The Mighty Thor #1

So there’s another new Thor book! Mind you, this is a bit of a cheat on Marvel’s part, being both utterly explainable in terms of publishing cohesion, and a direct narrative continuation of the run in the previous core Thor book.

The ongoing Thor book became Journey Into Mystery with issue 622, which behaves as if the book never changed its name back in 1966, and that publication now focuses on the newly minted Loki, with Thor ever in the background. Giving that book over to Kieron Gillen to write was probably a genius move – he established a keen understanding of what makes Asgardian characters and their machinations so interesting and fun to read during his run on the main book – and leaving Matt Fraction in place writing the more epic, Marvel Universe-centric and dedicated adventures of Thor was probably a smart move, too.

Set in the aftermath of Fraction’s previous arc, The World Eaters, Asgard still sits on the outskirts of Broxton, Oklahoma, and now it also sits on the site of The Bridge Of Worlds – a thing that was previously more metaphysical in nature, but now is permanent and fixed due to Thor’s actions at the climax of his last battle. To the mortal locals, this light shining out into the sky further shakes their sense of their place in the universe, and the nature of God – or gods – a test of their belief-systems that were already stretched by a city of deities being parked on their doorstep.

It’s a timely theme to raise in this particular part of the Marvel Universe, and Fraction examines it with sympathy and sensitivity. The strongest sections of the book are actually those taking place in and around Broxton church, with the introduction of Pastor Mike as a particularly well-drawn religious leader. It’s hard to tell at this point where the Pastor is going to fall in the plot, or whether his scenes are offered as a thematic counterpoint to the main adventures going on in Asgard.

Which isn’t to say that the other parts of the book aren’t well written. Thor is stoic but charismatic, the banter between the Warriors Three is fun, Loki’s renewed innocence and his keen and crafty intelligence are well-balanced, and the scenes with the Silver Surfer and his boss all work well. It took me a while to get used to the writer’s take on Asgardian speech patterns, which include quite contemporary colloquialisms, but it flows well here.

And big concepts are the order of the day in Asgard, too, with Thor and Sif’s actions, and the Surfer’s, laying seeds that look like they’ll probably build on and play into the themes and civilian responses relayed through Pastor Mike’s bits.

Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales art (and Laura Martin’s always amazing colours), appropriately announced with a gorgeous myth-building cover, are perfectly suited to this book, too. Pasqual Ferry’s work on the previous issues of Matt Fraction’s run was intense and dramatic, and suitably epic, but either Morales’ line or Coipel’s composition creates clarity and pace here that helps the book flow from high-concept to quiet character moments seamlessly.

Marvel’s insistence on putting pointless in-house promotion back-matter sours the deal slightly, and the preview images from The Art Of Thor – a book of behind-the-scenes art from the movie – look oddly ugly in this format anyway, failing to recommend the volume to anyone. But otherwise, this was pretty much my favourite Matt Fraction penned Thor comic so far.