by Kieron Gillen (writer), Doug Braithwaite (pencils), John Rauch & Andy Troy (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Thor and Tyr rush to the rescue as the Disir lay siege to Hela.

What’s Good: In heading to hell to battle zombie valkyrie, Kieron Gillen’s Thor has managed to regain its identity, distancing itself from Siege and giving a story and atmosphere directly opposite to the big event storytelling of earlier this year.  The result is a comic that is entirely unique from anything else currently being released by Marvel and, for a book like Thor, that’s a very, very good thing.  It’s a natural move for Thor to fully indulge itself as a book based in mythology.  Having a sword and sorcery adventure in hell just feels right, offering a fantasy yarn in a medium often more influenced by science fiction.

While I love the tone and the setting, what sets this issue far above last month’s is the character-work.  Take the Disir, for example.  Gillen has already made them into a credible threat and continues to do the same this month, fashioning them as Asgardian bogeymen who are nigh-on invulnerable.  What makes them more compelling, however, is that this month Gillen makes one among their number, Gondul, not only lack confidence but actually be fearful of Thor, constantly predicting the failure of the Disir’s plans and their inevitable doom.  This added a refreshing layer to villains that would otherwise risk becoming the typical, cackling, overconfident sort.

Mephisto is also used much better this month, with Gillen doing a perfect job with the character’s voice and motivations.  His intelligence really comes across this time around and Gillen makes the character appear to be constantly scheming, thinking, and assessing.  Gillen’s Mephisto is devious to the utmost and is good fun to read.

It’s a good month for Tyr as well and, honestly, it’s issues like this that make me think that the reintroduction of Tyr may be the biggest long-term benefit of Gillen’s brief run.  The war god shows a sympathetic layer of vulnerability this month and an awareness of his own limitations.  His conversation with Thor regarding his fear of that which he cannot fight was the high point of the issue.

Braithwaite’s art continues to be a great choice for this arc.  Hazy but detailed, Braithwaite continues to bring in touches of classic fantasy art that matches Gillen’s fantasy story perfectly.  His Mephisto looks great and it’s clear that he gets great enjoyment drawing Disir and fantasy mainstays like undead soldiers.

What’s Not So Good: I’ll admit that this isn’t really the greatest issue as far as plot progression is concerned.  I can’t say that nothing happened; Thor’s quest is given direction, but at issue’s end, I’ll admit that I sort of had the feeling that I was in a very similar to position to where I thought I was at the end of last month’s issue.  We get another panel of Thor going to hell, just like we did last issue.  Except this time, he’s really in hell, not just the outskirts of it.  Meh.

I’m also not sure how I feel about “helpful Loki.”  I can’t recall if his giving the sword to Hela was ever shown in another comic before this issue, but if not, it seemed like a particularly convenient way to explain the sword’s existence.  The fact that we don’t really see what Loki got out of the bargain only brought more attention to this.

Conclusion: A uniquely fantasy comic and the best issue of Thor in a while.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans