Friday, June 3, 2016


Writer & Penciler: Alan Davis
Inker: Mark Farmer | Colorist: Rob Schwager | Letterer: VC's Joe Carmagna
Assistant Editor: Alejandro Arbona | Editor: Warren Simons | Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley

I'm not sure what I make of this story. Written and drawn by Alan Davis in 2008, it begins with a pair of scholars drawn and named to resemble Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as they debate the nature of the Sphinx in Egypt. Stanley believes the fabled statue originally had a different head, which was resculpted into the visage we know today. "Olivier", meanwhile, stands by conventional wisdom which says the entire thing was created at the same time.

This leads into the main story, set "less than 4,000 years ago," as Thor and his allies, Balder, Sif, and the Warriors Three, fight off a clandestine incursion into Asgard by agents of Nedra, Queen of the Frost Giants. The heroes learn that Nedra has, in violation of Odin's law, opened a portal to the Earth which leads to Egypt. Volstagg of the Warriors Three falls through the portal, so Thor and Volstagg's partners, Fandral and Hogun, go after him. In Egypt, the Asgardians battle a half-animal slavemaster and travel to Giza in time to save Volstagg from being sacrificed to a fire-breathing griffin at the order of a mad pharaoh. But the pharaoh is slain when the griffin gets loose, then Thor defeats the beast and brings rain to Egypt.

The action returns to the present as Stanley and Olivier wander away from the Sphinx, which we readers now know was originally an icon to the griffin, but which was, indeed, resculpted after Thor defeated the creature. The story's closing shot is on a hieroglyph of Thor himself on the side of the Sphinx as the two scholars depart.

I mean it sounds fun on paper, right? It just doesn't read that way. Sure, there are nice bits -- the misadventures of Volstagg and the battle between Thor and the Griffin are great, and, as is pretty much always the case with anything Davis handles, it's absolutely beautifully drawn.

But unfortunately, the story feels too short. The business with Nedra seems rushed -- what was she up to; why was she opening a portal to Earth, specifically to Egypt? We never find out, as she's not seen again after the opening few pages. And the stuff on Earth could easily have filled a few issues -- why are the Egyptians lorded over by half-animal slavemasters? Unexplained. Where did the griffin come from? Unrevealed. (If these are a references to some other Marvel story, a footnote or something would've been nice.)

The story raises more questions than it answers, and I feel like a four-issue mini-series would've been better suited to Davis's tale. It looks great, but it feels too small and poorly fleshed-out. I'm not sure how this turned out to be a one-shot, but it probably could've used a bit more room to breathe. It's another one I'll admire for the artwork, but I doubt I'll read it again any time soon.


  1. Darn it, Matt, you have to find your own explanations on a treat like that! What's Nedra up to -> she's making an extremely deep history bound cameo, having never really appeared outside JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #105 (1964) and wearing exactly the same Kirby outfit. Why are the Egyptians lorded over half-animal slavemasters -> you take one look into the real-life Egyptian pantheon and that's exactly is the question that arises. Why do the Egyptians have those animal-head gods? Davis rather goes to give a tongue-in-cheek answer to it: they were timid hang-arounds of an ancient pharaoh. Probably aliens. Whence the griffin? Don't know but a wiki peak reveals that it was a known artistic thing in the Egypt of that era.

    Special plus must come from the fact that the original griffin statue gets effaced due to Volstagg, and later on in ASTERIX AND CLEOPATRA the other voluptuous red-haired adventurer Obelix causes the human-headed sphinx to loose his nose.

    A kind of minus we must give from the Thor of four thousand years ago being some kind of outspoken opponent of slavery. Not in my Eddas he weren't. It bothers me when comic book characters like Thor or Morpheus from Gaiman's SANDMAN need to get out of their way to comment on the matter so clashingly anarchronistically and 20th century approvable way in their historic fiction appearances. And when I say characters, I of course mean creators.

    1. Fair enough; I just find it odd that Davis presents all this stuff with no explanation and no observation on how odd it is.

      I'm not sure where I stand on Thor's slavery speech. On one hand, yes, he's from the ancient past and he is still, at this point, the arrogant young god Odin saw fit to banish in those original JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY stories -- but on the other hand, he's generally always been portrayed (in Marvel's continuity) as a noble guy. He might never have stood for slavery, even at his most arrogant.

    2. I love things like this unexplained occasionally. It puts the creative juices of the reader onto move.

      And I find it totally appropriate that the Asgardian gods even of this time don't look kindly on the fact that the Egyptians are starving the people, except the ones who they work to death to build monuments to their vainness. They make a point even of the Heliopolitan gods demanding stuff 'without return'. Thor makes great work for his fertility god element in the end.

      I think my main hang-up was the too 20th century-ish blanket statement about "those who would enslave another", because even in the 20th century Asgard I think the likes of Enchantress and Karnilla have folks in apparent non-wages-paying servitude, and when Doug Ramsey was thrown to I think Viking Age Midgard and Popeye's court he was in slave-collar from the minute he arrived. It reflects badly on Thor to not have done anything to this societal injustice then.

  2. Anyways, the ending is a bit of harsh, because Thor leaves Egypt with sky raining, the griffin-headed sphinx effaced and the animal-headed would-be-gods looking for to be deposited, but what survives to the modern days is a sphinx carved into the likeness of the pharaohs, and the Egyptian gods remembered as animal-headed while the actual gods' statues in the story are clearly humanoid. Apparently there was hefty spin doctoring to pin the rain on their god-king pharaoh's noble sacrifice and his presumptive pantheon.

    But the death scene where the pharaoh claims to be "the first among the children of... Hel" is just hilarious in the context.