Or – “Another Critical Favorite Goes Under Due To Sales… Meanwhile, Batman Gets Another 3 Monthlies.”
I confess to being confused the first time people inquired whether I was bummed about the cancellation of this book, as I honestly hadn’t even had it cross my radar. I recall hearing about it, but thought that it was part of the Ultimate Universe, for some reason (probably Stephen’s repeatedly bringing up Ultimate Spider-Man and such during the podcast.) Either way, now that it’s retroactively a mini-series, I have arrived to see what the fuss was all about… (Thankfully, I’ve become inured to the feeling that I missed out on a good thing, one of the benefits of my advanced age.)
Previously, on Thor – The Mighty Avenger: As the prince of far-off Asgard, Thor was once a contant presence on Midgard (Earth), but has been gone for several centuries. Now, he has returned to a world that is either the dawn of the Marvel Universe, or a similar universe damn near identical to the Marvel Universe. He has hooked up with old/new main squeeze Jane Foster, and has found that the floating city of Norse myth ain’t exactly the same world as the one he’s been forced into. I’m of the opinion that this book is a sorta kinda retcon tale, providing clean and accessible storytelling without huge crossovers, footnotes, editor text boxes and the usual fooferaw that makes comic books so difficult to get into these days. And, of course, since this is exactly what we, the fans, keep clamoring for publishers to provide, it has been cancelled due to low sales. On a related note, didja hear that Batman is back? And there were some sort of zombies running around for a while!
Never A Second Chance At A First Impression…
I have to say that I was immediately impressed by this issue’s cover, for two reason: One, it’s a great action shot that immediately lets me know something about what I’m about to read. Two, it’s not only done by the same art team that handles interiors, it’s actually related to what happens in the book! That’s a rarity, especially for Marvel, given the recent reliance on glamour shots by big-name artists as covers. Either way, the book gives us a quick and dirty rundown of what has happened, with Thor arriving on Earth, fighting robots, trying to fit in and possibly starting a romance. Of course, last issue ended with our hero getting captured by the evil combine that has been following/testing him, and put in chains in their dungeon, separated from Mjolnir and essentially helpless. Jane can’t reach him on his cell phone (and her dialogue, “Just press the button and hold it to your ear!” is both funny and character-building for both Thor and Jane. She eventually calls the only person she can think of for help, but Doctor Henry Pym is busy as Ant-Man, and forwards her message on to another of his colleagues: one Anthony Stark.
Thor gets free of his bonds, and starts fighting back against what he learned previously to be soulless automatons, as the mysterious now-probably-never-going-to-be-revealed mysterious evil guy laughs an evil laugh and looks on. Iron Man arrives, and I’m struck by the clever redesign of the Mark I gray Iron Man suit. Much like Thor’s own costume, it’s not a drastic change, but it serves to make the character look modern and contemporary while making it clear that we’re dealing with circa-1965-era building blocks in this story. And the plot is pretty clever as well, with Thor thinking Iron Man is just another empty robot shell, a macguffin about explosions, and a funny punchline to all the fighty-fighty. (“Run?” “Run!”) The story ends with Thor having a huge character moment that seems at first like another spoiled-brat tantrum, and we end on a lovely up-note that SHOULD have launched us into a new arc of the series, and possibly the assembling of the Avengers. This book seems like it might be based on the world of Marvel movies, with a Downey Junior-inspired Tony Stark and a Thor whose uniform resembles that of the coming film…
Cracking Tony Stark Onnahead Didn’t Hurt Any, Either…
I am impressed with this book, and I liked every single page, while simultaneously understanding why it couldn’t find it’s audience. We, as comics fans, are conditioned to think of stories as canon and non-canon, and to split things into what DID happen (main books, big events, miniseries that lead into one of the previous) and what DIDN’T happen (Elseworlds, What Ifs, off-kilter revamps, and much as we hate to admit it, The Ultimate Universe.) Given a title like this that is clearly pseudo-retro, I was bothered by things like the costumes (both great designs, but if this is the “real” universe in the past, where did these designs go?) and questions of when and where and how and why. It didn’t dampen my enjoyment of the story, but it was a nagging sensation throughout the book as well. Samnee and Wilson deliver truly fabulous art throughout, and I hope to see more from them in the future, while Langridge does something that no one has done for me since Simonson: Made Thor interesting and cool. Having grabbed all the issues (one of the fringe benefits of being in full control of the back issue stock of a medium-sized comic store, Faithful Spoilerite), I can say that it’s a shame a book of this quality is getting canned, and I think it’s a prime candidate for a reader-lead mail-surge return in the near future. Thor: The Mighty Avengers is a fine comic book, earning 4.5 out of 5 stars overall, and reminding us all that sales are seldom an absolute measure of quality.
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Are there titles that you have trouble fully enjoying because of questions of where they might fit in to continuity?
About Matthew Peterson
Were pop culture a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Matthew still enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear. Surprise. Ruthless efficiency. An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture. And a nice red uniform.