Marvel is returning to the Odinson with Thor #1! The new ongoing series is still retaining writer Jason Aaron with Weirdworld co-creator Mike Del Mundo contributing artwork to the title. Elsewhere, the excellent creative team of Chip Zdarsky and all-star artist Declan Shalvey are exploring some of the aftermath from Secret Wars in Marvel 2-in-One Annual #1–are you ready for The Marvel Rundown?
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Mike Del Mundo and Christian Ward
Color assists by Marco D’Alfonso
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Alexander Jones: Author Jason Aaron and artists Mike Del Mundo and Christian Ward have the most difficult job in the all the nine realms. The trio are tasked with returning the mantle of Thor to the Odinson. AJ, Joe, did Aaron manage to sell you on returning the power of Thor back to the Odinson?
Joe Grunenwald: As with a lot of things Marvel-related, I’ve dabbled in Thor but never read it on a regular basis, so I came into this book with no prior attachments aside from liking Jason Aaron’s work on other books. Honestly, I’m still on the fence about how I felt about it. It was…fine? I’m very interested to hear what the two of you thought about this issue.
AJ Frost: Hey there, Midgardian Chums. Ok… no matter how much I try to get into the Thor stuff, there’s always something about it which rubs me the wrong way. I like the movies fine, but the comics have never been my cup of tea. I have faith in Jason Aaron because he is a fantastic writer, but man… I was just lost here. While there were some good bits and a little bit of metaphysical meandering in the backup story, the investment I had for this story was slim to nil. Sure, the beats were all there, but they never coalesced in a way to make me care at all about what was happening.
Jones: While I’m not crazy about the overall editorial direction of the title switching back to the Odinson, I have still never seen Thor written quite as well Aaron’s take on the character ever before. The little touches of dialogue and flourishes between the individual heroes and dashes of humor are all here. This installment is paced very weirdly as it serves almost like an epilogue as opposed to a new #1. Marvel has a lot of explaining to do since they are switching back the leads of the book and while most of the issue is setup, it is all written very, very well. Thori is charming, Baldur is dashing and Jane’s story is still fascinating. This issue isn’t perfect, but I’m very happy.
Grunenwald: I agree with you about the pacing and the amount of follow-up in this issue to previous stories. I definitely didn’t expect the story to be a totally clean slate, and I thought most things were pretty well explained for new readers. The things I wasn’t sure about – apparently Thor has a dog now? – I was okay with just rolling with and figuring out as I went.
Frost: An epilogue and a new beginning is an interesting read of the book, but one aspect which still confuses. I thought the material in the aggregate, was a lot of massless story lumps all put together to make the semblance of a story. You’re not wrong as there were splashes of humor here and there, but a lot of it didn’t smack my funny bone as anything overly humorous.
Grunenwald: There was one moment which made me legitimately laugh out loud in a very Thor: Ragnarok-y way.
Jones: I’ll bite, what is it?
Grunenwald: When Thor is fighting Juggernaut – sidenote, I did not expect to see Juggernaut in this comic – and he first gets his hammer. He appears triumphantly in the sky in a flourish of lightning, he brings the hammer down…and it shatters on Juggernaut’s helmet.
Frost: Nary a peep from me from the particular moment Joe. But it was interesting seeing the character. For all my reservations about the story, the art throughout was top-notch.
Grunenwald: I’m sorry to hear you hate joy, AJ. I like Mike Del Mundo in general but something about him here didn’t do anything for me.
Jones: Thor has done an excellent job in keeping a consistent sense of continuity over the past few years. Little changes have stayed consistent from writer-to-writer. I don’t think anything here is really supposed to be too hilarious or too dramatic. There are light dashes of humor and sadness which made Mike Del Mundo’s surreal, yet casual set of pencils the perfect companion piece to the issue. He does a great job conveying the subtlety and humor and each scene and I think his past work experience with Aaron definitely paid off here with each creator feeling perfectly in-sync with the feeling they are trying to evoke. AJ, what part of the narrative did you not like in particular?
Frost: More of a general sense. Whenever I read Thor, it’s always a slog and I never get too much out of it. This issue… It’s hard to put my finger on it, but there wasn’t much thrilling me while I was reading it. Sure, Thor does this great feat, he’s the God of Thunder and smites some pawns from another realm, but it always feels so hollow. I just don’t connect with Thor, I guess.
Jones: I don’t think this is going to be the issue to change your mind. For me what makes this story not good but great and satisfying is just the little touches and attitude between the individual characters. Seeing some familiar Thor faces after the boundary-pushing Jane Foster-era which let go of some of the supporting cast is very nice. I didn’t think this was coated in nostalgia either with so much humor and energy pushing each scene together. I think the most troubled bit is at the beginning where Aaron is struggling to find an emotional hook to get back into the Odinson’s mindset–do you either of you agree?
Frost: Can’t say I found there was much of an emotional hook, to begin with. I will soften up a bit and say I did enjoy the Jane Foster and Thor interaction which was particularly sweet.
Grunenwald: I agree for sure. It didn’t help that Aaron loaded down the narration with recap. I think once the issue got past the opening exposition it was a much more enjoyable read. I agree with AJ, too. The comic felt like a story of Thor going through the motions to hunt down a series of MacGuffins. There didn’t seem to be any real personal stakes for Thor here.
Frost: I wonder if this leads to a meta-conversation about what stakes Thor ever has except saving the universe?
Jones: If AJ says one more bad thing about this issue I’m going to banish him to Niffleheim.
Frost: Go ahead! I’ll just take my Bifrosted self home!
Grunenwald: Gentlemen, please try to keep it civil! What’d you think of the backup story?
Jones: I wanted to like it more than I did. However, I did enjoy the ending and the brash nature of setting something up to pay off several issues down the line. Christian Ward’s art was less mind-bendy than usual.
Frost: It was decent. Nothing like a little metaphysical romp with a crazy cliffhanger ending to have a nice jolt for readers thirsty for more.
Grunenwald: If the main story was meant to be accessible for new readers, that backup story was anything but. If I hadn’t read the recap text at the beginning of the issue, I would have had no idea what was going on. The last page presented an intriguing cliffhanger, but not enough that, if I’m a new reader, I’m going to remember to check back four months from now to see how the story plays out. But I bet the cliffhanger’ll play great in a trade.
Frost: Unless it’s the last page of said trade. Then you gotta wait for the next one!
Grunenwald: Fair point! I’m assuming Marvel will collect the stories in the order in which they came out and not split them up. I agree with Alex, too, as Christian Ward’s usually trippy art was much more straightforward in the backup story. Not bad, but not as ‘out there’ as usual. Which seems to be my general opinion on the issue as a whole. Not bad, but nothing to write home about.
Frost: More dust devil than a chaotic thunderstorm, in my humble opinion.
Jones: What is everyone’s final verdict on the issue?
Frost: I think it’s fair for this to be a WEAK BROWSE. I think fans of Thor will dig it, while others might get lost in the lore. It’s not a bad issue, but not essential either.
Grunenwald: I’m going to call it a STRONG BROWSE, as I think there is some fun stuff in this comic, but otherwise I agree with AJ’s assessment.
Jones: I’m happy with what Aaron and Del Mundo created here. I don’t think the issue is a slam dunk but longtime Thor readers are definitely going to find something here with all the new directions for existing characters and some familiar favorites from the beginning of the run popping up again–I’ll go with a BUY.
Frost: A rare divergence from all three Marvel Rundown-ateers. As always, an honor to chat with you lads.
Written by Chip Zdarsky
Art by Declan Shalvey
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Joe Grunenwald
Since its relaunch as a part of the short-lived Legacy initiative, Marvel 2-in-One has filled the Fantastic Four-sized hole in the Marvel line-up by continuing the adventures of Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm. The pair have picked up a straggler as they search the multiverse for Reed and Sue Richards – Victor Von Doom, formerly the FF’s greatest enemy, now playing superhero as the Infamous Iron Man. This week’s Marvel 2-in-One Annual #1 is billed as a team-up between The Thing and Doom’s Iron Man, but make no mistake: Doom owns this comic from the first page. The issue follows up on dangling threads from the 2015 Secret Wars series and provides both revelations for the reader and clarity for Doom around what ultimately prompted his reformation.
As an entry point for Marvel 2-in-One, writer Chip Zdarsky does a nice job making this annual as standalone a story as possible. One need not have read the previous issues of Two-in-One to follow what’s happening here, and while there are references to Secret Wars and past events in Doom’s history, a detailed knowledge of those events isn’t required in order to understand the weight of the issue’s events. Zdarsky intersperses flashbacks to Doom’s childhood throughout the story, as a way both to provide context for Doom’s actions and to give readers an emotional touchpoint for the character. The script is not exactly subtle between the flashbacks and the subtext-as-text of a reformed Doom literally fighting with an alternate timeline’s still-evil Doctor Doom – a character even calls that out late in the issue – but Zdarsky handles it in such a way that the symbolism never came across as heavy-handed. In the end, the true conflict of the story, as it always is with Doom, is between Doom and Reed Richards, and the way that conflict plays out is both brilliant and satisfying. To say more would be to spoil some truly enjoyable twists and turns.
The art on this issue, by the team of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire, is superb. Shalvey’s Ben Grimm is all angles, unnatural crag, and sass, and his Doom emotes even from behind a featureless mask with glowing eyes, commanding every panel he’s in. The largely silent fight sequences between the two out-of-costume Dooms are intense and absolutely brutal, and the way that the battle ends is beautifully executed. With multiple levels of flashback and memory in play in the issue, Bellaire’s use of different single-color palettes helps the reader easily differentiate between past and present. The issue is stunning to look at all-around, which is no surprise from this team.
Put plainly, Marvel 2-in-One Annual #1 is an excellent comic. Zdarsky, Shalvey, and Bellaire deliver superior work that examines and enhances one of Marvel’s best villains, and introduces the potential for a lot of future stories.
Written by Devin Grayson
Illustrated by Georges Duarte
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Reviewed by AJ Frost
I’ve made no hesitation in these digital pages to profess my admiration for the quirky appeal of Squirrel Girl. Irreverence and lightness in the Marvel Universe is a welcome break from the brooding and self-absorbed importance other books from the company tend to lead towards as a means to establish their bona fides as serious work. Squirrel Girl, as well as the Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, have always strayed from this philosophy to produce—for better or worse—uplifting stories of empowerment for younger readers. The question is: if these two teamed up, would the pairing be able to handle the load for an emotionally-resonant and action-packed adventure?
The honest answer is… maybe.
Marvel Rising #1 is a worthy effort to build a new line around the team of Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel, but it doesn’t stick the full landing. The story is a direct continuation from the #0 issue (which launched on Free Comic Book Day last month), which portrayed Doreen as a volunteer STEM instructor and Kamala as being in the right place and the right time to fend of some bad guys attacking a local college. This time around, the stakes are not much as higher as the setting reverts back to Kamala’s high school, where Doreen volunteers her time to teach extracurricular STEM classes through the lens of video game coding. When one of Kamala’s classmates, the mysterious, put-down, and empathetic Ember, uses some of her mysterious powers to create real-life video game enemies, it is up to Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl to rein them in.
So then, does everything work out for the best? After a few reads, the best I can say is Devin Grayson’s story is adequate in a non-offensive way. There is nothing contained in this issue to be substandard, nor is there anything transcendent. Grayson does attempt some Ryan North-style meta-commentary, but it falls a bit flat. The cadence is there, but the heart isn’t. Doreen and Kamala are still their likable and goofy selves, but their interactions feel a bit too stiff. And speaking of stiff, the artwork for the book is emblematic of what is wrong with a lot of mainstream comic artwork. Georges Duarte’s pencils are overly angular and bulky; they feel heavy in a book which should be light. There is nothing contained here which would be out of place in the other Marvel books and maybe this is a problem. That is not to say the Duarte’s work is objectively bad, just misplaced. The team of GURIHIRU, who produced the cover art, is an aesthetic I believe would be more appropriate in the context of Marvel Rising: round, accessible, and fun.
There are many interesting concepts introduced in the book, though not all of them are seen through to their full potential. The coming issues will rotate in writers Ryan North and G. Willow Wilson, who I’m sure by now have such a firm handle on their characters they can write fantastic stories at the drop of a hat. Until then, Marvel Rising #1 is an eccentric little book attempting to bite off more than it can chew.
Final Verdict: This is a WEAK BROWSE from me, depending on a reader’s tolerance for the hi-jinx of the main characters. While the philosophy and heart behind the book are in the right place, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.
Next week… Tony Stark: Iron Man #1!