(Marvel Comics, 2013)
Review by Cory Thrall
WRITTEN BY: Jason Aaron
ARTWORK BY: Nic Klein
LETTERING BY: VC’s Joe Sabino
Having just finished the epic 10+ issue storyline featuring the past, present, and future versions of Thor battling Gorr the God Butcher, this newest issue of Thor returns him to his usual stomping grounds – Earth/Midgard. We read the adventures of the three Thors as they first battled their way through to Gorr, and then defeat his God Bomb – a thing so powerful it would erase Gods from all planes of existence. While this was a great read and was amazing on all artistic fronts, in my opinion it went on a bit too long and left me feeling like I was grinding my way through it already around issue #7. As said, the writing and art were amazing, so the issues were good, it just needed a quicker pace, I felt. But, now we move on from that glorious battle of battles to a much more humble and reserved issue, and it’s a welcome change. The cover of this issue #12 speaks strongly of what you’ll find inside – a shot of Thor gliding through skyscrapers, looking as much the majestic God as he does a solemn and thoughtful man.
Thor’s absence has been noticed by a number of people (except, like Captain America, the rest of Marvel’s heroes, where he still appeared regularly during the whole Gorr craziness), from the owner of the pub Thor frequents, to a man about to be executed, and much more. It’s a lighter side of the character, but at it’s heart it’s a sad story, adding a good dose of tragedy and loneliness to what might easily pass as a ‘fill in’ issue. Which, trust me, it is not. While the scene in Death Row opens with a joke referring to Mjolnir and a metal detector, it’s quickly overshadowed by what follows – Thor visiting an old friend who, in his final hours, is given a one-of-a-kind fruit to have with his last meal. The tone of this scene is similar to the rest of the book – loss, second guessing from a God, and the painful truths of mortal lives. At the same time, it shows his love for humans, and how large and giving his heart can be even in the worst situations. This may be a God among men, but at the same time he is as much a normal man as the rest.
Thor continues his path around Earth by visiting many different areas and people he had missed, and even bringing some Thor Justice down on a few needed heads, creates rain where it is needed, and more. He is sharing and giving by instinct, and he is just and true in his teachings. He visits with injured soldiers. He clears out a hateful protest. Eventually, he ends up at a S.H.I.E.L.D. Cadet’s Ball, where a graduating woman had invited him via the internet to be her date. A huge surprise for her is waiting as Thor arrives and sweeps her off her feet quickly and smoothly. These quick scenes show the range of emotions and dedication this usually aloof Thor holds dear. It gives him a much more grounded personality, as if the troubles with Gorr had taught him more about his life, and how he wants to live it.
The main story ends with Thor and one of his most beloved friends, who he learns has a terminal disease. As is always the bane of a major hero’s existence, it’s a problem he cannot fix through any means available or allowed. The old adage about being able to move mountains while not being able to do what he feels is the simplest of things is a nice ending to an issue that show how he can actually impact the smaller aspects of life on Earth. The main ending, with Thor and a friend sharing an amazingly touching and beautiful scene, is the best ending possible, I think. It really sums up what Thor has learned – that life has as much grace and love as it does evil and darkness – as well as what he has yet to learn. Mainly, that a God is all powerful, but up to a point. He learns a valuable lesson through his ill friend that sometimes faith and a want to just be a human being is all you can hope for. It’s a grand message after the questions and ideas raised by Gorr and his ilk during their struggles. He finds that yes, there are reasons to have Gods (something he wonders earlier in the series), and that reason is simple – to give people hope over insurmountable odds, and peace and understanding when that’s all that is left to give.
There is a small scene or two at the very end of the comic, one featuring Thor as he meets a new character – agent Roz Solomon, a member of S.H.I.E.L.D.S.’s Environmental Investigation Team – for the first time. The ‘move mountains’ line is used here again in it’s own way, and the way it folds out you get the feeling we’ll be seeing more of this Agent Solomon. The final pages show Old Thor (from the future we’ve seen in the previous arc) finally being able to return to future Earth/Midgard after a long time. What he finds there is horrific but, as writer Jason Aaron puts it in the letters column, this is one of those ‘stories for another day’.
The writing here is as solid as the series has been, but that’s what I’ve come to expect by Jason Aaron who is by far one of my favorite writers in the business. His handling of Thor is so unique – especially with the way he’s been portrayed as of late in the myriad titles he appears in – and his dialogue has the needed hint of Asgardian speech, but isn’t overpowering or redundant as it has a tendency to get in other portrayals. It feels much more ‘realistic’ here, and it suits this title perfectly. The art from Nic Klein may not be Elsad Ribic’s beautiful work, but it is no way a weak successor. The style is very emotionally driven, and it fits incredibly well with this issue’s subject matter, showing more ‘down to earth’ realism in a story full of just that.
All told, this is a strong character study, especially in light of what has been happening in this title up until now. It shows Thor’s love and respect for humanity and his need to return on a regular basis to the land he finds so intriguing and, when you get down to it, the one place he really feels at home. We’re sure to see our hammer wielding Thor busting up baddies soon enough (and by the look of next issue’s cover that’s exactly where this title seems to be heading), but this was a nice and needed break between epics to show us that there is so much more to this still-young God, and maybe more than he himself recognizes. An incredible issue from front to back.
Follow Cory Thrall on Twitter: @FeralFang27