ďWhat If Thor was the Herald of Galactus?Ē
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Michael Avon Oeming
Publisher: Marvel Comics
It must be fate; as if his exemplary writing in Marvel Team-Up wasnít enough to convince Marvel that Robert Kirkman knows how to do a big action-packed team book and as such should be reassigned to Not Avengers with prodigious haste, along comes this little beauty to show how good a fit he would be for Earthís Mightiest Heroes. Because just as you can tell a good Fantastic Four artist by how well they draw Ben Grimm, you can tell a good Avengers writer by how well they write Thor, and Kirkmanís Thor gets right to the heart of the character. Heís proud and arrogant, but tenacious, honorable and good-hearted; most importantly, heís heroic in a way that only a character from a Norse saga can be. Heís the kind of character who will stand there defiantly, being blasted by the energies of Galactus all the while, simply because itís the right thing to do.
(This is one of the reasons why the Sentry is so unnecessary in the Marvel Universe; Thor already has all of Supermanís power level and positive personality traits, with enough differences to make him interesting in comparison. But I digressÖ)
I was somewhat biased against Oemingís writing stint on Thorís own series, because even if it was the best writing ever (and it really wasnít, although I do admit that the issues of Blood Oath Iíve read have been quite strong), what I really wanted to see was Oeming illustrate a Thor story, because I felt heíd be a perfect artistic match. And he really is, easily up there with Kirby, Simonson and Romita Jr, with his energetic and expressive style working so very well for these larger-than-life characters and their literally epic concerns.
This is an absolutely fantastic comic, exactly the kind of thing that drew me to Marvelís titles in the first place (in fact, one of my first and favourite Marvel comics was Thor #151), but itís not perfect. The utterly unnecessary prologue introduces the binding concept of this yearís "What If?" event, which is a painfully clumsy and overly elaborate premise that comes across exactly like an embarrassingly transparent attempt to curry favour with these hypothetical young readers (ďLook kids! Internet!Ē). When I was eight, I had no problem following comics featuring the actual Watcher, and I certainly didnít need him to be turned into some generic internet geek in a bizarre attempt to establish a level of realism in a comic that features a giant space man trying to eat the home of the Norse gods. To be fair though, this inane framing sequence plagues the entire event, and isnít a creative decision specific to this comic, so I wonít judge the creators too harshly for it.
The other problem with the book, another thatís not really major in any meaningful sense, and that I canít in good conscience mark the comic down for, is that itís just not long enough (which makes the terrible nu-Watcher bits seem all the worse). This creative team do such a great job with Thor and the gang that I want to see much more from them than just twenty-odd pages; if the current plan is to keep Thorís title on hiatus and just publish a miniseries now and again, then Iíd love to see Kirkman and Oeming put out a four-to-six issue story in this vein, or an oversized graphic novel. This creative team has a clear understanding of how to tell a great Thor story, and if I can have a special New Yearís wish, it would be that Marvel give them more space to tell it next time.
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