This post is part of an ongoing series.
You are warned, here be spoilers.
The first issue is mostly preamble. The preamble is competent and effective, but it’s not until the last few pages that it becomes clear this series is something special.
Both versions of the cover are absolutely gorgeous. Olivier Coipel has a tendency to fall back on the image of Thor merely posing, looking majestic and menacing with his hammer, and I’ve no complaints. I know Linkara tends to dismiss these sorts of covers as bland, but Coipel – and Thor – make it work.
The current design for Thor’s costume is awesome. I’m not sure how far back it extends, whether it’s Coipel’s innovation or not, but wow. It maintains all the key elements of Jack Kirby’s original design, but turns the leotard into a belted tunic, and gives Thor an undersuit of chain armour – with, y’know, sleeves. It’s at once more modern and more mythic, and I heartily approve.
The issue itself begins with a few pages of images of Thor’s life, including a gorgeous full-page panel of Thor’s stern, heavy features superimposed on starry space. Then we get Mjolnir crashing to earth, erupting flame as a human hand reaches down to grasp its handle, and giving way to Thor, in white burial robe, stepping forth from the void. Apparently he’s been dead. His human aspect/host, Dr. Donald Blake, meets him, and the two square off in some swirling vortex of night.
In a long debate of D&D-level philosophy, Blake convinces Thor to return from death, and to go out and find the other Asgardians, who are apparently trapped in human bodies. (I was delighted to see Thor address Blake as “you” in this debate. Thor’s atrocious mis-use of “thou” has grated on me for years.)
This opening sequence fills most of the issue. It’s mythic and evocative, but it’s only half a step above every other fantasy attempt at mythic and evocative. It’s the last six pages of the issue that really grab my attention:
After Thor is convinced to return to the world, we see Donald Blake arriving in a tiny, sleepy little town in Oklahoma. Here, Coipel’s art and JMS’s writing absolutely sing together. With every outdoor panel, Coipel shows us the endless expanse of the prairies, and with every indoor panel, he shows us the authentic, busy details that are clamouring proof of human life.
Blake rents a room at the Sooner Hotel (with “free TV”!), operated (and presumably owned) by Beth Sooner. Beth Sooner is short, friendly, woefully overweight, and completely failing to hide the grey roots that peek out from under the red dye in her hair. She has the sort of glasses that make her eyes look as big as saucers, and she makes the sorts of lame jokes that Stephen King absolutely loves.
None of this is to say that a quaint, folksy small town is automatically wonderful. But seeing a god living in one has a fighting shot at it.