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July 24, 2010

Ye Olde School Cafe’: Balder the Brave pt 2

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Written by: Billy
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Hey everybody, welcome back to the conclusion of this Nordic tale. In this week’s edition of Ye Olde School Cafe’, we’ll be wrapping up the mini-series Balder the Brave! This great mini was brought to you by the great Walter Simonson, and illustrated by the also great Sal Buscema in 1985/86.

When we last left off, Agnar had discovered a corpse and thought it was his friend Balder. Well, it was actually one of Karnilla’s shape-shifting demons posing as Balder. Agnar then sets his sights on finding Balder and treks inside the castle. Next, we see Balder and another of Karnilla’s goons heading into the castle by way of a secret passage. Balder suspects something is awry, so he lets the demon go first. Balder’s suspicions are proved true when the demon is pummeled by three Frost Giants. Balder forced the demon to wear his armor, so the giants think they’ve killed Balder, but soon realize it is not him. They decide to give up searching for Balder because they think he isn’t capable of stopping them. Balder hitches a ride on the foot of one of the giants to see what is the best angle to try a rescue. He stumbles upon a bird in a cage and releases it, not realizing at first that it’s Karnilla. He sees that the bird is freezing to death in this cold environment, and uses his newly found powers (check out his trip to Hel with Thor, #’s 360-362) to burn bright like the sun to warm the animal up. This of course draws the attention of the Frost Giants, and they attack him, then capture Karnilla and change her back. Once he realizes it’s his lover, he surrenders.

Agnar is still trying to find a way into the fortress of the giants, and finally does with the help of Balder’s friend, the eagle. Back inside the fortress, we see Balder in the arena preparing to fight the Frost Giants’ mightiest warrior. The man-mountain talks about how he is going to beat down Balder, but then Balder notices that he’s carrying the Sword of Frey. Balder knows that if he doesn’t fight and win, Karnilla will surely die. The two combatants engage in battle, and don’t stop until Balder figures out a way to disarm him. Balder realizes that he can’t defeat Hagen as long as he holds the blade, so he uses his powers of light and heat to burn Hagen’s wrists. This forces Hagen to drop the blade, and then Balder easily defeats him in hand-to-hand combat. Balder quickly picks up the blade and tells the Frost Giants to release Karnilla. Utgard-Loki responds by telling Balder to surrender or Karnilla will die!

As Balder figures out that he can’t let the Frost Giants get their hands on the sword, he sees Agnar creeping into the open window near the top of the fortress and throws the sword to him. The Frost Giants get angry, but then turn their attention back to Balder and Karnilla. They tie both of them up, and then Utgard-Loki puts a spell on Agnar, so he can’t find his way back to Asgard to get help. Meanwhile, Balder is thrown into an icy cell meant to kill him off, but the Frost Giants forget about his new power to warm things up and he escapes by burning a hole through the ice. Balder then breaches the lair of Utgard-Loki and attacks him in hopes of freeing Karnilla. He first smashes the glass enclosure that holds Karnilla, but then has to deal with Utgard-Loki.

Balder tries to out-wit him, but finds that he’s not to be taken lightly. When all physical attacks have failed, Balder then realizes that the cold is the thing that gives these giants their power. He then turns up his personal dial to the point where he’s blasting heat rays as strong as the sun. This is the exact thing he needs to stop these towering beasts. He keeps blasting away until the giants themselves shrink down and are reduced to pint-sized troublemakers. Immediately Karnilla wants to take revenge, but Balder tells her that they have been turned into a shadow of their former selves and their castle has been destroyed. To take their lives would be too much, and Karnilla heeds his words. The two make a journey together and head back to Karnilla’s home of Nornheim. Back at her castle, we see Agnar returning to find help, but he finds someone inside the castle. It’s the Warriors Three, and they’ve come to find Balder and tell him that he’s been made the new king of Asgard.

Once Karnilla and Balder return to Nornheim, we see Balder reading a note left on the door for him by Hogun. It tells of how he must report back to Asgard and begin his term as ruler. Karnilla is again heartbroken that the love of her life must be taken away from her. Balder tells her that he must go, for the people of Asgard need him in these trying times. She reluctantly tells him that she understands, and then she wishes him well and sends him off with a kiss.

And that is the end of the story that showed how Balder became King of Asgard. How he tamed the shrew that is Karnilla, and also gained his powers of intense heat and light. Great stuff as always, with Simonson doing his best with all things Asgardian! Please make sure you come back next week, and be ready for a HUGE surprise!

Billy Dunleavy
billy@comicattack.net

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