Time travel can be a fickle beast can't it? Especially in fiction, where the myriad of possibilities enthral some while alienating others. Be it a narrative that crashes through time, with the audience experiencing things first hand like the Doctor and his companions, or showing disparate but connecting time zones like Cloud Atlas, it can be a very divisive storytelling device.
Personally I tend to love time travel stories, as they can maintain the thrust of a progressing plotline, whilst compellingly obfuscating certain details until the moment is right. With Thor God Of Thunder #1, Jason Aaron has chosen to do exactly that. The story initially moves back and forth between a young Thor, fighting and carousing alongside Vikings and the Thor of now, answering a young child's cries for help in deep space.
Well, I say cries, it's actually her prayers. This first issue firmly reestablishes that the Marvel Universe has various pantheons of Gods. I know that some readers will struggle with this, for a variety of reasons. Mark Millar's Ultimates' Thor neatly sidestepped this controversy by implying at first that he might simply be a madman with delusions of pagan deification. But this is Earth-616 Thor, the mainstay of Marvel comics and this character firmly believes he is a God. It's even in the title after all!
There's no hint of the Marvel Cinematic Universe take on it all here either. If - in order to suspend disbelief - it helps you to believe that there are older alien races with superior technology and physiology, and that these Gods are simply such as those who have bought into their own hype, then there's also nothing here to contradict that. Prayers for help could simply be a form of telepathic SOS after all.
The point I'm making here is that Jason Aaron has embraced Thor wholeheartedly in a way that even JMS didn't quite manage during his run. Rather than modernise Thor by blurring the lines as in the Ultimates or trying to blend the middle America with the fantasy of Asgard, Aaron presents us with classic Thor in a supremely confident way, without teetering into arrogance. Across three time zones, we see the God Of Thunder at various stages in his life, confronted by the same menace and responding as only Thor can.
Three time zones? Oh yes, that's the crowning jewel in this Asgardian treasury of a first issue. There is a menace that Thor has encountered before, first depositing the dead God of a Native American tribe on the shores of a Viking settlement, then later slaughtering a whole pantheon of alien Gods in deep space. There's a God Butcher on the loose. And so, several millennia from now, Thor the King of Asgard sits atop his throne - the last of his kind, waiting to face the one responsible for deicide in final glorious battle. According to interviews with Aaron, the story will continue to unfold across these three times, first showing us what Thor learnt from his first encounter, before setting up the beginning of the end in present day and culminating with the epic showdown in the future. As I said, supremely confident storytelling.
It reminds me of the way I felt about Brubaker's run on Captain America. Both the Super Soldier and the Thunder God are Avengers that failed to inspire me as a teenager. I flat out disliked their stories on the whole and gave them a wide berth. Brubaker made me put Cap on my pulllist and - damn it - I'm certain Aaron just sold me on Thor. Even JMS didn't manage that, though admittedly he came close.
The artwork from Esad Ribic is beautiful, like an ethereal painting that fits this story of dark fantasy and heroic majesty. Thor does look a little effeminate when he smiles, but it's a minor criticism in the grand scheme of things.
Last week's Iron Man fell short, but this book, Deadpool, Fantastic Four and All New X-Men are all a breath of fresh air. Thor God Of Thunder #1 embodies the quality I'll be holding Marvel Now to. It sets a nice high benchmark. I never thought I'd say that about a Thor comic!
Ben Fardon is pleasantly surprised!