Writer: Christopher Priest
Artist: Jorge Lucas
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens in the Old West, where we see Loki is busy leading a band of train robbers, and we quickly see that the item of interest on this train for the god of evil is a case of golden apples. We then learn that the consumption of these golden apples is what grants the gods of Asgard their immortality, and they were stolen from Asgrad by a troll acting under orders from Loki. As Thor & his fellow gods begin to waste away & Loki in possession of the golden apples that could save them, we see the Black Panther begins to formulate a plan that will defeat Loki & rescue the gods of Asgard. To this end we see T'Challa allows himself & his band of Western heroes to be captured by Loki and taken to Asgard. We then see him make use of an enchanted deck of card that act as a shield against Loki's magic, to make a distraction of himself for long enough that his allies are able to get one of the golden apples to a dying Thor. With Thor back on his feet & ready to kick butt, we see Loki & his minions vanish into the shadows to lick their wounds. We then see Thor promises to return T'Challa & his group to their home era.
While Christopher Priest does offer up a fairly complete story, I can't help but be left with the sense that this issue would be more enjoyable, not to mention easier to follow, if I had read the Thor issue that this adventure inserts itself into the middle of. The best comparative example that comes to mind is the film "Back to the Future II", as the final third of that film is far more entertaining if one has seen the first film of the trilogy, as we see the characters from the second film interacting with the events that played out in the opening film. Now as I mentioned before, Christopher Priest offers up enough explanatory material that one can follow this story without having read the original Thor story. However, in order to keep the material reader friendly there's quite a bit of information dumped on the unsuspecting reader, and this final chapter ends up feeling like the Black Panther adventure is in direct competition with the Thor material. The book also requires some rather unintelligent behavior on Loki's part, as we see him cast a spell on a deck of cards that provides the party holding this deck complete immunity from his powers.
This visit to Marvel's Old West was a rather chaotic affair, and one does get the sense that this could've been a far better story if it had been given another issue to flesh out it's ideas a bit more. I mean Christopher Priest does a fairly creditable job tying all the various plots together, and while there are some rather abrupt solutions in this issue, I'd much rather read a book with too much story for it's pages, than one that was padded to stretch it over another issue. This issue is full of impressive moments, from Loki's use of the stolen locomotive to journey to Asgard, to the cooler than heck scene where the Black Panther stands up to Loki & offers him a chance to surrender. The book also manages to stack the odds so that there are moments in this story where one is left to wonder if Christopher Priest has bitten off more than he can chew on this material. However, in the end this issue did deliver a few too many moments where the Black Panther's victory felt a little too easy, as while I admire Thor's power, Loki has never struck me as a villain who would flee the moment he saw his brother was no longer incapacitated.
Jorge Lucas turns in a great looking issue, as that one-page spread of the flying locomotive currently sits as one of the most impressive visual moments that I'm seen this year. I mean, that shot is a truly amazing piece of art, and the follow-up sequence as we see it turn into a moving battlefield made for one memorable set piece. There's also something inherently impressive about the panel where we see the train speeding down the Rainbow Bridge into Asgard. The art also turns in strong work on the lesser moments, from the rather amusing panel where Sundance is dunked in the boiling vat to prove that he can't be harmed, to the panel where Loki discovers the trolls didn't make a meal out of that interfering band of mortal insects. I also enjoyed the credit page shot of Black Panther arriving in fine cowboy style amidst a cloud of dust and the sound of galloping hooves. There's also a couple nice panels of Thor arriving on the scene, with the one in the final pages of the issue being a particularly impressive shot. I also rather liked the cover to this issue, though I'm curious why Kid Colt didn't rate an appearance on the cover.
A very busy issue, as we have over a half-dozen guest-characters running around, and a plot involving Loki & his latest plan to destroy the gods of Asgard. There's also a magic deck of cards, a flying/dimension hopping locomotive, immorality granting golden apples, and Everett K. Ross' chance meeting with his great-grandfather. Now Christopher Priest deserves full marks for keeping all these balls in the air, and even more praise for successfully weaving his story into a fairly coherent one (provided you were paying close attention). Now the condensed nature of the issue does result in some ideas getting rather hurried resolutions, and the enchanted deck of cards acting as a means to shield T'Challa from Loki's magic was a bit too convenient for my liking. However, this issue does offer up a couple of jaw-dropper scenes, with the flying locomotive being particularly memorable, and overall it was a fun romp into an old Thor issue.
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