds. Given that Thor can summon the hammer at will, it's no mean feat to play keep away - but it's an important weakness for the few strong, or cunning enough, to take advantage of it!

The Tape: Draw Ranking: Thor (#28)

What Went Down...
Using Mjolnir to traverse time and space, Thor reaches his destination in deep space - coming face-to-hull with the warship Skuttlebutt!
Even as it outpaces the thunderer the mighty machine scans his energies -- detecting a similarity with that of the true enemy that sent the warship on its mission: the deadly demons of Surtur!

Skuttlebutt fires on an unprepared Thor, who returns his own assault with a toss of his enchanted hammer! It breaches the hull, allowing Earth's defender to do his job and learn more about the threat. Inside, he recognizes a ship very much alive, and a "coldsleep defense" procedure just as living!

A giant hand explodes from a mysterious crystal and clutches Thor's inquisitive skull! The creature hurls him across the room and reveals itself - the engineered living Korbonite weapon that is: Beta Ray Bill!

As Bill threatens what he believes to be another demon agent of Surtur, he knows not the cape on which he truly tugs! Thor lets him know, swinging Mjolnir with a mighty upward strike that sends Bill flying and echoes his objection!

Bill recovers quickly, lunging at Thor with murderous intent! Mjolnir spills from Thor's grasp as the alien grapples with his wrists. The living ship Skuttlebutt has given Bill the language to engrave Thor's epitaph. Thor turns the ship against Bill, ripping at its metal walls to toss them at his foe!

The improvised metal work causes vital damage to Skuttlebutt, but fails to slow Beta Ray Bill. He rushes Thor again. The force of his right hand colliding with Thor's skull sends the thunder god's helmet airborne! It's a blow unrivalled by any of Thor's greatest foes! Were the fate of Earth not hanging in the balance, he would relish the combat. Instead, the dishevelled god fires back with a left cross and a challenge to yield. "Only in death!"

His opponent shows no signs of quitting, but Thor has vowed to protect the Earth. He knows he must strike a winning blow, but in the heat of battle, he hasn't retrieved the magic mallet Mjolnir!

The damage caused to Skuttlebutt had expedited the need for the ship to land, sending it on an accelerated course toward Earth! The proximity restores the effect of the enchantment that causes Thor to revert to Dr. Donald Blake when separated form his hammer!

He has no time to act! Bill descends upon his opponent, believing the new form to be an ill conceived tactic! A devastating blow knocks the helpless mortal out cold!

Bill doesn't question the fortune of the strange sequence of events. Instead, he seeks Mjolnir as a means of enhancing his power in the fight against Surtur. Finding only Dr. Blake's walking stick, Bill strikes it in anger -- activating the magic that transforms him into a thunder god!

The Hammer...
"Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." As we can clearly see - Beta Ray Bill is worthy! He's also the winner in yet another classic comic book confrontation for our 10th Anniversary!

There were a lot of prospective contenders for the Secret Wars on Infinite Earths anniversary month. I've always favoured a mixed bag approach, but I felt it was time to touch on some of the big battles we'd overlooked. This one kinda provides both -- a well known modern classic, but still a little leftfield.

It's debatable whether this is the best fight between the pair. They have another more evenly matched, more meaningful showdown a couple of issues later. This is the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill, though, and that put it over with me. I enjoy the issue just fine, but I love Beta Ray Bill. A milestone we had to have!

I really must impress on intrepid new readers the significance of this issue's event. Noble characters lifting Thor's hammer has become a bit of a modern cliché, but Beta Ray Bill was the first, and most shocking! Well, okay... Wonder Woman was pretty shocking [Marvel versus DC #3], but lets stay on point...

It's kind of a no brainer. The hammer isn't sworn to Thor - the powers are on offer to anyone worthy of them! An Arthurian twist given an extra jolt by the mad genius of Walt Simonson, who didn't take the obvious route of another golden haired, gleaming, virtuous white knight. Instead he created a bizarre, horse-faced alien -- an unlikely figure, intended to appear villainous on sight.

The twist gives Beta Ray Bill a slight edge over many other derivative heroes, and would-be replacements. No matter how extensive the similarities - he'll never be Thor. He won't grow up to be Thor. He isn't a weak ass doppelganger trying to grow into Thor. This guy will always be Beta Ray Bill. A weird echo, a curious odd-man out in most situations: one of Marvel's best original expansions to their pseudo Norse mythology!

I tend to think he's exactly what Marvel movies need. The first two Thor films managed to be tepid and uninteresting, devoid of memorable villains. Building a third movie around Beta Ray Bill's arrival wouldn't just inject much needed personality into an A or B conflict - it'd provide the perfect organic bridge between the terran Avengers and the cosmic Guardians of the Galaxy. It's a short leap from Surtur's demons to Thanos and his movie minions. Bill could be a great addition to The Guardians sequel, before it all comes crashing down to Earth in Infinity War. I dare to dream.

Dreams inspired by Walt Simonson, whose Kirby infused energy I sometimes took for granted as a kid - but have tremendous admiration for, today! The kind of frenetic comics that go balls to the wall to tell the story. Pencils so crazed they don't always have time for posed hero shots, and are fighting the inks that try to hold them down! Good comics!

I'll be working through the holidays to make sure there's more good comics cheer next week! The Friday Night Fights of Secret Wars on Infinite Earths land on Christmas Day! Naughty or nice, there'll be a super showdown to deck the halls with seasons beatings!

Winner: Beta Ray Bill
Stats: Skuttlebutt - 1 assist.

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