Thor #132: "The Dark Horse Of Death!"

Thor #132
 "The Dark Horse Of Death!"
 September, 1966

 Script Writing: STAN LEE
 Picture Drawing: JACK KIRBY
 Word Lettering: SAM ROSEN
 Armor Polishing: IRVING FORBUSH

 The hordes of Harokin have been defeated by the warriors of Asgard and their chieftain lies in bed nursing his battle wounds! Fandral found it a zestful skirmish and finds it a shame that it has ended so swiftly! The Odinson declares the land of Muspelheim free once more and the glory that is Asgard yet endures!

 The warriors of the realm step forth at Thor's command! They have fought the good fight and he bids them a stout well done! As they are dismissed, the God of Thunder summons the Warriors Three to his side! As Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral report to the Son of Odin, the immortals prepare to attend to their various battle wounds and refresh themselves with the waters of the bath! When Volstagg asks if the others saw how the barbarians trembled at the sight of him, Fandral is certain they could not contain their laughter at his considerable girth, and Hogun the Grim says that nothing matters... as long as the victory is theirs! The dashing one reminds his somber friend that he may be a master in battle, but a beginner when it comes to humor! Hogun assures Fandral that he has no time for such prattle! Volstagg senses a kindred spirit in Hogun when it comes to battle over merrymaking! Fandral finds that even the waters of the bath aren't enough to drown out the voluminous one's boasts! As the Asgardian warriors are resting, the defeated barbarians are gathered around the sound of a slow and mournful beating of a muffled drum... THOOM! THOOM! THOOM!

 THOOM! When Volstagg asks if the barbarians are summoning their forces against Asgard yet again, the God of Thunder assures his friend that it is the drum-beat of mourning and not a call to battle! Hogun the Grim knows that this particular drumbeat summons the black stallion of doom! It means that the death of a mighty warrior is close at hand! The stallion of doom has been sighted by the furtherest outpost and the gates of Muspelheim open wide... for none present would dare oppose the approaching beast as it heads along its pre-determined path... Its eyes do not blink and they gleam like twin demons! CLOP! CLOP! CLOP!

 There are those who flee before the sight of the ebony stallion... while others hold fast! Each warrior knows that the stallion will stop before one of them... the one who is about to die! Thor and the Warriors Three head for Harokin's chamber, to alert the chieftain of his followers' panic! When the voluminous one claims to be unacquainted with fear, Hogun asks why did he tremble at the sound of the drum-beats? Volstagg claims it was the north wind and the Grim one asks how can such a thing be possible in July? The fallen Harokin suffers from many wounds and they are sapping his remaing strength! When Thor mentions the black stallion, the chieftain knows the Dark Horse of Death has come for him at last!

 Although they have fought each other in the recent past, the God of Thunder did not think he severely injured the barbarian chieftain! It was not Thor's doing alone but the end result of the life led by Harokin! He has fought many battles... in many places... and with each new experience, a wound to mark the experience! He who had fought for war... who thirsted for conquest... now pays the ultimate price! But Harokin will acquit himself as a barbarian chieftain must! The Odinson knows that Harokin's battle prowess will be tested again in places other than Asgard! Thor may be the God of Thunder but the barbarian chieftain has heard the drums and the Dark Horse of Doom is in sight! Harokin has fought his last battle! Hogun has noticed the face of Harokin's healer and both know this to be so! The stallion has come for the barbarian chieftain and it with him that they will depart! The ebony stallion waits... outside this very chamber! Although they had met each other as bitter enemies, the heart of Thor is heavy within him, and he tells the others that when a honorable life is lost... we all become poorer for it!

 I first read this story when it was reprinted in a September, 1975 issue of Marvel Spectacular.

 I would have to say "The Dark Horse Of Death!" is one of my first glimpses at the art of Jack Kirby and easily one of my very favorites.

 Reading this at age six, I had the sensation of a grim aftermath, and a forboding for the appearance of the ebony stallion.

 On Midgard, mortals tend to bang the drum slowly, and so it is in Muspelheim.

 One is reminded of the Angel of Death passing by various houses and claiming the first born.

 Steve Chung
 "The Dark Horse Of Review!"