For years, Thor battled one of the most treacherous beings in all the Marvel Universe: his own brother Loki, the God of Mischief. Their enmity ended when Loki sacrificed himself to save Asgard and Thor later resurrected him as teenager.
However, there are other cunning, conniving and manipulative sorcerers in the Marvel U, and this fall, one of them breaks free from his prison cell and reminds Thor just how dangerous he is. "Thor: God of Thunder" #13 by writer Jason Aaron and artist Ron Garney kicks off "The Accursed" arc and sends the Thunder God on a hunt through the Nine Realms for the treacherous Dark Elf ruler, Malekith the Accursed. CBR News spoke with Aaron about the arc, which was announced by Marvel at their "Next Big Thing" panel during C2E2 2013.
CBR News: Jason, "The Accursed" arc begins in September's "Thor: God of Thunder" #13. However, before it begins, you're wrapping up the "Godbomb" arc and have one more standalone issue. What do you want readers to know about these stories? How do they set the stage for "The Accursed?"
Jason Aaron: The "Godbomb" arc wraps up in issue #11, which is the finale of the entire epic story of the God Butcher that began back in issue #1. And I don't think I need to say more about that then I've already said.
Then, after 11 issues of Thor flying around the cosmos and traipsing through time, issue #12 brings Thor back to Midgard. It's a standalone issue about Thor coming back to Earth. What happens when the God of Thunder comes back to his adopted home of Midgard after being away for so long? Who does he go see? Where does he hang out? Some of the answers will surprise you.
Like everything I've done in the book so far, that issue explores the idea of what it means to be a God in the Marvel Universe, but in a very real, down-to-earth way.
Issue #13 kicks off the next big arc, which is the return of Malekith, who is the bad guy in the upcoming "Thor" film. I believe this arc starts just before the new movie hits theaters, but if you're someone who liked "The Avengers" or the first "Thor" movie, you can pick up this arc and there'll be a lot you'll recognize. This will be the first time in the current volume of the book that we see Thor hanging out with his usual supporting cast -- namely Sif and the Warriors Three. The story starts with Thor back in Asgard, drinking mead in the great hall, while worlds away, Malekith is breaking free.
Half of that first issue is a prison break, which is one of the most fun things I think I've ever written. I got to make up a crazy, otherworldly prison to house Malekith and then I had to figure out how to get him out. That was a huge blast! So yeah, Malekith breaks out and goes on a rampage all across the Nine Worlds.
What are your primary goals with "The Accursed?" How will the story deal with Malekith and Thor as characters and their role in the Marvel U?
I wanted to do a few different things with this story. One was bring Malekith back in a really big way. He's a great Walt Simonson creation. I recently reread the Thor issues where Walt introduced the character, and they're still so good, so strange and imaginative and awesomely fun. I wanted to bring Malekith back and establish him as a big time menace in the Marvel Universe.
Another goal was that after Thor being wrapped up in the "God Butcher" arc for so long I wanted to bring him back into the midst of the Marvel Universe as well. We'll see him interact with some of his usual supporting cast. And as part of that, I wanted to establish and nail down as many of the Nine Worlds as I could.
We've seen all the different Nine Worlds many times over the years, but these days, I doubt the average Marvel reader could name very many of them or tell you anything about them. By the end of this arc, I want everybody to know what the geography of Svartalfheim is like and that the Dark Elves live there, and how that's different from Alfheim where the Light Elves live or Nidavellir where the dwarves are or Jotunheim, the land of the giants.
So this is an adventure that takes us all across the Nine Worlds. It's sort of like a gritty western with Malekith as a desperado and Thor and a group of heroes chasing after him. That journey gives us the chance to define the distinguishing characteristics and important locales of each realm. Expect a lot of maps in these issues, because of course any true fantasy story must eventually have a map.
Our journey will also bring back some old characters and introduce some new ones. As Thor goes on this quest to chase down Malekith he won't be alone. He'll be with a group of characters whose make-up represents several of the different realms -- a sort of UN peacekeeping force, but with trolls and giants and elves.
Does that tour of the Nine Realms mean we'll come face to face with some of the realm's rulers, like Hela?
Maybe. We'll certainly hit as many of the Nine Realms as we can, but for the most part, our focus is on Thor and this group of characters chasing down Malekith, and what Malekith is up to as he carves his name across the known worlds.
What do you find most interesting about Malekith? Which aspects of his character do you enjoy writing about?
He's fun to write because he allows me to lean into the fantasy aspects of the story. The stuff in "God of Thunder" so far has been part fantasy, and a lot of sci-fi and horror. The "Accursed" arc is more of a straight fantasy with, like I said, a dark western tinge to it.
We'll get to see Malekith cut loose in a way we've never seen him do before, even in the Simonson stuff. In those issues, he was still part of a bigger plan. He wasn't necessarily the guy calling the shots. This arc is Malekith turned up to 11. We find out what makes him a scary guy, what he's up to, and his plans for his people, the Dark Elves. He's either a terrorist or a messiah or a mad butcher, depending which side of the fence you're on. Or maybe he's all three.
Like our first two arcs of "Thor: God of Thunder," "Accursed" is a dark and serious story, but I think it has more fantastic elements. It's like when I watch "Game of Thrones" -- they do a terrific job balancing the dark, gritty, and realistic aspects of the story with the occasional dragon, giant or otherworldly and fantastic element. That's what I'm trying to do here. It's a dark, emotional story for Thor with Malekith as the Joker to his Batman, but it's got more trappings of fantasy than we've seen recently in this book. It's got giants, dwarves, elves, trolls and all manner of winged steeds. It's also got treks through dark enchanted forests, forbidden caves, frozen tundras, and all sorts of otherworldly locations.
Is Malekith dangerous simply because he's elusive and treacherous, or will he have followers and supporters in this story?
He certainly will have followers. Some of them are brand new, and I believe we'll also see Wormwood and Bitterhand, who were his helpers from the Simonson days -- if for no other reason than their names are Wormwood and Bitterhand, and I shouldn't have to tell you that's awesome. Malekith's not just a vicious madman. He's a guy with a plan and he has followers who believe that his vision for the Dark Elves is the way to go.
You spoke earlier about some of the other Asgardians that will be part of the story. Writing these characters for the first time, how was the experience of bringing them into the book and seeing what makes them tick?
It was a lot of fun. I liked getting away from Thor's traditional supporting cast when we began the book, but it felt good to put him back in Asgardia and have him drink mead with the Warriors Three.
That said, while they're a big part of the first issue, they won't be a big part of the entire arc for reasons that will become clear in the second issue. It's fun to get to write them, especially Volstagg, who has a rather dramatic career change in this arc. It sets him up in a new role in Asgardia.
Will Kid Loki will play a role in this story as well?
No, no Kid Loki yet. Certainly at some point I want to do a big Thor/Loki story because there hasn't been one for quite a while. I love what Kieron Gillen did with Loki in "Journey Into Mystery" and the stuff he's doing with him right now in "Young Avengers." Really, I just want to stay out of Kieron's way while he's playing with all of that. Down the road, whenever Loki comes back to the pages of "Thor: God of Thunder," it will have to be in as big a way as possible.
What about young Thor or King Thor from the God Butcher saga? Will they have parts to play in "The Accursed?"
No, this will purely be present day Thor. Going forward after our current story, most of our arcs will focus on present day Thor, but sprinkled in amongst those arcs we'll get stories with young Thor and King Thor. I've already written the next young Thor story, which is being drawn as we speak. And oh man, wait'll you see it.
There's still an overarching story to tell with both of those versions of Thor, but they won't be featured in each arc again. I may never do another arc that features all three of them, I don't know. They'll certainly be touchstones though for as long as I'm on the book.
You've worked with Ron Garney several times and "The Accursed" sounds like a fun story that will show off what he's good at, but stretch some different muscles as well. What do you feel he brings to this story as an artist?
Ron is awesome. I've worked with him as much as I have probably anybody in comics. We've done Wolverine stuff together, we did "Ultimate Captain America" together and we've worked together on several different arcs.
It's great fun to be working with him on Thor, who is one of the few Marvel characters that [Ron] hasn't drawn before. Ron is a guy who can draw anything. He takes my crazy scenes and ridiculous action moments and boils them down. He makes them look real and gives them weight and emotion. So he's perfect for this.
On one hand, this is the craziest, most otherworldly Thor story that I've written, but it's also got a solid emotional core running through it. Like Esad Ribic, who's done our first couple arcs, Ron is able to pull off all that stuff at once.
Finally, you've already touched upon tone when you described "The Accursed" arc as mash up of a gritty western and classic fantasy questing, but from what you have told me it also sounds like there are some elements of manhunt and personal duel style stories. Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and the recent James Bond film "Skyfall" come to mind since both those films dealt with protagonists trying to hunt down and outwit extremely cunning adversaries. Is that what you're going for?
Yeah, certainly there's a big manhunt aspect to this story. Also there's a very specific character arc and journey that Thor is on. It will become obvious as things progress. There are a lot going on in this story beyond just Thor hitting elves with a hammer, though there's also plenty of that.
I want to conclude by saying that I've been blown away by peoples' response to "Thor: God of Thunder." I appreciate everybody who's picked up the book, especially people who say they don't usually read "Thor." I'm super proud of what the whole Thor team has been able to do in these first two arcs and I'm excited about where we're going next. Everything I've done on "Thor: God of Thunder" so far has been one big tale, so it's fun and exciting to take the character in a different direction now. I just thank the fans out there for the support, and for giving me the chance to write a book where I get to spend my day making up dwarf names and doing work-related research on the culture of elves.