“Avengers Origins: Thor” suffers from a problem that the other “Avengers Origins” comics do not: overexposure. At this time last year, Marvel published a host of Thor comics, many of which examined and retold his origin, or stories from his youth, from a variety of perspectives. While the characters focused on in the other “Avengers Origins” comics haven’t had those stories told in a long time, Thor has. Kathryn Immonen’s script is paced well and shows off the characters, but covers so much of the same ground as last year’s crop of Thor books that this feels like a comic that’s rehashing what came out a year ago.
Focusing on Thor, Loki, and Sif as young teens, “Avengers Origins: Thor” shows how Mjolnir was created, how Thor struggled to earn it, and, how, when he finally did, became so cocky and willful that Odin banished him to Earth to teach him a lesson in humility. Where Immonen’s writing shines is the way she writes the trio of Thor, Sif, and Loki. She manages both to make them seem like the characters we know better as adults and present them as teens with less maturity and subtlety. All three are far more prone to voicing their complaints and acting without thinking, as well as indulging in quite a bit of mockery at one another’s expense. That strong character work makes the well-worn plot fresher than it has any right to be.
Once the comic focuses more on the plot, on Thor’s journey from ‘youth with promise’ to ‘cocky jerk,’ it loses much of its charm. Early scenes are more relaxed, more able to let the story come from the characters and their actions; later scenes exist on the surface and are determined by external factors, not the characters as much. The last portion of the comic seems to exist because that’s the pre-determined story of Thor and doesn’t flow naturally from what came before.
In last year’s “Loki” mini-series, Al Barrionuevo filled in on some of the art in the final issue, so it’s no surprise that he has a handle on the characters. With Michel Lacombe’s inking, the thick-lined art resembles the work of Yanick Paquette and Sebastián Fiumara, while having moments of more intricate detail, especially when Odin appears. Barrionuevo’s ability to subtly alter the appearances of the characters as they age is particularly impressive; there’s no dramatic ‘now they’re adults’ moment in the art and he seems to understand the difference between how someone looks at the age of 13 compared to 17 or 18. The way that Thor ages between first using Mjolnir and when he’s exiled is gradual over a montage and, featuring Jeff Huet’s inks, is sharper and harsher.
If you’ve never read the story of Thor, “Avengers Origins: Thor” is an entertaining and coherent read until the final scenes. Kathryn Immonen writes the characters with depth and Al Barrionuevo matches her on art. Unfortunately, this story isn’t simply an old one that’s been told numerous times, it’s been told numerous times recently in numerous mini-series and one-shots from Marvel. With a plethora of recent Thor stories about his youth, this comic stands out amongst the “Avengers Origins” books as the one that seems unnecessary.