Sunday, 5 October 2014

New Beginnings - Thor #1

by Matt Puddy

It’s certainly fair to say that when Marvel announced its recent changes to its established line up some eyebrows were raised. Aside from the news that the newest Captain America was going to be black there was also the gender flip in the identity of Thor. Across the internet many fans of the Nordic god expressed various opinions on this revelation and now in issue one of Jason Aaron’s new comic we get to finally see what is really going on.

If you are wondering “Has Thor died?” (again) or simply “What happened to Thor to make this change?” then fret not it isn’t what you might think. If you read the recent story of Original Sin (also written by Jason Aaron) then you would be aware that at the end of the eight part series, the band of heroes - including Thor - faced off against an aging Nick Fury. As part of this fracas Thor was essentially disabled when Fury whispered a few select (and currently unknown) words to him. Whatever he said had such a huge impact that Thor dropped Mjolnir and as such as not yet been able to pick up the fabled hammer. He is now unworthy.

This isn’t where the comic begins though. It’s the misadventures of those pesky beings from Midgard that opens the tale. Searching deep underwater we meet a team searching the black depths of the ocean. Instead of underwater treasures, they are stumbled upon by massive Frost Giants emerging from an oceanic trench, being somewhat lead by Malkieth the Accursed, a combination that is terrifying at the best of times.

It’s not hard to consider how that particular situation is going to go so I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who enjoys a bit of wanton destruction.

All the while the Asgardian citizens are being divided emotionally. On one hand their All Father has returned from self-imposed exile giving reason to be happy. But this is to the detriment of their All Mother who has been faithfully watching over them and guiding them. There is a growing schism between the Asgardians as allegiances are divided. To add to this they also worry for and watch over Thor who is now a broken man. Unable to comprehend why he cannot lift Mjolnir anymore, he is a shell of a man. Not eating, not sleeping and only really talking on occasion to his hammer, imploring it to allow him to lift it.

It may not be Thor that is the issue though as no one can life Mjolnir from its resting place, not even Odin himself. On the news of the invasion of Midgard by Jotunheim, the decision to step in is made and a hammerless Thor steps into the fray to much poorer results than required. Gleefully unaware of other events Malkieth seems to be happy that the end of Thor is nigh. He has no clue that meanwhile on the Moon a woman has just easily raised Mjolnir because there must always be a Thor...

As a first issue this is more about situational presence than blasting the reader with a new Thor. By waiting until the end there is a certain tension and mystery built. It also builds an idea that you may know who the new maiden is but also you’re not quite sure. You feel the new inadequacy of Thor as he rides into battle; also the happiness and mocking in Malkieth when he see the weakness that has been exposed. All of this goes a long way to change the concept of who or what Thor really is. As someone who is not really a fan of Thor on his own, my thoughts are fairly one dimensional. Thor is a god. He has a mythical hammer. He does hero stuff. 

Sounds simply, right? But this comic has challenged me to rethink that. Thor is an identity and an ideal, a reference of power almost. It’s about the worthiness and intentions, not just the man – or now woman. A fairly heavy shift for a first issue comic!

Artistically Russell Dauterman has provided a sturdy issue. I liked the huge double page spread to reflect the enormity of the Ice Giants, but when taking time over smaller beings there was a lot of work put into supporting Aaron’s story. Thor looks broke and damaged, Freya and Odin are both full of pride, power and in their own ways care and concern for their son. This is quite possibly one of the most emotive pieces of artwork I’ve read in quite a while. There’s also a good use of implied imagery  which leaves you as the reader conjuring up even more visual ideas so kudos for that.

As I said I’m not a fan necessarily of Thor as a character, however that said this was still an issue strong enough to grab my interest. New readers will certainly enjoy it and fans will no doubt discuss the identity and what will happen for a while too.

Matt Puddy avoided all the usual MC Hammer jokes.

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