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Sunday Slugfest: The Mighty Thor #1

Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2011
By: Thom Young

Matt Fraction
Olivier Coipel (p) & Mark Morales (i)
Marvel Comics
Thor and Sif dive deep into the heart of the fractured World Tree to reclaim an artifact from beyond time and space, an artifact that attracts the attention of the Silver Surfer.

Travis Walecka:
Joel Crabtree:
Danny Djeljosevic:

Travis Walecka:

While it’s no surprise Marvel refreshes its Thor comic in time for the long-awaited motion picture, props goes to writer Matt Fraction for keeping his vision going. It’s easy to get caught up in retellings, origins, or movie emulations when an event such as this movie comes along, but this Mighty-ish series couldn’t be more different. I mean, Thor wears a damn spacesuit!

There’s a lot of set-up in this issue, and most it is for something as devastating as Siege that’s currently entertaining in Fear Itself, but that’s okay. Fraction still keeps things intriguing, cross-examining the impending desolate thoughts of a Christian minister and Silver Surfer’s inner torment. We all know the Surf serves as Gallactus’s herald, but what if the world-devourer’s next meal is Asgard? As IF there aren’t enough problems in Broxton (at least they have Kevin Durant).

Perhaps more than the intergalactic possibilities preceding Fear Itself, Thor’s artwork receives a proper rejuvenation. Not that Pasqual Ferry’s contributions weren’t special; they could’ve just been a tad too avante garde for most readers. Those robustly bold lines and harsh red hues are now gone. Back is the more traditional penciling that nudged many current readers of Thor in the first place. If anything, Olivier Coipel is this era’s essential Thor artist. The standalone pages featuring Surfer overlooking his next landscape fortification is brilliant. We scream for more.

More importantly, The Mighty Thor will show us the “how” and the “why” rather than the “who” and the “what.” We know Thor’s currently being held in captivity by his father, Odin, so Fraction’s display of the hero’s great deed, which suffices Odin nonetheless, only adds more intrigue towards their falling out. Young Loki also makes an interesting play in this book, though Journey Into Mystery writer Keiron Gillen has the better handle on the trickster.

In all, Mighty Thor #1 isn’t the traditional “reboot” per se, as Fraction and Coipel merely re-trigger the epic feel you’d expect from both creators. Even though it takes a few steps back from continuity, Thor should remain a mainstay in your punch-list for a more than generous duration.

Joel Crabtree:

The Mighty Thor #1 attempts to weave together three stories, and comes up a little short. While trying to juggle these three arcs at once, writer Matt Fraction short-changes the title character.

The comic opens by introducing us to a preacher in Broxton, Oklahoma who's delivering an end-of-days sermon to a packed house of fearful worshipers as the Asgardian lights linger above Earth. Pastor Mike, whose voice is used to bring specific themes to light, is the most fascinating character in the issue. His sermon serves as the heart of the story, presenting the idea of God vs. gods, and asking how that dichotomy can alter one's faith. It could be a really fascinating subject for future issues.

And what exactly is the preacher's angle? There are moments where he appears reasonable and trustworthy, but thanks to some artistic trickery by Olivier Coipel, his presence can also take on an almost demonic form as Coipel tilts the pastor's head back to turn his eyebrows into horns against a stained-glass backdrop.

The end of the world, of course, is closer than anyone can even imagine, as The Silver Surfer scouts out a new world for Galactus, the destroyer of planets, to consume. Fraction does a very good job of intertwining Silver Surfer's inner narrative to Pastor Mike's sermons and connecting the two storylines.

Surprisingly, it's on Asgard where things falls apart.

Thor and Sif find themselves in peril after diving into Yggdrasil as they try to fend off an infection of wormlike creatures that are causing great damage to the World Tree. Loki accepts the challenge and, with the help of the Warriors Three, aids Thor and Sif in their battle against the worm infestation--but not before Thor suffers a wound that glows rather than bleeds. A foreboding sign, indeed.

Thor's adventures on Asgard, which should be the most fast-paced part of Mighty Thor #1, turns out to be a slog to get through. Fraction struggles to neatly tie the arc of Thor and Sif's journey into Yggdrasil to the Galactus and Pastor Mike arcs--throwing a wrench into a comic that was otherwise smooth. It seems distant and, dare I say it, less relevant.

Thankfully Coipel and Mark Morales create massive, colorful splashes that are definitely worth checking out. The way Morales fills the pages with tones that allude to impending doom from Galactus (reds, purples, blues etc.) is certainly something to behold. However, the writing on this issue leaves a lot to be desired.

Danny Djeljosevic:
"Epic space metal. Now in comic form. Think of the biggest thing you've ever thought of. Now imagine Thor hitting it with a hammer while torrents of cosmic blood erupt from the membrane of spacetime."
--Matt Fraction, March 2010
More than a year ago, that one bit of Morrisonian hypemanism got me über-pumped for Fraction’s then-upcoming run on Thor. After an incredibly strong first issue, "The World Eaters" turned out to be a beautiful-looking widescreen fight comic that I can't wait to buy in hardcover, but not quite the quote-fulfilling dose of "epic space metal" I was hoping for.

The Mighty Thor #1 puts that inaugural story arc into perspective--"The World Eaters" was less an introduction than it was a bit of place-setting, setting up for Fraction's run to go into full swing with this film-synergizing new series. It's a bit like when Brian Michael Bendis unceremoniously knocked over the Earth's Mightiest Heroes sandcastle with "Avengers Disassembled" and it didn't quite feel right, but he gave us his vision of the franchise with New Avengers and it was a lot better.

Ladies and gentleman: Danny Djeljosevic, master of simile.

Fraction's setup involved cutting Yggdrasil, the World Tree, to give it a fixed position in reality and bringing back Loki--albeit in the form of a young boy--because, well, what the hell is the point of a Thor comic without Loki? Now commence the crazy shit.

And crazy shit there is--Fraction opens by crosscutting between a Christian sermon in Asgard-adjacent Broxton, OK and the Silver Surfer beckoning Galactus to a new delicious planet. Then there's Thor and Sif in Asgardian spacesuits venturing into Yggdrasil whilst tethered to a gargantuan, glowing chain before battling the giant dayglo insects that serve as the World Tree's antibodies.

Epic. Space. Metal. Fuck. Comma. Yeah. Exclamation point.

More than just a series of cool images, Fraction sets up a slew of themes, ideas, and narrative threads in The Mighty Thor #1. Aside from whatever Galactus and the Silver Surfer are up to, we have Kid Loki's trustworthiness, Thor's open wound, Asgardian exploration, and the state of religious faith when mythical gods live down the road--all delivered with snappy dialogue ("I came to help with my stick of great stabbing.") and cool images.

Those cool images, by the way, are courtesy of penciler Olivier Coipel and colorist Laura Martin (with Justin Ponsor and Peter Steigerwald). Coipel and inker Mark Morales render some strikingly epic two-page spreads--all Kirby crackles and giant unspeakable things to hammer to death. The colorists render some amazingly glowing blues, purples, pinks, and yellows for these cosmic, otherworldly pages, but they also know to tone it down for the Broxton and everyday Asgard scenes.

The best collision of the writer's themes and the art team's visual bliss comes in the Broxton scenes, where the slow-burning crisis of faith that Fraction is setting up is made literal through the ethereal blue-green presence of Yggdrasil in the distance, towering over trees and powerlines, always hovering in the sky beyond the shoulders of mortals.

The Mighty Thor #1 is a gorgeous comic, and one that will blow the minds of any newcomers who find themselves enticed by the movie.

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