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Thor by JMS, Vol. 1

Posted by David Goodman On May - 18 - 2011

I am something of a Thor purist. As far as I’m concerned, the only writer who ever did the book correctly was Walter Simonson. Every writer who has worked on the title since has been compared to that legendary run of issues and has been found lacking. This is a large part of the reason I stopped even trying to read the book years ago; the disappointment each and every month was depressing. But with the advent of the new Thor movie hitting the big screen, I decided to pick up a Thor trade to scratch the itch I knew was coming. I went with the first volume of J. Michael Straczynski’s tenure on the book since I always thought his Amazing Spider-Man was some of the best writing that book had seen in years. Now that I have finished his opening arc on Thor, all I can think to say is, “Wow!”

Thor by J. Michael Straczynski, Vol. 1
Story by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Olivier Coipel
Cover by Oliver Coipel

Thor was dead, lost to the everlasting cycle of Ragnarok along with Asgard and all of its inhabitants. The Norse Gods had fulfilled their destinies and moved on to the next plane of existence. That was how the last Thor series (Vol. 2) ended when issue #85 hit the stands. Marvel seemed content to let the concept hibernate for a time until they brought Straczynski aboard to revive the character. This trade collects the first 6 issues of that revival as he attempts to bring not only Thor back from the dead, but all the Asgardians as well.

The method Straczynski came up with to bring the cast back to life is a bit far fetched, but this being comic books, I think that can be forgiven. He does manage to break from the cycle of Ragnarok and put it in the rearview mirror, which is important. It seems we have been hearing about Ragnarok and the final battle of the Norse Gods forever, and it was past time to put it to rest. Thor gets a truly fresh start in brand new territory and it makes for a first handful of issues that actually feel like something new, not just a rehash of old ideas. We also get the return of Dr. Donald Blake to the series which is a plus, Loki as a woman and a scenic view of Oklahoma. This first trade is bursting at the seams with new ideas, almost as many as when Simonson first took over the title.

I’ll be honest, when I think of Thor, Coipel is not the first name that comes to mind. Iron Man or Captain America, sure. But swords and hammers and Gods, not so much. But I have to say I was incredibly surprised how good the art was in these six issues. First, the redesign of Thor’s costume is nothing short of brilliant. It retains all the elements of the classic look while giving it a much more fantasy feel. He also gives the rest of the Asgardians nice facelifts while making sure they are still recognizable. Coipel has a widescreen art style that works very well in a book like this. The contrast of the small town of Broxton against the vastness of the reborn Asgard gives the title a great sense of scale.

I have to make special mention of issue #3 which is included in the trade. It features Thor facing off against Iron Man and calling him out for his actions during the superhero Civil War. It’s a tense issue that shows Thor at his best. Most writers have a tendency to make the character seem too human or weak when he goes up against supervillains or regular people. Here, Straczynski shows us a God who is not holding back and won’t take crap from anyone. For me it is a defining moment of the trade and of Straczynski’s run as a whole.

Thor by J. Michael Straczynski, Vol. 1 is a thoroughly enjoyable book. It still doesn’t measure up to the Simonson material, but I have come to the conclusion I don’t think anything ever will. But these are still some of the best Thor stories I have read in quite a while. It should keep my Thor itch taken care of, at least until The Avengers movie comes out next year.

2 Responses so far
  1. Mr Nobody Said,

    Not a fan of the Jurgens/Romita Jr run?

    Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 2:31 AM

  2. Dave Said,

    Sure. I liked the Jurgens/Romita stuff fine, but it was no Walter Simonson.

    Posted on June 13th, 2011 at 11:37 AM

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