This post is part of an ongoing series.
You are warned, here be spoilers.
The first issue of the revived Thor gave us a brief look at Donald Blake as he began to settle in in a small town in Oklahoma (I have yet to determine what the name of the town is – didn’t notice it on the first read through, haven’t found it so far in re-read, and Google hasn’t helped either). This issue has Thor making his first big splash. This aspect – the interaction between Asgardian and Oklahoman – is my favourite aspect of the whole series.
Straczynski is at pains to describe just how small-town this small town is. The diner (called “Dinner”) appears to be owned and operated by three generations of the same family – Big bill, Little Bill, and Bill Junior. It’s Bill Junior – looking to be 20-ish – who serves Blake his breakfast. When Blake comments that “word gets around fast,” Bill Junior tells him, “Town like this, word is mostly what we got. If you want an XBox or an arcade, you got to go to Oklahoma city.”
I’m sorry, but really? We’re not given the town’s population, but Bill Junior mentions the town has “some stores, a post office, one doctor, two bars and eight churches.” I grew up in a town with some stores, a post office, several doctors, one bar, and (to my recollection) five churches. I expect the populations to be on par. Yes, it was a long time before we got high speed internet there (only a couple of years before this comic was published), but that never stopped households from getting the latest game console in. Actual consumer goods were weeks or occasionally months behind the rest of the world (if they were behind at all), not decades.
And then Bill comps Blake the meal, because… he’s too neighbourly to worry about making money on the meals he serves at his restaurant? Something? And yet, it all works. The lack of amenities and the exaggerated folksiness is a dramatic device. In a story about gods and mortals, I’m willing to allow Straczynski some fairy-tale-esque exaggerations if they emphasize a dramatic point.
We then get the issue’s central event: the raising of Asgard. Thor calls Asgard forth, while his hammer spins and a thunderstorm gathers. The god is creating. Coipel’s art positively sings in this section, as he renders Asgard in its vast glory and intricate detail. I’m reminded of many shots of the Enterprise-D, where it’s at once a vast, grand vision, and yet we can see the tiny, individual windows.
Despite this book’s emphasis on Thor-the-god, rather than Thor-the-superhero, he doesn’t use “thou” and “thee”. Not once. I, for one, could not be happier. If they wanted to have him speak full-on Middle English (or Old Norse), I’d have a small nerdgasm, but simply throwing in old-timey pronouns is a shallow, obvious way of evoking the ancient-fantastical. This book is packed to the seams with genuine, rich use of Thor’s mythological presence, and they’re fully integrated into the story. “Thou” and “thee” would just clang. For that matter, past writers have tended to use them wrong, having him use “thou” and “thee” even when addressing large groups of people. The only place I’ve ever seen thou/thee/thy legitimately used to address a group is in the King James Bible, and even then it was a deliberate and bizarre archaism – it’s not a good model for Thor to use, certainly.
The two other main incidents of this issue are both direct fallout from the raising of Asgard. The first is a visit by the police – two cops drive up, and give Thor a hard time for building Asgard on private property. Thor responds by promptly raising Asgard about twenty feet above the private property.
The images of Asgard rising off the ground are yet more triumphs for Coipel – as are a complementary pair of panels of the cops driving away from Asgard as fast as their car will carry them. One such panel has the viewpoint low on the ground, the squad car racing toward the reader while mighty Asgard looms in the background. (Its location in the shot is a touch iffy, but it’s still a wonderful image.) The other panel has a rear view of Thor in the foreground, looking down on the cops’ departure; the cops look so tiny and far away, it’s as though Thor is looking down on Earth from Heaven – as, indeed, he is.
The other main incident of the issue has Sam Miller, owner of the property on which Thor has raised Asgard, coming to demand payment for his land. Thor shows him to a huge room, piled high with gold, and tells him to take his fill.
There’s a scene of the townsfolk discussing Thor’s purchase, and Beth Sooner muses on how alone Thor is up in Asgard. This scene is deftly contrasted by a few images of Thor brooding on exactly that point. The issue ends with Thor setting off in search of the other Asgardians.
A note on vocab: I use “Asgardians”, rather than “Æsir”, because Straczynski does.