X-Force/Cable Annual ‘97

Issue Date: 
June 1997
Story Title: 
The Last Valkyrie

John Francis Moore (story), Rob Haynes (layouts), Casey Jones (pencils), Jason Martin & Jon Holdredge (inks), Richard Starkings & Comicraft (letters), Leann Clark (colors), Jaye Gardner (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)

Brief Description: 

In Montana, Dani Moonstar is paid an unexpected visit by the Valkyrie Brunnhilda, who warns Dani of a mortal danger in Asgard. Brunnhilda passes the concentrated lifeforce of the Valkyries into Dani moments before she and her horse, Aragorn, are captured by giant Demon Dogs and vanish through a dimensional portal. After Dani then contacts the X-Force, asking their help in order to save the Valkyries, they all travel to Asgard. There, they discover Malekith the Accused of the Dark Elves has taken it over, taking advantage of the absence of the Aesir – Odin and the others. Malekith has captured the Valkyries and longs for their power, which he isn’t able to detect anywhere. While X-Force battles Malekith’s army of Rock Trolls, Malekith senses the power into Dani and tries to kill her with a runespear, instead injuring Cable who intervenes to save her. X-Force and Dani leave the captured Cable behind and meet with Kindra of the dwarves and Skadi of the giants, asking for their help against Malekith. Finally, Dani travels to Valhalla, where she confronts Hela, Goddess of Death, who claims the souls of the Valkyries, all nine of them bound by magic in the Hall of the Death. Dani shoots the Valkyries with an arrow and returns to them their lifeforce, thus freeing them. Malekith is ultimately defeated and chained-up and X-Force and Moonstar part amicably, with Dani explaining that Brunnhilda will get her back to Montana. She also promises she will soon explain everything to them about her connection to the M.L.F.

Full Summary: 

Nighttime. Dani Moonstar, simply known as Moonstar, sits on some sheaves of corn, right outside a farmhouse. Dani is silent, her eyes shut, her arms crossed over her shoulders. A four-armed man approaches her, asking her if she’s okay. The man is Michael McCain, often referred to as Forearm. Both he and Dani belong to the Mutant Liberation Front, a team the U.S. government sees as terrorists whereas they see themselves as guerrilla fighters in the escalating conflict between mutants and normal human beings.

Forearm urges Dani to talk; he can tell something is eating her up inside. He reminds her she’s her friend and urges her to talk to him. “Look at us,” Moonstar replies. They’re fugitives hiding in the middle of nowhere. This isn’t how she pictured her life, living underground, constantly on the run. If something doesn’t change soon she thinks she’s gonna…

Forearm is sorry to interrupt her but he thinks she should better duck! Indeed, at that moment, a huge flaming beam, akin to a small constellation crash-lands at their feet! Dizzy and disoriented by this sudden crash, Forearm gets up, asking Dani if they just got sideswiped by a meteor. Dani can’t believe her eyes: “Sweet spirit, it can’t be… but it isBrunnhilda and Aragorn!”

Indeed, as the dust clears, it is not spaceborn debris that lies in the impact crater but a gravely wounded warrior and her winged mount: a white horse of miraculous wings. As Dani approaches the woman, Forearm asks her if she knows her. Moonstar explains that Brunnhilda is one of the Valkyrior, the Sisterhood entrusted to carry the souls of Asgardian warriors slain in battle to Valhalla. “Asgard? Valhalla? Are we talking about North mythology?” Forearm wonders. Dani insists that myths have a basis in truth: Asgard exists. Dani herself has been there and once, she was a Valkyrie.

Weak and barely conscious, still lying on the ground, Brunnhilda thanks Odin for having found her sister, Danielle Moonstar. Dani urges her to not to talk since she needs a doctor. Brunnhilda insists there’s no time. Moonstar must listen: the Valkyrior have fallen and Asgard and the Nine Realms are in great peril. Dani is their last hope. Generating some sort of energy in her hand, she passes the energy into Dani, urging her to protect the heart of the Valkyrior.

Before Dani can question the injured Valkyrie further, the sky is rent asunder as a dimensional portal opens through which a trio of enormous Demon Dogs leaps toward the posse. A reasonably freaked Forearm asks Dani what’s going on here. She replies there’s no time to explain and pleads him to run interference while she gets Brunnhilda to safety. While Aragorn, the winged horse is grabbed by the mouth of one of the Dogs, Forearm promises he’ll do what he can even though he remarks that these mutts are looking at them like they’re Scooby snacks! Moonstar’s plan fails, though: while Forearm punches one of the three Dogs’ face, another of the Dogs grabs Brunnhilda by her arm. Dani screams to the Dog to let go of her. Brunnhilda tells her to remember and protect the heart. Next to them, Forearm is facing his own problems, covered by one Dog’s saliva, complaining that dealing with dog breath was bad enough but now this is just plain disgusting!

Dani tries to stop these hellhounds before they get away with Brunnhilda and unleashes her psychic arrows against the Dogs. Once, Dani could psionically project her opponents’ worst fear. However, now, she has learned to focus her psionic energy in a different way, through bones and arrows given form and weight by the power of her mind.

She tries in vain, however. The three Dogs depart through the dimensional portal. Forearm tells Dani to give it up: unless she knows how to fly, they’re long gone. Forearm and Moonstar were nothing but a minor annoyance for them. However, Dani declares it’s not over yet. She tells Forearm to inform the others she’s leaving: this doesn’t concern the M.L.F. Dani is determined to find Brunnhilda and the other Valkyries even if she has to tear apart every inch of Asgard.

Twelve hours and one phone call later
A high-tech transport called the PACRAT (Personnel Assault Carrier Reconnaissance And Transport) touches down on the cracked asphalt of a drive-in theater. As Dani watches it landing she thinks that if Michael knew who she was meeting here he’d never understand. Dani tries to brace herself knowing this is bound to be uncomfortable.

The passengers of the PACRAT exit their transport. They are the unique group of mutants collectively known as X-Force: Sunspot, Caliban, Warpath, Siryn, Rictor, Shatterstar and Meltdown. Sunspot apologizes to Dani for taking them so long to come. They had to refuel before they left the mansion. He hopes she doesn’t mind he brought the whole crew along. Rictor jokes that this is practically a New Mutants reunion. “Enough small talk” Tabitha states. She asks Dani for clarification about her “911” call.

Responding to Bobby’s statement, Moonstar admits that the body count’s a lot higher than she would have guessed. She didn’t really expect anyone but Bobby would be inclined to help her out considering her current affiliation. Sunspot admits that he still doesn’t know why Dani signed on with that bunch of psychos – meaning the M.L.F. – but they’ve been through so much together for him to ever turn his back on Dani. Moonstar reminds him that the New Mutants are history: time passes; people move on.

“Yeah, but not to the other side, Dani,” Tabitha retorts. She takes the rest of the former New Mutants as an example. Sam is a full fledged X-Man now; Rahne returned to Scotland and joined Excalibur and as for Karma, they don’t know where she is these days but it’s definitely not with the M.L.F. Dani will understand if Tabitha doesn’t want to help her. Who is she to ask any of them to risk their lives for her?

Cable suddenly appears, ensuring Moonstar they stand by their friends – even those who’ve lost their way. Dani asks Bobby what he is doing here. She asks him if he was worried she was setting his precious team up. Sunspot assures her it’s not like that: Cable actually asked to come with them. Dani doesn’t want Cable to do her any favors. Caliban whispers to his teammates the obvious, namely, that Dani Moonstar doesn’t like Cable much.

Cable points to the fact that Moonstar herself called X-Force for help; that tells him she trusts them more than she trust the M.L.F. Moonstar explains that no one in the M.L.F. has ever encountered the perils in Asgard. But Bobby, Tabitha and Rictor have. Tabitha is not happy to hear Dani mention Asgard. “You know I hate that place” she tells her.

Moonstar briefly recapitulates what has transpired. She explains that when Loki transported the New Mutants to Asgard a few years ago, she became a Valkyrie for a time. Now, the Valkyrior have been captured by forces unknown and if she has a chance of rescuing them, it will be with the help of X-Force.

In a dark corner of Asgard, the captured Brunnhilda, bound onto a wall, is approached by her captor. The mysterious villain invites her to struggle all she will. He explains she’s bound with the same unbreakable fabric that fetters the Wolf Fenris in Hela’s realm. The Valkyrie asks him why he is doing this. The evil being recalls how Odin gave them, the Valkyrior, the ability to traverse the Nine Realms unhindered by physical boundary, in order that they might ferry the noblest warriors fallen in battle to the halls of Valhalla. This act would move entire armies across the Nine Realms but to do so requires the power Odin bestowed upon the Valkyrior.

Holding Brunnilda’s bruised and bloody face, her captor asks her to relinquish that power and promises her and her sisters a quick death. Brunnhilda tells him to do with her what he will. He asks for that which she cannot give. Her heart is empty.

Ungava Bay, Canada
Moonstar and X-Force walk amidst a huge snowy deserted expanse. Everyone’s dressed in raincoats – save for Sunspot, thanks to his powers. The others aren’t so lucky: Tabitha, in particular, is freezing. In her usual humorous style, she asks Dani if there is a more tropical route to Asgard. She feels like a human Popsicle out here! Sunspot wittingly replies they’re looking for an ancient Viking village and you don’t usually find those in the South Pacific.

Caliban remarks that he doesn’t see a village: only snow. Cable states that, according to the coordinates, they should be right on top of it. Dani points ahead of them: the village is there, under a mountain of snow. Rictor wonders how they will get inside. “Bobby…” Dani simply says.

She doesn’t need to speak further. Sunspot understands: they need an early thaw. Given that he is a living solar energy, able to absorb and rechannel energy from the sun, Bobby acts as a miniature sun – held aloft by thermal currents – melting a winter’s worth of snow from the remarkably well preserved village. The beautiful village now revealed before their eyes, the team congratulates Bobby on a job well done.

As they enter a passageway in the caves underneath the village that will lead them to the gates of Asgard, Warpath asks Dani to explain to him again how they will reach Asgard from this place. He thought that Asgard existed somewhere in space. Dani corrects him: it’s not exactly like that. Each of the Nine Realms connected by the Yaggdrasil, the World Tree, exists in separate dimensions and this village was built on a transdimensional nexus point. Siryn asks Dani if she finds it ironic that a full-blooded Cheyenne like her finds herself so entangled in the affairs of the Norse gods. All the time, Moonstar admits.

As the team advances through the path, Dani gives them a history lesson, informing them that this is the place where the trickster god, Loki, played games with the X-Men and Alpha Flight, creating a fountain of magic that gave some of them god-like powers while leaving others near death. One of the team asks her if she thinks Loki’s behind the Valkyrior disappearance. She does not. She believes Loki, like all the Aesir, is currently living on Earth, unaware of their true identities.

Bobby asks Dani how she knows all these. She’s not really sure: when Brunnhilda touched her, it was as if she passed part of herself to her. It’s almost as if she’s a Valkyrie again. Meanwhile, Cable notices his compass is going haywire. Rictor, on the other hand, is a little put off by the spooky caves. Tabitha remarks it’s a good thing her time-bombs make good torches.

Finally, they reach the gates of Asgard at the end of this cave passage. Dani warns them there is no turning back now. Stepping across the rune-carved threshold, Dani and the members of X-Force are catapulted across the dimensional gulf which separates the humans’ world from that of Asgard, the golden realm – a world upon which few humans have ever set foot.

The team materializes in front of Odin’s hall. Caliban confesses he feels funny. Moonstar tells him not to worry: it’s an after-effect of the transdimensional shunt and will soon pass. Cable claims that Asgard looks nothing like he had pictured it. Tabitha admits that she didn’t think much of this place the first time she came here but now, it really looks like they let the place go. Bobby agrees: it’s as if, without the Aesir, the city appears to have fallen into ruin. Another thing worries Dani, though: even though they are in Odin’s hall, Valaskjalf, the symbol on the door ahead of them is not the All-Father’s.

Unbeknownst to the team, some Rock Trolls watch the team from above. “More intruders… Heads will roll! Bones will rock!” the Trolls exclaim and start jumping down, some of them wielding axes and maces.

It is Warpath’s heightened senses that alert him first to the Trolls’ aerial assault. As he screams “Incoming!” the battle commences. One of the Trolls proudly proclaims they are the loyal soldiers of King Geirrodur. Asgard belongs to the Rock Trolls: the intruders don’t belong here! Rictor jokes that if this is the Asgardian welcome wagon, no wonder there’s so little tourism.

Tabitha believes the “grody little gargoyles” have asked for it! Bobby corrects her: they’re Trolls, not gargoyles – Rock Trolls, old enemies of Asgard who occupied the city after the Aesir vanished, as Dani informs them. Tabitha doesn’t care how they’re called: they’ve ticked her off. In rapid succession, she detonates a volley of her time-bombs putting the Trolls on the run. James congratulates her on her recently-improved aim.

Still, the team has captured one of the Trolls and Dani aims him with her arrow, asking “Poppa Smurf,” as she derogatorily calls him, to look at her, asking him if he knows who she is. The Troll begs her not to kill him: he hadn’t realized she was a Valkyrie! Moonstar questions the reason of their attack. The Troll explains they thought they were more of Malekith’s accursed minions! Asgard was in the hands of the Trolls until Malekith drove them out with his weirdling soldiers and Demon Dogs. When Dani asks him where she can find this Malekith, the Troll informs her that Malekith the Accursed, spawn of Svartalfheim, sits upon Hildskjalf, the high-throne of Odin, and from that royal vantage, he is said to look upon each of the Nine Realms with an unquenchable hunger for conquest.

Indeed, at that very moment, Malekith – captor of the Valkyrios – sits on Odin’s throne, looking rather broody as his underling, Wormwood, notices. Wormwood proposes to bring some Trolls for his lord to torture: a good dismemberment always cheers him. Malekith insists that it will take more than mere cruelty to lift his spirit this day. Even though he captured all nine of the Valkyrior, they have hidden their power from him and refuse to divulge its location.

Wormwood is confident it’s only a matter of time before his lord breaks these Asgardian cows. His lord should savor his current victory instead: does he not sit upon the throne of his most hated enemy’s father? Malekith advises him never to speak of the Thunder God in his presence. His defeat at Thor’s hands still weighs heavy on his soul.

Suddenly, Malekith pauses, spotting Dani’s face in one of the spheres that surround Odin’s throne. He sees the presence of humans in Asgard as blasphemy. He remembers there was a time once when mundane creatures knew their place; when they cowered as Eri kings stole their whelps and hunted them for sport. Malekith is determined to reawaken the fear of the wildhuntsman in the children of Midgard. Now enthused, he orders Wormwood to bring him his armor; sound the horns; assemble the hunting party! Mortal blood will flow this day!

At the gates of Valaskjalf, the two elves guarding it are having a chat. One of them boasts about the time he impaled a Frost Giant with his trusty blade and turned it ever so slowly that even the Giant whimpered for mercy. Rather amused, the other guard accuses his interlocutor, Thorngrip, of being a grand liar as he could never impale anything but a Frost Giant’s big toe!

Bored and hungry, Thorngrip admits he could so with a mid-watch snack. He urges his colleague to watch him hit with his bow a mouse scurrying across a rafter beam! However, the other elf pauses, asking him if he heard something. The next moment, both guards are taken out by Dani’s psi-arrows. Cable argues there was no need to use deadly force. Moonstar explains that her psi-arrows are only fatal if she chooses them to be. Cable decides to telepathically notify the others that they’re inside.

“Not for long, mortal,” Malekith’s voice is heard, “let the hunt begin!” Sitting on a giant Demon Dog, flaunting a runespear and grinning evilly, Malekith starts hunting them like a hunter does his prey with an army of Rock Trolls following him, prepared for battle. “So much for stealth, eh, Cable?” Dani remarks as both she and Nathan break into a rout. Nathan telepathically informs his team they’ve been found out and urges them to cover their exit.

Concealed in a dark alley and watching the army of Rock Trolls marching by are Caliban and Shatterstar. Prepared to hurl Shatterstar in “fastball special” fashion, Caliban confesses those pointy-eared men remind him of the Marauders that killed most of his Morlock friends and now they want to hurt his current friends. Shatterstar assures him they won’t let that happen and then urges him to aim for the rider on the big Demon Dog: they will see what threat these goblins pose without their leader.

Indeed, Caliban hurls Shatterstar to the Demon Dog. Malekith easily pushes Shatterstar’s body away with his runespear, impressed by seeing a flying mortal: miracles never cease! He begins to see why the Thunderguard is so infatuated with the denizens of Midgard. They offer great sport and amusement!

Siryn recalls that when she was growing in Scotland, the local bluebloods would run an innocent fox ragged and then let their dogs tear the poor beast apart. Thus, when her mutant power developed, she learned she could spoil their so-called sport by driving their hounds crazy with a scream pitched so high only a dog could hear. She decides that this Dog is not so different that those hounds – only much bigger – and unleashes her hypersonic scream on the creature, causing it to collapse.

Shatterstar lands on James, apologizing for that and explaining this place is disorienting. Warpath feels it’s like in higher elevations: the air is rarified. They need time to adjust. Nearby, as the battle continues, Rictor tries to avoid the Trolls’ attacks, admitting it’s a lot easier to adjust when no one’s trying to flatten you with a mace. Fortunately, he’s keeping these Lord of the Rings rejects off balance with a little seismic shock wave. The Trolls are shocked to see them all have powers and wonder if all mortals are enchanted as these!

One of the Trolls throws a mace at the flying Theresa. As the mace hits her and she starts falling down, Warpath jumps upwards to grab her, thinking that he can’t let anything happen to her, since she’s too dazed to land on her feet, thus, James’ own strength will cushion her fall. Maybe they haven’t been so close since he’s been seeing Risque but she’s still his best friend.

Nearby, as Malekith approaches Moonstar and Cable the former reminds the latter that the Dark Elves are vulnerable to iron and pure metals. Cable laments leaving all his silver bullets home. Malekith admits they fight admirably for mortals. He thinks maybe casting a glamour upon the lot and making them his thralls. Suddenly, though, he senses an Asgardian enchantment radiating from Moonstar. Can this mortal girl hold the power the Valkyries denied him?

Malekith tells Dani to look into his eyes… Feel the world disappear around her until only he stands before her… The unearthly power she carries is too heavy a weight for one fragile mortal to bear… She should let Malekith ease her burden! As Malekith says this, an eerie glamour appears in his face.

Cable orders Dani to snap out of it as he realizes Malekith is trying to hypnotize her. The runespear flies from Malekith’s hand screaming through the air; only Cable’s intervention prevents it from reaching its intended target, Dani. The runespear tears through Cable’s techno-organic flesh and bone, barely missing his heart. As Tabitha screams at what he has done, Malekith remarks that apparently he missed. He never understood this mortal tendency to sacrifice oneself for another.

An agonizing Cable feels like a thousand spikes are exploding throughout his body. Dani explains he’s been poisoned by Elven magic. His body has no natural defense for it. Cable realizes Malekith’s army got them outnumbered and outflanked. They should better retreat and not jeopardize their safety for him. “Understood” Moonstar complies. Hearing this, though, Tabitha refuses leaving Cable behind. Moonstar insists she heard the man and should fall back.

Tabitha reluctantly complies but makes it clear to Dani that she doesn’t like abandoning the man one bit. Dani may resent Cable for breaking up the New Mutants but he stood by them, which is more than Tabitha can say for Dani. She admits, though, this may not be the appropriate moment to get into that. Generating some of her time-bombs, she throws them against that mammoth door the Trolls just bolted. A huge explosion rips the door into shreds.

Descending the stairs leading outside of Odin’s palace, Dani urges the team to head to the forest so that they can lose Malekith’s army there; once they find cover, they’ll return for Cable. She tells Bobby they need him to clear a path ahead of them. Sunspot complies. Turning to Rictor, she orders him to block the road behind them with his seismic waves; they shouldn’t make it easy for Malekith and his boys to follow them.

Hearing Dani giving orders, Siryn laments having a headache from that blow in her head. She is getting fed up with Miss Moonstar acting like they’re the bloody New Mutants. She is Deputy Leader! She should be giving orders! Still carrying the dizzy Theresa in his arms, Warpath assures her he understands how she feels but they can’t let their bruised feeling get in the way. Dani knows Asgard better than they do.

Shatterstar points at something moving at the trees: they’re being watched! With remarkable speed, a diminutive figure clambers down the oak to the forest floor. It’s a female dwarf. She tells Shatterstar to sheathe his blade: they’ve no reason to fear her. Shatterstar is still hesitant, though. Even though this woman seems to pose no threat, the elves and goblins of folk tales are known for their deceptions. Moonstar tells him to ease down: the woman is Kindra, one of the dwarves of Nidavellir who nursed Cannonball back to health when Loki scattered the New Mutants across the Nine Realms.

Kindra remarks that idle conversations will only delay their journey, so she’ll be brief. She tells them there’re tunnels known to the dwarves through which Malekith’s minions cannot follow. If they wish to elude this infernal hunting party, they should follow her now.

In the throne room, Malekith is not pleased. The girl called Moonstar escaped his grasp. Still, there is no place in the Nine Realms where she can hide from him. Malekith orders Wormwood to see if the prisoner will trade his female comrade for his life. Cable tells Malekith his mind games don’t work with him and he should get out of his head. Wormwood realizes this mortal resists his lord’s glamour and attributes it to the metallic sinew lying beneath his flesh – sinew that counters the runespear’s magic. The prisoner leaves them no choice but to persuade him with pain.

Wormwood slowly pulls the runespear from Cable’s body, delighting in his prisoner’s discomfort. He asks Cable to tell them where the “archer” is. Though the pain is excruciating, Cable steels himself, refusing to show his sadistic captor any sign of weakness. Looking in one of his spheres, Malekith tells Wormwood that the prisoner’s cooperation no longer matters: he now knows where the girl and her companions are.

Indeed, after following Kindra through a maze of subterranean tunnels, X-Force emerges in the snowy mountains of Jotunheim. Kindra informs them that the dwarves and the Frost Giants have forged an alliance against Malekith: they are safe here. Caliban is glad to be finally able to stand up. Warpath agrees: apparently, the dwarves didn’t carve those tunnels for a human’s size. Bobby had forgotten how exhilarating it’s here. The energy he’s absorbing from the Asgardian sun makes him stronger somehow. He then pauses, realizing Kindra just mentioned “Giants!”

The mountain starts shaking in a way that reminds Caliban of when Julio uses his power. Rictor’s not responsible for this, though: a beautiful female giant of white hair emerges! She introduces herself as Skadi, mistress of the mountain lodges. Curious by Sunspot’s appearance, she admits never having met genuine mortals before and asks Bobby if they all burn like a small sun. Bobby jokes that only a handful of genuine mortals can turn on the heat like this! Kindra explains to Skadi that her friends are warriors of true heart and noble resolve and each possesses an ability that gives them great advantage in combat. She introduces Dani Moonstar to the Giant, explaining that the Valkyries have entrusted their lifeforce to her keeping. It’s imperative Moonstar finds her Valkyrior sisters before Malekith does any more harm, to them and to Asgard.

Skadi reveals the awful truth: Malekith has imprisoned the Valkyries in Valhalla. And not even with an army of Frost Giants could they gain entrance to that hallowed hall. Shatterstar points to the fact they’ve reached this far. What prevents them from reaching this Valhalla? Rictor explains to his friend that Valhalla is the Hall of dead warriors. Tabitha parallels it with a club with a strict dress code, thus, unless someone kicks off in the next couple of minutes, they don’t have the cover charge!

Dani admits she can enter the gates of Valhalla as long as she carries their spirit. After all, she’s the last Valkyrie. But she has no means to get there. If Illyana were still alive, maybe…

Skadi interrupts her, telling her she has the means. She points her to the sight of Aragorn, the stallion, whom they found lying in the snow nursing wounds inflicted by Malekith’s Demon Dogs. Skadi believes she’s been waiting for Dani.

Later, the winged horse and its rider, Moonstar, approach the misty heights of Valhalla. Dani is lost in her thoughts, pondering on how she thought she has put her time as a Valkyrie behind her. It was so hard looking into people’s faces and seeing the moments of their deaths and now, here she is, charging Death’s doorstep once again.

“Dani, wait up!” Sunspot is heard shouting. Indeed, he catches up with her, flying next to Aragorn. He thought he’d lost her in those weird clouds back there. Dani asks him if he’s crazy. Those “weird clouds” were the ethereal veil that separates the living and the dead. She rigidly informs him he’s not supposed to be here. Sunspot jokes that being in Asgard fires him up and tells her he’ll be okay. Dani hopes so.

Finally walking through the gates of Valhalla, they see some sort of green ethereal energy all around them. Bobby asks if these are warrior’s ghosts or if they are like reanimated corpses. Dani scolds him not to mock the dead. These warriors await the day when they will join Odin’s army in the final battle of Ragnarok – when it is fated that the immortal realm will fall and all gods will die. “I’m telling you this as a friend, Dani” Sunspot confides in her: she is scary when she talks like that.

Freezing, Bobby asks her why it is cold in there. He hasn’t felt cold since his powers really kicked in and he became a solar generator. Dani points him to the fact this is the Hall of the Dead. It’s not the absence of heat that chills him but the absence of life. Dani senses her sisters are here: she can feel their presence up ahead. Indeed, they find all nine Valkyries bound together by Malekith with his dark magic. With her Valkyrie power, Dani senses they’re so weak and even sees death hanging over them like a gathering storm.

Hela, Goddess of Death, Queen of the Underworld, appears behind them, informing Dani the Valkyries are now hers. They have surrendered their life essence: without it they will not survive to draw another breath. Seeing Sunspot, she asks Moonstar if she has brought her a living soul as a tribute to atone for her previous transgressions against her. “My transgression?” Dani protests. It was Hela who tried to corrupt her… turn her into a monster. As Hela grabs Sunspot’s face, Moonstar asks her to leave Bobby alone: he’s not hers to take.

As Bobby momentarily passes out from her touch, Hela marvels at how brightly these mortals burn and how quickly their flames extinguish. Dani insists it’s not Bobby’s time, nor is the Valkyrior’s. Hela asks her who is she to tell her her duty. Death answers to no authority, especially to a little girl too frightened of her own mortality to accept that death claims all things. Not today, Moonstar argues. She won’t let Malekith win. Hela urges her to let him have Asgard. In the end, she will claim his life as surely as she claims these warrior-maidens.

Dani releases one of her arrows, which Hela easily avoids, asking Dani if she truly thought she can wound death. Has she learned nothing from her time as a Valkyrie? Dani explains she wasn’t aiming at her: indeed, her arrow breaches the magic that binds the Valkyries together and the energy of the arrows is channeled into the warrior-maidens. Dani explains to Hela that her arrows are the way she gives physical form to her psychic energy. As such, she determines the damage they do to their targets. They can cause pain, unconsciousness, even death if she chooses. But they are not only weapons of destruction: they can also be vessels of healing. That arrow just returned to her sisters the lifeforce Brunnhilda gave her to safeguard. Moonstar tells Hela to return to her dark netherworld: Malekith’s spell is broken. The Valkyrior live!

In Jotunheim, Malekith and Wormwood are looking for Dani. Malekith proclaims that Skadi and her slow-witted kin are woefully mistaken if they think they can hide the girl from him. He is determined to make these snow-covered mountains run red with the blood of every Giant who dares stand against him.

Suddenly, Malekith hears a sound. He is shocked to see the Valkyries flying in the sky with their stallions: they can’t be free! Dragging Cable akin to a pet with a lashing strap attached on a collar around the mutant’s neck, Wormwood reminds his master that he had told him they should never have invaded Asgard. Why could Malekith not be content to lord over Svartalfheim?

Realizing that the little gargoyle’s not paying attention to him and is giving him all the slack he needs, Cable instantly kicks and punches Wormwood, taking him out.

Still airborne and riding Aragorn, Dani tells Bobby that, no matter what happens when they get back to Earth, she can’t tell him how much it means to her that he stood by her, even in Valhalla. “Yeah, for all the help I was there,” Bobby remarks. Next time Dani crosses over into the land of the dead, she’d better send a postcard! As he spots Malekith on the ground with his army, he thinks that a wall of flame will cut him off from his troops. “He’s mine” Dani proclaims and prepares to release a psi-arrow against him.

On the ground, Malekith assures her she won’t find him an easy target. Cable disagrees, however, and argues that his metallic arm may not contain enough iron to hold him forever but can hold him long enough. Locked in Cable’s grip, Malekith screams “NOOO!” realizing what’s about to happen. The arrow carries all the pain the Dark Elf brought to the Nine Valkyries and when it strikes him, it returns the pain with a searing explosion of psionic energy.

A little bit later, the now chained-up Malekith, lying on the snow, wakes up. Dani lets him know that his army deserted him when he fell. The Frost Giants are picking them out of caves and snowbanks. Also, the Valkyries have informed her that Eitri the Dwarf has forged a holding cell of solid iron in which Malekith will be held until the all-father returns and he can answer for his crimes. Malekith assures her he won’t forget this indignity, nor who is responsible for it. “I know, one day, I’ll pay,” Dani tiredly mumbles. No offence, she tells his “dark lordship” but she has other things to worry about and he is the least of her worries.

Kindra wishes Cable to recover and tells him that he has the gratitude of Nidavellir. She also sends her greetings to Samuel Guthrie. When she had heard there were mortals in Asgard, she had hoped he’d be among them. Cable assures her he’ll tell him.

Caliban asks James how they are getting home. Warpath explains that the Valkyries will fly them back to Ungava Bay. He hopes they know a shorter route than the one they took to get here. Shatterstar wishes they stayed longer in this realm. Asgard suits his warrior nature better than 20th century Earth. Rictor disagrees and asks him if he thinks his warrior nature could survive somewhere where you can’t get pizza delivered! Tabitha seconds that: the sooner they get home the better.

When Bobby asks Dani if she’s coming with them, she explains that Brunnhilda will take her back to Montana: she has unfinished business with the M.L.F. She knows they can’t understand. She hopes that maybe one day she’ll be able to explain everything and swears this will be a day soon.

Characters Involved: 

Cable, Caliban, Meltdown II, Shatterstar, Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath (all X-Force)
Forearm, Moonstar (Mutant Liberation Front)

Brunnhilda/Valkyrie and other unnamed Valkyries (all Valkyrior)

Malekith the Accursed

Rock Trolls
Demon Dogs
Two elf guards (one called Thorngrip)


In flashback image:
Nine Valkyries

In Illustrative Images:
Cannonball, Karma, Wolfsbane (all former New Mutants)

Story Notes: 

There is a dedication at the end of the story: “This one’s for Stan and Jack, who opened the gates of Asgard, and for Chris and Art and Walter, who dazzled us with their deluxe tours of the golden realm”. Obviously, these names refer respectively to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby [the duo introduced the Marvel Comics version of Asgard in Journey Into Mystery (1st series) #85], Chris Claremont (writer of the Asgardian Wars storyline), Arthur Adams (penciler of New Mutants Special #1 and Uncanny X-Men Annual #9) and Walter Simonson [writer/penciler for a critically acclaimed Thor (1st series) run, #337-367].

This story takes place sometime between X-Force (1st series) #62-66.

At the end of the issue there is an unsigned bonus pin-up showing Siryn, Sunspot, Warpath, Shatterstar, Meltdown, Cable and Domino fighting what appears to be Frost Giants.

Loki’s “games” with the X-Men and Alpha Flight were seen in X-Men/Alpha Flight (1st series) #1-2. Following his defeat, Loki wanted to exact revenge from the X-Men. At his request, the Enchantress kidnapped and transferred the New Mutants – mistaking them for the X-Men – to Asgard, where among other things Moonstar became a Valkyrie and Cannonball met Kindra in New Mutants Special Edition #1. They were soon joined by the X-Men and together defeated the trickster god in Uncanny X-Men Annual #9. All these stories were collected in the Asgardian Wars trade paperback.

Hela started the process of corrupting Moonstar and turning her into her a monstrous being, obedient to her, in New Mutants (1st series) #77. The New Mutants traveled to Asgard and battled Hela in issues #79-80, 82-85. Dani reverted to her normal self in #85. The team left Asgard – minus Dani who stayed behind – in #87.

The Aesir – Odin, Loki and the other gods – are at the time of the issue amnesiac and living in Earth as normal people, as chronicled in the Lost Gods storyline. [Journey Into Mystery (1st series) #503-513]

Malekith battled Thor and was ultimately defeated by him in Thor (1st series) #345-348.

The Morlocks were slaughtered by the Marauders in the Mutant Massacre storyline.

“Scooby” and “smurf” both refer to two popular animated series, namely, Scooby Doo and The Smurfs (the latter adapted from a Belgian series of comic strips). The title character for the former is a dog (hence the association with the Demon Dogs). Poppa Smurf is one of the lead characters in the latter.

Rictor obviously parallels the Trolls to the villainous Orcs featured in J. J. R. Tolkin’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Coincidentally, Aragorn’s name is taken from the eponymous character in that trilogy.

Dani’s true connection to the M.L.F. will indeed soon be revealed. In X-Force (1st series) #66, she is revealed as an undercover agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. infiltrating the M.L.F. all this time.

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