|Comic trade paperback, 236 pages|
Published 2013 (contents: 1984)
Acquired December 2015
Read April 2016
Writer & Artist: Walter Simonson
Artist: Sal Buscema
Inkers: Terry Austin & Bob Wiacek
Remastered Coloring: Steve Oliff
Letterer: John Workman
Volume 1 of The Mighty Thor ended with a somewhat complicated plot about elves and food and an old guy who looked young and Wild Hunt and cops? Something like that. To my surprise, this plotline blossoms in volume 2 and turns out to be the payoff to what was an ongoing thread in volume 1: a mysterious weapon being forged outside of time and space. Well, Malekith's dark elves are after the Casket of Ancient Winters, so they can deploy it in aid of Surtur, Ruler of Muspelheim, an ancient evil that once battled Thor's father Odin and his brothers. Odin's brother's sacrificed themselves to seal Surtur in Muspelheim, but now he's back, and he threatens all of the Nine Realms, especially Asgard and Midgard.*
What delights me about Thor, both on screen and now in these comics, is how it uses a heightened style: everything about these comics is always on the next level from our mere mortal existence. The gods of Asgard are always speaking in dramatic pronouncements; I loved how Odin's story of his first encounter with Surtur ended:
In volume 1, Odin obtained intelligence that the final battle was coming, and so mustered the forces of Asgard throughout this volume, meaning that when Thor encounters the forces of Muspelheim on Midgard, Asgard is ready, having summoned not only the warriors of Valhalla and Beta Ray Bill and Lady Sif, but also many of the former enemies of Asgard who do not wish to see the Nine Realms burn. What follows is a four-issue battle between Asgard and Muspelheim, and it is incredible. I wouldn't have thought that I would like such a thing-- it occupies almost 100 pages, yet is never dull. The forces of Asgard cross the Rainbow Bridge to make a stand in New York City, assisted by the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and suchlike. The whole setup actually make me think somewhat of the first Avengers film, with alien demons swarming from a portal atop a New York tower. Deliberate or coincidence?
Anyway, Surtur devastates New York City, his effectiveness enhanced by his opponents having to flight through a worldwide glacier. Thor calls a rain from Asgard to stifle the flames of Surtur-- but Surtur uses the link to Asgard to travel there himself, where only Odin and Heimdall stand to protect the City of the Gods. Beta Ray Bill takes command of the Asgard forces while Thor follows Surtur, but Thor is too slow: Surtur defeats Heimdall and destroys the Rainbow Bridge. The scene were its pieces rain down on New York City is ominous:
|Lady Sif is kind of impulsive.|
from Thor vol. 1 #351 (art by Walter Simonson)
Basically, it's lots of fighting: Beta Ray Bill, Sif, and the Fantastic Four vs. the demons of Muspelheim on Midgard, and Odin and Thor vs. Surtur in Asgard. Simonson has a good grasp of character throughout; Bill and Sif keep the Midgard battle anchored, stopping it from becoming sheer overwhelming spectacle. I also liked Roger Willis, the Korean War vet whose mysterious father passed to him the task of guarding the Casket of Ancient Winters. He's an ordinary guy caught up in extraordinary events who does his best to do the right thing.
Things in Asgard get epic when Loki turns up, too:
|I guess it's no longer possible for such a scene in a Thor film, which is a shame because it would be amazing.|
from Thor vol. 1 #353 (art by Walter Simonson)
There's also a nice subplot about Frigga, mother of Thor, getting the children of Asgard to safety. Simonson never forgets to leaven the seriousness. On all fronts, this is everything a giant superhero battle should be-- would it that they were all so good. Sadly, it all ends in the death of Odin.
|What this review really omits is John Workman's tour-de-force lettering. I guess this will have to do.|
from Thor vol. 1 #353 (art by Walter Simonson)
The whole thing is followed by a nice pair of aftermath issues. The destruction of the Rainbow Bridge means that the forces of Asgard are trapped in New York City; they decide to bivouac in Central Park. (Sif has the power to transport herself through spacetime, and I assume Beta Ray Bill can use his hammer, but otherwise they're all trapped.) The Warriors Three go to Macy's:
|I love this kind of stuff. The best scene in the Thor films is the one where Thor goes to a diner and drinks coffee.|
from Thor vol. 1 #355 (art by Sal Buscema)
I am of course looking forward to more culture-clash hijinks in volume 3. Meanwhile, Death herself turns up to collect Odin's soul, but can't find it. Thor lays the smackdown on Death, in what has to be one of my favorite scenes in any superhero comic:
|You have to admire Thor's thought process (or lack thereof): "THERE IS NO PROBLEM, NOT EVEN DEATH ITSELF, THAT CANNOT BE SOLVED VIA A HAMMER SWUNG WITH SUFFICIENT POWER."|
from Thor vol. 1 #354 (art by Walter Simonson)
Insisting his father is still alive, Thor heads out on a mystical quest (as you do). I look forward to seeing where this all goes in volume 3 as well. Simonson's run on Thor is clearly cyclical; as one big story cycles down, another one begins to cycle up in turn, and I'm sure this is all going somewhere new and exciting.
A final note: Simonson always pepper his stories with humor, which I appreciate. My favorite moment comes when (in a subplot I haven't had the space to mention in this review because this book is chock-full of them) Roger Willis doesn't buy Thor's girlfriend's explanation of how she saw through the disguise of Thor's secret identity of Sigurd Jarlson. She claims that "anybody would have known. You're just too big to hide behind a pair of glasses and an Izod shirt." But Roger is genre-savvy enough to know it doesn't work that way:
|Someone's been reading his TV Tropes.|
from Thor vol. 1 #349 (art by Walter Simonson)
I also enjoy the running gag about Sigurd's boss at the construction company where he works when he's not battling demon hordes (he doesn't come to work very much, to be honest) trying to guess which superhero he is. He's never right.