[Warning: Contains SPOILERS for The Unworthy Thor #1.]
During Marvel NOW!, the realm of Asgard has been going through some intense changes. The Mighty Thor revealed a fresh origin story for Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, and the Asgardian weapon also appears to be leading Jane Foster’s Thor into a showdown between Asgard and the Shi’ar in "The War of the Realms" story arc. In addition, Marvel finally put Thor Odinson back into action, if not in prime form, in The Unworthy Thor #1.
The beautifully-rendered pages of the Odinson’s redemption story also brought back of one of Marvel’s most unusual and beloved intergalactic heroes – Beta Ray Bill.
The first issue of The Unworthy Thor finds the prince of Asgard trapped on a hellish world and forced into daily brutal combat. Readers are then taken back to the start of Odinson’s quest, delving into his obsession to prove his worthiness and regain his lost powers (as well as his fondness for mead). As Jason Aaron’s story progresses, drawn lushly by Olivier Coipel, the hero formerly known as Thor discovers that an alternate version of Mjolnir exists – a relic from Ultimate Thor and the Battleworld days – and has made its way into this universe.
On his way to old Asgard, the most likely location of the other hammer, Thor discovers that the entire realm is missing. He also runs across an old ally, Beta Ray Bill, who has a lead on the vanished former deity dwelling, as well as the possible culprits behind the Asgard-napping. Before he can spill the beans, though the Korbinite warrior notices that the son of Odin is hammerless, offering his own weapon, Stormbreaker, in its stead. Seeing as Odinson's currently trapped on a prison rock, it seems he declined his friend's generous offer.
Beta Ray Bill first made his appearance in The Mighty Thor #337 (1983). Chosen to be his planet's champion (before it was destroyed), Bill was cybernetically-enhanced and given the form of a preternaturally powerful predator from his home world. The first hero beside Thor to wield Mjolnir, he was given his own Dwarven hammer by Odin in order to defend his scattered people. Throughout the years, Bill has remained a staunch ally of Thor, Asgard, and Earth’s other heroes, even joining Canadian team Omega Flight and the Annihilators.
Aside from a cameo in Sam Alexander's Nova series and a brief stint in Journey Into Mystery 662-665, Beta Ray Bill has been relatively absent from the intergalactic scene. The prodigiously-empowered space-farer (who took on Galactus singlehandedly on several occasions) is a fascinating character who is known for his fierce loyalty and overzealous defense of the innocent (see the Godhunter series). Whether his run in Unworthy Thor will lead to further appearances in the Marvel Universe is uncertain, but fans of the Korbinite superhero do have reason to be hopeful for his return in earnest.
With the launch of a brand new Nova series and the Guardians of the Galaxy stranded on Earth, Bill could have another chance to step into the spotlight. Since Jane Foster’s Thor is about to fight a brutal war and the Ultimates are dealing with Galactus, there will be plenty of interstellar teams looking for a few good members and allies, as well as scores of cosmic scourges to smite. The time is definitely right for Beta Ray Bill’s return.
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Unworthy Thor #1 is currently available in stores and online. Unworthy Thor #2 ships on December 7, 2016.