Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thor (2014) issues 1-3

Greetings, citizens, and welcome to the final installment of the Couchman Birth Month Spectacular!

I’ve always been a huge fan of mythology. I remember being in third grade and reading everything I could find about the Egyptian gods and goddesses. Eventually I moved on to Grecian and Roman myths, some Native American ones, a select few Japanese, Chinese, and Indian ones, but my favorite ones of all were the Norse myths. They always had a lot of great action, more relatable characters, and a better sense of narrative flow than other myths. It’s no surprise that when I started getting into comics, I wanted to read about Thor. Fortunately, at that point in time, Marvel also decided to launch a new Thor title focusing more on the mythological aspects of him rather than the superhero ones, appropriately titled Thor: God of Thunder.

However, much as I love that series, that’s not the one I’m going to be discussing today. No, I’m going to be discussing the series that replaced it, simply titled Thor. Why this one and not God of Thunder? Well, there are a few reasons. First, I’ve been seeing a lot of negativity towards female comic characters lately, mainly regarding the new costumes of Wonder Woman and Spider Woman. While I am not very vocal about it, I do consider myself a feminist and this sort of thing bothers me. Women get the short end of the stick in comics way more often than they should. Every time a costume change comes up in regards to a female character, people flip their shit. Wonder Woman getting pants, covering up the boob-hole in Power Girl’s outfit, and now the new costumes I mentioned earlier. A whole bunch of DC’s characters are getting new costumes, but who gets most of the attention (and scorn)? Wonder Woman. So what does this have to do with Thor? Well, the big reason for this re-launch of Thor is that the mantle of Thor has been passed to a woman, and when it was announced, people lost their fucking minds. It baffled and angered me. It isn’t like this was the first time someone else had picked up Mjolnir and gained Thor’s powers;

But because we had a woman wielding the hammer, and calling herself Thor, it was freaking Ragnarok! I thought that it was an interesting idea, something new to do with one of the major superheroes of the Marvel universe, instead of just re-hashing the same thing over again.

The second reason is… well… I was actually kind of upset about the re-launch. I had been loving God of Thunder, looked forward to picking up the new issue every month, and that series was being cancelled. I didn’t think that there was any way that the new series was going to be as good as God of Thunder. I was wrong, and happy to be proved so. Jason Aaron, the writer for God of Thunder, was still the one writing the series, and one of the things I especially liked about how he wrote Thor was that he got how metal writing about a Norse god should be, and he kept that same tone in the writing for the new series. I love trying new things and falling in love with them, and this was an instance where I got to do just that. So, without further ado, THOR!

This cover has some good elements, but overall I think it’s lacking. I like the Thor logo, using Mjolnir as the O and the cross of the H, and it’s got a nice simplicity to it. The lightning on the T and going all over the rest of the cover is also neat, and adds some energy to the cover.

Truly, my wit is unrivaled, if only because few would stoop so low. Last bit of praise I’ll give to the cover is that it’s well-drawn and colored. There are some nice little details, and it’s got a solid amount of realism (though it’s not perfect, but I don’t usually care about that). However, beyond the lightning, the cover is dull. It’s just a portrait of our hero. You would think that if you’re trying to sell this new person as Thor, you’d have her doing something badass like smiting a dragon or something. Instead, it’s just her. Hell, it’s less of her than most people have seen. There was a lot of media attention surrounding this thing, including pictures of what the new Thor looked like, save for her face (more on that later). It feels like the cover was just an afterthought, like they were hoping all the media exposure and word of mouth would sell the book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but speaking as someone who looks for new books based on their covers, it’s not a perfect strategy. If this hadn’t been a title I was looking forward to, I probably would’ve overlooked it on the shelf.

Oh, one more problem with the cover; the new Thor is barely in this issue. Seriously, she shows up on the last page, and not a moment sooner. Because of this, I’m going to do a very brief summary and give the necessary backstory for why Thor isn’t Thor anymore.

At the end of the 2014 event Original Sin (which I barely followed), Nick Fury is imbued with the powers of Uatu the Watcher or something like that, and whispers something in Thor’s ear. Whatever it was he whispered caused Thor to no longer be worthy of wielding Mjolnir, and he spent a good long while moping on the moon next to where he dropped it. Odin returns from wherever he’s been for a long-ass while, and starts trying to go back to being a dictator, in spite of the fact that they had a perfectly good system of government set up in his absence. Meanwhile on Earth, a company called Roxxon has discovered the Skull of Laufey, and the frost giants want it. Malekith, king of the dark elves, has allied with the giants and aids them in attacking a Roxxon facility in search of the skull. Thor goes to stop the giants and Malekith, but without Mjolnir, he’s defeated and has his left arm severed. Back on the moon, a woman shrouded in darkness is deemed Worthy and picks up Mjolnir. Okay, onto issue two.

This is a much better cover. It’s our new Thor about to smack a frost giant in the face with Mjolnir while lightning arcs outwards. The image even covers up part of the Thor logo, because it’s obvious exactly what book this is, and if you don’t recognize it, it doesn’t matter because it’s clearly about some badass who smashes giants in the face and commands lightning. Why would you not want to read about that?

So, I suppose now it’s time to talk about our new Thor, starting with the costume. I personally really like it. It’s really simplistic, with very little actual armor, only a breastplate, helmet and a single bracer. Oh, and the big-ass belt is technically also armor, I suppose. Her cape is a tad on the long side, and she’s also got one of those combat skirt things that’s open in the front for mobility, but those both add a nice, dynamic flair to the figure while fighting, and help frame the character while still. There’s a good balance if color to the design, different from classic Thor, but close enough to be recognizable. One of the most noteworthy things is that the helmet, unlike with classic Thor, conceals her face. One of the big things with the story so far (through issue six that is) has been that her identity is a mystery to all, save for Mjolnir. In the first issue there was some hinting at Freyja, Thor’s mother, was a candidate, but pretty much from the get-go of issue two I was ready to rule her out, and I’ll explain why.

The issue opens with our new Thor surrounded by lightning, completely awestruck by the power she now wields. Her thought balloons and her speech balloons are somewhat at odds with each other; her thoughts are worded as most people’s would be, the font representing that by being whatever the standard comic font is. Her words however are more dramatic and archaic (y’know, thee, nay, dost, that sort of thing) and the font is the Asgardian font. The thoughts are what eliminated Freyja as a possible identity of our mystery Thor, because the Asgardians thoughts are the same style as their words. The difference that this illustrates made me think that it was a human, and clearly someone familiar with Thor.

Our hero doesn’t let the overwhelming power distract her for too long though, for Midgard is in peril! She flies off towards Earth, only briefly wondering how in Hel’s name you steer. It turns out that Mjolnir does the steering, which is something that I’ve always wondered, but seems obvious in retrospect. She lands on the Pacific ocean, but in a surprising turn of events, it’s completely frozen for as far as the eye can see, and features a tower of ice sticking up from it. Thor begins climbing it, and inside she finds not only an army of Asgardians frozen within, but Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as well. She begins to feel that she’s in over her head, but her introspection is interrupted by a patrol of frost giants. What follows is four pages of Thor being a badass and fighting the giants as well as a couple of their hounds, bringing the thunder and wiping the floor with them.

Sadly, we have to cut away to the top of the tower, where we see one of Roxxon’s floating islands under assault from the frost giants. The CEO of Roxxon, Dario Agger, is adamant about defending the place, regardless of how many of his employees he has to sacrifice. In spite of this, Malekith is able to make it to Agger, and we see that he’s wearing Thor’s severed arm as some sort of grotesque fashion accessory.

He states his demands, but Agger’s got personnel to deal with people, so he heads down to the vaults. Unfortunately for him, however, there are already giants down there attempting to find the skull. Agger’s about to turn into a minotaur (which is sort of his thing), but Thor bursts up through the floor. While she begins beating the crap out of the giants, Agger heads into one of the vaults, and accidentally seals Mjolnir inside it with him. Normally, that’s not much of a problem, but this vault is constructed of vibranium and coated in adamantium, so the hammer is trapped and our issue ends with Thor facing down the giants without the hammer.

Issue three’s cover isn’t bad, but it lacks the punch that issue two’s had. Still, it’s some good symbolism, Thor breaking through the ice representing her defeat of the frost giants. Kinda spoils what’s going to happen though.

The issue opens with a flashback of Malekith convincing Skrymir, king of the frost giants, to launch an invasion of Earth. Back in the present, Thor is surrounded by giants, but before the fighting begins, we get a bit of verbal sparring between her and Malekith. I said it a couple weeks ago when looking at Star Wars, but Jason Aaron writes some good dialogue. His version of Malekith is easily my favorite that I’ve seen. He’s slimy and arrogant, and significantly more threatening in how casual he is about atrocities. He’s so loathsome, but entertaining to read at the same time. Thor meanwhile has a good amount of archaic speech, but not so much that it feels forced. I also love the juxtaposition of her inner thoughts being doubtful, but her words being filled with bravado.

So Malekith lets the giants have at her, and they screw around trying to just kill her with their spit until Skrymir freezes her and swallows her whole. Well… that certainly could’ve gone better. I uh… guess we’ll just watch the giants and Malekith break into the vaul-

Oh wait, this is THOR, of course getting eaten doesn’t deter her. She fights with the giants (using Skrymir’s jawbone as a weapon) while Malekith magics his way into the vault, where he and Agger begin fighting. Thor’s power is draining away, but she does manage to smash a hole in the floor and all the way through the floating island, sending most of the giants plummeting. With them out of the way, she attempts to pry the door to the vault open while Mjolnir continues to pound at the other side. She gets it open just before the power fades from her entirely, and Mjolnir finishes off the remaining giants before returning to her hand. Tired of all this bullshit, she decides to just smash the damn skull so nobody can have it. Malekith promises her a war, but his threat is interrupted by the original Thor, wielding his axe, and with a metal arm to replace the one Malekith took. Now, a sensible man would go straight for the guy who cut off one of his limbs, but Thor is kind of an idiot, so the issue ends with him about to throw down with our new Thor.

These issues are an excellent start to the series. It begins with high stakes to test our new hero and prove that she’s truly Worthy, and she rises to the challenge like a champ. I already went into the dialogue a bit, but every exchange is equally well done, and the pacing for each issue is fast, but not rushed. I didn’t really touch on the artwork much, but it’s pretty solid all around. The action sequences are executed well, with a lot of detail and just enough chaos to make it seem like an actual fight. Best of all, Aaron is clearly taking our new Thor just as seriously as the Odinson. I was worried at first that the tone would be very different from what I’d come to expect, but damned if I wasn’t pleasantly surprised. This Thor is every bit the badass that the previous one was, and I look forward to whatever adventures she faces.

Well, this wraps up the Couchman birth-month celebration! As much fun as it was looking at these things that are (at least tangentially) dear to my heart, I’m looking forward to getting back to the previously scheduled stuff. The main reason is because we’re very near the end of Superior Spider-Man, and I’ve got something special planned for that. Until next week, citizens!

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