by Kieron Guillen (writer), Billy Tan (pencils & inks), Batt (inks), John Raunch & Paul Mounts (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Thor battles the Doom-controlled Destroyer and Balder ventures into the Latverian dictator’s secret lab.

What’s Good: Guillen has done such a fantastic job in writing a comic so seamlessly linked to Straczynski’s work, if it wasn’t for the name on the cover, it feels like JMS himself actually penned it.  Given that this issue is meant to conclude  JMS’ run and tie up the loose ends, that’s a pretty big compliment.  It feels like an organic point of closure for the series and serves its purpose as a gesture to Thor’s re-integration into the larger stories of the Marvel universe.

Everything feels perfectly paced; I wasn’t left feeling that any of the major players had been brushed over or used merely as means to an end, nor did any scenes, narrative components, or subplots feel stretched or rushed.  Each conflict is more or less resolved in good, if expected, form and there really aren’t any needlessly dangling moments or deus ex machina troubles.

Guillen’s also proven that he can write some damned good bad guys.  Though a little more restrained this month, he continues to write a fantastic Dr. Doom.  Guillen has the balance of inferiority complex and arrogance down perfectly, without letting one overpower the other.  Doom never feels overpowered, nor does he feel like a whiny weakling.  He’s Doom.  Pure and simple.  Even when seemingly outdone, the issue also ends with a bit of a cliffhanger that is the specific kind of awesome that only Doom can deliver.

Loki is also as volatile and inconsistent as ever under Guillen’s hand.  At one moment, he’s working in complete cooperation with his fellow Asgardians, being a team player without being sycophantic.  Then, on the turn of a dime, he’s back to his plotting as one of the Marvel Universe’s key unsavory figures.  This night-and-day approach by Guillen is the perfect method for portraying the deceptive trickster’s nature.

Meanwhile, Balder has perhaps his most sobering moment and decision since Thor’s exile.  Guilt-ridden and increasingly conscious of the weight of the crown and, interestingly, his legacy, Balder is more intriguing a character than ever.  Guillen actually made Balder, a character I’ve at times found rather mediocre, compelling.

Finally, though I can’t remember being much of a fan of Billy Tan’s, his work on this arc has been nothing but stellar, and that remains here.  His action scenes are bombastic and loud, as befits an Asgardian comic and his Destroyer looks fantastic.

What’s Not So Good: While the art is generally of a high quality, it’s inconsistent.  This is because heading into the last third or so of the issue, the book switches inkers and colorists.  The sudden shift is stark, jarring, and almost looks as though an entire artist has taken over altogether.  While this later look is by no means bad, it’s different enough from the rest of the book, and arc, to be irritating.

Also, if you were expecting any more brawling between Asgardians and abominations, you’re not really going to get that.  It is occurring, but never really depicted.  Hopefully you’ve had your fill already and certainly, the Destroyer/Thor battle is impressive enough to fill the void.

Conclusion: The best issue of Guillen’s short run and probably the most fun issue of Thor in some time.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans