New Thor puts the hammer down
Three issues in and I’m sold on the all-new, all-distaff Thor.
The gender-bending take on one of Marvel’s mainstays shifted into high gear after an anti-climatic debut issue, with writer Jason Aaron delivering a book that reads first and foremost as fun and interesting, not a P.C. stunt like some feared.
The series started off shaky after months of hype in which everyone, whether they read Marvel comics or not, knew Thor was being replaced by a woman. The main cover to the first issue featured a closeup of this woman, and she was front and center on five of six variants. But she didn’t show up in the comic itself (that we know of, anyway) until the second-to-last page.
I understand some groundwork needed to be laid story-wise, but why make the payoff something everyone buying the book already knew was coming? An opening action sequence with the new Thor that segued into an establishing flashback would have made more sense.
The second issue dives right in, with Aaron establishing amusing dual voices for his new star. Outwardly, she speaks in Thor’s familiar “thee-thou” dialect, but inwardly her words are more Earth-casual.
“I can’t believe I am holding Thor’s Mjolnir,” she thinks upon lifting the magical hammer for the first time. “Does that make me…”
“Nay. No time for questions. Midgard (the Asgardian word for Earth) is in peril,” she says aloud. “I must away. But how do I…”
“How do I fly? I can fly with this thing, right?” the internal monologue continues.
It harkens back to when Thor actually had an alter ego, that of human physician Don Blake. The secret identity aspect of the character was dispensed with long ago, even before the movies, where it was never a factor.
Also returning is Thor’s “kryptonite” – changing back into human form if separated from the hammer for too long. It makes for some nice suspense in the third issue, especially since the readers don’t yet know who this new Thor is.
(At least, I don’t. I’m still catching up on Aaron’s first two years writing Thor. This could be another situation like the time I concluded Cable was Cyclops’ time-traveling son after reading three non-consecutive issues of a mid-90s X-Men crossover, only to be told by a friend that everyone already knew that.)
But even without prior familiarity with the storyline, the new “Thor” is a fun and accessible read. The villains are characters spotlighted in the two Thor feature films – the Frost Giants from the first and Malekith, the dark elf king, from the second.
Malekith in this and other recent comic appearances has far more personality than the generically malevolent figure from “Thor: The Dark World.” He’s almost like a magical Joker, but with some restraint.
Malekith and the Frost Giants have joined forces to recover the skull of the giants’ king (and Loki’s dad) Laufey from the Roxxon Corporation. Aaron’s take on the mega-corporation as professionally organized entity of evil is nothing new, but that doesn’t make it any less amusing.
The art by Russell Dauterman (“Cyclops,” “Supurbia”) is bright and energetic, although once in a while there’s a panel that’s a bit too frenetic to follow clearly.
So far, the story, dialogue and mystery elevate “Thor” from a curiosity to a promising read.
I hope we’ll see this character stick around longer than my original, cynical prediction of the status quo returning in time for the May 1 premiere of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” Maybe they can even keep her going until the third “Thor” film bows in 2017.
Evan Bevins is the writer of the webcomic “Support Group.”