Thor v.3 #1
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Olivier Coipel
Inks: Mark Morales
Colors: Laura Martin
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Coipel & Morales/Michael Turner
Editors: Warren Simons
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US/$3.75 CAN
Fan reaction to the cloned version of Thor that turned up in Civil War was almost universally negative, and that’s putting it mildly. Nevertheless, “Clor” may have been a smart move in one regard: fans’ hatred for the false version of Marvel’s thunder-god hero demonstrated how much they missed the character and fanned the flames of demand for his return. Well, his return has arrived… or at least it arrives eventually. Writer J. Michael (Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man) Straczynski draws out the process for no good reason, making for a somewhat tedious read. Fortunately, Olivier Coipel’s stunning artwork distracts from the decompressed script. The artist captures the grandeur and magic of a story of a god, and he also brings a dark look to the visuals that adds an air of maturity and mystery to the book.
Years ago, the Asgardian thunder god and Avenger known as Thor cast off his human guise of Dr. Donald Blake, and Blake simply ceased to exist. Now, in the wake of Thor’s recent death in Asgard, he discovers he no longer exists either, as he encounters his Donald Blake identity in an other-dimensional limbo. But Blake reminds Thor that as a god, he is forever connected to the beliefs of humans. He stands not above mankind, but instead relies on faith. And the time has come for people’s reverence and remembrance of a great hero to be answered. Thor fights his way through a surreal landscape to return to the world, but what will he and Blake do once they’ve made their way back to Earth?
I’ve enjoyed Olivier Coipel’s work in comics ever since I first caught a glimpse of it in The Legion and Legion Lost for DC Comics. He garnered much more attention at Marvel as one of its first “Young Guns” artists, building a larger fanbase with such projects as Avengers and, most prominently, House of M. His style is well suited to the larger-than-life, cosmic qualities of Straczynski’s script here. There’s an eerie, Lovecraftian look to the purgatory-like setting for the story, but he also bathes more introspective moments in bright light. Coipel’s vision of Thor is appropriately puissant in appearance, but he doesn’t loom too large. Unlike Michael Turner’s worm’s-eye-view cover, the vision of Thor here is more grounded. Coipel is careful not to portray Thor as superior. I also like Coipel’s new costume design for the title character. It’s in keeping with the late Jack Kirby’s original design from the early 1960s, but the armored look seems more plausible for a warrior character such as Thor. At the very least, Coipel is to be commended for wisely abandoning the belt buckle adorned with the letter “T.”
Straczynski employs some purple prose for the first couple of acts of the book to convey Thor’s spiritual journey back into existence. Though it’s a bit dressed up, I like the simple message Blake has to convey: that gods need the faithful as much as people need something in which they can believe. The quid pro quo nature of the relationship is something that humbles the character and takes away the loftier, arrogant edge that I’ve found so off-putting in the past. I’m also pleased to find an accessible script here. One needn’t be aware of the circumstances of Thor’s death in order to follow the story here.
There’s an overwhelming, obvious flaw with Straczynski’s script, and that’s that it fails to realize there’s no chance for any real tension or suspense in Thor’s resurrection. The cover artwork tells us what we need to know: Thor is coming back from the dead. The thunder god’s travails against demonic opposition in a nowhere-world is pointless. His confusion and Blake’s encouragement and guidance are moot points as well. A spiritual conflict that takes the better part of this issue to unfold could have easily been relegated to a couple of pages.
The denouement offers something intriguing, and that’s a new vision of the title character. Sure, it’s clear he’s going to be the thunderous hero we’ve seen in the past, but Straczynski seems to grant him (and Blake) a more nomadic lifestyle. It’s actually reminiscent of the 1970s era of the Hulk, and since the Green Goliath ain’t using that storytelling structure these days, it’s interesting to see it applied to such a different character. Ultimately, this issue was something of a disappointment, given the drawn-out nature of the script. However, the art and the seeds of a new premise hinted at in the script are enough to get me to come back and take a look at the second issue. 5/10