Nov 3, 2017

So, That Skurge Scene in Thor: Ragnarok...

I have seen Thor: Ragnarok twice. That's enough times for me to decide it's my favorite solo-billed superhero film ever. I loved how fun it was, just the sheer experience of it. And I loved how it so clearly embraced comics. Virtually everything on the Grandmaster's world, Sakaar, was straight from the pen of the King of Comics, Jack Kirby, while virtually everything on Asgard felt like it came right out of a Walter Simonson comic. I'm mostly talking about the atmosphere and the tone as opposed to actual events. Except for that Skurge scene.


So Yeah, Let's Talk About That Skurge Scene
by Duy

Skurge was one of the several subplots of the movie. As a new character in the franchise, he just wanted to prove himself as being competent, was kind of a coward and served Hela out of cowardice, and then went off to redeem himself in a sacrifice play using guns he got from Texas, saving Asgardians from Hela's army of the undead. 

It's a fairly straightforward plotline. And it's straight out of Walt Simonson's legendary Thor run. The thing is, anyone who's read that run knew instantly from the trailer that this was going to happen. The only question was how the movie was going to execute it. And it executed it well. It was kinda lost in the shuffle of everything else, though, and it got me to thinking of the differences between movies and comics.

See, in the comics, Thor was saving souls from Hela's domain, with an army consisting of Balder (Asgard's second-best warrior, essentially), Harokin and the armies of Valhalla, and Skurge the Executioner. Balder was armed with machine guns because the Asgardians had just stopped Surtur from invading the Earth and they took some of Earth's weapons, and Skurge had joined because, recently spurned by the woman he loved, Amora the Enchantress, he wanted a chance to prove himself.

Having retrieved the fallen souls, Thor's army goes on the run and reaches Gjallerbru, the bridge that marks the end of Hela's domain. Thor decides to hold the bridge while the others escape, which is when he's knocked out. It's revealed that the culprit is Skurge, and we pick up from there. You can click on the images to enlarge them.

It's more poignant to me than the way the movie did it, which in and of itself was well-executed enough. It's different. The effects are different. And we can attribute it to the following things:
  • History. The long history of serialized comics can be a problem in getting new readers, but executed properly, it's one of its biggest strengths. We've known Skurge for two decades worth of comics at this point — even if you jumped in only on the Simonson run, you'd seen enough of him to know that he had become a joke. The movies can't do that with too many characters just yet since they haven't had enough output for that to happen. 
  • Control of Time. Movies move at 24 frames per second and they take the viewers with them. Comics are more collaborative between creators and readers, and we can choose to linger on a particular moment. There is such a moment here in the silent panel where Balder hands the guns over to Skurge. It's, on its own, such a ridiculous and absurd image: an Asgardian god holding a modern weapon. It could easily be played for laughs, and despite Ragnarok's attempt to make that particular moment as serious as possible (it's one of the few scenes with no wisecracks), it doesn't quite make it. In the comics, what could be a comedic moment is serious, and it's helped by a silent panel at the end of the page, suspending time, allowing us to absorb it.
  • The Prose. This would have been so out of place in the movie, but comics can just insert narrative captions and it will work if they're good. Skurge's death is accompanied by some of the best narrative sentences ever put together in fiction, reading like it's straight out of old mythology:
    "The thunder is louder now. And Skurge is waiting. Perhaps he has waited all his life for this one moment. As the warriors of death ride hard down upon him, the Executioner turns his thoughts from the flowing blonde hair that always dances before his eyes... and begins to do the thing he does best! And though the Executioner stands alone, and the warriors of Hel seem numberless, not one sets foot upon the bridge across the River Gjoll.
    They sing no songs in Hel, nor do they celebrate heroes. For silent is that dismal realm and cheerless. But the story of the Gjallerbru and the god who defended it is whispered across the nine worlds. And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head, the answer is always the same.
    He stood alone at Gjallerbru.
    And that answer is enough."
None of this is meant to disparage Ragnarok. I love Ragnarok. As I've mentioned, it's my favorite solo-billed superhero movie. But it's nice to know that even with billions of dollars behind them, even with the visceral experience of seeing them on screen, the comics can, still, and should provide a different experience. In some cases, a better experience. And that's a good thing. Because that means we have options.

Skurge the Executioner's Last Stand at Gjallerbru was first published in Thor #362. It's available here.


Unknown said...

what did he say the name of his guns were?

Duy Tano said...

Des and Troy. Together they destroy.

Unknown said...

I laughed my ass off at that. Guns from Texas named Dez and Troy, as in Dez Bryant and Troy Aikman .

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