The Unworthy Thor #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Olivier Coipel and Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
With The Unworthy Thor, Jason Aaron will reveal some of the secrets of Original Sin and see the Odinson on a quest to regain his place in the Marvel Universe. But even with an all-star artist in Olivier Coipel onboard, is there any reason readers should care about a storyline from two years ago? The answer is a resounding “yes.” It may even be a sonorous “hell yeah.” While you weren’t paying attention, Aaron has been carving out his own fantastic corner of the Marvel Universe where a whole lot of different Thors have had massive adventures that are truly in keeping with the most well-respected of the Thunderer’s stories.
We join our hero in the midst of battle before jumping back a few months to find out how we got there. Three months prior, the Odinson is on the Moon with one of Odin’s goats, Toothgnasher, wielding his mighty axe Jarnbjorn against Ulik and an army of his trolls. Whether or not you like sentences like that one should indicate whether or not this book is for you. It’s really fun to see a hero struggle because it gives the story stakes. Obviously, Odinson is going survive the debut issue of a new series, but seeing him out of sorts brings some humanity to a character that some audiences have trouble connecting with.
Jason Aaron has written a lot of Marvel comic books without as much of the fanfare that the other “Marvel architects” get. And yet, his stories are similar in scale and meticulous planning to Jonathan Hickman’s, his grasp of characters is at least on par with Mark Waid and his artistic collaborators are some of the best working for Marvel today. It feels weird to say that he’s underrated despite his sizable body of work. If you wanted to point to a misstep, it might be 2014’s Original Sin event that was plagued with uneven pacing and a concept that just a bit too convoluted that it alienated readers. But that event stands as the beginning of a chain reaction that informed so much of Aaron’s work after, and two years later, we’re getting a big payoff. The conceit of the book is simple: there might be another hammer and it’s probably in Asgard but Asgard’s been stolen. Aaron sets everything up, hook, line, and sinker.
Olivier Coipel’s art is always welcome on a Thor title. He really rose to prominence with J. Michael Straczynski's Thor in the aftermath of Civil War, and he’s back to help rebuild Thor’s world. But this is a much different Coipel than the one we saw back then. In redefining a new era of Thor in 2007, Coipel created a new visual language for the character. Square-jawed and massive, he was a god reinvigorated, taking his rightful place in the Marvel Universe.
That’s not the case here.
This Odinson is broken. And Coipel makes that known in his art. The pencils and inks work in tandem to give the book a feel of gritty desperation. It’s violent and visceral. It feels a little bit unhinged. As soon as a fight breaks out, the pages are splattered with blood and speedlines. Coipel’s approach reminds readers that this is a man with nothing left to lose. He’s already lost it all. The artist doesn’t take too many chances with his panel layouts, but he does use an almost no-gutter approach that makes everything about the books feel a little bit more acutely claustrophobic. Colorist Matthew Wilson hangs back mostly. The moon setting doesn’t allow for much color so he only splash in oranges and reds when the action gets going the most; a cleave of Jarnbjorn to a head of a troll or the rush of Toothgnasher into an enemy. Otherwise, the Odinson’s red cape stands as the only color in the desolation of space. It’s a great visual signifier of the character’s own isolation and loneliness.
Jason Aaron clearly cares deeply about this character and this book marks his 50th issue (across a few volumes) writing Thor. A this point, he’s crafted a story that it seems only he can truly finish and his collaborators are onboard with bringing that vision to light. Corporate superhero comic books rarely see a creative team this in sync this early on just because of the nature of the medium and the process and yet, this team rises above. The book ends with a fun reveal and a lot of hope and excitement for the direction that the narrative is moving in. Aaron is creating a newly definitive take on this character. In thirty years, we’ll be talking about his work on Thor with the same regard we hold Walt Simonson’s.