It was a pretty good batch of books this week. And also Wonder Woman.
That fact coupled with the lack of any sort of recurring or relevant theme in the books themselves or in my life this week has made it tricky to make a selection.
Exiles was fun and featured a deep dive into the (alternative) history of the Marvel Universe, with some delightful silliness, but while the issue does make an important revelation about the nature of the team’s time-devouring foe, it still feels…insubstantial. That’s not bad; as I said, it was fun, but it just didn’t grab me enough to make me want to devote much space to discussing it.
As I looked through my options, I decided to go with the book that contains a shift in direction and establishes a new status quote – and was also a lot of fun – which means that there are spoilers ahead for…
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward
Cover: Mike Del Mundo
“No, you may not touch my hammer.”
The death of the Mighty Thor did not, it turns out, bring with it the death of Jane Foster, even though she did spend some time standing before the gates of Valhalla, but it did bring with it a significant amount of destruction for Asgardia, and the death of Mjolnir, which Jane hurled – with the Mangog in two – into the sun.
With Jane no longer able to take on the role, and the belief that there must always be a Thor, the role – and name – returned to the Odinson, who, worthy or not, has experience in the job.
He has a shiny new golden arm, a winged helmet, and a job to do, as many of the powerful artifacts contained within the vaults of Odin were scattered about the realms during the Mangog’s assault on Asgardia.
What he doesn’t have, however, is a hammer, and what is a Thor without a hammer?
We find the new/old Thor on the run from cultists of the Crimson Temple of Cyttorak, from whom he is liberating one of the missing artifacts.
Still, hammer or no, a few cultists wouldn’t pose much of a threat to the God of Thunder. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones he needs to worry about.
The problem of hammerlessness was very much on Thor’s mind, and so he set the dwarf Screwbeard to work on it, and though the attempt at addressing the problem is not quite ready, there is a pressing need, and so a new hammer, enchanted by Odin, is sent down to Thor on Midgard just in the nick of time.
Unfortunately, while it allows Thor to soar through the air, it’s not quite as durable as the hammer with which he’s grown accustomed to smiting his enemies.
Still, if you’re going to make a new hammer, why stop at just one? Thor calls for Screwbeard to send down all of the hammers that he’s crafted, and proceeds to try – and destroy – all of them until he finds one that does the trick.
Upon returning to Asgardia with the recovered artifact, Thor instructs Screwbeard to keep working on the problem – the problem being the lack of sufficiently pure Uru that can compare to the kind from which Mjolnir was forged – as the War of the Realms still rages and will need to be dealt with. Once Bifrost is restored and allows access to the other realms, at any rate.
From there we get a quick check in on how most everyone else in the extended cast is doing. Heimdall is no longer all-seeing, or seeing at all, as the Mangog gouged out his eyes, and Odin is unusually subdued, and his thoughts are on his estranged wife.
On Midgard, Roz Solomon has procured a temporary shelter for the refugees from Asgardia in the Bronx, where Volstagg – attended to by Odin’s aforementioned estranged wife Freyja – is recovering from his experiences as the War Thor and his battle with the Mangog and is well on his way to once again being Voluminous.
Freyja’s mind is not on Odin, but on Loki, who, despite the fact that he stabbed her in the back with a poisoned blade, she believes is not as much of a monster as everyone, including Loki himself, thinks he is. Thor doesn’t share her conviction.
Jane is progressing well in her treatment and can’t help but take an interest in Thor’s new hammer.
She informs Thor that they may have located another of the lost artifacts, which leads to a brief battle with Namor, the Sub-Mariner, and a nice dinner for Thori, the Hel-Hound, who, along with one of Thor’s goats (Toothgrinder; Toothgasher was killed by the Mangog), lives on a boat with Thor on the Jersey shore.
An unwelcome guest awaits in the form of Loki, who claims to have come offering the thing that Thor wants most: a way to travel to the other realms to deal with the war.
And he intends to give it to Thor – for a price to be named later – whether he wants it or not. As Loki casts a spell to send Thor away, Thor grabs Loki and takes him (as well as Thori and Toothgrinder) along for the ride.
The back-up story, with gorgeous art by Christian Ward, is a tale of King Thor in the unimaginably distant future. King Thor and his three granddaughters were introduced several years back as part of a storyline that touched on different periods in the long life of Thor and have been periodically revisited since then. They most recently appeared in Thor Special #1, in which the girls drugged their grandfather so that they could take some “time diamonds” for a joyride into the past to meet their idol, Jane Foster.
When King Thor first appeared, Midgard had become a lifeless husk, and, despite his best efforts, King Thor found himself unable to restore it to its former glory, until his granddaughters intervened and worked some magic, making the dry desert into the wet and green world it had once been. With that accomplished, King Thor set about creating some mortals to live in this new garden.
Rather than Adam and Eve, however, he created Jane and Steve, in honor of the two mortals he had loved best in all the eons through which he’d lived.
Now, nearly three hundred years later, King Thor is fighting off an invading Space Shark that has come to Midgard in search of meat while his granddaughters chum the spaceways with a meat substitute to steer it away.
Jane, who was preceded in death by her beloved Steve, is dying, and King Thor visits her at her bedside. He offers to extend her life further, but she declines, even after she learns that this is all there is when King Thor informs her that the time of the afterlife has ended and is beyond his power to restore.
One of his granddaughters, Ellisiv, however, knows that there is more mourning to come, as the fact that the Space Shark had to venture to find meat is a grave portent, as is the fact that King Thor hasn’t been carrying his hammer for days.
As she mentions this fact, the hammer returns, presumably bearing the news of what Ellisiv suspects: the universe is dying.
With hammer in hand, King Thor ventures far out into the cosmos, confirming his suspicions. Ellisiv is wrong:
As he considers the state of things, King Thor finds himself wishing he had something to hit.
Either fortunately or unfortunately for him, dead or not, the universe is still able to provide that something.
This issue was a lot of fun, and it’s an interesting new status quo, in a series that has regularly and frequently shattered the status quo in the course of Aaron’s lengthy tenure.
The “fun” part of that assessment is perhaps the biggest change. While humor has always been a component of the series, here it really moves to the forefront, and gives the book a tone that is much closer to that of Thor: Ragnarok. I’m not always on board with attempts to align comics with their adaptations in other media, but given how thoroughly I enjoyed Ragnarok, and how well Aaron executes the humor here, I can say that I’m well and truly in.
Not that there isn’t an underlying seriousness – the war is still going on, after all – but the more lighthearted tone and instances of levity help to provide a welcome contrast to and departure from the dark and grim context in which the story is set.
That said, I’m not totally sold on the Del Mundo art, though in fairness that may be because I miss Dautterman’s work. I like the line work, and I’m particularly fond of the expressiveness of the characters. I think it’s the coloring that’s throwing things off; everything seems to blend together in a way that’s distracting and that obscures the action. It’s clear in some cases that it’s intended to evoke a certain mood, particularly in scenes that are nearly monochromatic, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark.
I think it would benefit from a broader palette, or a less posterized style (it reminds me of some of Richard Corben’s work), or it could be better offset by thicker lines and fewer color holds.
It’s not bad! In fact, I think it could be great, but there’s just something…off.
Christian Ward’s art on the King Thor story, however, is unambiguously great, with a combination of clean lines and a painterly style that brings to mind the work of Bill Sienkiewicz. (I am very proud of myself for spelling that correctly on the first try.)
Yeah, I continue to be lazy about this, but you continue to not buy things anyway, so let’s call it even. Anyway, you can’t really go wrong with any of Jason Aaron’s work on Thor, so have at it.
Admit it: you forgot about the Bonus, didn’t you? I nearly did, too, but while the Weigh In is gone, I am still wrapping up those books that won the vote and had ongoing storylines, and given that this is a limited (twelve-issue) series, and also that I wanted to write about this anyway, here’s the skinny on Mister Miracle #9.
The short version is summed up very well by Scott Free himself.
The war between Apokolips and New Genesis is still ongoing, but there is a push for peace, and that’s where we find ourselves in this issue, with a summit between the leaders of the worlds being held on Apokolips.
There is much back-and-forth, and it goes about as well as one might expect, and, of course, there are the small, personal moments between Scott and Barda, and some fun – if disturbing – interactions with other members of Darkseid’s crew, and a couple of pages following the progress of a drop of piss falling down into a seemingly – but not really – bottomless pit.
Then there’s…well, in the negotiation, Darkseid is represented by his son – and Scott’s step-brother – Kalibak, who gives Scott a gift. The Mirror of Goodness, which had belonged to the late Granny.
Eyes open. Eyes close. But do they see you and me? Goodness knows.
The mirror’s function is to show the underlying truth to the children Granny “raised.” The “lessons” she taught them often left the children physically damaged, though it was nothing that a few skin grafts and some reconstructive surgery couldn’t fix. But the mirror would show them the damage that the surgeries hid, or, as Granny said, “On the outside, you’re beautiful. And on the inside, you’re mine.”
In the end, a deal is reached. Or so they think; at the signing, Kalibak states that Darkseid will not accept the deal.
There is anger, until it’s revealed that the alteration that Darkseid wishes to make to the deal is to give up even more than he was originally asked to give up, providing something that was assumed to be off the table.
Darkseid recently acquired the Anti-Life Equation but is willing to surrender it as part of the peace agreement, in exchange for one small thing: custody of Scott and Barda’s son Jacob.
That does it for this week’s Spotlight Sunday. Check back on Saturday for the Showcase.