Greetings from the Odinson,
Since the very beginning mankind has challenged the gods. As Hercules: The Legendary Journeys tells us, in ancient times the gods were petty and cruel. And mankind suffered because of it. That was until from their ranks, heroes rose up to challenge the gods. Heroes like mighty Hercules himself, a mortal man with the strength of an immortal. Achilles raged against Apollo at the gates of Troy no matter the consequences he knew he would have to face. Cunning Odysseus outsmarted, outmaneuvered, and overcame every single obstacle Lord Poseidon could throw his way on his long journey home after the Trojan War. And, in Clash of the Titans, brave Perseus slew the gorgon Medusa and defeated the towering leviathan known as the Kraken to stop the mad schemes of a jilted and jealous goddess.
Mortal men and women taking up arms and challenging the whims of powerful beings is nothing new to the worlds of imagination. As time has slipped now into the modern myths and legends, nothing has changed. Heroes, and sometimes even villains, are still challenging the power of the gods.
The earliest example of this I can remember reading is Defenders (1972-1986 1st Series) #66-68. In order to help their friend Valkyrie stop a mad god from usurping the power of death, the uncanny Defenders invade the Golden Realm. Here we are treated to one of the most astonishing feats of strength as the Incredible Hulk uses his unbridled fury to actually demolish an entire mountain. That alone is worth the price of admission. I absolutely love the original Clash of the Titans movie, even if later I found out that it was a very loose translation of the actual legend. I enjoyed it nonetheless. Medusa scared the bejesus out of me. So when my favorite teen heroes, the Teen Titans, challenged the real titans of myth in a battle for the ages, I was overjoyed. The titan Hyperion has escaped Tartarus and enchanted Donna Troy to be his consort. Well, Robin and the gang are not going to sit idly by and allow one of their own to be used in such a fashion, even if it means challenging immortals whose powers dwarf their own (see New Teen Titans #11-12).
One of the all time best drawn comic books is the 1-shot New Mutants Special Edition (1985). Art team Arthur Adams and Terry Austin are at their all time best as they render the senses-shattering sights of the Nine Worlds in all their majestic glory. Asgard, its surrounding kingdoms, and its denizens never looked so good. Here we see the next generation of X-Men get caught up in the machinations of a diabolical plot by none other than Loki himself. It’s a tale that carries over into Uncanny X-Men Annual #9. This duel between Loki and the Children of the Atom would become known as The Asgardian Wars.
One of my personal favorites was the Avengers Assault on Olympus storyline. Hercules had been injured and fallen into a coma during the Masters of Evil’s raid on Avengers Mansion (see Under Siege). It seems poppa Zeus, King of the Olympian Gods, was not too keen on his son being so gravely injured while in the company of mere mortals. Around the world, Avengers were being kidnapped and imprisoned in the dungeons of Mount Olympus. One of the most memorable scenes is when Lord Poseidon himself captures a bewildered Prince Namor from the very depths of the ocean floor. The Avengers, still reeling from the attack by the Masters of Evil, are taken completely unawares and suddenly find themselves at the mercy of deities from an age long since past. Luckily for our heroes, not all of the immortals in Zeus’ court agreed with his blatant interference with mortal affairs, and the Avengers soon found allies. What a sight to behold, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in pitched battle with the legendary Gods of Olympus.
In the Challenge of the Gods, Wonder Woman and her mother, Hippolyte, Queen of the Amazons, must face terrible obstacles set forth by the gods in order to save mankind and secure the future of Paradise Island. Along the way they must overcome the many-headed hydra, the towering cycloptic Polythemus, and the legendary strength of the man-eating Minotaur.
In Blood and Thunder, not even the combined might of Adam Warlock, Beta Ray Bill, and the Silver Surfer can contain a god of thunder gone mad. The mighty Thor has fallen under the thrall of a bewitching siren and now he is cutting a swath of destruction through the cosmos. The heroes have no choice but to seek help from “gasp” the Mad Titan. But the true gem of this piece comes from seeing the Silver Surfer and Thanos square off against the All Father himself. If you ever wanted to know where Odin fit into the hierarchy of power in the Marvel Universe, look no further than this amazing spectacle of cosmic power unleashed as he takes on both the wielder of the Power Cosmic and the most powerful Eternal at once.
Speaking of Thanos and challenging the gods, absolutely nothing can compare to the time the Mad Titan, empowered by the Infinity Gauntlet, actually goes to war with the omnipotents of the Marvel Universe. After Thanos has already defeated the mightiest heroes in the cosmos, he must now face the unimaginable power of the Stranger, Lord Order and Master Chaos, Chronos, the Celestials, Mistress Love and Sire Hate, Mephisto, Eon, Galactus, Lady Death, and Eternity (see Infinity Gauntlet #5). The Celestials actually use entire planets as weapons against the Mad Titan, but alas, Thanos stands victorious and the universe is doomed. Or is it? Check out Infinity Gauntlet to see what happens next.
In Rock of Ages, arguably one of the greatest super hero epics ever, time-displaced members of the Justice League bear witness to a dystopian future where planet Earth has come under the rule of the Dark Gods of Apokolips. Superman is dead, the Flash is crippled, and all that remains to defy Darkseid’s rule is a ragtag band of heroes facing an impossible challenge. As the final confrontation goes down, one-by-one heroes begin to fall until there are only two remaining. It’s Green Arrow and the Atom vs. Darkseid with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, and you won’t believe your eyes when you see the ultimate outcome.
More recently, during Siege, Norman Osborn, backed by the immense power of the Sentry and Ares the God of War, took a contingent of super villains and marched on an earthbound Asgard. The villains were able to challenge the gods because Loki, ever the trickster, gave them access to the mystical Norn Stones, which amplified their super powers. This epic battle saw the fall of Osborn’s Dark Reign, the death of three of the most powerful beings on Earth, the triumphant return of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes back into the spotlight, and ushered in the Heroic Age.
In God Smash, the Incredible Hulk has had enough of being manipulated by the Powers that Be. In the wake of the Chaos War, tired of always coming up short and feeling a bit like life has dealt him and his a raw deal, the Jade Giant lays siege to the newly reformed Mount Olympus and plans to force the gods to help his friends and family, for once. He will soon learn that is easier said than done. The Hulk is the mightiest mortal to ever walk the earth, but how does even his immense strength compare to the immortal power of a god king like Zeus? And what would be the repercussions of a mere mortal with the audacity to actually challenge the gods? If you thought Zeus was mad about the Avengers’ Assault on Olympus, just wait till you see what he has in store for the Green Goliath.
From Hercules to the Hulk, from Jason and the Argonauts to the Avengers, why does mortal man always feel the need to challenge the gods? I guess what it boils down to is that freedom and free will are the most important assets a man can have and not even the gods can take that away.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell