If you’re a fan of Marvel (or alternatively, Norse mythology), you’ve probably heard the word “Ragnarok” at one point or another. After all, it’s the subtitle of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, Thor: Ragnarok. But what exactly is Ragnarok?
Simply put, Ragnarok is an Asgardian doomsday prophecy in the Marvel Universe that’s based on a series of apocalyptic events in Norse mythology. When it comes to the minutiae of Ragnarok in the comics, though, there’s a lot to take in. So, sit back, relax, and prepare yourselves for a lesson on the ins and outs of Ragnarok:
It’s An Eternal Cycle Of Death And Rebirth
Much like its Norse mythology counterpart, the Marvel Comics version of Ragnarok is a world-ending event in which it’s prophesized that a number of major figures, including Thor, Odin, Loki, and Heimdall, will die. However, in Marvel, Ragnarok is more than just the end of days for Asgard – it’s an endless cycle in which Asgard is destroyed, a number of gods die, and they’re eventually reborn, only for the cycle to begin again.
Each cycle is preceded by a brutal winter known as the Fimbul Winter, which causes widespread panic in Asgard. Next, Loki tricks the blind god Hoder into using mistletoe to kill Balder. Finally, Heimdall sounds his horn to signal the start of Ragnarok, as Loki leads his army of Trolls and Giants across the Bifrost to Asgard.
With both Odin and Heimdall consumed by the attack, Thor and Loki engage in one final battle. However, they’re interrupted by the Midgard Serpent, and although Thor slays the beast, he dies in the process and Asgard is left in ruins. It’s at this time that the demon Surtur rises from Muspelheim to burn the remnants of the great city to the ground.Advertisement
The Cycle Was Perpetuated By Those Who Sit Above In Shadow
Why, exactly, is Ragnarok an endless cycle? Well, it’s because a group known as Those Who Sit Above in Shadow – allegedly the creators of the Asgardians – feed off of the energy released by the continual reincarnation of the Asgardians and the various Ragnaroks. As such, it was their duty to ensure that the cycle continued. Still, despite their immense power, they can be beaten…
The Cycle Was Ended By Thor
The people of Asgard managed to cheat death by surviving the perpetual cycle of world-ending prophecies, but in The Mighty Thor Disassembled, the universe seeks to remedy this by eliminating the Asgardians and finally fulfilling Ragnarok. When it arrives, Thor hangs himself on Yggdrasil to obtain runic magik, and upon learning that Those Who Sit Above in Shadow are the ones responsible for Ragnarok, he destroys the Loom of the Fates, thus eliminating their source of power and freeing the destiny of the Asgardians. With Those Who Sit Above in Shadow destroyed, the Odinforce congratulates Thor on his victory, and with the final Ragnarok complete, Thor enters the slumber of the gods, where he would remain for the next three years.
It’s Also The Name Of A Clone And A Sword
Ragnarok isn’t just an end-of-days prophecy in the Marvel Universe. At the height of Civil War, with the real Thor nowhere to be found (he was in his post-Ragnarok slumber), Tony, along with Reed Richards and Hank Pym, fuse some Asgardian DNA Tony confiscated with Stark technology to create a cyborg clone of the God of Thunder named Ragnarok. Iron Man’s hope is that this will help turn the tables in favor of those fighting for the enforcement of the superhero registration act. Unfortunately, the clone is a bit too overzealous and after laying waste to much of the anti-registration heroes, the Ragnarok blasts clear through the chest of Goliath, killing him instantly and leaving both sides of the battle in complete shock.
Another notable “Ragnarok” in Marvel isn’t a prophecy OR a clone, but rather a sword – the Odinsword, to be specific. During the events of Fear Itself, Odin presents Thor with the Odinsword and reveals its true name to be Ragnarok. Using Ragnarok, Thor is able to slay his uncle Cul Borson, AKA the Serpent, but dies in the process, thus fulfilling the prophecy of defeating a serpent and dying at its hands, as was the case in the original Ragnarok prophecy.