Welcome back to the Rundown, all! This week’s Marvel Retro Rundown takes a peek into a not-so-long-lost — but certainly underrated — comic of the early aught-tens: Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Made for an all-ages crowd, this collection of stories was very much a hit or miss title during its initial run, but looking back on it after ten years it’s clear to see that it was not given it’s due. And so here we are! Ready to take on that task!
Thor: The Mighty Avenger
Written by Roger Langridge
Pencilled and Inked by Chris Samnee
Colored by Matt Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Rus Wooton
Covers by Chris Samnee, Matt Wilson, et al
Reviewed by Chloe Maveal
It’s an undeniable fact that Thor is one of the most beloved members of the Avengers. What’s not to love? Yet, for those of us who are still walking around touting the brilliance of Walt Simonson’s Mighty Thor, there’s a certain expectation to be met when it comes to the humor, charisma, and heart-of-gold brutishness of the big Norse behemoth; and whether for children or adults, Eisner and Harvey Award nominated writer Roger Langridge and Eisner and Harvey Award winning artist Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger takes the cake when it comes to a flashback to the good old days of Thor.
During its original 8-issue run through 2010-2011, Thor: The Mighty Avenger was acclaimed by people of all ages. Dipping their toes back into the all-ages market with less focus on brutality, muscle-bound macho heroes, and “all-serious all the time” storylines, Marvel hit the jackpot with a variety of age groups thanks to the breath of fresh air that was this lighthearted take on Thor. Langridge, who also has experience writing The Muppets from BOOM! Studios, and his own Fred the Clown — a humor series later collected by Fantagraphics — was clearly the perfect match for the character, and this series.
Launching a year before the first Thor film — and ending just months ahead of its release — the series follows Thor (obviously) coming to Earth and shacking up with the incomparable Jane Foster. And along the way to getting back to being the true God of Thunder, Thor faces off against Mr. Hyde, the Submariner, Fin Fang Foom, and (spoiler alert!) a newly minted early-days Tony Stark as Iron Man; a stellar lineup of villains and/or foes turned friends that makes for a killer read and fantastic introduction to new, younger readers, as well as old hats who are seeking out the joy of Thor again.
For many reasons, Langridge’s eight issue run makes Thor a joyous, silly, and naive hero whose true strength lies within as well as in Mjolnir; more than anything, his writing brings back the camp, light-hearted tone and gentleness of Silver Age Marvel, swapping the super-serious nature of late 2000s era for a message of hope, love, and inner strength. Never fear though: all of the feel-goods of this book never detract or cut corners from the complexity of subjects the short series covers!
I’m not completely ignorant, though. More than enough people had their fair share of negative comments about Langridge’s work on Thor, and — despite them being painfully wrong about this gem of an all-ages run — there’s no denying that, even if you hate the plot and Langridge’s writing style, Chris Samnee’s art takes the cake in a big way. Having just cut his teeth on a few Oni Press titles (as well as issues of Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man) before this, the evolution of Samnee’s art in these issues leans hard into influences like Alex Toth and Peter Snejberg, using thick linework and chiaroscuro lighting effects that create the most perfectly stylized version of everything from the faces to the background goings-on.
Overall, whether you’re trying to get back into Thor through stand-alone story or you’re introducing young’uns to the joy of comic books, Thor: The Mighty Avenger acts as the perfect [rainbow] bridge into the much beloved character that can so often be bogged down with detail.
Next week, another look back on a classic story from Marvel Comics!