By Matthew Jent
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Color Artist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer & Production: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover Artist: Russell Dauterman & Frank Martin
Variant Cover Artists: Sara Pichelli & Laura Martin; Esad Ribic; Andrew Robinson; Alex Ross; Fiona Staples; Skottie Young
Publisher: Marvel Comics
“There must always be a Thor.”
Thor’s gotten a lot of media attention lately, ever since Marvel Comics took to the View to announce that the new Thor would be a woman. It was a bold move to announce this franchise-shifting move on a show whose audience is not necessarily the core audience for what has become one of Marvel’s tentpole characters. But it spoke to a renewed effort to expand Marvel’s audience, and passing the hammer of Thor to a new character is part of the character’s tradition, from Beta Ray Bill to Eric Masterson to, err, Dargo Ktor of the 26th Century.
So here it is. The new series. The new Thor, right there on every single variant cover. The media event!
But, alas — new readers, lapsed readers, fervent Thor fans — if you’re here to see what all of the well-advertised hubbub is about, you’ll have to come back in November. The new Thor? She’s not really in this comic*.
She does show up, eventually. But she doesn’t interact with any other character, her single line of dialogue is spoken in solitude, and she does little more than pose for a glorified cameo. The next issue teaser promises “The Goddess of Thunder in Action!”, as does a USAToday article published this week (“The new female Thor gets into the action in the second issue of her new comic book series”). If you pick up this issue asking yourself, I wonder what the new Thor will be like?, you’re still going to be wondering when the book is over.
So. Now that we’ve established what the issue is not, let’s talk about what it is. After a teaser introducing a familiar threat, the scene shifts to the Moon where the Asgardians are reeling from the events of Original Sin, Marvel’s summertime crossover (written, like this issue, by Jason Aaron). The old Thor (hereafter referred to as He-Thor, since going by this issue alone I can’t tell if he has a secret or alternate identity) remains shaken by a mysterious secret imparted by Nick Fury. He-Thor can’t lift his hammer — nobody can lift the hammer — and Odin (the All-Father) and Freyja (the All-Mother) don’t seem too clear on which one of them is running the show.
He-Thor still answers the call to battle, because despite being unworthy of holding the hammer of Thor, he is still a really strong, really blonde dude. He might have super-strength? He is definitely capable of breathing on the Moon (and under water), but it’s not clear why. Maybe this is Marvel’s Blue Area of the Moon? Introduced way back in Lee & Kirby’s Fantastic Four #13, this is an area of the Moon with a breathable atmosphere, and it was home to the Watcher, a major character in Original Sin. I can extrapolate or assume that kind of information, because I’ve been reading Marvel comics for decades. But if this is a #1 issue (which it is), and if this is a jumping-on point for not only new Thor readers but new comic book readers (which, given the media push this issue receives, it will be), it seems like a major omission from the plot and the setting.
The art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson is, for the most part, crisp, clear, and fun. The Asgardians look like the fantasy-science heroes they should be, and there’s a Frank Quitely-esqe feel to their facial expressions. But while Quitely is accomplished at illustrating sequential action, Dauterman’s fight scenes can be confusing. It feels like either too much, or not enough, information is conveyed between the panels. On the other hand, the scenes of long dialogue and exposition are never boring, and — seriously — I love Dauterman’s faces. That’s a valuable gift! Wilson’s colors go from poppy and bright to crisply dark, without getting muddy.
It will be fun to see Dauterman and Wilson illustrate the new Thor. Jason Aaron has been writing Thor’s adventures since 2012, and despite a new art team, this is the old Thor’s final issue more than it is the new Thor’s first one. I can’t say if that’s a scripting issue or an editorial one, but Thor #1 has been marketed and advertised as the beginning of a new character and a new era. But so far, it’s the story of the same ol’ Thunder God.
It’s not a bad comic in its own right. The dialogue, even the Asgardian doth-speak, is clear and fun. Godly rivalries are introduced and villainous plots are hatched. The illustration and the colors pop. But despite countless PR assurances that this is no She-Thor, this is Thor — new readers will be forced to ask the question, Why wasn’t she in the book?
*this assumes that the new Thor, in her secret identity, does not appear elsewhere in the issue. There’s only one real option if she does, and it would make some story-sense, but Thor’s identity remains unknown by issue’s end.