Comic Book Review: Thor #4

Last issue of Thor was JMS’ obligatory “punk out Iron Man” issue. Now that he has gotten that over with, hopefully we can resume what was an enjoyable read over the first two issues. I’m sure that Thor #4 will be a solid read and I look for JMS to pick up the pace on this story. Let’s go ahead and do this review for Thor #4.

Creative Team
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Olivier Copiel
Inks: Mark Morales

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Dr. Ernest Lereaux of an organization called Doctors without Borders visiting the motel that Donald Blake is staying at. Donald greets Dr. Lereaux and Dr. Lereaux says that Donald’s presence is needed.

We cut to Donald Blake at a mobile hospital in Africa treating some of the locals. We get a long monologue about how terrible war between the different tribes is and how the locals suffer. Evidently, the Ngare is an aggressive tribe that is killing the local villagers. We get more political blah blah about what is the U.N going to do about and what can be done to stop tribal warfare in Africa.

We then meet three mercenaries who were hired to provide protection for the doctors. One is a big German. The other is a blonde from England and the third is a dark haired guy from America. The three soldiers joined the doctors’ group two years ago all at the same time. All three requested this specific village in Africa to be stationed in.

Suddenly, a young girl comes screaming toward the village. Dr. Lereaux runs toward the girl. The girl’s jacket blows off and we see her arms tied behind her back with a large bomb strapped on her chest. She blows up and Donald and Lereaux get knocked around.

The Ngare soldiers then attack the village and open fire on everyone. The three guards fight valiantly. Blake knows that they can’t win this fight. Blake transforms in Thor. Thor proceeds to kick some serious ass. The Ngare soldiers then surrender.

Thor approaches the three guards. He asks them if they knew why they all joined the doctors’ group at the same time and all requested to be stationed at this specific location. Thor tells them that the village they are stationed in is named Umeme Mungu which means Lightning God.

Thor then fires up his hammer and transforms the three soldiers into their proper Asgardian forms. They are revealed to be the Warriors Three: Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun.

Thor tells his fellow Asgardians that they need to take the fight to the Ngare. Suddenly, one of the town elders appears and gives us the same speech that we got over in Squadron Supreme #3 when they were sent to Africa on a mission. The elder goes on about this being Africa’s problem and that they don’t need white men helping them. That Africa must solve their problems from within and cannot be solved from the outside especially by white men.

Then the elder states that hopefully nations outside Africa can find ways to keep the tribes apart until they can find ways to live together. The elder points to the direction where the Ngare live. Thor then uses his hammer to split the earth and create a giant chasm in between the Ngare’s land and the innocent villagers’ land. This way the two tribes are separated.

We cut to Thor, Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun and Hemdall in Asgard. Hemdall comments that Thor is moving slowly in awakening Asgardians and is only awakening the ones he wishes to awaken and not the others. Thor comments that they will not mention their names in Asgard. That they are going to remake a happier future for Asgard.

Thor does agree that they have to speed up the search for the other Asgardians. That they don’t know what might happen to an Asgardian if his human host dies. Thor asks if Hemdall can speed up his quest and lead Thor to the Asgardians faster than fate has carried Thor to this point. Hemdall says that he can. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Thor #4 certainly had its positive moments. Without a doubt, it was great seeing Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun once again. That put a big smile on my face. I have always liked the Warriors Three and it is nice to see them back and better than ever. I never liked it when Marvel junked all of the Asgardians, so I’m having tremendous fun watching JMS bring everyone back.

I liked the final scene in this issue. It was rather thought provoking. Hemdall tactfully points out the obvious that Thor is clearly picking and choosing who he wants to re-populate Asgard with. Evidently, Thor is viewing this opportunity as a chance to create a perfect Asgard that will be superior to what came before. It is only natural to try and do better than the past and to strive for perfection. And it is understandable that Thor would want to re-make Asgard into a utopia free of the ills that plagued it the last time around.

However, you know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And Thor is taking it upon himself to re-populate Asgard based on his own morals and desires. It is an interesting ethical debate. Does Thor owe it to Asgard as a whole to make an effort to bring back all the Asgardians rather than just the ones that he likes and agrees with? I’m curious to see if this turns out to haunt Thor in the long run.

JMS was smart to use Hemdall to play the role of the reader by commenting about the slow pace of Thor’s quest and the need to pick it up. The reader is thinking that very same thing after the fourth slow issue in a row. I hope that this was JMS telling the reader to stick around because the story will move faster from now on.

I never enjoyed Copiel’s artwork when he was drawing the Legion of Super Heroes. But, Copiel has continually impressed me with each issue of Thor. Copiel’s style of art works well with the fantasy based characters of Asgard. In Thor #4, Copiel and Morales combine for some great artwork. And Copiel definitely draws an impressive Thor. Seriously, when you see Copiel’s art there is no doubt in your mind that you are looking at a bona fide god.

The Bad: Thor #4 certainly has its fair share of warts. The monologue that runs through much of this issue was simply too preachy for my taste. I found the monologue, as well as some of the dialogue, was a bit cheesy and overly dramatic. JMS has a penchant for being too heavy handed and it certainly showed in this issue.

As a general rule, I rarely enjoy any comic book writer when they get on their soapbox and start preaching social or political commentary to me. Whether I agree with the preaching or not is irrelevant. I don’t read comic books to get political or social commentary. I’d watch CNN, MSNBC or FOX News if I wanted that. The scenes in Africa felt oddly out of place and a bit forced.

Maybe it is just me, but when I buy an issue of Thor I’m not really interested in getting discussions on the political and social landscape of African nations. And to make it even more of a boring read, it is practically the same speech that we got over in Squadron Supreme #3. Evidently, this must be JMS’ cause de jour. When I pick up an issue of Thor I just want to read about some Asgardian gods engaging in tales of fantasy and adventure as well as plenty of serious ass-kicking by a giant Norse god of thunder.

And unfortunately, action was in very short order with Thor #4. Now, regular followers of the Revolution know that I am certainly not averse to an issue with little to no action in it. Some of the best issues over in X-Factor, Captain America and Daredevil contain relatively no action. Strong character work and well crafted dialogue can always carry an issue. However, JMS serves up some weak dialogue and character work in this issue and cannot carry the issue and make it a quality read in the absence of any real action.

All we get is a whopping total of three pages of sweet Thor action. The rest of the issue was just a serious snoozer. Other than the three pages of Thor kicking butt, the rest of the issue jut bored me to tears.

Now, I have enjoyed the steady and measured pace that JMS gave this title with the first two issues. I felt it created a wonderfully restrained story with plenty of tension and powerful emotion. It helped to convey the magnitude of the re-birth of a god. However, after four issues, this pacing that JMS is employing is getting slow and the story is beginning to get a bit plodding and boring. JMS definitely needs to kick the pacing up a notch of two.

And JMS also needs to introduce some other plotline other than just re-awakening an Asgardian with each issue. We need some other source of tension and mystery in addition to Thor’s search for his fellow Asgardians. Thor #4 gave us the dramatic return of the three Warriors, and that is about it. We can only go but so many issues with the exact same formula as issues #3 and #4.

Overall: Thor #4 was an above average read, but this title is certainly on a downward trend since issue #2. Of course, if you don’t mind a bit of preaching about political issues from a comic book writer then you will certainly enjoy Thor #4 more than I did. However, if you are more like me and are just getting this title to read about a fantasy based storyline with exciting action and adventure then you will probably be disappointed with what JMS gives us with Thor #4.

JMS is at a critical point on this young title. You simply can’t expect readers to stick with a new title if after four issues it appears that the writer is in no hurry to get anywhere with the story. I still have faith in JMS to make Thor a good read and I still firmly believe that Thor has all the ingredients to be a good read.

5 Comments

  1. JMS gave an interview a while ago where he said that his vision for the series was putting Thor in situations where physical force can’t solve the problem (somewhat reminiscent of Dan Jurgens’ old quote that he was always more interested in what Superman couldn’t do). He also said that next issue would see the return of a classic Thor villain; the cover included here shows Sif, but the expression on Thor’s face says “Loki” to me.

    Which I think ties into Heimdall’s talk with Thor here about his reluctance to bring back certain people. And it makes sense, really; why would Thor want to bring back Loki? He’s a conniver, a murderer, and a general pain-in-the-ass. Given what we’ve seen of everybody else, who are exactly the same as before, he’d just go back to doing exactly what he did before, and now he’s potentially even more dangerous, since Ragnarok is over, so he has no ultimate fate.

    So, of course, he’ll probably either have to bring back Loki, or be tricked into doing it (Loki being the Trickster God).

    I agree that a bit of “hammer time” for Thor would be in order.

  2. Thor then uses his hammer to split the earth and create a giant chasm in between the Ngare’s land and the innocent villagers’ land. This way the two tribes are separated.

    What, doesn’t it occur to Thor that the Ngare might just be able to get their hands on helicopters or airplanes?

  3. It’s explicitly said they don’t have any; which is, I suppose, in keeping with the idea of an African tribal militia, where guns and such are easy to come by, but not more expensive stuff.

  4. In complete agreement with one exception, Fox News. As a Canadian, even I know that’s not an actual news site. =p

    Also, with the redesigns for Thor and Heimdall, I was surprised that the 3 new Asgardians from this issue were, well, completely different in looks. They look like their old counterparts, but, at the same time, completely out of place with the new looks and tone of the series. Small nitpick, but something that stuck out to me.

  5. Overall I liked the issue. I agree that I am hoping for more action soon, but compared to how drawn out some comics are JMS is moving rather quickly. The political/social aspect presents an interesting spin to the story that has not always been explored. So far JMS has not been too heavy-handed with it.

    Two things he has done I know many fans liked involved the Iron Man battle. It may not have been written as best as possible, but after the Clor mess it was something that at least had to be addressed.

    The other was showing proof-positive that Thor is bullet proof. (Long story.) That and I liked how he was taping into his maternal heritage.

    I think the comments by other about not wanting Loki back were spot on.

    I think JMS commented he intends to rap up the finding Asgardians by issue six, so I think the series should at least be given that much time.

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