I have long loved this comic, and its cover. Unlike Moon Knight last week, there is no poetic liscense being applied here: this is the story in one picture, with two lines of text. We really get all we need to know on the cover, but what really happens inside?
We find Thor flying over Chicago, having a jolly, smiley time of it. Then, he spots a crowd. Knowing that crowds usually mean trouble, he checks out the situation. Sure enough, there’s trouble: a girl is standing on a building’s ledge, and she’s gonna jump. Thor flys to the rescue.
He gets beneath her, he catches her, and returns her safely to the ground. If this was New York, Spider-Man’s ego would have been severely bruised. I can hear ol’ Pete now, going on about fancy Thor and his smiles, hair, and ability to save beautiful women falling from great heights.
Anyways, on the ground, Thor finds that the crowd respects him. Well, more than that. Some of the crowd literally worship him. Embarassed by their worship, Thor asks them to stop. “There are more powerful beings than me in the universe” he says. He tries to be humble, but really, he’s a god.
Meanwhile, in the menacingly named Blackwood seminary, young Arthur Blackwood is throwing a tantrum. His forebearers founded the seminary, and how DARE anyone allow a newscast about a Pagan god be broadcast there? His angry tone begets some admonishment from the priest in charge of the seminary. Arthur, embarassed and pissed off, pretty much insinuates that the Church has no balls anymore and that a Crusade against Thor is what is in order. The priest tries to reason with Blackwood and is slugged in the jaw for his efforts. Needless to say, forebearers or not, Blackwood is blackballed and out of seminary he goes.
Meanwhile, Thor returns home. Sif, dressed like a conservative Barbarella, is having a hard time dealing with modern life. As Thor’s wife, she wants to spend time with him, but earth just isn’t cutting the mustard with her. Thor, in his Doctor Blake persona, corrects her speech and tries to get her to fit in. While he may be living in the modern world, he certainly isn’t “with it”. Telling your wife to change is like telling a cop his pants are wrinkly. It might have been intended for the better, but it will likely end worse for you.
Before this turns into a full-on domestic fight, the mayor comes on TV. Thor is to be given the key to the city. Blake/Thor decides that he’ll go accept this award and use the chance to square things with his followers: he’ll tell them to cut it out, and life will be good. However, we’re only halfway through the book, so we know it’s going to get worse.
Blackwood arrives at a cemetary. The groundskeeper, Polowski, is a simple-seeming man that always refers to himself by name. He allows Blackwood into the Blackwood family mausoleum, where Blackwood confronts his ancestors. The ghost of his father, who looks like Teddy Roosevelt, appears and charges Blackwood of not living up to the family’s tradition of kicking ass in the Name of God. Blackwood gets all excited; he sees his ancestors from a dozen generations before him and he is ready to go out and KILL.
His is knocked loopy by the vision, and when he awakes, finds a sword, shield, and other knightly accoutrements have materialized for his use. Polowski, tired of the life of a gave digger, becomes Blackwood’s squire.
Next, we find the crowd at Thor’s key ceremony getting restless. Pro-Thor forces and anti-Thor activists have arrived. A news reporter interviews a variety of folks to get their differing takes on the subject. We’re given a good cross section of your typical television interviewees: “Go back to Olympus!” says one. Another is beaming with love for Thor. A third says hi to his mom. The last one spots Thor arriving and we cut to him landing on the stage and accepting the key.
We then get one of my favourite Marvel ads ever:
Doctor Octopus, Doctor Doom, and the disembodied but well-educated head of Magneto singing Christmas carols outside while Spidey is the pitchman and Santa all rolled into one. Looks like someone was good: they got Ghost Rider in their stocking. However, what I love about this the most is that it appears in an April issue. And we say the Christmas is starting earlier now 🙂
So, after a nice ovation (SFX: CLAP CLAPPLAUSE!) Thor prepares to give his speech and is interrupted by Blackwood, now transformed into The Crusader. He “raises his sword of faith” against Thor’s “Pagan hammer of immorality” and expresses his outrage in a very verbose manner.
The anti-Thor elements in the crowd like the cut of this guy’s jib. They get riled up, but so do the pro-Thor folks. Picture this:
A woman, wearing a dress that shows some side boob, is cut up to the hip, and plunges to mid-chest, rallies against the hate-speak of the anti-Thor folks by saying “No! Leave us alone! Thor is goodness, life, and love!” By the by, she’s the same girl Thor saved earlier. Meanwhile, an orange-haired bastard child of Archie and Eddie Brock swats at her, saying, “Listen, you lousy atheist witch. I don’t want the likes of you influencing my two girls.”
I’m pretty sure that by this point, neither side is making too much theological sense.
On the next panel, he slugs the girl with a mighty sound effect: CHUD
Thor tells the audience, more or less, to calm the fuck down as he calls down 3 bolts of lightning. Thor calls out The Crusader, saying if there’s gonna be a fight, it’ll be between him and his enemy. They exchange blows, and it turns out that The Crusader isn’t that bad. He’s holding his ground. Polowski is astonished to find that his new boss has strength to match Thor’s and feels pretty good about his new position in life.
The comic ends after The Crusader cuts Thor with a mighty slash. The last panel is Thor, teeth grinding, gash down his face dripping with blood, and wringing his hammer. He vows that he won’t hold back any longer.
Overall, it was a compelling issue. Thor dealing with having a cult was an interesting angle, and one that I’m unsure if they have delt with before or since. However, what I found most interesting was how much The Crusader’s origin read like a pagan myth. Seriously: given great weapons and strength through the blessing of your ancestors hardly seems to be the sort of thing that would happen in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
That said, I don’t think that Blackwood meditated over-much about how fishy it all seemed. I mean, shouldn’t there have been an angel involved or something? Maybe a sign from God? It made me think that Loki must have been behind the whole scheme. However, unable to find more info about this story arc, I remain in the dark.