Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Vol. 1 [Marvel; $14.99] collects the first six issues of the current series by Straczynski and penciller Olivier Coipel. Cutting right to the chase, it's one of the best super-hero series of the new millennium.
It begins with a downright lyrical tale, contrasting the lives - and deaths - of gods and humans and revealing the wonder of each. Setting Thor and, in the following issue, Asgard itself, in a small Oklahoma town was brilliant. As Straczynski did in his writing, Coipel's art made both worlds believable. Indeed, each and every visual aspect of these stories are stunning. Kudos to inker Mark Morales, colorists Laura Martin and Paul Mounts, and letterer Chris Eliopoulos.
The Thor of this title is multi-dimensional. He's angry when faced with injustice, as witness the righteous ass-kicking he gives Tony Stark as down payment for Stark's crimes against our nation and our Constitution. He's gloomy, longing to be reunited with his missing friends. He's noble, determined to champion those weaker than he. He suffers doubt and is cautious in the use of his great power. He's generous of spirit, forgiving an old foe and allowing that foe a second chance at life. Okay, that last one likely won't work out too well, but it speaks to the character of Thor as he embraces his godhood and his humanity.
Thor by J. Michael Straczynski is a poignant and smart super-hero collection. Though it ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and contains a soupcon of villainy foreshadowed, it delivers a most satisfying chunk of story. In addition to the six issues and their original covers, this trade paperback includes a dozen pages of sketches and variant covers. The combination of such extraordinary material in such a reasonably-priced package earns this book the full five out of five Tonys.
It hit me a few minutes after I finished reading Thor #7-9 [Marvel; $2.99 each]. Straczynski has turned this comic into a mythological soap opera. It's "Days of Our Lives, but with more Norse gods, more Frost Giants, and much more bloodletting than its televised counterparts. My second realization came directly after the first one. Straczynski made it work!
In the two-issue "Father Issues," Thor and the still-dead Odin deal with dad-and-son issues while Thor lies between life and death in a recuperative mystic coma. There are surprising revelations to be had alongside the bonding, nobility, unending battle with Surtur the Fire Demon. And, not that it has squat to do with this story, but wouldn't "Mystic Coma" be a kicking name for a rock band or a particularly strong drink?
In the "B" story, Don Blake, temporarily freed from his bond with Thor by the afore-mentioned mystic coma, travels to New York City for a chat with soon-to-be-divorced Jane Foster. Doc Foster is carrying a big-time torch for Thor while Blake knows the Thunder God is still in love with the still-missing Sif. Father issues and troubled romances. Is that soap opera or what?
Oh, yeah, the only person in the world who knows the location of Sif's spirit is the last person in the world who should know it. This comic even has its own soap-opera bitch queen.
Guest artists Marko Djurdevic (pencils) and Danny Miki (inks) do a terrific job on the fantasy elements of these issues and a passable one on the more human ones.
The Asgardian angst continues in #9's "Forced Perspective." Balder the Brave morosely seeks some purpose to his new life while Loki, returned to life as a woman, messes with his troubled head. The sultry sorceress isn't bad just because she's drawn that way; she's more diabolical than ever. And she hasn't even used her sex as a weapon yet.
In other soapy developments, the other Asgardians are getting restless about getting out into the world of men, Thor is trying to enforce more caution than comes naturally to such independent warriors, and a goddess and a mortal man are taking their first tentative steps into romance. Add the political two-step Thor is dancing between sovereign Asgard and the fascist-leaning America advocated by former ally Tony Stark and the Bush administration, and you have a much richer mix of conflicts than you'll find in most super-hero comic books.
I have the big love for this series.
Thor #7-9 earn the full five out of five Tonys.
The TOT plan for January is to use up as much of my backlog of CBG material as possible. I'm skipping the hopelessly dated stuff and most of the individual issue reviews to concentrate on readily-available trade paperbacks. Exceptions to the "individual issue ban" will include comic books I really love, such as the current Thor, and reviews I believe made points beyond the individual issue under consideration.
I am adding some new material to the reprints and still hope to throw in an all-new column here and there. Towards that end, I am certainly open to your suggestions as to what comic books, real-world issues, and other things you'd like me to write about. Who knows? Maybe your e-mail will be the one that inspires me to write a really great new TOT.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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