“Thor the Mighty Avenger” #1 reads like the first half of a pilot episode for a pretty good Thor cartoon series. It’s a very streamlined approach that takes some familiar details from the regular comics and uses them in new ways to introduce us to characters like Jane Foster and Thor for the first time. You can enter this comic without any idea who Thor is and not be lost at all. Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee make for a strong team in providing a simple, streamlined version of the Norse god of thunder.
Probably the biggest change right off the bat is Jane Foster not being a nurse or a medical doctor but a curator at a museum in Oklahoma, specifically in the Norse department. It’s through this position that she first comes into contact with Thor, a seemingly homeless man trying to smash one of the displays with a big stick. Not exactly the way you’d expect Thor to make his entrance in this comic, but it all makes sense by the end of the issue, and also acts as a tease against our expectations with the stick in his hand. Langridge is good at taking existing details and using them for the benefit of this specific comic very well.
A later example is the use of Mr. Hyde as a guy in a bar who keeps beating up a weakened Thor when Thor tries to stop him from harassing a woman. Hyde is a simple villain and an easy one to understand right away, and this confrontation allows us to see how noble and honorable Thor is right away. It’s also presented somewhat comically with us never seeing what happens in the bar, only that Thor gets thrown out, goes back in, and gets thrown back out again since Jane is our point of view character and she only sees what happens from the outside of the bar.
Despite the clear, straight-forward approach, this issue only feels half complete in its introduction. For a series like this, I would have preferred a debut issue that sets things up more completely, but what’s here is strong. And, even though the issue ends with the story only half-told, the issue isn’t a breezy read; Most pages have six or seven panels, something that Chris Samnee handles very well.
Samnee uses a cartoony style here with blocky, simple characters, but it’s not a bright and shiny approach. He’s not afraid to use a lot of black and darkness in telling the story. Matthew Wilson avoids the usual animated coloring look, going for more subdued and muted tones. This approach works well with Langridge’s writing, which has some more serious undertones with Jane’s relationship problems and Thor possibly being a homeless man who spends his evenings preventing men from forcing themselves on women.
Where Samnee excels is in his panel-to-panel character work. He’s consistent, but also very expressive, in his art. It’s immediately clear what’s going on and what the characters are thinking/feeling. His Thor is a combination of warrior and charming goof, while Jane is very energetic. I can’t wait to see how Samnee handles the rest of the usual Thor characters when they eventually show up.
It may not be the regular Marvel universe Thor book, but “Thor the Mighty Avenger” #1 is an interesting take on the character and gives you a good idea of what kind of person he is while focusing on Jane Foster as our POV character. Langridge and Samnee work extremely smoothly and well together, like a duo who have been a team for years. If you want a Thor book free of continuity that’s just fun, great art, and dynamic character work, give this a look.