Feb 15, 2016

Karnilla the Norn Queen: Heroes Return

Karnilla The Norn Queen: An Irrational Love Story
Part 11 – Heroes Return
Ben Smith

It’s been 10 weeks, you should know what this is all about. I love Karnilla the Norn Queen. It’s mostly because of Walt Simonson, with a little bit of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby mixed in. She sometimes gets relegated to bit parts and cameos, but all of the best creative teams in the history of the Thor series have featured her in a significant capacity. Including the previously mentioned Simonson and Kirby runs, as well as Buscema and DeFalco.

Something that may surprise you whippersnappers, but there was a time when the Avengers line of comics wasn’t doing so well at Marvel. It’s pretty unbelievable to consider now, but there was a time when Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor weren’t selling. In an effort to boost their profile, Marvel licensed those characters (along with the Fantastic Four) out to former superstar X-Men artists (and Image founders) Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. The characters were shunted off into their own separate universe as part of the Heroes Reborn initiative (think a reboot along the lines of the Ultimate imprint). The event had its successes, and its problems, and before long the Avengers and Fantastic Four would return to the main Marvel universe. Each character would receive a brand new title relaunch starting with a #1 issue, under the banner Heroes Return.

How and when would Karnilla appear again? Let’s take a look and see.

THOR (Volume 3) #14
Writer: Dan Jurgens; Artists: Mike McKone and Mark McKenna; Editor: Tom Brevoort

In this version, Thor is bonded to ambulance technician Jake Olson, who is greviously wounded, and is on his deathbed. In the ether, Thor’s life flashes before his eyes, including the faces of friends and foes. (It’s interesting how thorough these character appearances lists are. I wouldn’t want to miss this face-in-the-crowd cameo.)

THOR (Volume 3) #36
Story: Dan Jurgens; Art: Walter Taborda; Assistant Editor: Marc Sumerak; Editor: Tom Brevoort

Loki continues his stint in mortal prison, trapped in the body of Loren Olson. Karnilla arrives to free him.

She undoes the enchantment locking him in mortal form, returning him to his full glory.
Thor has similarly been banished to mortal form, so Karnilla seeks to kill him so that Balder alone may find favor with Odin.

Tarene (otherwise known as Thor-Girl) catches the eye of Loki, and he uses her soul to power the form of the Destroyer, which they will use to destroy the gravely wounded body of Jake Olson. The mysterious Marnot appears to remove the enchantment on Jake, enabling him to turn back into Thor.

THOR (Volume 3) #37
Story: Dan Jurgens; Penciler: Jim Starlin; Inker: Al Milgrom; Editor: Tom Brevoort

Thor is receiving a whupping at the hands of Tarene as the Destroyer, while Loki and Karnilla watch on from their secret location.

They look on with delight, as the Destroyer has Thor down and out, and prepares its killing blow.

THOR (Volume 3) #38
Story: Dan Jurgens; Penciler: Stuart Immonen; Inker: Scott Koblish; Editor: Tom Brevoort

Despite their recent differences, Odin decides to intervene in Thor’s battle against the Destroyer, much to the dismay of Loki and Karnilla.

But Thor does not need his help, and lets loose with his full might on the Destroyer, even though he has learned that Tarene’s spirit currently animates it. Before Thor can let loose with the winning blow, Odin steps in, sending Tarene’s spirit back to her body. A body in close proximity to the scheming Loki and Karnilla.

(Early Stuart Immonen art. To me, Immonen is one of those guys that just gets better and better on every single project. I like it.)

Written By: Rob Rodi; Art By: Esad Ribic

In the seemingly forgotten but excellent Loki mini-series, Loki has seized control of Asgard again, and has Thor locked in a dungeon in chains. Karnilla, having apparently assisted him in this takeover, arrives to claim her beloved Balder, as part of their deal.

Loki refuses to turn him over just yet, and she warns him that she can turn against him as easily as she helped him.

Later, Karnilla returns to offer her apologies for threatening him earlier. He agrees to turn Balder over to her, if she performs a small service for him first.

Written By: Rob Rodi; Art By: Esad Ribic

Karnilla performs a powerful spell on behalf of Loki.

Before them they see an infinite array of Thors and Lokis, from alternate universes. Despite her advice against it, Loki wishes to see the ultimate fate of every Loki. The fate is the same for all: chained to a rock with a poisonous serpent suspended above them.

Her task completed, Karnilla demands her agreed upon reward. The distraught Loki runs off, with Karnilla’s threats following him as he goes.

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

Young Thor sneaks into the armory with his friends Balder and Sif, and attempts to lift Mjolnir, to no avail.

(This has nothing to do with Karnilla, I just liked this panel of
young Sif questioning the enchantment on Mjolnir.)

Thor’s jealous brother Loki watches them in secret, and unleashes three giant spiders on them. They work together to defeat the spiders, which surprisingly impresses Odin, who sends them on a quest across Asgard to obtain four mystic elements that he will use to forge an enchanted sword. As they depart upon their journey, a mysterious figure watches them through an enchanted mirror. (Spoiler alert: it’s Karnilla.)

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

Thor, Sif, and Balder succeed in their first mission, to acquire a scale from the hide of the dragon, Hakurei. Despite Loki secretly following them and using his magic to impede their progress.Again, a mysterious figure in shadows watches them from afar.

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

In the snowy mountains of Jotunheim, the shadowy figure decides to take a more active role in halting young Thor’s quest, by unleashing upon them an army of miniature frost demons.

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

Thor, Balder, and Sif have paused to relax for a minute. When Sif leaves them to take a refreshing dip in the nearby pond, Loki causes some mischief by making Thor hear a cry for help. Thor comes running, only to see a naked Sif bathing in the waterfall. Sif gets angry, but it all ends in a wrestling match. (This doesn’t have much to do with anything, I just thought it was a fun scene.)

The mysterious figure watching them notices the young trickster secretly causing them so much trouble. Later on, Loki wakes up, having been captured and now confined inside a dark dungeon. His captor soon reveals herself, Karnilla the Norn Queen.

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

A distraught Loki catches up to Thor, Sif, and Balder. He reveals that he had followed them to the sands of Jennia, but was captured by Karnilla. Karnilla attempted to recruit him to join her attack on Asgard, but he refused (obviously he hasn’t grown to hate his home just yet).

The four youngsters return to Asgard to find it under attack by Karnilla and her army of monsters. The Asgardians eventually triumph, but as payback, Karnilla sends an arrow straight into Thor’s heart.

Writer: Akira Yoshida; Pencils: Greg Tocchini; Inks: Jay Leisten; Editor: MacKenzie Cadenhead

With the Asgardians sufficiently distracted by the fallen Thor, Karnilla makes her way to Odin’s chambers, where they lock weapons in brutal combat.

Karnilla strikes some early blows.

But Odin sends her flying into the next room with a mighty swing from Mjolnir.

He offers her mercy, if she begs for forgiveness.

She declines, and he sends her flying through the wall and outside into the courtyard. (Holy cow, that was a hell of a fight. That is the Karnilla I’ve been wanting to see after nearly 3 months of retrospectives. Wow.)

Odin is distracted from finishing her off when he sees his son Thor, dead on the ground. Of course, Thor is eventually revived by the accidental mixing of the same elements they were sent on their quest to procure.

The Asgardians rejoice, but their revelry is cut short when Karnilla takes Loki as a hostage, with a dagger to his neck.

Balder offers his life in exchange for Loki’s. Karnilla questions why he would sacrifice himself for someone that sabotaged them on their quest at every turn. Put simply, Balder believes in the good of every person, even Karnilla. Vexed by the heroic Balder, she disappears in a cloud of smoke.

(There are so many mini-series published at Marvel that my default assumption is that they aren’t any good, but this was a pleasant surprise. I love the Adi Granov covers.)

THOR (Volume 4) #600

(The fourth volume of Thor was renumbered once the cumulative number of all the previous issues of Thor from every series added up to 600. It was supposed to celebrate this impressive landmark of publication longevity, even though they didn’t stick with the original numbering in the first place, and Thor was cancelled for a span of two years.)

Karnilla’s only appearance in this comic is a reprint of her first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #107.

Despite my fears, Karnilla keeps plugging on with some quality appearances. They may not be plentiful, but they were mostly of high quality. Scheming with Loki to let loose the Destroyer is a solid, if not outstanding, callback to previous storylines. The absolutely gorgeous Loki mini-series didn’t give her much to do, but she looked so damn good doing it. Then, I absolutely loved a more vicious Karnilla attacking Asgard and even going head-to-head against Odin himself. That’s the kind of power I’ve been looking for from Karnilla since the very beginning. I did not expect that at all from what I assumed to be another run-of-the-mill mini. So far, the past few weeks have eased my fears that Karnilla would be relegated to minor cameos for the rest of her days. Yet, my to-do list continues to dwindle ever smaller, so the journey nears its completion. Will all this work pay by reviving me after an arrow to the heart. Unlikely, but there has to be some value to be extracted from all this, right? Right?!!?

Next up, Fraction!

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