by Matt Fraction (writer), Pasqual Ferry (art), Matt Hollingsworth (colors), and John Workman (letters)

The Story: Volstagg tries to get Thor to listen to a grave warning as the god of thunder comes to a decision about Loki.

What’s Good: One of the things that has me most excited about Matt Fraction’s run is his bringing back the goofy sci-fi element to Thor.  Aside from the odd Marvel Universe cameo, sci-fi has really been wholly absent from Thor since the title’s return under JMS.  Though I’ve liked all of the series since that relaunch, it really is the right time.

Really, when read with a critical eye, that generic return, and earlier absence, are what this comic is all about as Fraction crafts the central conflict of this arc around this battle of genres.  Thoth and his minions, wacky cosmic villains that they are, can sort of be seen as personifications of old school Marvel science fiction.  Thus, it’s very, very effective how Fraction scripts Thor and Balder’s treatment of the quantum cosmologist that Volstagg brings; they’re too busy wandering about Odin’s trophy room, doing very Asgardian type things.  They have come to be in ignorance of those sci-fi threats, and that’s what this arc is all about, really.  When approached by science fiction, Thor rejects it with hostility and incomprehension, preferring instead to stay in the strictly mythological arena that the comic has been hugged to since the relaunch.  Cosmology, science, and sci-fi threats are, well, far too alien and other to the world Thor and his buddies have become accustomed to.

Of course, Fraction’s point is that these elements can’t be ignored.  Thor is going to have to fight these dudes and recognize “quantum cosmology.”  And so, Thor will eventually grow accustomed to the book’s sci-fi elements once again.  It’s beautiful writing by Fraction and very nuanced and I hope most people see what he’s doing.  This story is less about thumping bad guys than it is stamping out Thor’s generic territory and such remarkable writing in mainstream superhero comics needs to be commended.

On a more “down to earth” level, there’s a lot to like here, much like last month.  Volstagg is still a blast to read, Fraction’s take on Broxton’s residents is different from JMS’, but no less charming, and Ferry and Hollingsworth continue to crank out gorgeous, lush artwork that distinguishes Thor from anything else on the stands.  It’s amazing how well Ferry can go from Thoth, to Broxton, to Asgard.  Ferry and Hollingsworth suit each other so well and make for a glorious visual product.  Oh, and the book has one heckuva cliffhanger.

Better still, those dialogue problems Fraction had last month are also completely absent.  No longer do the Asgardians’ dialogue occasionally feel mangled by modern turns of phrase.

What’s Not So Good: Admittedly, if you’re not an English major like me geeking over Fraction’s mucking about with Thor’s genre, the amount of story progression could very well great.  Aside from that cliffhanger, this month’s issue ends in more or less the exact same position that last month’s ended in.  While this is an atmospheric and enjoyable work, quickly paced it is not and the story’s direction is no clearer than it was before.  Honestly, on a story level, it’s fair to say that not very much happens this month.

Also,  I did feel that this wasn’t as well structured as last month’s tightly focused debut.  Scenes don’t transition quite as fluidly and their placement, as a result, ends up feeling a bit scattershot at times, especially towards the end.

Conclusion: Weaker than last month’s issue in some ways, stronger in others, but still all-around awesome.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans