The final issue of Thor, Marvel's longest continuously running series, promises the final clash to destroy Asgard. Thor has previously learned that Ragnarok comes in cycles, randomly killing gods and restoring new gods, in an effort to sustain Those Who Sit Above in Shadow. But what if Thor doesn't want the Ragnarok cycle to continue any further? What if the Gods of Gods are holding the Asgardians from their true destiny, a destiny denied to them for millenia?
The Asgardians are a noble warrior race, with each man, woman, and child living for a glorious end that will destroy all things and leave only glory and memory. However, as Thor has learned, the Ragnarok is a cycle, and a false end, which trivializes the very existence of the Norse gods. This cycle, and the gods themselves, exist only to sustain Those Who Sit Above in Shadow with their life energy, and are reborn as shadows of their past selves.
Thor takes his brother's head to Muspellheim to meet Surtur, the archnemesis of Thor and Odin. The Odinforce, in the form of a young boy, continues to guide him. There, Thor and Loki marvel at the destruction being wrought - Loki granted Surtur the power to create hammers similar to Thor's, and as a result, the fire demons are going mad with power, destroying all that they find.
Thor approaches Surtur with broken Mjolnir, which was shattered in the battle with Loki just weeks ago. Surtur asks if Thor wants a final earth-shattering battle, but Thor says that he shall not fight today; rather, he has returned to the fire caves to ask Surtur to repair Mjolnir. Surtur laughs at the notion, but Thor insists that it is fitting for the greatest enemy of the gods to repair the weapon using the very forge that brought about the end times of Ragnarok. Loki screams that Thor should not let Asgard crumble, but Surtur agrees, and forges the weapon anew. Thor promises to blaze a trail to Valhalla for Surtur, and does so, bringing down a mountain and unleashing the fires upon the rest of Asgard.
Surtur leads his demons to Vanaheim, crushing all in his path in a final gruesome battle. The Asgardians fight back under Beta-Ray Bill's leadership, unaware that Thor has orchestrated this final battle. Bill leads the soldiers well, but is teleported into space by a bolt of lightning. Thor apologizes to Bill, but says that he is not of Asgard, and must survive to tell the tales. Bill weeps, but understands that this is not his fate.
The battle rages on, with Asgard soon being consumed in fire. Fenris, the final Asgardian spirit, arrives and consumes the remnants of Asgard, save for Thor, Loki, and the Odinforce. The boy representing te Odinforce tells Thor that soon, the cycle of Asgard will begin anew - and his efforts to give Asgard her glory are for naught. Thor insists, however, that he is not finished.
At the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree of life, Thor leads his party to the Norns, the spinsters who sew the very fabric of time. Loki laughs that Thor cannot do anything, as the tapestry representing all of time is a continuous thread. However, Thor points out that there is one small thread from the beginning of the tapestry leading back into the loom - proving that time is a continuous cycle, and not something with a beginning and end. Thor knows that to give his people the glory they have earned, he must sever the thread, and thus end the existence of himself, Asgard, and in turn, Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, the Gods of Gods who have manipulated them since the dawn of time.
Those very celestial beings reveal themselves to Thor, begging him not to cut the thread, for it will end all - and offer their respect and praise as an equal for uncovering the true nature of existence. Thor rejects the praise, and the greater gods themselves, as he slashes the tapestry, ending all of Asgard's existence.
In a moment, all of Thor's thousands of years of life flashes before him, and he closes his eyes to take it all in. The celestials known as Those Who Sit Above in Shadow are no more, with nothing remaining to sustain them - and Asgard and her memories are safe throughout the cosmos, a shining beacon to those who have known Thor.
Thor recalls his times of glory, with Asgard, the Avengers, or as a mortal on Earth, where he found love, friendship, and wonder. He closes his eyes for the final time recalling his glory, seeing nothing else but darkness. He rests the slumber of the gods, with nothing else remaining for him to do.
A glorious end indeed for Thor, Odin, and Asgard. I find that Ragnarok is one story that truly has to be read and re-read a few times over to understand all that has transpired. Thor's people were denied their ultimate glory for thousands of years: their right to rest in peace, and to have their memories held on high. After finally realizing that he has the power and the knowledge to correct this cosmic wrongdoing, he does - and remembers all that he holds dear, from the Asgardian brethren, to the Avengers, to those he loved on Earth, to the villains he fought to save all he loved. Andrea DiVito beautifully renders all this in the final two-page splash, including almost a hundred characters, each forming an important memory in Thor's life as an Asgardian on Earth. DiVito and Michael Avon Oeming should be properly thanked for giving us the best Thor tale since at least Walter Simonson's legendary run, perhaps of all-time.
A tear comes to the eye.
Some people didn't like this story, but I contend that they didn't understand it properly. 5 webs for the end of Thor, the end of Asgard, and the end of the suffering.
This ending leads into the new Stormbreaker: The Legend of Beta-Ray Bill, where Bill struggles to find himself after being left the sole survivor of Ragnarok. It begins in January 2005, with Oeming and DiVito continuing the honors. Put me down for one.