Thor currently has an incredibly bizarre position in the Marvel Universe. After going through Ragnarok and disappearing altogether in 2004, he had a faked-out return during "Civil War" and eventually came back properly in 2007’s "Thor" #1, written by Straczynski. Since then, he hasn’t appeared outside his own title, and I kind of felt like maybe the relaunch had sort of gone under the radar.
Not so. In February 2008, "Thor" #6 was the number four best-selling comic in the industry. Wrap your noodle around that one. Number four. Beating "Ultimates" v3 #3 and Frank Millar’s "Batman." Beating the debut of Millar and Hitch on "Fantastic Four". Beating two of three Spider-Man: Brand New Day issues released that month. All of this, with the sixth issue of his title.
As you can imagine, despite my initial skepticism, it seemed like it was worth giving "Thor" a once-over.
And I have to admit. . . I’m impressed. Perhaps I had low expectations because most of the time, I don’t like Straczynski’s writing. Perhaps it’s just that I’ve got no specific interest in Thor. Perhaps it’s just Djurdjevic’s amazing artwork. Whatever the reason, this was easily the best issue of Thor that I’ve ever read.
The plot of Thor’s new title shows the titular Norse deity as he rebuilds Asgard following Ragnarok, recovering the fallen gods. He’s the current Lord of Asgard and until now has claimed that he can’t bring Odin back because Odin died before Ragnarok. In this issue, we learn that this is a lie - Thor just doesn’t want to bring Odin back. Conversing with Thor in a sort of mystical beyond-the-grave dream-time, Odin tells Thor why that is, relating the story of how he came to succeed his own father as Lord of Asgard in much the same way. It’s an excellent tale that actually threatens to make Odin a more interesting character than Thor.
I don’t know how much of Straczynski’s Norse lore is made up and how much is Marvel’s (or Straczynski’s) take on the mythology, but Odin’s story is a fantastic use of the book’s unique position. Brian Wood’s "Northlanders" might be showing street-level Norsemen brilliantly, but Marvel has the more fantastic side fully stitched up. Djurdjevic’s interiors are stark, grimy and cold - exactly like you’d expect Asgard to look. It’s frankly criminal that he’s been churning out nothing but Daredevil covers for ages now.
There are some of JMS’ idiosyncrasies present that grate a little, but somehow I can forgive them. While I’m still unsure how interested I am in a "Thor" ongoing, this one issue has at least convinced me that I could easily enjoy it. I may well be back next issue.