Comic Book Review: Thor #1

The time has finally come. With Thor #1, the dramatic return of the Thunder God is finally upon us. I can almost hear good ol’ J.R. yelling “He’s baaack, he’s baaack, oh mah gawd, he’s baaaaack!” Now, the Revolution has only ever been a casual fan of Thor. I have read his title off and on depending who was writing the title at the time. So, by no means am I a Thor expert.
Now, Thor’s return is going to be huge considering the current climate of the 616 Universe. The first question is what side Thor will join: the pro-registration side or the anti-registration side. I think the fact that JMS is penning this title is an obvious sign that Thor will be firmly entrenched with the anti-registration side.

The second question is if Thor will get involved in the events of World War Hulk? Personally, I think if anyone can stop the Hulk it would be the Thunder God. Of course, it appears that Hulk can beat anyone including Zeus, Horus, Odin and the Judeo-Christian God all rolled together.

Anyway, I’m curious to see if JMS can return to form and actually deliver an issue that I enjoy. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed a JMS title since I found his work on Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and Squadron Supreme less than impressive. Let’s go ahead and hit this review for Thor #1.

Creative Team
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Olivier Copiel
Inker: Mark Morales

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Thor thinking how he has been a god and has been a man. How he has known love and loss. He has known pain and war. We see the events of Thor’s history leading up to his final disappearance. Thor then says that he then went away and was no more.

We cut to Mjolnir falling to the Earth. We see a line of men forming to try and lift the hammer. One man arrives and lifts the hammer and a giant bolt of lightning streaks from the sky.

We then shift to the Void where Thor is located. Donald Blake appears before Thor. Blake says that he knows what it is like to live in the Void. That the Odinspell made Donald Blake disappear. That once the gods in turn ceased to be, the Odinspell was broken and then Donald Blake suddenly came back into being.

Donald tells Thor that they both know what it is like to exist only in the Void. Donald says that reason that he exists again is that it is not for gods to decide whether or not Man exists. It is for Man to decide whether or not gods exist. That because Thor is important and is needed that his time is not over.

Thor asks what if he wishes not to return. Donald replies that Thor can stay in the void and make his legacy a lie. Donald shows Thor an apocalyptic future for Earth if Thor doesn’t return to the right place and the right time to tip the balance.

Donald tells Thor that the cycle of Ragnarok was what happened to Thor and not who Thor is. That Thor did break the cycle of Ragnarok that the Asgardian gods were trapped in. That now Thor’s future is his own to write. Donald asks if Thor wants to be free or to say lost here in the Void forever.

Thor responds that he will be free, but he will be alone since all the Asgardian gods are dead. Donald responds if Thor is sure about that fact. Donald says that it is for mortals to say whether the gods exist. That the gods live on in the hearts and minds of mortals. That the gods need only to be found and awakened. Thor asks about Asgard. Donald replies that where there is Thor, there is Asgard.

Suddenly, a horde of demons appear from the Void. Donald tells Thor that there are forces that d o not want Thor to return. Thor asks Donald how he knows all of this. Donald replies that he has walked in the Void of Nonexistence for much longer than Thor. That they are both children of Mjolnir. Donald says that birth, like death, comes only through great pain.

We then see Thor square off against the horde of demons. Thor starts battling the demons. The demons get the upper hand. Then Thor sees Mjolnir and reaches out for his hammer. Then Thor blasts all the demons away with a massive bolt of lightning. Thor then says that he wishes to live.

We cut to Donald Blake walking alongside a country road in Oklahoma. Donald rents a room at some old motel. The caretaker of the motel tells Donald that they are expecting a thunderstorm tonight. Donald smiles and says he wouldn’t be surprised.

Donald enters his motel room and takes his staff and hits the floor with it. We then see a dark storm cloud over the motel and a massive bolt of lightning crashing down on top of the motel. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Thor #1 was a good read. JMS actually delivered an issue that I enjoyed. It has certainly been a long time since that has happened. I’m glad that JMS wasted no time bringing Thor back. And JMS brings Thor back to life in a very plausible and believable manner.

I completely bought into the concept that mortals decide whether gods exist and not the other way around. The belief that it is mortal’s faith in gods that allows the gods to exist makes perfect sense. Also, when dealing with magic and gods it is very easy to craft a believable way to bring a character back to life.

Marvel takes a page from DC’s playbook by going retro with this new version of Thor. JMS brings back Thor’s mortal guise: Donald Blake. Again, JMS did a good job creating a convincing reason why Donald Blake would suddenly exist again. It was Odin’s spell that created wiped Donald Blake out of existence. Once Odin and the rest of the gods disappeared, the spell lost its strength and Blake popped back into existence.

I also dig that JMS uses Blake’s time in the Void of Nonexistence to create a bond with Thor and his much shorter time spent in the Void. JMS manages to weave the mortal identity of Blake with Thor’s identity as being two sides of the same coin. That they are both connected to Mjolnir. I am certainly curious to learn more about the connection that Thor and Blake share with each other and with Mjolnir.

JMS displays an excellent feel for both Donald Blake and Thor. This is quite evident in the conversation that Donald has with Thor in his attempt to encourage Thor to return back to Earth. This long conversation firmly establishes Thor’s central role within the 616 Universe and how he is considered one of Earth’s primary guardians. JMS also establishes that Thor is more than just a super hero. That Thor is more than a god. That Thor is a spiritual being who has a great love for Earth and a feeling of duty and honor to protect Earth.

JMS also uses the conversation between Blake and Thor to neatly wrap up the constant issue of Ragnarok. Using Thor’s success of breaking the cycle of Ragnarok paves the way for JMS to allow Thor to control his own destiny from now on free of the constraints of Ragnarok. It also allows JMS to let Thor go on a quest to awaken the other Asgardian gods and to pave the way for the creation of a new Asgard.

The scene where Blake shows Thor the apocalyptic future of the Earth without Thor’s presence cues the reader that Thor will play a central role in the current Initiative storyline as well as whatever big Skrull war that we have in store for us in the near future. I also fully expect JMS to align Thor with the anti-registration side and for Thor to be the linchpin in the downfall of the pro-registration forces.

The scene where Thor battles the demons was great. I got pumped up when Thor reached out for Mjolnir and then transformed into his battle gear and loudly pronounced that he is Thor. Awesome. If that didn’t get you psyched then not much will. That was a nice dramatic way for JMS to show Thor choosing to live and to leave the Void.

The way that JMS handled this first issue shows that he is a good choice for this title. JMS’ penchant for forcing magic and mythology into Amazing Spider-Man like a child rams a square beg in a round hole was a bad mix for that title. However, JMS’ love for all things magic will be a perfect match for Thor’s new title.

JMS did a great job giving just enough backstory on Thor’s character and history so that new readers wouldn’t feel lost, but not so much backstory that long time readers would get bored. It was a perfect balance.

JMS crafts some fantastic dialogue. I loved the scenes between Donald and Thor. This issue was almost lyrical and read more like poetry than prose. JMS’ style of writing on this issue really tapped into the theme and feel of ancient Norse mythology. The pleasant flow of the writing captivates the reader’s interest and distracts the reader from noticing that not much really happens in this issue.

Copiel and Morales provided some excellent artwork for Thor #1. I’ve never been a big fan of Copiel’s artwork. I never thought his style was a good match for the Legion of Super Heroes. However, Copiel draws one bad-assed Thor. This entire issue was well done and quite beautiful to look at. Copiel does a good job capturing the other-worldly feel of the Void of Nonexistence.

The Bad: As much as I found this issue to be pleasantly and lyrically written and certainly nicely drawn, the fact remains that not much really happened in Thor #1. We got practically no action other than the two pages of Thor struggling with the demons. The story also moves at a leisurely pace. It is unusual to have a debut issue that isn’t eventful or splashy.

JMS definitely played this first issue of Thor rather low-keyed. The story, though nicely written, lacks a lot of meat and is a bit skimpy. Thor #1 came across more like a prologue or a tease for the next issue.

Overall: Thor #1 was an enjoyable issue. JMS and Copiel are a great team and should crank out an excellent run on this title. I am certainly looking forward to seeing how Thor reacts to the changes in the 616 Universe since his death. All is right in the 616 Universe now that Thor has officially returned. It just isn’t normal not having the Thunder God running around. It was nice to see a Thor comic book back on the stands at my local comic book shop. It is great to have the big blonde Norseman back.

5 Comments

  1. Thor just missed Cap on his way back from the dead; at this rate, Thor #81 will probably hold the “most recent meeting of the Avengers Big Three” title for a few years yet.

    I’m glad that JMS managed to pick up from Michael Oeming’s Ragnarok story so well, although part of me wishes that Thor didn’t come back, if only that said story remained his final tale (I don’t know if you’ve read it, but you should; it ruled) (I have the same conflicting feelings about “The Death of the Dream” and Captain America). It certainly helps that JMS seems to have actually read “Ragnarok”, unlike when he brought Doctor Doom back and either hadn’t read or didn’t understand the implications of Waid’s stories.

    It’s a fairly muted debut issue, really; lots of metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, although it mostly makes sense (who and what Donald Blake is confuses me greatly, since he was never more than a construct to hold Thor’s essence).

    The art is lovely, although Olivier Coipel has this weird habit of drawing characters’ mouths closed even when the dialogue boxes make it look like they should be shouting.

    I’m dreading Iron Man’s appearance in issue 3, but apart from that JMS demonstrates an appropriately mythic sensibility for the character. He clearly thinks of Thor as a God with a capital G, rather than as a really powerful alien, which is what he’s often shown as.

  2. Also, I don’t expect that the cataclysmic prophecy has anything to do with the Initiative or the downfall of the SHRA; I expect JMS will largely keep Thor clear of that, and focus on worldbuilding (making the driving force for Thor’s return an event that will happen elsewhere seems like a bad storytelling decision).

  3. The thing about Thor vs. Iron Man is that, really, Iron Man is for once in a pretty indefensible position that’s not merely a result of writers spinning it the wrong way, like most other things are with JMS.

    Of all the lines Tony crossed/pushed in the course of Civil War, Clone Thor makes by far the least sense; Mark Millar never even gave any reason why Tony had cloned Thor, since a robot or LMD could have done everything he did; as Paul O’Brien, the X-Axis reviewer noted, Millar is primarily a “cool moment” writer; that is, Clone Thor’s purpose was to make a dramatic entrance and make everyone think he was Thor and go “dude, that’s pretty *$=#ing cool” (and it was, truthfully). But unlike the Negative Zone prison, or the extreme lengths Iron Man went in prosecution of the war, it’s really hard to see why he created Clor.’

    Even a writer who felt any compulsion to present Iron Man sympathetically would have a hard time with this one; and JMS, as we all know, has no such compulsion (hell, he mangled Reed Richards, one of his own characters, in the FF CW tie-ins, only to have Dwayne McDuffie swoop in and steer things back towards Mark Millar’s original explanation).

    Anyway, just grit our collective teeth, get past issue 3, and then I think the sky is pretty much the limit for Thor.

  4. I for one am curious to see the Thor Iron Man confrontation. Though I agree that Millar’s only justification for throwing “Clor” into CW was for a “Oh Shit” fakeout moment to make everyone think Thor was back

  5. I just don’t agree with everyone’s assessment of Oliver Copiel’s art. It looks muted and sloppy to me…I have to admit that I was quite disappointed both by the story and the art. I guess art truly is ‘in the eye of the beholder’.

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