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

The Story: Asgard finds itself beseiged by World Tree refugees.

What’s Good: Epic.  That’s a pretty apt description of Fraction’s story thus far, and this issue only cements that.  With refugees coming in from all over the World Tree, there’s a sense of great migration, with Asgard as a final sanctuary.  It’s a massive story and one that suits epic fantasy.  It feels downright big, and when you see all the Asgardians raise their weapons into the air and vow to fight and defy Thoth to the last, it’s a major fist pump moment, sort of like when you first watched the start of the Helm’s Deep sequence in the Lord of the Rings movies.  In other words, it’s pure fantasy comic goodness.

It’s also interesting seeing how Fraction uses Thor this month.  As has occasionally been the case with his Iron Man comic, Fraction seems comfortable with allowing other characters take the spotlight a bit, and the result is some fun character dynamics (Volstagg humorously telling Balder that he’s a crappy king).  It also makes Thor feel all the more pivotal to the book.  Having characters watch him from a distance, or having him show up to interrupt a conflict only makes the character seem, well, mightier.

Pasqual Ferry’s artwork continues to be a joy.  With all the goblins and storm colossi and various critters that storm Broxton this month, Ferry also gets a chance to let his creative juices flow.  The end result is another really visually fun issue.

I also should mention that readers complaining over Fraction’s pacing of this series should be happy this month.  The story definitely feels like it’s moving forward and building momentum and there’s a definite sense of progression.  Things are building up to a fever pitch, stands are taken, and the pieces are just about set, with the story and conflict to come being crystal clear.

What’s Not So Good: Fraction seems a bit more generically restrained this month and more content to write a straight-up fantasy comic, with very little of the sci-fi leanings that have marked out his run thus far.  That ultimately makes for an issue that’s a little disappointing and, by comparison to previous months, a little plain.  Perhaps it’s the lack of Thoth, or Solvang’s not going off on a scientific tangent, but things feel a more run of the mill.  While I do think this was done to allow Fraction to move things forward, I can’t help but something was lost here, though I expect that to be rectified in short order.

I also think that Marvel completely botched Odin’s return.  That last page should’ve been a massive, jaw-dropping shocker.  I’m talking “Marvel shocker of the year” territory.  Instead, Marvel saw fit to spoil it by slapping Odin on the cover and talking about it openly in the solicitation.  Why?  I have no idea, but it’s immensely frustrating.  I should be scrabbling on the floor to collect my jaw for the next month over this.  Sure that last page is cool as hell, and sure I’m excited over what’s to come, but this was really mishandled and a wasted opportunity.

Conclusion: A bit safer than previous issues, this wasn’t bad, but it didn’t reach the creative heights of Fraction’s prior issues.

Grade: B –

-Alex Evans