It’s hard not to wonder what the logic behind some of these ‘point 1’ comics from Marvel is. Past ‘jumping-on points’ have been released in between the first and second parts of ongoing story arcs, taken place either before or after what’s happening in the title at the moment, and generally seemed random. “Thor” #620.1 is the most puzzling of these comics to date with it coming before the finale to the Matt Fraction/Pasqual Ferry run on the title, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning writing this issue instead of regular “Thor” writer Fraction, and the issue having little to do with what’s happening in the title at the moment. More than that, next month sees the debut of “The Mighty Thor” and “Journey into Mystery,” both very good jumping-on points. So, what is this issue meant to sell readers into ‘jumping on’ to?
Reading this comic brings to mind the old practice of banking stock issues to run in cases of deadline crunches. Companies would commission comics that could be filed away and, then, slotted in when the scheduled comic wasn’t going to be ready to go print on schedule. Usually self-contained and generic, they did the job required: filled the pages between the covers and got out on time. “Thor” #620.1 feels like the 2011 equivalent with a perfectly fine story about the Grey Gargoyle trying to become immortal after turning all of the Aesir to stone. Ask me in a week if I remember any particulars and I would be surprised if I do.
In the ruins of Asgard, the Aesir celebrate Thursebolt, the feast of Thor that happens on the eve of the full moon in January. They celebrate Thor’s deeds, providing Mark Brooks with the chance to draw some montages of Thor’s past, friends, and enemies. Brooks adopts a style closer to the tone in art set by Olivier Coipel, Marko Djurdjevic, and other artists that drew the book before Pasqual Ferry. It’s a grittier, more detailed style than the cartoonier style Brooks often uses. He’s not entirely successful, sometimes over-rendering characters, giving off a sloppy, messy impression.
Where Brooks’s art works best is after the Grey Gargoyle shows up and he can draw the villain and Thor battling over one of the golden apples. Brooks is adept at illustrating characters in movement and makes up for the overly verbose writing of Abnett and Lanning. The pair overdo it on the dialogue, first with the Asgardian speech and, then, with the Grey Gargoyle constantly acting like he jumped out of the page of a Stan ‘n’ Jack comic. While no doubt true to the character’s roots, it quickly loses its charm and becomes grating.
“Thor” #620.1 is a fine self-contained comic, but a ‘jumping-on point’ that falls between issues 620 and 621 of “Thor” it is not. Within that context, this issue is a baffling choice by Marvel in an initiative that has had a few stumpers already.