Thursday, September 02, 2010

Making eight Thor books seem like a good idea, and a bad idea:

The Marvel solicitations of a bit ago, for some month in the future, had a Norse ton of Thor books coming. Seriously, a pile: per Bleeding Cool, eight in November. The idea is, put the issues out then; and then collect them into trades for whenever it is the Thor movie comes out, hypothetically pulling in the dollars of imaginary non-comics readers. Has that ever worked? I mean, did those Iron Man trades bring any new readers into the comics fold? Hell if I know, I'm already obviously not looking anything up for this post...

Still, Marvel's plan makes sense, considering the alternative: reprinting old Thor comics. Now, Marvel probably wants to keep their Thor trade paperback onslaught on-message and relatively close to whatever continuity the movie sets up; and as a book Thor has been all over the place, hither and yon, over the course of its publication since 1966. (Thor was Journey into Mystery before then!) Sometimes Thor has been a relatively straightforward superhero book, sometimes it's had a strong science-fiction feel, and of course it's often gone into the mythological well, with mixed results.

And like most Marvel books, it's had periods of excellence, and it's had "New Eras of Greatness!" that were neither New, Great, or an Era. Like today's book! The Mighty Thor #460, "Fragments" Written by Jim Starlin and Ron Marz, pencils by Bruce Zick, inks by Steve Montano. Thor has finally returned from Mephisto's realm, has finally been separated from Eric Masterson (who has become Thunderstrike and spun off to his own book with creators Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, who finished their run on the book with #459) and is at long last free to marry the lady Sif. Yeah...about that...

Oh, it's not you, Sif, it's me...I'm not positive when exactly Sif went back to being Thor's main squeeze--sometime during Masterson's tenure as Thor, I guess. But that's part of the problem: Thor was trapped in Masterson's body, or the other way around, but Masterson was in the driver's seat. Thor could only watch Masterson "blunder" his way through his adventures, which he describes as "incessant frustration." So, Thor may have a legitimate issue to work through, but his treatment of Sif is shabby at best and borderline cowardice at worst.

And Thor seems remarkably...whiny, on his stroll through Asgard. He also complains that Sif doesn't understand him; but "what woman ever has?" On cue, Thor turns a corner and meets Valkyrie. Well, a Valkyrie, and not the one we know from the Defenders. (Who had best be finally getting her Marvel Legends action figure this year, by the way.) Thor doesn't recognize her, but this Valkyrie claims to be a recent addition to Odin's fabled shield maidens. She offers Thor a sympathetic ear, before disappearing; leaving Thor to get glasses.

Wait, "Eyes of Fenris" is a bar. A patron thanks Thor for saving the realm from Mephisto, and grumpily Thor explains that wasn't him, it was Masterson. A troll--a real one, not the internet variety, chilling in Asgard for some reason--tells Thor the bar is for warriors, not spectators, and then it's on. Thor is just starting to get into it, when Big Daddy Odin sticks his nose in.

Summoned before the All-Father, Thor confesses his problem: he is no longer sure who he is.

Odin admits that at least some of Thor's problems are his fault; and in fact later we would see how much that was so. But for now, Odin sends Thor on a "respite." Which sounds like "exile" to Thor, but Odin says he wants his son to rest, take a break from duty...and from Asgard. Call it a vacation then, Odin. He sets Thor up with a sailing ship for space, and sends him on his way.

Thor doesn't question his dad, since that would probably get him the belt. He thinks solitude will be just what he needs...when the Valkyrie appears at the bow of Thor's ship.

Starlin and Marz both know their cosmic epics, but this one did not click for me. The idea of Thor no longer knowing himself has merit, but was overdone, making Thor far too moody for my tastes. And I preferred back in Walt Simonson's run, where Sif moved on to seeing Beta Ray Bill, rather than continuing to be Thor's backup girlfriend like she'd been for most of the run of the book.

And the Valkyrie storyline ran for a while! Thor had maybe four Infinity Crusade crossover issues, quite probably because Starlin was writing that, but I think Marz was the solo writer before long. Valkyrie's story wouldn't even start to be wrapped up until #468, part one of Blood and Thunder, a crossover with Silver Surfer and Warlock and the Infinity Watch. And not a great one. Some other time for that...nah.


~P~ said...

That's some tragic looking art right there.

Yikes, the 90's were harsh on comics.

I bought all of those damn "Blood and Thunder" issues in that horrific cross-over mess - only because the heroes go to get Dr Strange for some mystical help in dealing with Thor and "Dark Valkyrie", and after they go through all the effort to get him, Doc gets knocked out by punches to the back of the head in just about every issue - thus negating his ability to actually, y'know DO anything.


jonny said...

Little late to the party here, but Starlin and Marz talked a little bit about their time on Thor at a panel during Albany Comic Con in 2012. One of the things Starlin mentioned is that they tried (unsuccessfully) to recruit Cully Hamner to pencil the book. Apparently he hadn't done enough work at that point to convince editorial that he was the right person for the job. (Marz would end up working with Hamner as a fill-in artist on Silver Surfer and Green Lantern.) Oh what could have been!