by Kieron Gillen (writer), Rich Elson (art), Andy Troy (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: The souls of the Asgardians who fell during Siege come under attack in Hel.

What’s Good: It sure feels good to see a good old fashioned Thor story, rife with occult baddies, Hela, and trademark Norse heroism.  The last couple of pages in particular are something of a “hell yeah” in that last regard as Thor literally leads his men to hell.  That’s pretty damned awesome in concept alone and very, very “Thor.”

What makes it even more effective, however, is how Gillen has subtly made this upcoming war in hell into something of an echo of Siege itself.  In doing so, perhaps this story arc can be seen as a kind of redemption for the Asgardians.  Hela has turned herself into a castle to house the souls of the departed Asgardians from the attacking Disir and Thor and his band, at issue’s end, go to relieve the besieged.  Essentially, they’re fighting another siege, in hell, to save those who died in, Siege.  It’s really well orchestrated and I’m quite impressed with Gillen’s being able to find such an effective parallel to recent events.

Gillen does a great job with these Disir, who are really, really creepy.  The demonstrations of their power are also pretty impressive and, in one case, explosive.  I’ve got to say that Gillen doesn’t hold back one iota on the gore and violence.  One particular trick pulled by the Disir late in the issue is downright shocking.  All told, their used very effectively by Gillen.  I also thought it was pretty cool to see Hela back in action again.  In fact it’s just cool to see her in an important role again and a sign to me that it’s back to business as usual for Thor and that we’re leaving the event behind.

On art, I generally like Elson’s work.  It has a painterly feel that sort of reminds of classic fantasy pin-ups, which really suits Thor.

What’s Not So Good: The early portions of this issue are pretty slow and feel frustratingly out of place.  Why are we having eulogies for Loki and the fallen Asgardians when we just had an issue called “Siege: Epilogue” last month?  It irritated me that an issue meant to forge ahead in the Heroic Age was still ruminating so heavily on Siege.  It felt as though Thor was a month behind the rest of the Marvel Universe.  It also goes to show just how wasted last month’s issue was.

I also wasn’t a fan of Gillen’s use of Mephisto.  I have a hard time believing that Mephisto would break a deal with Hela just so he could get some zombie sex.  Yes, I realize Mephisto is the devil and so is a liar and a hedonist by his very nature, but that still seems like an unimaginative cop-out.  It’s just lame on Gillen’s part that he couldn’t give Mephisto any more clever or defined motivations.  What’s worse is Gillen’s already played this same card with Loki, that is, not actually giving a villainous character a quality motivation beyond “it’s just his nature.” I barely accepted it that time, but to see Gillen try it again, so soon?  Nope.

Conclusion: A giant improvement over last month and the beginning of a promising new direction.  Unfortunately, this issue still had to show what was being left behind.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans