I stumbled upon these issues at Philadelphia’s latest Comic Con, so I took a gamble and bought them on the spot. What I predicted at the time and later confirmed is that this story arc marks the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill. For those who are unfamiliar with alien, he’s currently Thor’s ally in the Marvel Universe. And like Thor, he wields a mystic hammer with tremendous power.
When he’s first introduced in The Mighty Thor #337, Thor and Nick Fury perceive Beta Ray Bill as a threat. Fury classified him as an enemy for harnessing stars as fuel for his space ship, Skuttlebutt, and targeted the sun as the next stop. Upon Fury’s request, Thor infiltrates the ship and meets Beta Ray Bill, a muscled, horse-faced alien that packs a punch. His grotesque appearance and aggressive demeanor contributes to Bill’s villain-like qualities. As they fight on the ship, Thor is caught off-guard and accidently transforms into his mortal alter ego, Donald Blake, as they approach Earth. Beta Ray Bill seizes the opportunity to take Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, as a spoil of combat. By grabbing the disguised hammer, it grants Beta Ray Bill Thor’s power and permission to use it as a weapon. On top of that, Odin appears and abducts Bill, who he mistakes for Thor, leaving Thor stranded in mortal form.
Fortunately, the dilemma does not last long. Odin and Thor eventually make peace with Bill, who’s on a noble endeavor. Bill’s body was bio-genetically engineered as an elite warrior, with the appearance of the carnivores of his home planet. Both Thor and Bill desire the hammer, so Odin organizes a fair battle between the two, declaring that the victor would take the hammer as prize. At the conclusion of the fight, Bill wins and turns down the opportunity to kill Thor, deeming him as too valuable of a warrior. Bill then feels guilty for accepting the hammer. After seeing such demonstrations of nobility, Odin pulls some strings to craft Bill a new hammer, called Stormbreaker, with the same abilities as Thor’s Mjolnir. Bill, Thor, and Sif journey to vanquish the horde of “demons” that endanger Bill’s race. After tenacious teamwork and effort, they defeat the horde. Though Bill’s race is safe, he’s still plagued by his grotesque appearance. So, Odin grants him the same enchantment cast over Thor: to become mortal when he pleases. In Bill’s case, he returns to himself before the experiments, so that he can fit in among his people. It’s a satisfying ending to a satisfying story, excluding the massive monster that emerges from the ocean crying a vengeance against Thor.
Beta Ray Bill creates much shock value with his first encounter with Thor. He seems like another villain when he appears, but when the hammer conforms to him, it’s a surprising and practically appalling occurrence. And Thor being abandoned on Earth is the final component for his misery, creating an ultimate cliffhanger. The last scene in issue #337 is literally Thor crying out to the heavens for his father, which is definitely a momentous moment. It adds more incentive to earn his hammer back. Bill’s forfeit of Mjolnir further displays why he’s worthy of its power, which isn’t as emphasized before the battle. The forfeit attempts to bring satisfaction to the audience, displaying how Bill isn’t just some no-name who happens to pick up the hammer. The arc validates his chivalry, making him beneficial to the Marvel Universe.
The arc was definitely more than I expected. It doesn’t stand out as the most prominent set of comics that I’ve read, but it extends my appreciation for Beta Ray Bill.