(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Jason Aaron
Artwork by Russel Dauterman
Color Artwork by Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Marvel has some major changes in store for us as we approach the end of 2014; Sam Wilson taking over the mantle of Captain America from Steve Rogers, Tony Stark moving from the Invincible east coast to the Superior west coast in a bid to become the Steve Jobs of the 616, Wolverine’s death and the one that has the internet buzzing, the controversial next chapter in the saga of Thor which sees the god of thunder no longer worthy to lift his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir. This is a direct result of events taking place in Original Sin, specifically a whispered exchange between Thor and Nick Fury; the ultimate outcome leaves the hammer in the hands of a new, female Thor. These changes all present intriguing and potentially exciting opportunities to progress and in some cases re-invigorate the current status of quite a few of Marvel’s biggest marquee characters, however they each present certain risks as well, perhaps none more so than the case of Thor. Since Jason Aaron began his run on Thor: God of Thunder the title has been a favorite of fans and critics alike with its bombastic 80’s heavy metal imagery courtesy of the insanely talented Esad Ribic and the epoch spanning narratives featuring the variously aged Thor trinity. For over two years now Aaron has brought a degree of high fantasy sensibility to the book that it had not seen before and Ribic’s dreamy images and ethereal settings worked perfectly to bring these stories beautifully to life; now, however there seems to be doubt among some of those same fans and critics concerning Aaron’s decision to include a woman wielding Mjolnir as part of this on-going saga. The fear seems to be that this new female character is going to forever take the place of the Thor we have all come to know and love. Well, those fears should be put to rest after reading the first issue of this new series.
It is obvious that this is still very much Thor’s story and this this new chapter, which shows him at his absolute lowest point, is just that, a chapter in a viable evolving and organic narrative. Thematically this issue is built firmly upon the previous 25 issues of Aaron’s epic tale with the events of Original Sin acting as a catalyst to propel the narrative forward. Aaron plays his cards extremely close to his vest as he slowly unfolds the narrative before us; he illuminates just enough of the terrain for us to see where we are going but never to clearly view what is around the next corner; major pieces of the puzzle still remain missing, specifically and most importantly is the identity of this new female who now holds Mjolnir so effortlessly above her head when Thor and even Odin himself could not budge the mighty hammer and equally cryptic are the words that Nick Fury whispered into Thor’s ear to cause such feelings of unworthiness. Aaron is a master of the slow burn as we saw most recently with Original Sin. He very astutely maintains the suspense and tension at a very precise level adding to the magnitude of every single panel and with this new Lady Thor only appearing in but a few in this first issue you can believe they each speak volumes. The fact that she does appear in so few scenes emphasizes the fact that Thor is still a central player in this series. We see him beaten down but not beaten, refusing to relent or relinquish his claim to Mjolnir or his charge as protector of Midgard. In some ways I am reminded the Death of Superman in that we saw a mighty hero beaten in a way we never dreamed we ever would but we kept hope in our hearts that he would one day return to greatness and glory. That is a central theme in many epic tales of heroism from the New Testament to Star Wars; redemption is a powerful premise that never seems to lose its appeal.
As much as Aaron focused almost myopically on Thor in God of Thunder in this first issue of the new series he has included dramatic scenes between Odin and Freyja. It seems Odin’s decision to return as ruler of Asgardia does not please Freyja resulting in internal strife and outright squabbling. This turmoil is certainly going to fuel further unrest in the realm perhaps to the point of war but for now it provides an engrossing sub-plot equal to the central conflict if only in human drama. The Warriors Three also make an early series appearance however the light-hearted banter and drunken antics that usually erupt during their visits is conspicuously absent more befitting the somber tone of the issue.
Where the narratives flow together seamlessly the visuals have a slightly more jarring effect. This is not to say that new artist Russell Dauterman is not a suitable fit because he most certainly is; it’s just his style is far more of a traditional comic book style than Ribic’s, which is by no means a bad thing. Ribic’s run was noted for its soaring scenes of flight and castles floating amongst the clouds as well as ferocious demon-beast wielding huge axes doing battle with Thor with his long flowing mane of blonde hair and bulging muscled arms, the whole thing was like a fantasy writer’s dream cover artist doing an entire book. Dauterman’s take, on the other hand, is a bit more precise, his lines are sharp and clean, his take of the fantasy themed imagery is a little more super hero-like and much like his work on Cyclops there is a very clear sense of his influences in the comic book medium. That being sad, I love Dauterman’s work and I look forward to seeing him take on some of the epic battles we are sure to see in the coming months in this series. Matthew Wilson’s colors are top notch; he one of those guys that always delivers a great looking comic book. He doesn’t overdo it with garish tones nor does he understate his work the way a lot of his contemporaries have taken to do with a washed out and overly subdued pallet of muted earth tones.
Overall this first issue was an entertaining and exciting, if not action –packed, read. Aaron has undoubtedly quelled some of his detractors with a solid introduction to the next stage of Thor Odinson’s journey. The story is engrossing and dramatic, necessarily bordering on bleak at times as Thor attempts to pull himself from the lowest point of his very long existence. The artwork is dynamic; the action is well composed as are the pages overall enhancing the brisk pace of Aaron’s narrative. Although this is visually a different book and there are some new players on the stage, this is Jason Aaron’s Thor and if you have loved the first 25 issues like I have you will stay on board or be sorry you didn’t. (4.5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.