A while back, Matt Fraction wrote some great Thor stories that were collected as “Ages of Thunder.” I don’t know my Norse mythology as well as I should, but you got the feeling that he was trying to tell stories about the character that tied in more strongly with his mythological origins than his Marvel Universe adventures. I bring this up because the quality of those stories are what got him the gig of writing the “Thor” series proper after Kieron Gillen finished his mopping-up-after-J.M.S.’-run-and-Siege-tie-in/aftermath escapades. For his first story, Fraction sets the Asgardians against some nasty creatures from beyond spacetime who have come to claim the space that Asgard occupied in the World Tree. It should’ve been a clash of epic proportions, but it comes off with the urgency of a wet noodle.
That’s because Fraction takes too goddamn long in setting up the threat and then resolves it far too quickly. Five issues are spent setting up the threat of the World Eaters, the dire straits of the Asgardians, and Thor’s efforts in bringing back Odin and Loki, while two are spent on the actual conflict as the “blood colossus” takes out the bad guys. As I mentioned in my review of Fraction’s latest “Invincible Iron Man” volume, the man can do good “flavor” that makes the buildup go by effectively if not entertainingly, but that’s not the case here. The few moments that are memorable, such as Odin’s declaration of “You couldn’t stand the quiet!” to his son, Loki’s resurrection as a child, and the efforts of the quantum physicist to explain the threat aren’t enough to justify those five issues of buildup.
With the exception of a few pages in the final issue, the majority of the art is handled by Pasqual Ferry and it is very, very nice. There’s a delicate, otherworldly style to his art that works very well with the series’ current “Gods on Earth” direction and its very pleasing to look at throughout the series. If I bought comics for their art, I might say that it’s worth the price of admission, but I’m not and it isn’t.
In fact, what I’m reminded of in this series is how Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning told a similarly epic story in almost the same amount of pages in “The Thanos Imperative.” Not only is that collection proof that you can tell a tale of one reality invading another in a limited space, but Abnett and Lanning also contribute a story to this collection in the #620.1 issue. While the “point one” issues were intended as “jumping on” points for nearly all Marvel series, “Thor’s” wound up being a filler issue as it came towards the end of Fraction’s run on the series proper before it was relaunched as “The Mighty Thor” to tie-in with the movie.
What we get with their issue is a tale of the Asgardians celebrating the festival of Thursbolt, the Feast of Thor. His great deeds are recounted and the gatherings are subtly crashed by a stalwart Marvel Universe villain seeking immortality in the city’s vaults. Naturally, Thor arrives just in time to confront him and resolves the conflict in a reasonably clever way. It’s a throwaway issue, but there’s still something appealing in the aggressively old-school approach that the writers take with the subject matter. It’s so reminiscent of Stan Lee’s style that you get the feeling that this was an intentional homage. However, Mark Brooks’ very modern art really makes this issue sing thanks to its impressive detail.
Their effort is by no means a classic, but there’s an energy to it that’s missing from most of Fraction’s work here. I don’t know what his long-term plans for the series are, as Loki’s direction seems to be the most interesting and it’ll be covered in the Gillen-scripted “Journey Into Mystery” series that is picking up from “Thor’s” numbering. I’m willing to bet that it’ll be better than this, because even with the Borders-going-out-of-business-discount “The World Eaters” was a disappointment.