J. Michael Straczynski's slowly-paced, Neil Gaiman-lite take on the God of Thunder has come to an end, and now Kieron Gillen has stepped in to provide a transition between that lumbering saga and whatever Matt Fraction has planned for the card-carrying members of Team Asgard. In part two of this three-part Doctor Doom vs. Thor story, Gillen gives us explosive confrontations, in-the-wings drama, and plenty of climactic moments.
After years of stage-setting by Straczynski, Gillen blows a lot of it up, and it's damned satisfying. It's not that Gillen undermines everything the previous creative team established, it's just that he takes the built up conflicts and makes them more explicit. He shows the confrontations. He gives us, instead of talking heads and schemes and intrigue, a straightforward action comic. It's a jolt of energy that began last issue and looks to continue into part three.
Because in the final pages of this issue, Doctor Doom shows that he is not afraid to tussle with a god. He's ready, willing, and able to do so. And he has come prepared.
I suspect that "Thor" #605 would work well even if you skipped the Straczynski run entirely. It's just basically a prepping-for-battle-and-some-small-skirmishes kind of issue. Gillen gives each character a clear voice, and the tension mounts from page to page. There's a comic book grandeur here that feels more rock and roll than the Renaissance Fair version of "Survivor" that we've seen in this title over the past couple of years. It's not that the previous run was a disaster -- I enjoyed quite a bit of it, until it dragged on too long with too little in the way of plot development -- but Gillen has kicked this series into a higher gear, and it feels right, whether you've been following "Thor" since its relaunch or not.
Billy Tan, who has produced journeyman work on "New Avengers" and "Daredevil" in recent years, brings his best stuff to "Thor." The superhero boardroom set-ups of his other work have been holding him back. Tan was born to draw lightning-clashes and gods in flight and raging storms and, above all, Doctor Doom at his maniacal best. Tan's work excels on every page of this issue, and he brings the visual energy to sustain Gillen's giddily bombastic story.
"Thor" has some newfound life, thanks to Gillen and Tan, and if you've given up on this series, now might be the time to check back in. Nah, it is the time to check back in.