The Mighty Thor #384 is an issue of Marvel Comic's long running Thor series, with a cover date of October 1987. It was written by Tom DeFalco and penciled by Ron Frenz, who were a top creative team at the time. DeFalco was just in the process of being promoted to Editor-in-Chief of Marvel, and Frenz had been the lead artist for Spider-Man, and would be the lead artist on Superman, meaning that two companies would choose him to draw their flagship titles. This creative team, if not visionary, was still top of the line. Which should be kept in mind as I discuss this issue.
Introducing...the Once and Future Thor
The First Issue of a Brand New Era
According to the cover, big things are going on. And we see...Thor? It certainly looks like Thor, with long flowing blond locks, a red cape and blue tights, holding a hammer
, and even with the flared yellow boots. But this Thor has spikes on his shoulder pads and gauntlets, and his trademark blue-circle fronted vest is open, and held together with chains. This looks like a new Thor... with some type of punk rock
theme. What is going on here?
When we get to the splash page, some mysteries are solved---only for new ones to be raised. It is the year 2587, and in Queens, two people are hiding in rubble. The fact that this is cyberpunk is clear from the fact that there is a "Corp tracker" out to scan them, and the girl is wearing fishnet stockings. The story unfolds: they are going to an underground meeting of Thor cultists, in Thor costumes. And there is Thor's hammer, Mjollnir, which a number of people, including the "strongest man in his dorm block" attempt to lift. But to no avail, it stays there, and the workers must tolerate being workers for the Corps. We then find out who is in charge of those Corps---Loki, God of Mischief, still around 600 years in the future, and still causing trouble. The next day, his secret police attack the cult, and by chance, our protagonist, Dargo grabs the hammer instinctively, and is able to lift it. He is worthy! He becomes the new Thor. After fighting off the Corp's secret police, he tries to put the hammer aside, but must pick it up for a cataclysmic battle. He wins, Loki is defeated, and he releases Mjollnir to find his true owner, the original Thor. In our concluding narration, he ponders:
Freedom is the most precious gift of all --- But it must be continually earned and nurtured -- as well as cherished -- or it will die!
Thus ends the story of grimdark cyberpunk 26th century Thor. as soon as it begun. The cover was somewhat of a bait & switch - it hinted that we were getting a brand new Thor, but what was brand new was actually the creative team on the comic. And in fact, this seems to be an inventory story, an unconnected, single issue story that they submitted because they were still getting to work on their main stories. And this is important, because the major idea in the story---that we face a dystopic future controlled by corporations who will surveil and control our every move--- was already a cliche in 1987. Corporate dystopia is still something that comes up as part of our modern political discourse, and that I still see as some sort of novel, edgy opinion, and yet...here we are, in a comic book in 1987, where "dystopic corporate future" is just used as a stock plot, and it isn't even for a new or innovative story, it was just the story for a fill-in issue while the team got their real work together. Not that I dislike this issue, as I mentioned, the creative team were skilled at what they were doing, and there was some charming novelty in the cyberpunk Thor, but to me, the interesting revelation was just how cliched cyberpunk was, even in 1987.