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Quote1 A wound opens in the Earth. And the air is freezing. Unless I want to ferry the population of an entire New York City block to Valhalla, I better move fast. Because this? This is no earthquake. Quote2
-- Valkyrie

Appearing in "At the End of All Things: Part 1"

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Synopsis for "At the End of All Things: Part 1"

In a cave deep below the surface of Midgard, a cloaked and hooded god stands over the body of an ancient jet-black god. Having had a vision prophesying that the ancient dark god's resurrection will lead him to victory, the god takes a flask of the sap of Yggdrasill - which has the power to restore anything to life - and pours it into the corpse's open chest cavity.

In Manhattan, Jane Foster and Lisa Halloran chat about their respective love-lives; Lisa gushing about how romantic America Chavez is and scolding Jane for missing a date with a "cute-but-boring" banker to foil an attempted Kree Empire invasion. As Lisa asks Jane how her budding romance with Sam Wilson is going, Jane senses an oncoming danger and activates Undrjarn the All-Weapon, telling Lisa to get help. Transforming into Valkyrie, she sees the surrounding people are marked for death, with floating black bubbles emblazoned with skulls over their heads.

A massive crevice rips open the street, Valkyrie worrying that she'll end up having to ferry an entire city block's worth of people to the afterlife and noting how cold the air feels. As Valkyrie watches in horror, a horde of monsters made of dirt and living darkness surges from the fissure. Manifesting wings, Valkyrie attempts to fly away, but is swarmed by the monsters, and as the darkness begins to infect her she notes the sensation is the same as when she was dying of cancer. Manifesting a razor-edged whip, Valkyrie frees herself and lashes out at the monsters, scattering them. Mr. Horse arrives and apologizes for being late, Valkyrie climbing onto his back and retracting her wings.

As Captain America battles against a horde of monsters astride his motorcycle, Iron Man informs him that the other Avengers are tied up suppressing similar occurrences around the globe. As Iron Man mockingly asks if Captain America will be alright by himself, Valkyrie joins the fray and warns Captain America not to let the monsters touch him. Doctor Strange and Spider-Man arrive as well, Iron Man lamenting that he's missing a team-up fight. Doctor Strange notes the monsters are manifested from an ancient dark magic outside his expertise, attempting to contain them with a magic barrier despite Valkyrie cautioning him to stop.

As the monsters merge into a gestalt entity and break free, Jane spots a man being attacked by a worm-like monster and Captain America tells her to go take care of him while they stop the gestalt monster. As it lunges towards them, All-Father Thor smites it with a bolt of lightning and greets them. Thor asks if the attack is over, and Captain America replies that they seem to strike in waves, Iron Man chiming in to say that based on his readings the next horde will strike in a couple of minutes. Captain America asks if Valkyrie is one of Thor's vassals and Thor introduces her as an old friend, the group turning to see Jane Foster in her human form, kneeling over the body of the infected man. Distraught that she had been unable to save him despite being a doctor, Jane sheds tears of remorse.

Iron Man reports that based on his analysis of the dirt comprising the creatures they originate from deep underground. As she closes his eyes, Jane states that the darkness seeks out life and infects it, corrupting and smothering it. Iron Man corroborates this, saying he'll study its mutagenic properties. Comforting Jane, Captain America tells Iron Man to shut up. Doctor Strange admits that both his magical and medical expertise are useless in this case, Jane stating that the darkness is infecting the Earth like a disease. Transforming into Valkyrie, she states that they need to cut it off at its source, Thor offering to join her while Captain America says he and the others will hold the line against the waves of monsters, noting that he'd suspected Jane was the new Valkyrie all along.

As the next wave of monsters surges from the crevice, Valkyrie and Thor descend into the Earth. Sensing the deaths of each person killed, Valkyrie tells Thor that the monsters don't only kill the body, but the soul as well, which as a psychopomp causes her unbearable discomfort. Thor laments being unable to help shoulder her burden, Valkyrie thanking him and complementing his grizzled Odin-esque appearance. Taking her awkward complement in stride, Thor states that Jane looks unparalleled and like she's found where she belongs; Valkyrie wryly stating that she can see more than a little of the prince in the king before asking if he'd rather be up at the surface fighting dirt-monsters.

Smashing a bat-like monster as it tries to ambush them, Thor agrees that smiting monsters is a favorite pastime of his, but that he is bound by his duty as the All-Father - admitting that being the king is more difficult and lonelier than he'd thought it would be. As Thor states that he's worried he should have seen this coming, Valkyrie asks if he knows what the dirt-monsters are. Thor states that while he doesn't know what the monsters are they remind him of an old Asgardian legend, and that he needs to trust his instincts - which means trusting a Valkyrie's. As Thor uses Mjolnir to bore a tunnel straight down, Valkyrie senses the fight taking place on the surface and laments how helpless she feels. As they reach a cavern, Thor states that they're close and she asks him what legend the monsters reminded him of.

Centuries ago, when Thor had been a child, Odin had brought him to the Barren Mountains in Jotunheim. Pointing to a mountain spider-webbed with black vein-like markings, Odin told Thor that when life emerged at the beginning of time, a font of eldritch darkness and anti-life manifested and was dubbed the Rokkva by the ancient Asgardians. As life flourished across the Nine Realms, the Rokkva - a mindless force of corruption and death - grew in power as well.

Øde, one of the first kings, had sought to harness the Rokkva and for a time had succeeded, becoming one of the most powerful beings in all the Realms; however, the Rokkva had corrupted Øde physically and mentally until nothing was left in him but evil, ultimately destroying his very soul. What remained of Øde - little more than a blackened husk serving as a vessel for the Rokkva - was sealed away beneath the mountain using ancient magics even Odin cannot fathom. Odin tells Thor that it is the duty of the All-Fathers to ensure that the Rokkva never escapes its prison and that one day it will be Thor's duty as well. Thor cheerfully states that if that were to ever occur he would kill it, Odin smiling at his son's innocent naïvety and saying he has much to learn.

Thor and Valkyrie arrive at the chamber containing the body of the dark god, twisted tendrils of living darkness emerging from his chest cavity and snaking across the ground. As Thor grimly states the body shouldn't be there, Valkyrie asks if it's the Rokkva. Thor replies that if it were they would already be dead, and that the corpse is none other than King Øde himself. Thor notes that someone tried to use the sap of Yggdrasil to resurrect Øde, but that since his soul had been devoured by the Rokkva before his death, the ritual had backfired and instead caused the Rokkva to metastasize like cancer, spilling out of Øde's body and infecting the Earth.

Horrified, Valkyrie asks who would do such a thing, Thor replying that whoever it was had no clue about the dangers of the ancient magics they were meddling with. Raising Mjolnir, Thor attempts to destroy Øde's corpse, Jane shouting at him to wait. Tendrils of living darkness erupt from Øde's body and coil around Mjolnir, engulfing Thor before he can react. As Valkyrie watches in horror, Thor - his skin turning pale grey with black veins, hair silvery-grey, and eye jet black with a pupil-less yellow iris - turns to face her, wreathed in black lightning.

Solicit Synopsis

ODE TO THE DEATH OF MIDGARD!

When Earth erupts with a cancerous contagion, it’s up to Jane to find the cure. But it’ll take more than her medical knowledge to fight off this infection. The source is buried deep in Asgardian legend — the sort only a king would know. Valkyrie finally joins forces with the All-Father of Asgard in a fight for the entire planet!

Notes

  • Despite being shown in his Herald of Thunder form on the cover, Thor appears in his bearded one-armed All-Father form in the issue itself.

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