'Avengers: Endgame' — The Comic Behind Big Final Battle Moment

Travel back to 1988 to catch the first glimpse one of the film's most crowd-pleasing shots.

[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame]

It’s one of the most exciting moments of the Avengers: Endgame final battle. It's also a call-back to 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron — if not the first Thor movie back in 2011. 

Yes, Captain America (Chris Evans) proved worthy and called Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) hammer Mjolnir to him, wielding it against Thanos (Josh Brolin) and for the rest of the battle.

For those who might be wondering, this wasn’t the first time that Steve Rogers has wielding Mjolnir — that happened back in 1988.

The Mighty Thor No. 390 already looked like a big deal for Marvel fans back in the day; the cover showed the hero back with the Avengers, something that hadn’t been the case for a year or so by this point, as Thor had been busy surviving a near-death experience for awhile, and the Avengers had many missions to distract them in the meantime. But the cover was a feint; the story inside, “The Hero and the Hammer!” only featured the team in its opening pages, with Thor arriving just in time to help clean up after their last major battle.

Clean-up duty wasn’t all bad; it allowed Thor to catch up with Steve Rogers, who was going through his own problems at the time. He’d resigned as Captain America and taken up the (admittedly unimaginative) alternate identity of The Captain in response to governmental demands on his time, which meant that he was entirely available when Thor was ambushed by an army of Egyptian mythical figures led by the subtly monikered “Grog the God Crusher.”

During the battle, Thor became separated from his hammer, which was noticed by both sides. “My unexpected attack has separated Thor from his magic hammer!” thinks Grog at one point, before complaining, “Something is wrong! I can’t seem to lift this cursed thing!” Thor was less than supportive: “Fool!” he yelled in response. “Only someone who be worthy as Thor himself may possess mine enchanted mallet!”

By this point in Thor’s comic book career, it’s not as if no one else had ever held Mjolnir; indeed, a classic storyline just a few years earlier had been based around the fact that an alien had used the hammer and become an alternate version of Thor, and just months before the release of this issue, a flash-forward issue had revealed the Thor of the distant future when Dargo of the year 2537 had managed to lift the hammer for himself. Nonetheless, the idea of another hero using the hammer was nonetheless a novelty, leading to this surprising scene:

Unlike in Endgame, Steve Rogers didn’t use the hammer for himself. (“I’ve never wielded such limitless power before! It’s almost intoxicating!” he explained in an expositionary thought balloon, “But this hammer rightfully belongs to Thor! And he needs it a lot more than I do!” With that, he threw the hammer back to its rightful owner, shifting the direction of the fight for good. (The difference between this scene and Rogers’ use of the hammer in Endgame, obviously, was that Thor didn’t need the hammer in the movie, as he had his axe, Stormbreaker.)

This wouldn’t be the only time the comic book Steve Rogers would wield the hammer — he’d do it again in 2011’s Fear Itself No. 7, and an evil variant would, through means not entirely clear even now, be able to do the same in 2017’s Secret Empire Free Comic Book Day special issue — but it was nonetheless the first time, and a moment that matches the shock (and awe, let’s be honest) of Endgame’s big reveal. It’s also a sign that, maybe, it’s time for some evil Egyptian gods to show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe before too long.

We need a new big bad to deal with, don’t we … ?