After a trio of specials and a “Secret Invasion” tie-in, Matt Fraction concludes his year of Thor with a “God-Size Special” focusing on Skurge the Executioner and his place among the mythic gods of Asgard. While most comic readers no doubt remember Skurge as a member of the Masters of Evil, the Skurge focused upon here is the man who gave his left to defend a bridge from the hordes of Hela. Or, is it Skurge the poet? Or Skurge the cobbler? Or Skurge the old crone who lived near a well?
No one is quite sure as Thor, Baldur, and Loki all have different recollections of Skurge, none of them matching the reality of his actions. In the death and rebirth of the Asgardians, has the sacrifice of Skurge been forgotten? We know the true story as Fraction and Dan Brereton provide a retelling at the beginning of this issue, using a similar style to the stories of Fraction’s other “Thor” specials. He has perfected the narrative voice that combines wisdom and wit to make the story seem truly mythic.
What follows is three more parts, each with a different artist and each narrated by a different god. In Baldur’s chapter, Doug Braithwaite illustrates how the three gods discover the mystery of Skurge and go to Hel to find out the truth. Braithwaite’s lines are fine and dynamic, colored straight from the pencils for some career best work. Fraction is able to build a compelling mystery and do so from Baldur’s perspective quite ably.
The third part features Mike and Laura Allred on art, and has the trio encountering magical effects that alters their appearances to how they appeared in the past. This part is the weakest as far as writing as Fraction does little with Loki’s perspective and merely advances their quest through a few meaningless battles. The Allreds’ art here makes it work better than it would otherwise, especially the transitions between costumes. Seeing Mike Allred’s depiction of these classic Kirby designs makes the section sing.
For the conclusion of the story, Fraction finally delves into Thor’s head and has the trio confront the cause of the problems remembering Skurge, which may also destroy the world. This ending is full of emotional weight and, while you want Thor and his fellow gods to win, there’s a reluctance there. Artist Miguel Angel Sepulveda handles the art and, while good, his work is the weakest of the issue. Like Braithwaite, his pencils are colored directly, but aren’t nearly as tight, which gives the art a very weak look in spots. His faces also have some overwrought expressions at times, but, for the most part, he does good work.
As a bonus, the original story of Skurge’s sacrifice, “The Mighty Thor” #362 by Walter Simonson is included and, hopefully, it will expose some readers to Simonson’s wonderful work on the book.
Matt Fraction proves here, again, that he can write Thor and his world with skill, charm and wit. Whenever J. Michael Straczynski leaves the title, Fraction has definitely positioned himself as the natural successor.
(Check out Dan Brereton’s luscious painted art and Doug Braithwaite’s tight pencils in CBR’s preview!)