Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Thor #1 - But Be She Worthy?

I don’t like “Cosmic Marvel”. The series of events happening in space with their great powers. Oh, how I’ve tried. Issue after issue of Captain Marvel failed to invoke reaction. Journey into Mystery was quickly forgettable. Even at the height of my Guardians of the Galaxy fervor, only the Rocket Raccoon comic got considered (and I still forget whether I’ve read every issue of it). This isn’t to say the space adventures of Marvel are bad. It’s a taste thing. The very core of them doesn’t appeal in the slightest to myself, a fan of underpowered and angsty characters patrolling gritty neighborhoods.

So when I tell you that I’m getting a subscription to Marvel Now! Thor, I’m not isn’t just saying “It’s passable”. It’s saying that a single issue completely broke through all my negative thoughts about an entire subgenre.

Because it’s happened. She’s here, and the Goddess of Thunder’s arrival is as perfectly cacophonous and colossal as one could hope. Every comic fan needs to bear witness to the storm brewing here.


Thor #1 takes place after the events of Original Sin, wherein every Marvel character’s deepest secrets were made known (often to absolutely chaotic effect). During this celestial info dump, Thor Odinson was confronted with a truth that, once acknowledged, made him immediately unworthy of wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir. It is in that moment that Odinson reaches a new kind of low: That he is no longer a Hero nor deserving of the title. It is a heartbreaking moment fully explored in epic tragedy in this first issue. Even as someone who has read little of Thor’s comics, I was deeply moved. Jason Aaron’s writing, Russell Dauterman’s drawings, and Matthew Wilson’s color all work in perfect tandem to open the series on a note of broken sorrow.

And even beyond the hammer, “Broken” is a word woven throughout the experience. Odin himself has returned from a self-imposed exile, only to find his wife, the All-Mother Freyja, less than willing to relinquish the throne she held while he was away. Down on Earth, Frost Giants have awoken in such numbers that they worry the armies of Asgard. Worse still, Malekith the accursed has wicked machinations that benefit from all this chaos. On all fronts, from the internally emotional to the literally militaristic, a grim hour chimes in the world of Asgard.

It is at this moment that a woman, quietly declaring the necessity of heroes, claims the hammer, becoming Thor.

If it seems like I spent almost no time discussing the new Thor, then that is with purpose. Jason Aaron wisely chose to bide his time with the character. In fact, her identity itself still remains a mystery (Though several clues were given and I now feel I know). Instead, the crux of the story is focused on world building; rather than talking about Thor herself, Jason spends great time showing us why we need a Thor. He creates a situation almost beyond hope in every way. A world crumbling. A myth itself dying out. Then, in the final page, we see a glimpse of Thor and the unspoken promise that she will fix this. That, from the rulership of Asgard to the Frost Giants of Earth… from the wickedness of Malekith to the tragedy of Thor Odinson… she can and will fix it all. Because she is Thor. Because she is worthy.


It is a brilliant decision that takes the attention off of Thor’s literal identity and places it instead on the legend of the character. It matters less what their name is and more that they are capable of inspiring this greatness. We see the promise, not the person. In all honesty, this made me love the story even more than I thought I could.

This isn’t to say that her gender isn’t even discussed in the story. It is a prominent theme, albeit indirectly. Freyja and Odin, the All-Mother and All-Father respectively, are unsubtle representatives of these topics. As both have legitimate claims to the throne of Asgard, they are seen bickering the entire issue about how to treat their fallen son, as well as how to rule the kingdom. Odin berates the boy about eschewing weakness. He wants to abandon Earth as “not his problem”. Freyja offers Thor compassion and encouragement. She wants to protect Earth by marching to war. Odin sees Freyja as naive and weak. Freyja sees Odin as cruel and selfish. It’s unsubtle what is actually being discussed here. The two are debating the commonly depicted concepts of gender and their roles in heroism.

It is fascinating, then, to have the dramatic irony of knowing the next great hero is a woman. A powerful, mighty, warrior of a woman that wields thunder itself. Juxtaposing Freyja and Odin’s arguments with the imminent Thor leaves a fantastic moment of reframing societally traditional concepts of femininity (protection and compassion) as the makings of a true hero. In fact, with Mjolnir rejecting all else, it reframes them as necessary makings of Asgard’s only true hero. There are, to me, problems with reinforcing these gender stereotypes. Which is to say, I’m concerned that, in celebrating them may only serve to reinforce them, a move that can be counter-productive if done the wrong way. That being said, I am fascinated by the idea itself, as well as how it’s approached. I wish to see how it plays out.

But what of Thor Odinson himself? Was he not in this issue beyond lamentations of a hammer lost? Just the opposite! I have saved him for last, as his story is amazing of its own right. Odinson, a fallen hero, is still a hero nonetheless. Refusing to submit to even cosmic judgment of himself, one of Earth’s Mightiest does what legends do: He perseveres. Grabbing the axe Jarnbjorn, Odinson heads off to fight both Frost Giants and Malekith single-handedly. It is an incredible scene that leads to a moment I dare not even hint at. A moment so jaw dropping that it will impact the series for years to come. Suffice to say, Odinson remains a mainstay of the series; an unstoppable legend. Even when stripped of his hammer, berated by his father, and entirely outmatched, his strength of character inspires. While his trials will be that much more difficult, they will also be that much more glorious to witness.

Thor #1 is absolutely triumphant in its execution. Defying all expectations by all audiences, it carves out its own path and makes us promises of greatness I have no doubt it can deliver. It is enthralling, powerful, and exciting. While I had expected a mild curiosity to accompany my beloved B-Listers (shout out to Moon Knight and Daredevil!) I instead found a mainstay of my list and a true entrance to the cosmic journeys of Marvel’s finest.

I cannot recommend it enough. Pick up the comic and experience it yourself.

Ben Worley is a professionally unpaid shill for many of the things that he likes. Sometimes he likes the Ace of Geeks. Right now he likes Thor.

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