by Matt Fraction (writer), Pasqual Ferry (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Heimdall has suspicions about Tanarus, Surfer and Loki try to figure out what to do with Mjolnir, and Thor makes his bid for freedom.

The Review: Last month, I touched upon how Matt Fraction is playing a dangerous game with Thor at the moment, in that he has so many disparate characters to touch upon in the space of 22 pages that the result can be a little messy.  Well, thankfully, he fairs a lot better this month in finding the appropriate balance.

One of the things that works well in this book is Fraction’s fusing the cosmic with the fantasy/mythological elements.  Everything Thor sailing through the cosmos to the presence of the Silver Surfer fits together neatly.  For instance, seeing Thor and his fellow forgotten gods attempt to break their bonds and battle a monster in space/god afterlife/whatever is a perfect example of this.  There’s the surreal quality of exploring what happens to gods after death, with the fact that, well, it’s a giant monster in what looks like space.  More than that though, it’s nice to see this plot actually move forward after two months in spent in neutral.

But what really gets this issue going is Asgardia and its politics.  The All-Mother remains an engaging addition to the cast, but Fraction has begun to really inject the book with a kind of political intrigue, what with Tanarus being a dick and ruffling feathers, Heimdall’s suspicions, and warnings of unknown assassins to the All-Mother.  The result is a broiling, addictive narrative environment.  As any fan of fantasy novels knows, political intrigue and machinations work wonders in a fantasy setting.  Fraction seems aware of that and the result is that Mighty Thor, this months, is beginning to offer a smarter, more substantial read.

It’s also worth mentioning that while Kieron Gillen is still my preferred Kid Loki writer, Kid Loki/Silver Surfer is a wonderful odd couple.  Their conversational dialogue is fun and their clumsy “team-up” is a nice spot of comic relief that still manages to remain integral to the plot.

Art-wise, Pasqual Ferry’s artwork remains charming, lush, and full of character.  Frank D’Armata has also adjusted his colors a little, to give the book a warmer hue as opposed to the glossy look he gives to Invincible Iron Man and….most everything else he colors.

If there’s one downside to this issue, it’s that there’s still not much of a reason to be overly invested in Karnilla or her plotting, or that of the trolls.  Fraction still has yet to develop that portion of his overall plot and as a result, there’s not much to grab onto with respect to the antagonists.

Tanarus is a similarly imbalanced and ill-defined character.  While in prior issues, he’s come across as a possibly sympathetic figure, this month, he’s pure jackass.  It’s hard, as a reader, to get a handle of the character.  There’s just something a bit amorphous about him and, despite the arc being named after him, I don’t feel like we’ve gotten to know him at all.

Conclusion: A big improvement over last month and a solid experience overall.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans