At the end of “Thor” #611, it seemed as if big things were happening. Thor and his fellow Asgardians learned of the Disir, former Valkyries that were cursed to eat Asgardian souls but never on Asgardian land, attacking the new Hel within Mephisto’s realm. The issue ended with Thor yelling “To Hell” and the next issue seemed poised to deliver 22 pages of brutal fighting as the Asgardians journeyed to Hell to protect the souls of their departed brothers and sisters. Instead, this issue is a slow grind as the intricacies of the Disir, Hela’s bargain with Loki, and the fears of the Asgardians are all explored in great detail.
Aside from a brief spurt of action for a few pages in the middle of the issue, this comic is disappointingly slow. That doesn’t mean that the writing doesn’t have its merits; Kieron Gillen tries to add an extra element to the conflict by having only two Asgardians be able to journey to Hell to aide Hela and by introducing a magical sword that can help defeat the Disir. More than that, he tries to explore the concept of the Disir more thoroughly, what they want, and how they’re viewed by Asgardians. Some of it is interesting, but it seems like a delaying tactic to put off the inevitable battle rather than essential information that must be imparted to the reader right at this very moment.
Within this, Gillen does do some very good character work in places. Balder initially volunteers to go with Thor to Hell, but interrupts himself, saying, “No. I am king. I must remain.” It’s a nice, small moment where we get to see a character grow into his new role, while Tyr still struggles with the fear he exhibited during “Siege.” Gillen clearly has a strong handle on these characters and brings all of that out in his dialogue and how he has them interact.
Doug Braithwaite returns to Thor and does his usual great job with the Thunder God and those around him. Some of the coloring directly over his pencils is weaker than usual, leaving some scenes muddled and not as crisp as needed, but Braithwaite himself does great work. In some places, the combination of pencils and colors adds to the effect, like with the Disir. Since they’re rotting and almost demonic, the lack of solid blacks gives them an otherworldly feel. They look more decomposed and inhuman, making them appear more visually scary.
The colors are problematic later in the issue with a recap scene of the bargain between Loki and Hela. All of the characters look flat and blend together too much. That could be a case of the two different colorists on the issue or simply that certain levels of lighting don’t offer ideal colors for this style of art.
After a strong finish to last issue, the lack of action isn’t just a disappointment in and of itself, it makes this issue feel somewhat disconnected from the previous. They don’t flow well with this issue seeming like a shift in tone. Some of the elements work well like Gillen’s character work or Braithwaite’s Disir, but, overall, this is one of the weaker issues of Gillen’s run so far.