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[This story contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.]
Although Mjolnir was destroyed in last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, a Thunder God without a weapon is hardly a Thunder God at all…which explains one of the subplots of Avengers: Infinity War. Fittingly, some of the roots of what happened come from the very same comic book run that inspired much of Ragnarok director Taiki Waititi’s hit Marvel movie.
In Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) — accompanied by Groot and Rocket — travels to Nidavellir, where a new weapon is forged for him: an ax called Stormbreaker. The weapon comes courtesy of Eitri (Peter Dinklage), and it allows him to return to Earth just in time to help his friends in a battle in Wakanda. Although the name lacks the Nordic ring of Thor’s previous hammer, “Stormbreaker” nonetheless is likely to have a familiar ring for comic book fans, because it’s the alternate hammer forged on Odin’s orders in 1984’s Thor No. 339, the third issue of the beloved run of issues by writer/artist Walter Simonson.
Arguably more than co-creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Simonson’s presence was felt throughout Thor: Ragnarok; it was his work that informed the use of both Hela (Cate Blanchett) and Skurge, the Executioner (Karl Urban), and the humor of the movie more closely resembled the wit of Simonson than the bombast of Lee and Kirby.
Simonson’s humor was at play in the circumstances surrounding Stormbreaker’s creation in comic book mythology; it was created after Thor was defeated in battle — on two separate occasions — by an alien with the name Beta Ray Bill, who was the sole defender of his race, protecting their cryogenically frozen bodies as their spaceship explores the galaxies in search of a new home. As such, Bill was considered worthy enough not only to lift Mjolnir but use it in battle, ultimately winning the respect of Odin and being awarded a hammer of his very own.
(In a twist, Simonson/Odin used the creation of Stormbreaker to do away with a piece of Thor comic book lore: the enchantment that transformed Thor into mild-mannered Dr. Donald Blake, his secret identity, was transferred from Mjolnir to Stormbreaker, leaving Thor as Thor permanently and allowing Bill to transform from his horse-like warrior mode to, wonderfully, an bright orange alien with no nose. Why? Why not?)
Infinity War’s Stormbreaker, however, bears little visual similarity to the version in Marvel’s comic book mythology; instead, it looks very like the Mjolnir from a parallel dimension that has been sported by the comic book incarnation of the character in the last couple of years. (The traditional Mjolnir itself had been used instead by the female Thor, who has been Marvel’s primary Thunder God(dess) since 2014, until it was destroyed in battle, ending her heroic career.) In that, Marvel’s synergy strikes once again; the alternate Mjolnir will be the comic book Thor’s primary weapon moving forward once his new Thor comic book series launches this summer, to go along with a haircut that leaves him more closely resembling Hemsworth’s Thor: Ragnarok makeover.
Whether this means the cinematic Stormbreaker will eventually be renamed in honor of Thor’s beloved hammer — or, for that matter, ever seen again, considering its failure in its intended purpose — remains as unclear as everything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There are, after all, multiple other comic book hammers he could end up choosing from for potential replacements, including ones with names like Thunderstrike, Perun and, wonderfully, Crusher. At this rate, he could afford to lose weapons and replace them every movie from now on, if he so wished.
Avengers: Infinity War is in theaters now.
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