Best Shots Advance Review: THOR #1 (10/10)

"Thor #1" preview 2018
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

Thor #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward and Marco D’Alfonso
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 10 out of 10

Credit: Marvel Comics

Can I get a “Hel yeah”?

It’s hammer time at Marvel Comics this week, as Jason Aaron channels his inner Taika Waititi with an all-new Thor #1, stirring up gleeful chaos with artists Mike Del Mundo and Christian Ward riding shotgun. And for a writer who has steered the character through numerous relaunches - seriously, this is Aaron’s fifth #1 issue starring a God of Thunder, his sixth if you count Secret Wars' Thors - it’s truly impressive to see Aaron so joyously reimagine Thor, using Chris Hemsworth’s winning characterization as a foundation for a storyline that is equal parts new reader-friendly and fist-pumping fan service.

Weighing in at 30 story pages with an additional 10-page backup, Thor #1 brings Thor Odinson back to his roots as the crusading God of Thunder, liberating stolen artifacts and battling whatever magic ne’er-do-wells are in his way. If this sounds familiar to the opening sequence of Thor: Ragnarok, you wouldn’t be mistaken - Aaron isn’t shy about the material he’s pulling from, but given the movie’s thunderous success, can you really blame him? But what’s really interesting is that so many comic books that try to take their cues from other forms of media wind up falling flat because of the delivery - but not Aaron. Instead, he takes off like a hammer-wielding Asgardian, with a wonderful sense of humor that leavens those archaic speech patterns and softens it into something that feels like Chris Hemsworth’s recent pivoting on the character. “As over the centuries, I have learned to quite enjoy being me.” You and me both, Thunder God.

Credit: Marvel Comics

But while Aaron channels the voices of Hemsworth and his on-screen brother Tom Hiddleston as the scheming, manipulative, but somehow also misunderstood Loki, there’s a wildness to Thor #1 that stands nicely alongside the craziness of Ragnarok’s Sakaar, but is more unique to Marvel’s comic book universe. With Thor cleaning up various messes across the Nine Realms, Aaron is able to pit the God of Thunder against some oddball choices from different corners of the Marvel Universe - while one of those battles is limited to a single, glorious splash page, the other one is a fun match-up that feels truly organic thanks to this character’s godlike origins. Without spoiling too much, Aaron has tweaked Thor’s overarching mechanic in a way that gives the God of Thunder some much-needed vulnerability - and an unpredictability when we know his power could fail him at any moment.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Artist Mike Del Mundo, meanwhile, brings a weird, acid-washed sensibility to his artwork that makes his cartoony expressiveness seem all the more surprising - imagine a more fluid, less moody Frazer Irving and you’re in the right ballpark here. As far as first impressions go, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than him - Del Mundo keeps his pages flowing smoothly even when Aaron has a lot to say, and his sense of colors (aided by Marco D’Alfonso) are magical and fluorescent but never distractingly so. And perhaps even more importantly, his take on Thor really feels like a synthesis of what’s come before, taking Olivier Coipel’s designs and meshing them with that classic winged helmet as well as Hemsworth’s bearded take. Del Mundo’s action sequences also feel bouncy and animated, with Thor’s opening battle having an exaggerated sense of humor (particularly when Thor’s eyes pop open between a mighty "THOOM!") that somehow doesn’t undercut the forcefulness of the fight.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Meanwhile, Aaron’s backup story with Christian Ward feels a little more plotty than the showstopping lead story, as we visit Old King Thor and his three granddaughters at the end of time, where an unknown threat has come to consume everything the Thunder God once knew. The final twist in the story is definitely a surprise - almost a Donny Cates level of swerve - and while it’s unclear if Aaron will stick the landing with this choice, even jaded readers like me will definitely feel their pulses quicken. Ward is also a superb artist to pair alongside Del Mundo, as his off-the-wall style fits nicely, but he also brings a sense of melancholy that fits the tone of Aaron’s more somber story. With something flickering at the edge of the universe, Ward makes Old King Thor look like a battle-worn veteran, every bit as stubborn as Odin before him.

There may be those who scowl at Thor #1 so clearly channeling Taika Waititi’s fun take on the God of Thunder - and while it’s certainly their opinion, it’s probably the wrong one. The fact that Jason Aaron has spent this long with his central character and not been exhausted for ideas is a laudable accomplishment, and the fact that he’s been able to find so many different ways to spin off stories featuring Thor is the sort of resilience that comes along rarely, if ever, in the comics business. The days of unworthiness and self-doubt are over - the God with the Golden Hammer has officially returned, and it makes for a dazzling debut in Thor #1.

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