Feb 1, 2016

Karnilla: Odds and Ends

Karnilla The Norn Queen: An Irrational Love Story
Part 9 – Odds and Ends
Ben Smith

For the past few weeks, we’ve been basking in the glow of the great Walt Simonson, due to my ongoing and increasingly more insane quest to chronicle each and every appearance of the minor Thor character, Karnilla the Norn Queen. It was mostly because of Simonson that I developed such an irrational love of the character in the first place, so it’s no surprise that he gave us the best stories of the character. Hopefully, that momentum would carry forward into her random appearances in the future.

Let us find out together.

Writer: Chris Claremont; Penciler: Arthur Adams; Inkers: Alan Gordon, Mike Mignola, Art Adams; Letterer: Tom Orzechowski; Editor: Ann Nocenti

The X-Men and New Mutants have traveled to Asgard. They come into conflict with Loki, in a storyline famous for showing a hammer wielding Storm. Near the end of the story, Karnilla boasts from the safety of Nornkeep that she had orchestrated all the events of the day, to prevent Loki from seizing Odin’s throne.

It’s a real shame that we only get but a glimpse of an Art Adams Karnilla. Adams is one of my all-time favorite artists. That’s not really all that revolutionary or insightful, but I don’t care.

THOR #399
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Penciler: Ron Frenz; Inker: Romeo Tanghal; Letters: Rick Parker; Editor: Ralf Macchio

Asgard is under siege by Seth the Serpent God of death. Karnilla looks on from Nornheim and wonders if she should get involved.

I know Frenz likes to channel the style of the definitive artists on characters, but this looks like it could have been traced directly from one of Kirby’s drawings of Karnilla. It’s oft-putting. She shouldn’t look like a 1960s character anymore.

THOR #400
Words, Pictures, Plot: Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz; Embellished By: Romeo Tanghal; Lettered By: John Workman and Michael Heisler; Editor: Ralph Macchio

Karnilla snatches the injured Balder away from certain doom on the battlefield.

Like he has so many times before, Balder pleads with Karnilla to help them defeat Seth before he extinguishes all life everywhere.

Later, Volstagg, Fandral, and Heimdall are hopelessly outnumbered by Seth and his army, when reinforcements arrive in the form of Balder and Karnilla, flanked by an army of Trolls, Norns, and Frost Giants. (Shouldn’t all “Norns” still be magically turned into stone?)

I remember liking a lot of DeFalco and Frenz on Thor. I loved that team on Spider-Man, as covered previously. I don’t remember liking this specific storyline when I read it the first time, and now, after reading Karnilla’s history chronologically, I like it even less. They absolutely erased all the development Walt Simonson did on the characters, and went back to Balder yelling at Karnilla about helping Asgard. They even rolled back her look. I love the Stan and Jack run as much as anybody, but if I felt like reading those comics again, I would.

Writer: Louise Simonson; Penciler: Terry Shoemaker; Inker: Al Milgrom; Letterer: Ken Bruzenak; Editor: Bob Harras

The New Mutants are once again in Asgard. Hela has taken control of the Valkyries, imprisoned the Einherjar, and plans to use them to invade Asgard along with her legions of the dead. With the absence of Asgard’s heroes, Volstagg’s children seek out Balder and Karnilla for help.

Karnilla wishes she could send her army with to assist, but they are still magically trapped as stone.

Interesting casual look for both Karnilla and Balder. I almost skipped right past this page assuming them to be commoners.

Later, Karnilla once again tries to break the spell over her people, but fails.

I did skip over this page, only caught it on the second pass.

Yet, the mighty sorcerer Tiwaz watches on from his icy home, and gives her spell a little boost. Thanks to his help, her people are still made of stone, but can move and speak again.

Louise Simonson is the greatest. She is our Goddess. Let us bow our heads and bask in her greatness.

Writer: Louise Simonson; Guest Penciler: Geoff Isherwood; Inker: Bret Blevins; Letterer: Joe Rosen; Editor: Bob Harras

Balder and Karnilla lead their army of stone in the battle against Hela’s invasion forces.
Karnilla begs a wounded Balder to rest, while her magicks keep the enemy at bay.

The New Mutants are able to break Hela’s hold on the Valkyries, and Hela retreats in defeat.

Writer: Louise Simonson; Penciler: Rob Liefeld; Inker: Bob Wiacek; Letterer: Joe Rosen; Editor: Bob Harras

(This issue is famous for being the debut of the extremely popular, for some reason, mutant Cable. It’s also the first or second New Mutants comic penciled by ‘90s superstar artist Rob Liefeld. I’m not as big a hater of Liefeld as others like to be. His art is better than the artists in the previous two comics covered above, for one thing. I know most of the ire comes from his disproportionate amount of fame to actual talent, but get over it already. Cable deserves far more of our ire, and yet he continues to exist.)

In Asgard, the New Mutants enjoy a feast celebrating their victory over Hela. An ice fairy arrives carrying a mystic scroll and vial from Tiwaz. The vial is for Karnilla, to use to free her people from their stone curse, as reward for their assistance in the battle against Hela.

Thus closing a minor dangling plot thread left over from Walt Simonson’s legendary Thor run. It’s good to have a wife in the business.

Writer: Ralph Macchio; Artist: Bo Hampton; Letterer: Michael Heisler

(This story takes place after the death of Nanna, covered in part 6 of this retrospective.)

Balder mourns his dead lover, Nanna. Karnilla approaches him, attempting to explain herself. She is met with vicious name-calling instead.

She presses on and explains how he only met Nanna through her machinations, and she is sorry for how it turned out.

As recompense, she has struck a bargain with Hela, offering her soul in exchange for resurrecting Nanna.

Before Hela can begin, Balder stops them. Balder doesn’t know why he stopped her, but Karnilla believes she does.

Balder leaves, not quite ready to forgive her fully. After he leaves, Karnilla removes her illusion of Hela, revealing it was all a big bluff to try and win his forgiveness.

If one were really wondering how Balder could have gone from hating Karnilla over the death of Nanna, to the relationship that was developed during Walt Simonson’s run, this answers that little possible discrepancy.

Writer: Sholly Fisch; Art: Sam Grainger; Letterer: Janice Chiang; Colorist: Brad Vancata

The Enchantress is sour about not being invited to Balder’s reception, an event presumably to solidify a political bond between Asgard and Nornheim (I’m assuming Balder is ruler at the moment). Karnilla presents to him a gem, as a symbol of their pact.

Enchantress wants to steal the gem, leading to a wacky adventure of Volstagg stealing the gem under her control.

THOR #431
Written By: Tom DeFalco; Penciled By: Herb Trimpe; Embellished By: Al Milgrom; Edited By: Ralph Macchio

The Wrecker reminisces back to when he originally received his powers at the hands of Karnilla, in a case of mistaken identity.

THOR #437
Writer: Tom DeFalco; Art: Patrick Olliffe; Letters: Brad K. Joyce; Editor: Ralph Macchio

Heimdall has banished Thor from Asgard for slaying his half-brother Loki. Balder and Sif have Karnilla try to locate him with her magicks.

She is able to locate five traces of the missing Thor, and gives Sif some enchanted Norn Stones that will transport her to each location to search for the missing thunder god. Balder gives Karnilla a passionate kiss before departing with Sif on their quest.

For some reason Sif is dressed like Paladin in this time period. I do not wish to investigate further.

I like Olliffe’s rendition of Karnilla quite a bit. Too bad he probably didn’t get to do much more with her. Also, for some reason Sif looks like Paladin. Did I mention that? I did. Well, it’s still weird.

Well, there you have it. Karnilla didn’t get to do much in this collection of tales. Most of them were used to plug up some minor continuity holes, or to serve her traditional role as go-to source for magical plot devices. (I’m not even sure she gets the status of go-to source for that, she’s probably option B, at best.)

At least her relationship with Balder seemed to carry over from the Walt Simonson era, except for the DeFalco and Frenz retro storytelling. I understand that all superhero characters go through cycles of development. Johnny Storm goes through a maturation process under every new writer, and then is back to his immature antics when the next writer has taken over. That’s fine for major characters that will appear enough for that to happen, but Karnilla doesn’t get enough screen time for that. For a character as minor as her, I much prefer any development to carry on from cameo to cameo, otherwise I can just read the Kirby comics again and get the same thing. If you’re going to revert her, at least do something new and fresh with the take.

Will the love between Karnilla and Balder survive the ravages of subsequent creative teams? Come back next week to find out.

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