By: Matt Fraction (writer), Pepe Larraz (art), Frank D’Armata (colors), and Joe Sabino (letters)

The Story: Thor enters a vault containing an ancient evil while Donald Blake tries to make a deal with the devil (NOT Mephisto).

The Review: After last month’s incredibly hollow conclusion, I said I probably wouldn’t be around for issue 13.  What can I say?  My love for the Odinson has made a liar out of me.

In many ways, this issue lets Matt Fraction get back to basics.  Thor unleashes an ancient evil and spends much of the issue hammering the snot out of monsters.  For Thor fans such as myself, while that’s not necessarily the  makings for the most groundbreaking or shockingly awesome issue, it’s definitely within a certain comfort zone.  There will always be an innate satisfaction in seeing Thor smash stuff up with Mjolnir.  New supporting character Hreidmar, a guy who looks like a goblin accountant, makes the whole thing a bit more fun and light-hearted as well.

Beyond this return to basics, Fraction also teases with a plot involving Donald Blake that certainly teases.  It shows Donald Blake’s strange existential crisis, while also showing a bit of pathos on his part that almost reminds me of Bruce Banner in Jason Aaron’s Incredible Hulk, albeit not crazy and less evil.  Either way, despite all the creepy caverns and ancient monsters, this strange bitterness, desire, and envy out of Blake was the most ominous part of the issue for me.  Oh, and it brings Enchantress back on the table.  That’s awesome.  It’s great seeing her back playing a major role in a Thor comic; I just hope that she ends up being done more justice than Ulik or Karnilla were.

Pepe Larraz draws a really nice issue.  His style is very close to Pasqual Ferry’s and the result is a very lush book with a real fantasy feel to it.  Together with Frank D’Armata’s glossy colours, the book has a dreamy feel to it that suits it well.  I also really enjoyed Larraz’s monsters and his illustration of the cave, which felt alien more than anything else.

There were a couple points of confusion for me however.  For starters, there was an interaction between the monsters and light that I didn’t quite catch onto at first.  Also, with respect to Fraction’s script, some of Blake’s dialogue about his false memories and such were a little befuddling early on in the issue, but it became clear as the issue progressed.

These are only minor quibbles though.  My main gripe about the book is that, while generally enjoyable, it felt a bit insubstantial.  I think it’s a product of having so many pages spent on action scenes with little dialogue combined with plots only just barely being introduced.  Regardless, I was left really ruminating on that $3.99 price tag.  When it’s a quick read that’s a mere introduction to the story-arc to come, you really feel that price.

Conclusion: The issue is a bit of a resetting for Fraction – he goes back to basics while also teasing us with great potential in the Donald Blake/Enchantress plot.  Let’s hope that he capitalizes on that potential this time around, as he’s not had a great track record for doing that in his tenure on Thor thus far.

Grade: B-

– Alex Evans