Thirty-five long years ago, Thor was forced to face an ally suddenly and unexpectedly, over a misunderstanding. Both allies survived, but one was forced to face a sad truth.
In the preceding issue, Thor had faced a robot with fiery wings called Gabriel the Air-Walker, a former herald of Galactus who had unexpectedly awakened in a farm in upstate New York. The herald took a boy living on the farm as a companion, but mistaken for a hostage situation, his instincts as a herald led to a fight with Thor. The Air-Walker, because he is not a living being, can catch Mjolnir, but Thor’s experience with the hammer allows him to use it to drive a hole through Air-Walker’s chest.
In issue 306, a powerful fiery being posing as a Djinn in Saudi Arabia sees the battle and recognizes the Air-Walker. He arrives just after Thor defeats the robot, and is distraught when he sees that Gabriel has died. This fiery being is called the Firelord, and was also a herald of Galactus. In a previous issue, Thor interceded on Firelord’s behalf so that Firelord would be released from his responsibilities finding new planets for the god-like being to devour. It is extremely shocking when Firelord attacks Thor for “murdering” the Air-Walker.
After the battle has gone on for awhile, Thor yields, having realized that Firelord is attacking not in vengeance, but in grief. Firelord explains the two heralds’ long history.
The Air-Walker Gabriel was once captain of a starship from Xandar, home of the famous Nova Corps. The Firelord, named Pyreus, was his first officer. Their ship once encountered Galactus’s planet-sized vessel in deep space, and Galactus identified Gabriel as having the right qualities for a herald, and Gabriel was impressed into Galactus’s service. Pyreus swore to find his friend and mentor, but it wasn’t until much later, after Gabriel had been killed and his life essence placed in a robotic body, that he finally found him, at which point Galactus chose Pyreus as herald.
It wasn’t until, long after being released from Galactus’s service, and seeing the robotic remains of his mentor fighting Thor on television, that Pyreus truly understood what had happened to his friend. And it took seeing Gabriel lying broken and dead on a street in New York for him to being to mourn for the first time.
In the end, the Firelord Pyreus took this opportunity to return to Xandar and bury his friend on a nearby asteroid, so that he would always be wandering the stars. And he built an eternal flame in memorial, a symbol of their bond.
Thor 306 was written by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio (not related to that Ralph Macchio), with art by Keith Pollard, Chic Stone, Tom Simmons, Frank Giacoia, and Marie Severin, letters by Joe Rosen, and colors by George Roussos. Edited by Jim Salicrup.