Best Shots Review: KING THOR #4

King Thor #4
Credit: Marvel Comics
Credit: Marvel Comics

King Thor #4
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, et al.
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10

Credit: Marvel Comics

The highlight of King Thor #4 - the finale of both the limited series and Jason Aaron’s seven-year run with the God of Thunder - is that it clearly means a great deal to the writer. This issue feels like catharsis; if it’s time to go, he’ll go out in precisely the fashion he wants to. It’s profoundly melancholy for large swaths of this oversized conclusion, thanks largely to Aaron’s heartfelt narration with an assist to somewhat gloomy art and colors from Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina for much of the issue. There’s a sense of closure about it, a closure that at times winds up feeling self-indulgent in a way that makes it hard to get lost in the narrative.

At the end of everything, King Thor is left to face the God Butcher Gorr on his own, becoming the fabled end of legend in his desperation: Ragnarok. The issue opens on the eerie, all-encompassing celestial destruction of Gorr, including a genuinely stunning two-page spread where Ribic’s framing and linework give colorist Svorcina plenty of room to create a haunting spread of piercing white eyes and threatening, massive rocks that make even Thor feel small. Sabrino’s lettering is unobtrusive and carefully laid, emphasizing the striking design, a skill that gets a great deal of exercise in this issue with some of Aaron’s more narration-heavy pages.

This ominous and existentially dreadful scene is pierced by a returning Loki, and it’s here that the finale’s issues begin to take root. The previous few pages are a lot to take in, visually and emotionally, and an “is this a bad time” quip is a jarring tonal shift that winds up being the first of a few weird humorous interstitials throughout an issue that otherwise leans very heavily on sentimentality and drama. It’s not really that there are jokes at all, more that the jokes are just... kind of weird, and weirdly timed compared to the “end of all things” stakes of the story and level of emotional investment from Aaron.

Credit: Marvel Comics

These are some of the most self-indulgent bits, feeling like goofs or scenes Aaron really wanted to get a chance to write for Thor before the moment passed him by. The jokes sort of build, from Loki’s laugh-track entrance to the abrupt shift to a cantankerous librarian and his weary assistant in a library that includes a full telling of Thor’s adventures, which then transitions into the weirdest one in Thor: God Cop, a brief story within a story that is what it says on the tin. For all the slightly off-putting sitcom vibe to the humor, the framing device is an excellent one in concept, leading to a series of pages from Aaron’s past Thor collaborators, including a gorgeous page from Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson that will get you right in the heart and two offerings of gorgeous colors from Laura Martin.

Credit: Marvel Comics

(On a related note not tied to the quality of the issue overall: I desperately hope someone took a look at that credit page of names and paused for at least a second to think about the fact that there only seem to be two women listed, in any role. Phew.)

The return to the understandably gloomy colors of a post-Gorr universe made me wish for a limited series centered more on that library, and the tales of Thor through the ages, past and future. It’s not wistful nostalgia; it’s a celebration of the work Aaron and company have done, bookended by a story thick with melancholy. The rest of the series never quite lives up to the celebration and potential of the collaborative sequence. There’s an unsettling intensity to the faces on the final page of the series that doesn’t match up to the hopeful tenor of Aaron’s words, and it’s the librarian’s assistant who delivers what is to me the most poignant line of the series: there will always be more stories.

The moments where Aaron explores he and his collaborators’ parts as part of a long and grand tradition of Thor stories that will move ever forward, with his own offering always there for readers to return to when it calls to them, will certainly be the most powerful ones for longtime readers, and I can’t pretend that concept at times didn’t make my eyes start to sting. As Aaron says of himself in his final letter to readers, it’s hard to let go, and that theme runs heavily throughout King Thor #4 - the path to becoming the kind of person who recognizes when it’s time to move on. Regardless of its foibles, it’s hard not to appreciate the passion Aaron poured into it as a farewell to the last seven years.

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