An Apocalypse in Asgard

Friend of the blog, Jeremy Caesar, has worked with the Collective before, but never like this. As a contributing podcaster, photographer and now, writer for the Collective, Jeremy is a renaissance man who has talent and opinion on geek culture to spare. Below is a thoughtful, insightful look into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Norse mythology and the history of Ragnarök.   



Ragnarok by Johannes Gehrts
Ragnarok by Johannes Gehrts

We’re two years away from Ragnarök, Thor’s next big screen adventure, but if Age of Ultron’s got you impatient, then the comics have got you covered.  published Thor #80-85 in 2004 during Avengers Disassembled, a crossover event that put our band of heroes through the ringer. These Avengers weren’t so dissimilar from their cinematic counterparts. Iron Man, Captain America, and Hawkeye were present, along with Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Ant-Man, whom we’re just now getting to know. I want to talk about the Norse god though, but I should warn you that to discuss Ragnarök is to discuss spoilers. Beyond this point there is only doom.

In 1643, Brynjólfur Sveinsson, a Lutheran bishop from Skálholt, Iceland, found a medieval collection of poetry. He gifted the manuscripts, written in Old Norse, to King Frederick III, who kept them in his Royal Library in Copenhagen. The anthology remained in Denmark for centuries until it was shipped back to Iceland in 1971. The Poetic Edda, as it’s currently called, is our fountainhead of Norse mythology. These tales of gods once sung by minstrels have influenced artists from Richard Wagner to J.R.R. Tolkien to Stan Lee.

Ragnarök, a series of apocalyptic events, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Book of Revelation. Both feature fire and bloodshed and beasts, but Ragnarök promises the end of the gods. The comic opens after Odin and his brothers, Vali and Vi, have slain the ice giant Ymir, whose carcass begat the universe. Odin breathes life into maggots tunneling through Ymir’s corpse, creating Brok, Buri, and Ertri, the dwarves that forged Mjölnir, Thor’s fearsome weapon. Loki, now free from Odin’s grasp, finds Mjölnir’s mold and fashions his own hammer to destroy the gods and rule the cosmos.

Loki Breaks Free by Ernst H. Walther
Loki Breaks Free by Ernst H. Walther

Loki has always been a shifty fellow, but when it comes to Ragnarök his focus is clear. He recruits all manner of monstrous foes to whet his appetite for destruction and chaos. Seeing Loki with a hammer is as exhilarating as it is jarring. Mjölnir has met its match, and Thor must pay the price. After a devastating blow from his brother, the king of Asgard calls on his friends for backup. Iron Man and Captain America assemble in Asgard, which has been laid to waste by Loki’s army, and naturally a fight ensues.

Despite the fantastical warfare, Ragnarök is a surprisingly personal story. Thor sends Iron Man and Captain America back home, realizing that this isn’t their battle. We see the brains beneath Thor’s brawn, and a heart that belongs to the Avengers as well as Asgard. Seeing Thor’s internal struggle was refreshing. I’ve enjoyed his cinematic outings thanks to Chris Hemsworth’s charisma, but the character has always felt slight to me. Writers Michael Avon Oeming and Daniel Berman manage to push the god of thunder to his physical and psychological limit, forcing him to use Odin’s wisdom and fierce leadership to defeat Loki and his armies.

At six issues in length, Ragnarök is a veritable feast for the eyes. Laura Villari and Andrea DiVito’s artwork bursts with nonstop color and energy, taking you from intimate scenes of grief and despair to expansive landscapes of fire and brimstone, beautifully complementing Oeming and Berman’s words along the way. The plot is well-paced and the cliffhangers propel you into the next installment. The cast of characters is equally impressive. Volstagg and Sif play significant roles in the action, as do Brunhilde and Beta Ray Bill. Ulik the troll and Fenris the wolf, an integral mythological figure, head Loki’s army, and the big bad fire giant Surtur engages in some epic villainy.

%22Then the awful fight began%22 by George Wright
Then the awful fight began by George Wright

I respect the attitude behind Norse mythology, and Thor’s penchant for honor and valor is infectious. If the gods are destined to die, then by God they’ll do it gloriously. When it comes to the end of the world we tend to focus on the negative, but you’ll find that most apocalypses actually end in renewal. In Norse mythology, Ragnarök concludes with the regeneration of a fertile world filled with surviving gods and two remaining humans. Even Revelation ends with a newly restored Jerusalem. In a world currently plagued by apocalyptic warfare, Ragnarök encourages us to break the cycle of violence and hope for a brighter future. I’m not sure whether the destruction will ever end, but I’m glad to have read a comic that implies that it could.

About the Author

From the page to the screen, Jeremy Caesar loves all forms of storytelling. He’s a photographer that writes film reviews and hopes to become a filmmaker. He digs Stanley Kubrick, Jessica Chastain, Sufjan Stevens, Disney, books, beards, art… whatever gets his mind going, and he’s always willing to talk to you.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter for more entertainment news.