by Kieron Gillen (writer), Billy Tan (pencils), Batt (inks), Christina Strain (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Balder begins his war with Doom, as the Latverian dictator’s experiments stand revealed.

What’s Good: Gillen and Tan have a very unenviable task in following one of the greatest Thor runs of all time.  Thankfully, Gillen tries his best to work in the spirit of JMS’ final few issues.   There are no problematic shifts in character voices.  Balder and Loki in particular remain just as sound as ever.  If anything, Loki seems a little less sinister and a little sleazier under Gillen’s hand.  His manipulations are just a little more blunt and obvious, but for the time being, it works given the circumstances.

Gillen also gets the award for writing the most arrogant and pompous Doom of the month.  At times it’s a little over-the-top, but ultimately, Gillen successfully straddles the line between badass and campy. Gillen’s Doom is a vibrant, scenery-chewing read and really dominates every page he appears on.

In the meantime, there’s a rather humorous Fantastic Four cameo in the book that got a smile out of me and I actually felt Gillen’s Balder to be an improvement over JMS’ portrayal of the character over the past few issues.  While still a far cry from Reed Richards, Balder actually isn’t a dumbass under Gillen’s pen, despite maintaining his standard heroic shtick.

On art, this is some of the best work I’ve seen Billy Tan produce in some time and is head and shoulders over his recent New Avengers work.  It’s clear that Tan put absolutely everything he had into this issue.  It is easily up to the standard that Coipell and Djurdjevic have set for the series.  It’s very detailed, while maintaining a dark and epic atmosphere and mystique.  Tan’s effort is close to faultless and superior to Djurdjevic’s rushed work last week.  Despite my concern, if Tan can maintain the quality he showed this month, he was definitely the right man for the job.  Also, his illustrations of Doom’s “experiments” are fantastic.

What’s Not So Good: I was nothing less than irate over Gillen’s treatment of one of JMS’ original characters.  In my review of last week’s finale, I stated that JMS’ massive change in direction for this character was perhaps the most interesting strand he left open at the end of his run.  Gillen, however, seemed to have nothing for the character and so, decides to kill said character off.  He basically took one of the most interesting dangling plots that JMS left behind and completely snuffed it out.  The fact that he does this in literally the very first scene of the book is nothing less than insulting.

Even if the character isn’t dead, it doesn’t change the fact that Gillen has placed the character in a passive position of distress, in need of being saved.  This would be a massive step backward from the terrifyingly pro-active state JMS left the character in.

Other than that, Doom, while enjoyable, does refer to himself in the third person a little too much.  Also, there’s a bit of dialogue where Donald Blake essentially out-thinks Reed Richards.  That Reed would not be able to figure out a basic line of reasoning, especially one related to technology, is ridiculous.

Finally, in an effort to convey Jane’s shadowed surroundings, colorist Christina Strain somehow manages to change poor Jane’s ethnicity.  I had no idea Dr. Foster was Hispanic.

Conclusion: It’s far from the horrific drop-off some predicted, but there are some small glitches and the character death is absolutely unforgivable.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans