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Thor: Stormbreaker

by yo go re

Change can be a scary thing. A scary, controversial thing. But once enough time passes, what was once controversial can become a classic.

Nick Fury asks Thor's aid in investigating an alien ship heading for Earth; Thor arrives and triggers the awakening of an alien protector, Beta Ray Bill; Bill bests Thor and takes up his hammer only to be accidentally summoned to Asgard by Odin who thinks he is summoning Thor.

When he took over Thor in 1983, Walt Simonson started shaking things up immediately. His first storyarc saw the god of thunder defeated and replaced, which you have to admit, is a pretty bold move. The fans were up in arms (as fans tend to get), angry that anyone would approve such a "wrong" story. These days, though, Beta Ray Bill is a lonstanding character, and the story that introduced him considered one of the high points of the title as a whole.

Odin, ruler of Asgard, and Gaea created a child of both Asgard and Midgard (Earth). Thor was taken to Asgard to be raised by Odin's wife, Frigga. On Thor's eighth birthday, Odin had the magical hammer Mjolnir created, to be presented to Thor once he proved to be a worthy warrior. Eight years later, he succeded and Odin present Mjolnir to Thor, declaring him the greatest warrior in Asgard.

Funny, it was just a few weeks ago that we reviewed the first Thor Minimate, and now here we are reviewing the newest one, and it's wearing the same costume. Not the same mold, mind you - only the belt is reused - but the same vintage Kirby costume, with the discs on the chest, the flared knees, and the wraps around his shins. The cape is a separate piece this time, so he doesn't get a beefy chest cap - the discs and muscles are painted directly on the torso.

Many of the paint masks are shared with the Thor from the Classic Heroic Age box set, though they're simpler and brighter overall here. The bootfronts are shared between the two figures, as well, but the cape and (more importantly) the helmet/hair are new. The lower edge of the helmet is straighy, rather than dipping dowwn in the center, and his hair hangs behind his shoulders.

Thor comes with one accessory: his hammer Mjolnir. The mold is one shared with several other figures, but this one has the advantage of being printed with the "whosoever holds this hammer" text on one face - makes sense, since that's important for this set.

As the fleet approached the Milky Way galaxy, it was detected by a S.H.I.E.L.D. sattellite. Nick Fury asked Thor to investigate. Thor was deemed a threat by Skuttlebutt, so Beta fought him. During the battle Thor was separated from his hammer, Mjolnir, and reverted to Donald Blake. Curious, Bill picked up Mjolnir and the hammer deemed him worthy, granting him the power of Thor.

The slogan on the side of the hammer was the inspiration for Simonson's story: what if someone other than Donald Blake was found worthy? It had never been done before, and the fact that it was someone so monstrous that did it (comics being, as they are, a visual medium where the good-looking people are heroes and the bad guys are ugly weirdos)? Blew people's minds. Marvel got letters asking how they could do such a thing, which was exactly the reaction they were hoping for.

Bill is a prepaint of the Series 42 release, so he gets a lot of new pieces. The gloves, the belt, the boots and the chest/cape combo are new, and he gets newly sculpted thighs. Not thigh pieces, thighs. Of course, the head is new, as well, because there's no way to turn the standard Minimate tube into his horse-skull inspired face.

Since Beta Ray Bill couldn't very well keep using Thor's hammer on some kind of timeshare plan, Odin had the same dwarf who created Mjolnir craft a new weapon, dubbed Stormbreaker. It has all the same powers, and allows him to turn back into his natural, non-horsefaced form, but it has a much different design, with a round body, one flat face and one more like an axe blade.

Loki is one of several powerful beings from the magical realm of Asgard, who have been worshipped as gods. In childhood Loki greatly resented the fact that Odin and the other Asgardians favored the young Thor, who already had a nobility of spirit and excelled in all his endeavors. As a boy Loki began studying the arts of sorcery, for which he had a natural affinity.

Believe it or not, this is actually a Jack Kirby costume design - it's most closely associated with Simonson's run, but it was used as early as Thor #127, in a backup story foretelling the events of Ragnarok. Gone are the golden chainmail jerkin and panties, replaced by a yellow circle on the chest with colored lines running out to his neck, shoulders and waist.

The cape he wears is the same one this set's Thor has, just cast in yellow instead of red. He's ditched the big silly horns in favor of shorter, square wings on his temples and a little hooked V on his forehead. The hat is very shallow, just resting on top of the head, rather than coming down onto it, and he has the look of someone who's up to no good.

Sif was born a second generation goddess of Asgard, her parentage unrevealed. As a child, she had golden hair and was on occasional playmate of Thor and his half-brother Loki. Once, while she was still an adolescent, Loki decided to play a trick on her in retaliation for her preference of Thor's company over his. As she slept, Loki cut off all of her golden hair.

Yes he did. And Thor was furious when he found out, so he made Loki restore it. Loki went to the dwarves and asked them to create new hair for her, but he refused to give them the gold to do it, so instead they made her new hair from what he'd given them - nothing - and her hair became as black as the vacuum of space.

Throughout the run of the book, Sif's costume switched back and forth between red with white panels, and white with red panels. Sometimes within the same issue. This figure features the latter, but they could always re-release her in the opposite pattern in the future; that wild headpiece is unlikely to work for anyone else, after all. Her expression is angry enough to befit a warrior woman.

Sif is armed with her sword. Which is actually Swordsman's sword, but has been used as an Asgardian blade once before. The set also includes one of the clear "swoop" bases, with no clear indication of whose it is: Thor and Bill can use it to lift off with their hammers, Sif looks great in a jumping pose, and surely Loki can use magic to float, right?

The Stormbreaker Minimates set is a cool one: Thor and Beta Ray Bill you can pick up elsewhere (with slightly different paint), but Sif and Loki are unique to this box. You can order it from Action Figure Xpress, but if you bought it at the con, you could get it autographed by Walt Simonson, who has the coolest signature in comics. Seriously, look at it: he signs his name as a dinosaur! Name one thing cooler than that. You can't. I pitch out all my Minimate packaging, but this is one set I'll be storing in its box.

-- 08/29/11

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