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Comic Book / Thor: Vikings

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What happens when The Mighty Thor gets the Garth Ennis treatment? You get Thor: Vikings, a 2003 limited miniseries written by Garth Ennis, illustrated by Glenn Fabry and published under Marvel MAX, the R-rated imprint of Marvel Comics.

In the year 1003, Harald Jaekelsson and his crew of Norse raiders are cursed by a wise man for destroying his village and murdering its townsfolk. They set sail west towards the New World for a thousand years until they reach New York and do what Norse raiders were pretty infamous for doing. The God of Thunder attempts to stop them, but shockingly, he gets trounced by Jaekelsson who proceeds to slaughter everything on his path. In order to stop these immortal zombies, Thor enlists the help of Doctor Strange, who summons a trio of warriors from different time periods descended from the wise man who have the power to kill these monsters.

Unlike other prominent titles of the brand, the setting of this miniseries reflects the mainstream Marvel Universe continuity instead of explicitly creating its own stand-alone universe.

This comic has the following examples:

  • Ax-Crazy: Jaekelsson and the rest of his crew are also violent maniacs along with being zombie vikings, although unlike the latter, they were always like that.
  • And I Must Scream: Jaekelsson's final fate is being left to float above space for all eternity with his curse preventing him from dying, making him wish he would have been dead. A fitting and satisfying punishment for a monster who brought death and agony wherever he passed.
  • Achievements in Ignorance: That "wise man" was just trying to share some degree of his suffering with the monsters who'd inflicted it upon him - by casting a Blood Magic spell to curse them with a thousand years of suffering upon the sea. Jaekelsson puts an arrow right through him at fifty yards, and instead of the veinful intended, the spell gets every drop in the old man's body. Add in that the patrons of Blood Magic love screwing with people, "Everlasting pain" becomes "cannot die", while "sail for a thousand years without reaching your destination" becomes "dump zombie Vikings in Manhattan in 2003". As an ironic bonus, his spell inadvertently ended up creating beings formidable enough to overcome a Physical God in a straight up fight.
  • Action Girl: Sigrid, the Viking shield-maiden.
  • Attempted Rape: Jaekelsson nearly rapes a young woman after landing on New York, before Thor steps in to save her.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: Played for laughs, surprisingly. When Doctor Strange is looking at the wise man's descendants, he notices that one of them was a goatherd. At which point he immediately says, "Oh, wish I hadn't seen that."
  • Bloodier and Gorier: There's a wall constructed of severed heads, for one thing.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Harald Jaekelsson, after starting to ravage New York City, decide to indulge in some rape. At that moment, Thor steps in to stop him and tells the woman to run and not look back while he deals with the invaders.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The undead vikings are defeated and their leader suffers a very painful and deserving punishment. But the villains left such carnage in their wake that turned New York into a death camp in just three days where countless innocents were horribly murdered. The survivors won't recover very easily and it's expected there will be mass depression and mass suicides following this incident. While the three chosen warriors do survive the fight, they return to their respective timelines where each one of them dies in combat. Thor solemnly gives them goodbye for this will be the last time he will see them alive and ensures they are given entrance on Vallhala.
  • Blood Magic: The spell that turned Jaekelsson undead required the wise man's blood and his medallion. Therefore, those who share his blood are able to destroy the zombies and thanks to Strange's ritual, they also pass the ability to Thor.
  • Blood Knight: Jaekelsson isn't fazed in the slightest by the God of Thunder standing against him and cracks a smile in response. Sigrid is a more heroic example, as she fights the undead vikings while sporting a grin from ear to ear.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Magnus is a nice and friendly fellow with the propensity to act over the top.
  • Braids of Action: Being a female Viking, Sigrid naturally sports these.
  • Bring It: The cover of the third issue has Jaekelsson motioning with his index finger to the potential reader to do this.
  • Censored Child Death: While it is made very much clear that Jaekelsson's men butcher children along with adults and we see kids being attacked, we don't actually get to see any of them being murdered onscreen like with the adult victims.
  • Church Militant: Magnus is a Crusader introduced putting an entire village of heretics to the sword. Surprisingly, despite being a devout Christian, he doesn't mind fighting for a pagan God like Thor. Ironically, he ends up in Valhala when he dies.
  • Continuity Snarl: It is debatable if this was supposed to be part of the main Marvel Universe thanks to conflicting accounts of Word of God along with a number of moments that contradict established Marvel Comics canon such as Dr. Strange acting out of character, Jaekelsson and his zombies basically having cosmic levels of strength compared to the enemies Thor usually fights, a crisis of this magnitude not being mentioned in any other comic (namely New York being sacked by Viking zombies, and graphically turned into a slaughterhouse), etc. This comic is essentially Garth Ennis checking off all of his pet peeves on certain Marvel characters regardless of anything else.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Harald Jaekelsson delivers a vicious one to Thor, breaking his wrists and throwing him in the Hudson river. He also defeats the Avengers so thoroughly that they don't even show their fights, only them limping away in defeat.
  • Darker and Edgier: To be expected since this is Marvel MAX, but so much more shocking since its supposed to take place in the normal Marvel continuity.
  • Deadline News: A news anchor is reporting about the Viking invasion, when one of Jaekelsson's men bursts into the studio and decapitates him on camera.
  • Dr. Jerk. Ennis' version of Dr. Strange. Knowing he's outmatched, he hides in the Sanctum Sanctorum until Thor manages to survive a beating from Jaekelsson. Thor calls him out for this before sharing their enemy's Just Between You and Me speech, and thus armed with with intel straight from the horse's mouth, Doc applies a Greg House-level of snarky wit to the problem.
    "...I knew straightaway I didn't stand a chance against power like theirs. I'm Doctor Strange, not Doctor Suicidal."
    "Magic wouldn't be much use if it couldn't tell you whether or not it would actually work on someone, now would it?"
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Harald's is in the very first page of the comic, where he breaks a woman's neck by stepping on it, all while him asking his lieutenants if they killed all men and children in their village, raped all their women and then ordering them to kill them too after they are done. This scene not only tells you what you need to know about him, but sets the tone for what kind of story this is.
    • Sigrid wants to join her fellow Vikings on a raid, but she is told to Stay in the Kitchen.
  • Exact Words: The village wise man cursed the Vikings to "sail for a thousand years" without reaching land. They did.
  • Expy: Erik Lonnroth, World War II German fighter pilot, is basically Hans Von Hammer, Enemy Ace, one of Ennis' favorite comics.
    My country is in the hands of a maniac who has sold its soul to the devil. The men I fight have come to defeat this maniac's regime. Unfortunately, in doing so, they kill hundreds of German civilians every day. But the sooner they beat us and win the war, the sooner we're rid of the regime... so... God in heaven, no wonder I hate politics.
    Just once, it would be nice to fight for something decent.
    • Garth Ennis clearly only knows how to write for one comic-book sorcerer, seeing as Dr. Strange here lacks Wong (whose absence is never explained), a majority of his magical arsenal (like his Cloak of Levitation), and acts even more like a jerk than usual.
  • Eye Scream: Sigrid slaps a man laughing at her so hard, she knocks out his eye].
  • The Faceless: Magnus, due to wearing a helmet all the time and never removing it.
  • A Fate Worse Than Death: One can assume this was the intent behind the wise man's curse, having Jaekelsson's ship sailing aimlessly with its crew aging and decaying without dying for a thousand years. This ends up being Harald's final fate, as he is launched into space.
  • Five-Man Band:
    • The Leader: Thor, naturally.
    • The Lancer: Erik Lonnroth (not evident at first, but while the others are busy fighting Jaekelsson, he ends up killing all zombies singlehandedly by crashing his plane on their flying longship).
    • The Big Guy: Magnus of the Danes - large and imposing knight who towers over Thor. Also a Gentle Giant and Boisterous Bruiser.
    • The Smart Guy: Dr. Strange, as the resident magical expert.
    • The Heart: Sigrid - only girl in the group and has a clear moral compass (agreeing to fight because the zombies are killing children).
  • Gentle Giant: Magnus of the Danes is a very tall and strong Teutonic knight, in fact so big that he towers over Thor (himself The Big Guy to The Avengers) while standing next to him. Despite his introductory scene setting him up as some religious zealot who massacres heretics, he turns out to be extremely friendly and nice to others, he doesn't even object fighting alongisde Sigrid, who is a both a Norse pagan and a warrior-woman, which respectively clashes with his strong religious beliefs and traditional views of women from his time period.
    • This may be a case of Accidentally-Correct Writing because while Templars have a well-deserved reputation for intolerance towards their enemies, they were extremely tolerant towards their allies. Arab diplomat and chronicler, Usamah ibn Munqidh spent time with the Templars personally at their HQ, and he wrote that they were so accommodating they provided him a room specifically so he (and other Muslims) could pray in peace.
  • Gorn: Why it's a MAX title; unlike a lot of other stories (such as Maximum Carnage) that feature villains committing wanton and mass slaughter, this one showcases all of it in grisly detail instead of toning it down or having the worst occur off-panel.
  • Heroic Lineage: A plot point in fact; only those descended to the sorcerer who created the curse are capable of harming and killing the zombies, and the three picked by Dr. Strange specifically because of their battle prowess.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Despite being transformed by a garden variety wizard's curse, Jaekelsson seems to possess enough power and strength to have shades of this, as he's able to go toe-to-toe with a God and is capable of defeating him.
  • Horny Vikings: Harald and his crew represent the darkest aspects of vikings. Sigrid the shield-maiden is a more benign example.
  • Ideal Hero: Stupefyingly rare for a Garth Ennis comic, Thor lacks any kind of Adaptational Jerkass and acts as noble and heroic as his canon counterpart. Perhaps even more-so.
  • Jackass Genie: What jumpstarts the whole plot. Remember, magic users who actually know what they're doing like Doctor Strange - and even his human foes - are rare. Most mages are semi-skilled slobs playing around with stuff they got out of badly translated pseudofiction, and the results can be catastropic - especially when the powers they're invoking are in a particularly contrary mood.
    Doctor Strange: The powers that serve the runes are alien. No love for humanity constrains them. Think of a genie released from its bottle, granting its rescuer three wishes. Its immediate instinct is to twist and misinterpret the wording of those wishes, in order to shaft the poor bugger royally. Rune magic is not unlike that. So cursing a band of Vikings to everlasting pain results in unstoppable undead warriors. Though you sail for a thousand years you shall not reach the land you seek means they arrive at the end of the thousandth year.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Before kicking Thor in the Hudson's river, Jaekelsson tell hims to go die "the straw death". In Nordic culture, it meant dying in a bed of old age or sickness, which was considered extremely dishonorable since they were expected to die in battle. In the end, Thor denies a warrior's death to Jaekelsson by launching him into space, leaving him adrift and unable to die because of his curse. Meanwhile, the three warriors who helped Thor return to their timelines, with each one dying in combat and being welcomed in Valhala.
  • Loose Canon: Harald Jaekelsson has subsequently been mentioned in other Thor series that are set in the Marvel Universe. However, as of 2023, the events of the series - specifically, the undead vikings' wholesale slaughter of the residents of New York - haven't been referred to in-universe, and New York continued to appear unscathed in Marvel's other comics after Thor: Vikings was published. The events are referenced as canon by some Marvel handbooks, but that's all.
  • Made of Plasticine: Apparently, your bones turn into thin glass if you try to hit Harald, even with a melee weapon. Thor manages to break his wrists hitting him with Mjolnir.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: Harald Jaekelsson, until Thor punches him into space near the end.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: The god of thunder does battle with cursed undead vikings who own a flying longship that breathes fire. He also teams up with a Viking shield-maiden, a Teutonic knight and a German pilot from WW2.
  • Off with His Head!: After the cursed vikings make their landing in New York, they start slaughtering the populace, mostly by decapitating them. Their bodycount gets so high that the police are unable to enter a certain area because the road is blocked by a mountain of removed heads.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Jaekelsson is a prolific rapist and sexist, calling Sigrid a "whore-at-arms" and is baffled to see a female police officer taking up arms against him. Note that Deliberate Values Dissonance is at play, as he belongs to a different society and time period, and his sexism is far from being the worst thing about him.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: The undead vikings, dear God. A single longship crew of zombies manages to turn New York into a death camp by themselves in just three days, kick the Avengers' ass and butcher waves of US soldiers. Their leader even manhandles Thor in their first match with just his bare hands.
  • Precision F-Strike: Suprisingly for a comic written by Garth Ennis, it doesn't feature constant use of profanity, except for a moment where Erik kills all zombies by crashing his plane into their longship and parachuting just in time which it also counts as Bond One-Liner:
    Erik: Compliments of the Luftwaffe, Meine Herren. And don't you fucking forget it.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: One of the chosen warriors is Erik Lonnroth, a Luftwaffe pilot from World War II. With that said, he doesn't share any Nazi ideals and is less than enthusiastic about his country being in the hands of "a maniac who sold his soul to the devil" in his own words. He looks forward to fight the undead vikings, because he considers it a decent cause to fight for a change.
  • The Punishment: The curse the wise man lays upon Jaekelsson and his men turns them into unstoppable engines of destruction capable of killing anything on its path and nobody, except those who share blood with the man that cursed in the first place, can even harm (let alone kill them).
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Jaekelsson's MO. Its what started the whole series' events by sacking the wise man's town and as soon as he lands on New York, he starts the whole thing all over again.
  • Redshirt Army: The US Marines are saddled with this role, as they are sent into New York to stop the zombies and a issue later, their heads are placed on spikes.
  • Revenant Zombie: Jaekelsson and his men are high-functioning zombies, they just happen to be psychotic and violent because they were also like that in life.
  • Statuesque Stunner: Sigrid is a very tall young woman, nearly the same size as Thor and quite attractive with Magnus referring to her as "a fair maid".
  • Stay in the Kitchen: In her own timeline, Sigrid is told to not join raids with the men of her village and is expected to settle down and have a family, but she wants to have a warrior's life. The epilogue shows that she gets her wish, ends up dying in combat and being welcomed in Valhalla.
  • Take That!: The US President "appears" in the fifth issue, being completely oblivious about the effects a nuke on New York would have Washington, since they are close to each other. Given Ennis' opinion and the fact he was in office at the time of this comic's publishing, its evident this was a subtle jab at George W. Bush.
    • The miniseries itself was on the receiving end of one in a later Thor comic, when a flashback shows a female Viking cursing about "the gutless goat-lovers who follow Harald Jaekelsson". This is, in fact, the only reference to Vikings in any other Marvel work.
  • Throne Made of X: When Harald Jaekelsson sets up shop at the top of the Empire State Building, he has a throne made of bones built for him.
  • The Juggernaut: Its nearly impossible to injure Harald Jaekelsson, when Thor struck him with Mjolnir, he ended up breaking his own wrists!
  • Vikings In America: After Harald Jaekelsson and his vikings have been cursed for murdering the people of Lakstad, they then set off to the New World which they have heard to lie west of Greenland. The curse not only causes their voyage to last a thousand years, it also transforms them into nigh-unkillable zombies who sail into New York harbor and proceed to kill everything in their path.
  • Warrior Undead: Harald Jaekelsson is a thousand-year-old, undead Viking warlord who leads a crew of similarly undead Vikings. While possessing incredible strength thanks to the botched rune spell that turned him into a zombie, he's still just as skilled with his weapons as he was when he was alive. Not only do Jaekelson and his army overpower the police and the military, but Jaekelson himself defeats Thor in their first battle with ease.
  • The Worf Effect: To astonishing levels. How do we know that Jaekelsson and his zombies are dangerous? When Thor strikes him with Mjolnir not only he withstands the blow, but Thor snaps his own wrists while doing so. It gets worse in a issue later where he defeats an Avengers team comprised of Captain America, Iron Man, Scarlet Witch and The Vision, all of them formidable fighters and powerhouses, taken out offscreen.
  • Writer on Board: Garth Ennis is well known for his unabashed dislike of superheroes, and this comic shows: Thor is a borderline Butt-Monkey, Dr. Strange is a Dr. Jerk and the Avengers are curb-stomped by the zombies offscreen. It's really telling when they need the help of relatively normal people to fight the threat. That said, Thor does get to defeat Jaekelsson at the end, and it is spectacular.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: A variation in any case: they are not driven to eat flesh and their victims don't rise as zombies themselves. However, they are pretty indestructible, they murder and brutalize anything on their path, plunge New York into chaos and shrug off any intervention attempts from the US military or the Avengers.