Thor (2011)

 

Quote:
“Is this how you normally dress?”

“More or less.”

“It’s a good look.”

 

Went to see Thor today with the family. Great cast, good script and a good movie. It quite didn’t blow me out of the water like I was hoping it would (it suffers very slightly from first movie syndrome, I think) but we all enjoyed it nonetheless. I thought Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston were great as Thor and Loki. I was surprised when the credits came up and Ray Stevenson was listed in the cast as I didn’t recognise him – he plays a padded and hirstute Volstagg (though the padding needed to be greater to match the Volstagg of the comics). Visually it looked great but I could have gone for a little more action between the frost giants and Asgardians. Thor spends a lot of time exiled on Earth (which is fine as these sequences are good) but when he has his powers and is in his iconic armour that is when it all comes together for me – give me more mighty smiting!

The teaser at the end of the movie was thrilling. Samuel L. Jackson totally rocks as Nick Fury and I can’t wait for the Avengers movie next year – IMDB has him listed as doing a Nick Fury movie as well which would be great.

Thor (2010) – Part 3

The third and final part of the round up that I am doing consists of spin-off comics where Thor shares the spotlight with others or is just a peripheral figure to the story.

Thor and the Warriors Four (cover date: June 2010)

This is a four issue mini-series written by Alex Zalben with art by Gurihiru. We all know, I assume, Thor’s friends and comrades the Warriors Three (more of whom later) but this story concerns the Warriors Four who turn out to be Power Pack. The story has the Power family worried for their grandmother who is lying at death’s door in hospital. Being heroes they do not want to accept their grandmother’s fate but try to do something about it. Reading a book on Norse myths, Julie Power has the idea of contacting Thor to try and obtain the legendary golden apples that keep the Norse gods young and healthy. In trying to do this they run into the pet Avengers (?) and frog Thor opens a portal for them to travel to Asgard on wargs. This is a fun, cutesy story aimed at younger readers, I would guess. The art is nice and clean with an Americanised manga look to it. Not one for me to buy for myself but might be a nice introduction to Marvel for a younger relative.

Chaos War: Thor (cover date: January 2011)

This is a two issue mini-series that is part of a bigger multi-title crossover from Marvel called Chaos War. The typically restrained Marvel blurb for Chaos War #1 says:

 

Quote:
Bigger than THE INFINITY GAUNTLET! More cosmic than ANNIHILATION! Since the end of SECRET INVASION, the CHAOS KING has amassed his army of alien slave gods — and the time to strike Earth is NOW! Only the greatest Marvel heroes can oppose him — all led by the newly-returned god of heroes … HERCULES! But are even his incredible new powers enough to stand against the greatest threat the Marvel Universe has ever seen – a mad god who seeks to destroy Reality itself?

 

The comic is written by J.M. DeMatteis who I know best from books published in the late eighties and early nineties such as Moonshadow, Blood: A Tale and an excellent run on Doctor Fate where he reinvented the character. The art is handled by more unknowns to me – Brian Ching and Rick Ketcham. The story starts on a cosmic scale with Thor battling a powerful god called Glory but then both combatants neutralise each other and fall to Earth. Thor reverts to human form and is found by a troubled woman living alone searching for answers to the death of her family. When Thor comes to he has lost his memory and spends some time with the woman before being found by the reawakened Glory. I’m not really a fan of big event storylines that crossover into books that I would never normally read – especially when books I do read get caught up in them. The question is really can this book be written so that it satisfies as a standalone story without getting tied in knots with the continuity in the wider story? Well probably not is the answer. DeMatteis does a good job of turning a large scale cosmic event into an insular search for awareness and spiritual enlightenment – themes he explored in the books I read in the eighties – but in the end it would have been better if he could have written his own standalone story and not have the Chaos War backdrop. So an oddity within the continuity of the Chaos War but it did leave wanting more of those stories I remember from 20 years ago.

Iron Man/Thor: God Complex (cover date: January 2011)

This is a four part series written by long time collaborators Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – stalwarts of various Marvel UK titles and 2000AD – with art by Scot Eaton and Jaime Mendoza. This is a strange book to me because it involves a number of characters that I am not familiar with not being a huge reader of Marvel comics – such as Baron Mordo, Crimson Dynamo, Ulik and the High Evolutionary. However having spent most of the first issue cutting from scene to scene to finally set up the premise to looks as though it might well be very entertaining. I think I would need to read issue 2 to get a better feel if I really want to pursue it to the end. But I can’t help being cynical in thinking that Marvel have brought these characters together now (outside of their being team mates in the Avengers) to associate the successful movie franchise, Iron Man, with the forthcoming Thor movie.

Warriors Three (cover date: January 2011)

 

I had high hopes going into this one as it is written by Bill Willingham, whose Fables series for Vertigo is fantastic, and I thought the pairing of Willingham with the characters of the Warriors Three would be perfect. Unfortunately it hasn’t worked out like that straight from the off. The story starts with a killing spree by Fenris Wolf in which a small town is slaughtered. Then we are introduced to each of the warriors in turn – first the philanderer Fandral who is pushed out of a window before the return of a husband; next Volstagg who has cleaned out a diner an all you can eat for $14.99 lunch as a challenge; and finally Hogun who has laid out most men in a bar for laughing at his hat. The Asgardians are summoned back to Asgard to learn the news of Fenris Wolf’s escape and to be sent off to hunt him down and place him back into captivity. Thor tells the three that he would understand if they stayed behind to safeguard Asgard rather than join the hunt but they reject this and go to the place where he was held prisoner to find clues only to be overrun by trolls. The story was good enough but it didn’t have the same spark as his own series does – maybe he doesn’t have enough freedom to play with the characters or maybe the story is just slow getting started. It is a four issue mini-series so I would be interested in reading it all when it is complete but it will be somewhere in the middle of my list of things to buy.

Loki (cover date: December 2010)

This is another four issue mini-series featuring Thor’s jealous half-brother Loki. The story starts with Loki in hiding from Asgard but he is found and Thor comes to speak with him. Thor wants to discover why Loki has done his latest misdeed but instead Loki talks of past injustices and resentments that have helped shaped his character. Again the story and art are fine enough without being exceptional. Loki is portrayed at his lowest ebb and so is not as fiendish and tricky, or so it seems, as he is in other stories where he has the upper hand. I usually like Loki as a villain but he needs to have more energy about him than he has in this story. Another one to keep an eye on and see how it develops before buying, I think.

Thor (2010) – Part 2

This is the second part of the round up that I am doing of the first issues of the recent avalanche of Thor titles published by Marvel. Like the first, this part consists of comics that feature Thor as the main character.

Thor The Mighty Avenger (cover date: September 2010)

The creative team on this comic is writer Roger Langridge and artist Chris Samnee. I don’t know the writer but Chris Samnee drew the recent Serenity book, The Shepherd’s Tale. Unfortunately I am not a big fan of Samnee’s art – it is too cartoony and unfinished looking for me. The story is fairly inconsequential – it is told from the point of view of Jane Foster who works at a war memorial museum. One day there is a disturbance and a man, Thor, is thrown out after trying to break a display case. Later on, after a meal with her ex-boyfriend, Jane comes across the man as he takes part in a bar brawl with a character called Hyde. Thor is left weakened and Jane takes him to the museum where his wish is to hold one of the artefacts which he smashes to reveal Mjolnir. This book is far too light for me. It looks and feels like a teen romance title and bears no resemblance to the usual incarnation of Thor. I would only read further if I had it on loan from somewhere. Apparently the paying public think so too as the title is due to be cancelled with issue 8.

Ultimate Thor (cover date: December 2010)

Marvel’s Ultimate universe is an alternative reality to the main Marvel line of comics that allows creators some freedom in re-imagining the characters. I have read a number of books set in this universe and they have been mostly fantastic. So my hopes were high coming to this title. Again the creative team is new to me (I must get out more or read more Marvel titles) – the writer is Jonathon Hickman and the artist is Carlos Pacheco. The story opens with a teaser scene of German Nazi soldiers and frost giants assaulting a ravished Asgard – can it get better than this? Next we have Thor incarcerated and under study as the failed attempt at a European super soldier. James Bradock calls in psychiatrist Donald Blake to evaluate the patient in a scene that deliciously points up some of the differences between Ultimate Thor and classic Thor. Next we eavesdrop on the machinations of Baron Zemo , in 1939 Germany, as he plans to lead an assault on Asgard. Then there is a sequence with Thor, Loki and Baldur in Asgard in a skirmish with some frost giants – with some of the nicest art in the comic. Finally we are left with Baron Zemo as he activates a portal to the seven realms and is about to begin his assault. This is a long overdue solo book for one of my favourite characters from the Ultimates (and the Marvel universe). A great opening issue with a number of plot lines that have to be brought together. It will be interesting to see where it leads – a must buy when it appears in TPB.

Astonishing Thor 1 (cover date: January 2011)

The final comic I am going to look at in this post is Astonishing Thor by Robert Rodi and Mike Choi. Rodi has written a couple of Vertigo titles but I don’t think I have read them. Choi has worked on some X titles for Marvel including Divided We Stand that I read in September. Sadly the story is anything but astonishing. While battling against some freak weather conditions, Thor is called to the remnants of a destroyed Asgard by Heimdall. Heimdall tells him of an appearance of a strange craft in the Solar System that is the probable causes of the disturbances and threatens the future of the planet. Thor sets off to investigate to find Ego the living planet and the Stranger. There is not a lot going on in this issue to get me excited. The art is nice but Thor looks very young. The story is just OK – there is not enough going on or dramatic tension to make me want to read any further. Another to borrow sometime but no loss if I don’t.

Thor (2010) – Part 1

Since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and I am creatively bankrupt) I am changing the format with the next couple of posts and shamelessly adapting the Revcast movies of the month idea and looking at parts of related books rather than a full storyline. Back in the seventies, when I was more of a Marvel reader than I am now, one of my favourite characters was Thor. With the movie due next year, Marvel has been saturating the market with books starring Thor or other prominent characters from the stories. In the next two or three posts I am going to be looking only at the first issues of the various series that are out there and deciding whether they interest me enough to buy the inevitable trade paperback when it appears.

Thor 615 (cover date: November 2010)

First up is the main Thor comic. This obviously isn’t a number 1 but it does introduce a new storyline with a new creative team – Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry. Fraction had a great run on that other seventies Marvel cult icon Iron Fist but I am most excited by the prospect of the art from Ferry. The artwork is stunning especially when in the more fantastic locations – there are a number of spreads set in Alfheim, the realm of the ice elves, which are just brilliant. The story picks up from the destruction of Asgard, with Thor and Baldur having to inspire hope in their people, Volstagg receiving warning of a coming threat to all and the invasion of Alfheim by unknown aliens. The story is laid out well for newcomers to the comic and intriguing enough to leave me wanting more – especially more of that gorgeous art. Definitely a must buy when it comes out in a collection.

For Asgard 1 (cover date: November 2010)

Next is the first in a six issue mini-series from the Marvel Knights imprint. The creative team on this one is Robert Rodi and Simone Bianchi – both of whom I know nothing about, I’m afraid. However, just looking at the glorious double spread cover, this is another book that at least looks very promising. And the detailed art does not disappoint it is beautiful throughout the issue. The story starts with Thor leading an assault against rebellious frost giants who are using women and children as a human shield. With victory feeling like defeat for Thor, the warriors return to Asgard and more pressing problems: Asgard is in the grip of winter since the death of Baldur by Loki; Odin has left looking for a solution on Midgard leaving a doubt filled Thor in charge as regent; the court is divided on priorities and split into two factions led by Tyr and Sif; stocks of golden apples are low leaving the gods facing the prospect of a mortal death; and in the final scene of the issue Thor appears unable to lift Mjolnir. There is certainly a lot going on and I am intrigued enough to want to find out more – and certainly again the art will help make up any deficiencies in the story. The speech in this one is in that slightly stilted Homeric style where everyone is referred to as the son of someone else and simple statements are obscured by roundabout language but it is bearable.

First Thunder 1 (cover date: November 2010)

This one is a five issue mini-series from the creative team Brian J.L. Glass and Tan Eng Huat – again both of whom I know nothing about. As the title suggests, this story takes us back to the origin of the character in a retelling of the story that first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962. While on a hiking trip in Norway a crippled Donald Blake gets involved in an alien invasion by the Kronan race. He loses his cane when fleeing from the aliens into a cave system but finds a gnarled stick that he uses as a replacement. In frustration at being trapped, Blake strikes the stick onto the cave floor and is transformed into the thunder god Thor. Thor defeats the Kronans and rescues, with the help of Blake, two fellow local hikers. The story was good enough and has obviously been brought out to introduce the character to a new generation. I don’t think this one will be a must read for me – I will wait to see if I can get it from my local library or second hand. Thor’s speech patterns in this one are the most affected and tiresome – which may be a turn off to someone new to the character.