With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Marko Djurdjevic, Olivier Coipel
Issues: Thor (2007) #7-12, 600
My favorite aspect of Thor’s comeback from “Ragnarok” in 2007 (besides the fantastic art) was the hilarious juxtaposition that occurred when Thor remakes all of Asgard on Earth – floating a few feet above the ground in Oklahoma. Finding and restoring all his Asgardian allies (within mortal bodies) was a fun plot hook, as was dealing with the political repercussions of suddenly having a floating city in the middle of America. Sadly this second volume moves away from all that to instead focus on heavy backstory and non-Thor Asgardians like Odin, Balder, and Loki. The art and writing are still incredible, but I found myself a bit bored with Loki’s tiresome manipulations and Thor’s self-doubting.
In “Father Issues” (#7-8) Thor enters the Odinsleep, transporting himself to a dream-like world where he meets his father Odin. Odin had fallen in battle with the demonic Surtur during Ragnarok, and Thor learns more about Odin’s past with his own father Bor and the mistakes he made. It shines a little light on Odin’s reasons for raising Loki, a child of the Frost Giants, which is expanded further later on. Ultimately it’s a simple excuse for Odin to tell Thor to buck up and lead the Asgards, while the two team-up for a fun battle against Surtur.
The other half of the volume revolves around Loki’s painfully obvious manipulations of Balder. Loki, currently in a woman’s body and looking like Marilyn Manson, reveals that Balder is also a son of Odin, and another rightful ruler of Asgard. Though various schemes Loki asserts himself (herself?) as a trustworthy adviser, and Balder begins to grow dissatisfied with Thor’s mandate that all Asgardians must stay within Asgard.
Loki’s ultimate plan involves a bit of time-travel, which acts as a follow-up to the backstory we got from Odin. It was time-traveling Loki that killed Odin’s father Bor! And future Loki that instructed past Loki on how to insinuate himself with the Asgardians. Loki’s final plan is to resurrect Bor (since he killed him with magic, I guess bringing him back is easy) and set him loose in the middle of an unfamiliar Earth.
Loki wraps Bor’s head in echantment, and Bor sees only enemies everywhere, including Thor when Thor tries to stop him. The two have a cataclysmic clash, and even the Dark Avengers show up at one point only to be completely rebuffed. Do not get in the way of gods battling! Thor triumphs though is forced to kill his grandfather. As consequence Balder assumes command and exiles Thor from Asgard. Chalk one up for Loki (who’s revealed to be parading around in Sif’s body, what a jerk).
There’s a few bits and pieces of Oklahoma scenes and Thor’s alter ego Donald Blake, but the focus remains on Asgard’s inner conflicts. Thor’s compatriots, especially the hefty Volstagg, provide some much-needed comic relief, but overall I just didn’t find this volume as immediately enjoyable as the first. I’m not terribly invested in Thor or his mythos and world, so stories that focus heavily on backstory aren’t going to do it for me. Loki’s a conniving villain but I can’t help feel get a been-there, done-that feeling from the whole plot.
However, Olivier Coipel’s art is absolutely stunny. Every page is drawn in bright, heroic colors and I adore the way Thor is drawn with a super square, flat face, giving him an other-worldly appearance. The art elevates the story-telling and keeps me invested. Almost everything involving Asgard involves fighting, which Coipel choreographs very well, from Bor and Thor throwing cars at each other to Balder and Loki battling Frost Giants on Earth.
Thor Volume 2 ends with several exciting revelations – Thor is exiled, Balder’s in charge (with Loki by his side), and Loki suggests that all Asgards move to Latveria (Dr. Doom’s stomping grounds), where they’ll be free and welcome. I like the direction we’re going on, and hopefully we can focus more on Thor and the Asgard’s current plight rather than wallowing in backstory and Loki’s origins.