Watchtower: Thor 101

    Thor illustration by Olivier Coipel. Photo courtesy of Marvel.

    When the trailer for the new Thor movie premiered, viewers probably had plenty of questions. Who’s Thor? And Odin, and Loki? Is he medieval or modern? A superhero, alongside Iron Man and Captain America, or a Norse god?

    Well, for answers to those questions, and for a general primer on the God of Thunder, you need look no further than J. Michael Strascynzski’s (Superman: Earth One, Amazing Spider-Man) 2007 run as writer on Thor.

    The first volume of the run holds answers to all these questions, resurrecting both the Thor franchise and the character himself. In doing so, it forms a nicely paced and beautifully drawn (thank you, Olivier Coipel) introduction to one of the original Avengers, while also changing things enough to give an air of newness to everything.

    Key to this set of changes is Strascynszki’s decision to have Thor rebuild Asgard (his home, along with the rest of the Nordic pantheon) in the town of Broxton, Oklahoma, a consistently amusing and rather telling juxtaposition of humility and grandeur throughout the series.

    Ultimately, what comes into play here, both in the Asgard/Broxton and Thor/Donald Blake relationships is an examination of God/man relationships. It’s engaging and humanized, though, and the contrast is welcome to a typically weighty franchise, enabling a broad new range of stories.

    The art, of course, serves as a constant reminder of this. Coipel’s vistas, brought out in horizontally-banded, “widescreen” panel formatting, give Thor a sense of epic, albeit grounded, proportions. There’s a sense that the series could be Marvel’s venue for Lord of the Rings-type epics — the sort which I’d hoped the film would provide. Though the visuals nicely negotiate the ground between Nordic epic and superhero storytelling, parts of the series come off as heavy-handed, a trait that admittedly befits the hammer-wielding titular deity at times. Even so, some of the emotional beats could have been crafted a little more subtly. Loki’s lurky attempts at menace, the Asgardians’ consistent gullibility and Thor’s tribute to the then-dead Captain America all could have used work.

    The flaws, though, are compensated for by Coipel’s art, which is pretty engrossing, especially on a first reading. Ultimately, the volume isn’t perfect — it’s really part one of a three-volume story, and the dialogue could sometimes be better, but its merits as an introductory work can’t really be argued with. If you’re looking for a visually stunning, easily accessible primer on the world of Thor, then this is a good place to start.


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