This article contains major Thor: Ragnarok spoilers.
Thor: Ragnarok is rocking theaters right now, doing gangbusters at the box office and receiving strong word of mouth as maybe the funniest, and probably the most fun Marvel movie in years. But to people steeped in Thor’s comics lore, it was also surprisingly heartfelt and thoughtful, drawing on one of the most interesting Thor stories of all time to tell a poignant coming of age tale for our hero.
So what exactly happened at the end of Thor: Ragnarok?
The movie is being hailed as a colorful mash-up of Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson’s takes on the character, and that’s largely true. It’s full of nods to Kirby’s Celestials and Simonson’s epic, lifting shots directly from the work of both comics geniuses. But the ending of the movie owes more to a 2004 story by a popular comic artist getting his first big comics writing credit, and an Italian artist who just left a shuttered indie studio. Thor: Disassembled was written by Michael Avon Oeming, famous for his work with Brian Michael Bendis on Powers; with art from Andrea DiVito. It came as Marvel was reworking all of its major properties for huge, immediate, subsequent continuity shifts – Avengers: Disassembled cleared the way for a relaunch with the biggest heroes in the Marvel Universe, while Captain America and Iron Man were immediately followed by iconic stories that have since been turned into movies (“Winter Soldier” in Cap, and “Extremis” in Iron Man).
Thor took a different tack. It killed everyone.
In Thor: Disassembled Mjolnir breaks in a battle with several of Asgard’s greatest foes, triggering the long-prophesied end of Asgard. The nine realms descend into war, and a collection of villains led by Loki and armed with uru hammers of their own rain destruction down on Asgard and its people.
Fandral the Dashing and Hogun the Grim are killed by an army of the dead. Thor discovers Volstagg the formerly Volumnious (now skinny from months in hiding) while leading a collection of Asgardian refugees through Vanaheim, land of the light elves. The Asgardians and Loki’s forces (led by Fenrir, Loki’s wolf son) clash, while Thor heads to the World Tree to try and figure out a path that saves his people.
He sacrifices both eyes for wisdom, and learns that the Asgardians are living out a cycle of doom to amuse a group of higher beings. So he gets really pissed, assumes the Odinforce (the omniscience-ish of his father), tells those higher beings to go screw, and cuts a deal with Surtur: if Surtur rebuilds Mjolnir, he’ll carve a path to Asgard himself and let Surtur destroy it in glorious battle. Surtur agrees, and as Asgard burns and is swallowed by Fenrir, Thor destroys the loom weaving the story of Asgard at the base of the World Tree, breaking the cycle of death and resurrection and ending the tale of the Asgardians forever.
The parallels with the movie are hard to miss: Mjolnir breaks in both; the Warriors Three are dispatched with little fanfare; Thor loses at least one eye before he powers up and Asgard is destroyed.
IS ASGARD REALLY DESTROYED?
That depends on your definition of “is.” In the comics, Asgard (and really the whole Thor family of characters) disappeared for about five years. Thor wasn’t published, Asgardians didn’t show up in comics, Asgard wasn’t a place, and it was common knowledge in the Marvel Universe that the Norse gods were gone. They eventually came back, but like all comics, that was inevitable, and the absence was one of the more brilliant meta pieces of that story.
In the movies…well, a planet exploding on camera is as final as you can get. Thor, realizing he can’t save his people and his land, sends Loki to revive Surtur to stop Hela by cutting off the source of her power: Asgard itself. A revived Surtur goes on a rampage, growing to larger than a mountain as Hela turns her attention from the fleeing Asgardians to the flame giant cutting through the kingdom. As the Asgardians make it away from the collapsing Bifrost, they watch Surtur bring down buildings and mountains before the whole realm goes in a big flash.
There don’t seem to be any plans to fast track a Thor 4 despite the massive success of this movie, so I think it’s a safe bet to say “yes, Asgard is gone.”
Will Thor 4 Happen?
In the movies, it looks like he goes to the windshield of the Guardians of the Galaxy’s ship, if reports of the Infinity War footage from SDCC are to be believed.
In the first post-credits scene, Thor’s ship meets up with what is probably Thanos, and he’s apparently found by the Guardians floating through space. It sounds like wherever the Asgardians are pointed, they’re not getting there.
In the comics, after several years of not being published, Thor returned by basically willing himself into existence at the behest of a now human Dr. Don Blake, formerly his Midgard alter-ego. Upon his resurrection, and in order to keep the cycle of Ragnarok broken, Thor recreated Asgard completely, only he did so about a mile off the ground in Broxton, Oklahoma, a little town 75 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. There, the Asgardians mingled with Midwesterners and turned Oklahoma into any other superhero home until a couple of years ago when Asgard finally went back into space.
It remains to be seen what’s next for Thor, Loki and Brunnhilde in the films, but if the architects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe keep choosing stories like these to adapt, we should all be in good shape.