Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry’s tenure on “Thor” so far has been a slow burn of varying success. This issue continues the slow, spacious pacing that’s characterized the series so far with more success. Maybe it’s growing more accustomed to the style and pace of the series, maybe it’s Fraction and Ferry becoming more adept at executing it, but this issue is an improvement over what’s come before while still maintaining its relaxed rhythm and expansive two-page spreads. Part of the success is that the build-up to the Asgardians’ confrontation with the World Eaters finally feels like it’s building to that confrontation as refugees of the Nine Realms arrive on Earth with news of what’s coming.
Still, the relaxed pacing of the issues so far does make each go by in a blur as Fraction slowly moves characters into place. Last issue, it was the return of Loki from the dead; this time, it’s Odin with Thor acting less as a character and more as an extension of plot mechanics, arriving to exact changes without a word, returning the title closer and closer to its regular status quo. There’s some wisdom in that as the current one with Asgard in ruins in Oklahoma only has so much mileage, but, so far, it hasn’t been explored beyond Balder, Thor, and the other moping around about how low things have sunk.
In this issue, some hope of the Aesir rebounding emerges as they learn of the threat of the World Eaters. Fraction’s depiction of Balder hardly lives up to his moniker of ‘the Brave,’ but it is understandable how the events of “Siege” would sap any hope and desire for conflict from the king. That he comes around isn’t just a sign of hope for the Asgardians and the refugees of the Nine Realms, it’s hope for the book as it begins to find a clearer direction.
The art team of Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth continue to ensure that “Thor” has a strong, unique look by working with two-page spreads and heavily stylized pencils and colors. Ferry’s style is very cartoony, almost cute at times, but that doesn’t mean he can’t draw badass either. The opening scene with Odin (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=7164) recalls the harder, rougher line work he used with the World Eater sequences in previous issue, while the reds and oranges of the colors allude to them in the same way. Unlike the other Asgardians thus far, Odin looks like a warrior ready for a fight, immediately making him stand out visually. He doesn’t even hesitate when the Hel Wolf emerges, while his children cower and brood because Asgard has fallen. The visual contrast is strong with Hollingsworth using blues to distinguish the weak from the strong. It’s not until the Asgardians seem prepared to stand their ground that red enters their world.
Ferry’s growth is apparent here as he improves at balancing the expansive layouts with giving pages a wealth of details. There’s more to catch the eye in this issue, more to linger over. His designs for the various creatures from the Nine Realms are also some of his best work, delivering mythic-looking beings that also bear his stylistic mark. The Storm Colossus is one of his best designs.
Though not yet living up to the promise of the opening issue of the run, “Thor” #618 shows that the book is moving in the right direction and beginning to find its feet. The threat of the World Eaters seems more urgent and the Asgardians are beginning to come out of their holes. That the book is reverting to a previous form instead of moving forward is a concern, but, hopefully, the larger plan will pan out. This issue may be the turnaround that the book needs.