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

The Story: Thor finds himself trapped in his own nightmare, while Enchantress takes more pounds of flesh from Donald Blake than he expected.

The Review: It’s always an annoying situation when you get issues like this that are divided into two separate plots, with one of the plots being much more interesting than the other.

Don’t get me wrong, the other plot (Thor stuck in a “collective dream”) isn’t at all bad.  However, it’s not especially remarkable either.  The idea of Thor ordering no one to think of anything was humorous and, certainly, the setting has loads of potential, where things are constantly changing and unpredictable and determined by no one’s person psyche.  We’ve seen plenty of stories with characters lost in their dreams, but the idea of a “collective dream,” an amalgamation of the psychology of several dreamers’ dreams, all of whom are lost in the same location, is fresh and promising.  It also leads to a great moment; the dwarfs worst nightmare, as pre-eminent builders, was a great touch by Fraction.  That said, the Mares still don’t quite make sense to me.  So…they kill you just to send you to a their dreamworld, which is of your making?  Or do you just get sent to dreamworld if they render you unconscious?  And what’s the purpose of this, given that it seems like an awfully roundabout way of dealing with your enemies?  Some of the details are a bit befuddling if you spend to much time thinking about them, which has been something that has plagued Fraction’s run on Thor.

The problem is, however, that the other story involving Blake and Amora is much better.  It feels smarter, more brooding and psychological.  Fraction’s Enchantress oozes malevolence and is great to read while Blake seems just a little unhinged, just enough that it’s compelling, without ever going over the top.  Admittedly, there are similarities to Jason Aaron’s recent arc on Incredible Hulk, but this is a much more ominous, tighter narrative, without Aaron’s excesses.  Blake and Amora have a strong dynamic, with Enchantress being a great black hat, and Blake being nutty enough to be ominous while still being sympathetic.

Of course, one can only wonder how strong this comic would’ve been had it spent the entirety on this latter plot.  The Thor/Mares plot is just okay, and I was left really wishing that we could’ve gotten more time with the Enchantress and Blake, developing their relationship, exploring Blake’s new-found bitterness and desperation and feelings of impotency.  I realize that the Thor plot is there to give us more action and impressive visuals, but it’s always been character-work that makes an issue for me and this seemed like a wasted opportunity.

As far as the art goes, Pepe Larraz continues to be an incredible Pasqual Ferry impersonator.  His art is bold and characterful and his characters’ facial expressions are bang-on.  I do wish he had a different colorist, however.  Frank D’Armata brings the same glossy look he brings to all the comics he works on, which can distract from Larraz’s work at times.

But hey, on the plus side, both plots end on really great cliffhangers.  The Thor plot ends off in a great cliffhanger that you can see coming, but the Blake/Enchantress cliffhanger is wonderfully bizarre.

Conclusion: While one plot is stronger than the other, this is a good issue that follows up on the promise of the last issue.  Let’s hope that Fraction and Larraz keep up the momentum.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans