The worthy

Thor is the next Marvel hero slated to hit the silver screen since The Avengers broke nearly every conceivable international box office record.

Photo © Marvel
Photo © Marvel

Thor is the next Marvel hero slated to hit the silver screen since The Avengers broke nearly every conceivable international box office record.

Marvel Comics has taken advantage of the movie’s wild popularity with its Marvel NOW! initiative, which has seen the relaunch of almost all of their superhero books in the past few months.

The new titles are aimed at bringing back lapsed fans who don’t know where to start as well as brand-new readers straight from the theater.

A prominent part of the relaunch, Thor: God of Thunder is one of a handful of titles to earn the prestige of a hardcover. At least part of the credit goes to its strong creative team—writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic—who have come together in an unusually copacetic collaboration.

The first new volume of God of Thunder centers on a murder mystery stretching across time and space. We start more than a thousand years ago with a young Thor, a brash and arrogant jock who swings an axe only because he is not yet worthy of his famous hammer.

Between copious beers and coitus with human women, Thor discovers the butchered body of a god, the dead face frozen in fear.

Jump forward to the present day: The Thor most readers are familiar with is on one of his regular cosmic road trips when he discovers a dry, forsaken world. The weary residents claim they have no gods. Aghast at the thought of a godless world, Thor seeks out the planet’s negligent deities.

In a deserted floating palace he finds a storeroom full of the world’s gods—all dead, slain by an unknown assailant. Their petrified faces trigger a memory from a millennia past. Gorr the God Butcher has returned, and he’s not known for his divine choice in prime-cut meats.

We also get a glimpse of an old Thor in the far future, where the God Butcher has apparently triumphed. Thor is the All-Father of Asgard, but he rules a vacant kingdom. Everyone else is long dead, killed by Gorr’s shadow hordes.

Though part of the story takes place on Earth, with the exception of a two-page Iron Man cameo this is a Thor-only tale. The God of Thunder considers this a personal matter, and would rather not involve his superhuman friends. “God business,” as Tony Stark puts it.

Aaron deftly weaves the stories of the three Thors together. While Present Thor propels the story forward, Past Thor explores the backstory and Future Thor’s situation shows us what’s at stake.

Apart from their appearances, the three Thors are also written well enough to separate them by personality alone. Future Thor is a stubborn, cantankerous coot; Past Thor is something of an insufferable prick; and Present Thor is headstrong and prideful.

In comparison, the God Butcher is almost a disappointment. Aaron builds him up so well early on—when we see only the the carnage left in his wake—that seeing the God Butcher in the flesh is inevitably a letdown.

It doesn’t help that Gorr’s character design looks like a Voldemort that someone signed up for a 24 Hour Fitness membership.

Underwhelming villain aside, Aaron moves the plot at a nice clip and has a real talent for punchy dialogue. (“I once tortured a god of torture. After an evening alone with me, he told me where his own children were hiding.”)

The book is action-packed, but there’s a lot of inner monologue as well. At one point, Aaron overlays a pivotal fight scene with a thematically related anecdote about how he learned the difference between war and murder. I don’t know if it works—the brain wants the kinetic action to move forward—but it’s still an interesting composition.

Ribic’s art does an exceptional job of selling Aaron’s story. Though his backgrounds are often sparse (or nonexistent), the figures and faces are so well drawn that the eye barely notices.

In one scene reminiscent of the famous sword in the stone, Past Thor pulls on his fabled hammer Mjolnir with all his might, unable to lift it.

Marvel presents
Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1
By Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic
Available at bookstores and comic shops everywhere

Thor rears his head back, his veins bulge—but the hammer lays perfectly still. The background is completely blank, but the iconic image is stronger because of it.

Apart from tight action sequences and dynamic conversations, Ribic’s real strength is in his sense of scale. Several times in the book, Ribic puts the reader behind Thor to witness some massive sight.

This trick might get old in the hands of a less capable artist, but Ribic tops himself over and over again with scales that border on epic.

Colorist Ive Svorcina gives Thor’s world much-needed depth. When Ribic’s backgrounds might otherwise be a little too spartan, Svorcina fills them in with gradients and fog in a way that looks effortless.

At $25, the price is a bit steep for 136 pages, but all new physical copies of Thor: God of Thunder come with a digital copy for use on computers, smartphones or tablets.

It’s a neat bonus that dulls the sticker shock a bit; at the very least, you could flip the code to a less-comics-inclined friend.

Whatever the format, Thor: God of Thunder is a great place to start for new and lapsed comics readers, and is a fine choice for fans of good stories told well.