by Jason Aaron (Writer), Ron Garney (Artist), Ive Svorcina (Colorist)
The Story: The league of realms has got to start cooperating seriously. Perhaps a bit of debauchery would do them good before fighting Malekith?
The Review: It’s always a bit frustrating to follow a book that started off very strong, only to see it falters after a while. It may be due to a change of artist, or perhaps some tie-ins to events from other books, but whatever the cause it is always disappointing to see something cherished become something less.
It is unfortunately what seems to have happened to Thor: God of Thunder under Jason Aaron’s pen, as the impossibly grandiose story arc that introduced this new take on the popular character had been simply too good. With big stakes, time-travel and some powerful themes, it was simply too big to be simply followed on, especially with an arc focusing on Malekith the Accursed, a character popularized by Walt Simonson in his legendary run. Simply put, this arc isn’t big enough to properly take advantage of the ideas first introduced in the ”God Butcher” and ”Godbomb” arcs.
To his credit, Jason Aaron do try to make this story about a league with members from most of the realms fun, with plenty of absurdity and fantasy put forward. There is a bigger emphasis on some of these individual characters alongside how they interact, with some like Screwbeard, Sir Ivory and Lady Waziria coming out as a bit more fleshed out. The only one that is coming off as rather boring and one-note is Ud the troll, who could truly benefit from something more beside violence and pettiness. When even the mute giant comes off as a more entertaining character than the always whining troll, there is a bit of a problem here.
Another thing that add a bit of credibility to this issue is how Aaron is able to mix a bit of humor along with him showing off a bit more of the nine realms. The absurdity of a sort of candy land influenced realm, along with an actual explanation for its existence not only bring a certain dose of surrealism that is refreshing, but it also plays well in terms of contrast with the warriors fighting on these very lands, the savagery clashing a bit with the seemingly peaceful area.
Where it isn’t as entertaining is with Malekith himself, who isn’t exactly a particularly interesting or charismatic villain. There is decidedly an effort on Aaron’s part to render him as a credible threat, with one or two scenes actually coming very close to actually working, yet for the most part it seems more that the inability of Thor to get his team together is the actual problem the hero is facing in this story. With this in mind, Malekith kinds of become an after-thought, especially considering some of his actions and his temperament isn’t the most original in the first place.
For all that Aaron is trying to do with the main villain, he doesn’t seem to try enough with his plot, with nothing much happening in this issue, as if he was treading for more time. While the tavern sequence is fun and that there is some action thrown in order to make it more interesting, there isn’t much being accomplished and there aren’t exactly a lot of surprises to be found here. A bit of action, some exposition, some character moments, some more action, a last page reveal and then we’re done. Considering how this series could surprise its readers before, it’s a tad disappointing.
Something else that is disappointing is Ron Garney, who is no mean a bad artist, yet his style does a bit of disservice to the concepts in the issue. While he do bring some of the designs really well on the page thanks to the way he draws scenery as well as thanks to his panel layout and flow, the rest is a bit brought down a level by his especially rough lines. The finer details on many of the characters, be it their clothes or their faces, is a bit lost as the art is a bit disjointed and jumbled when it comes to really small details. As a result, a lot of the emotions that the characters are trying to convey are simply lost in the grand scheme of things. It’s not all bad, of course, with the action and the scope being represented well on the page. It isn’t exactly fair to compare Garney to Ribic, yet it’s clear drop of quality when a title transition from one to the other.
Unfortunately, the colorization of Ive Svorcina also did suffer in this issue as well, with some scenes being a tad too chaotic for its own good. While a high diversity of colors can be a nice thing, a palette with simply too many smaller contrasts does not make for a strong direction nor does it complement the visuals. The scene in the tavern and the one in the candy-land inspired village are very much guilty of this, creating something that does not seem to be able to focus on much of anything, which is a shame considering some of the elements on those pages. The final few pages, however, seem to be a good lot better, as the much grimmer looking backgrounds do make some of the bigger and more out-there elements contrast with the gloomy scenery, putting an emphasis on them in the panels in which they are presented. Svorcina can be really great, yet here he doesn’t seem to be at the top of his game.
The Conclusion: There are some good ideas along with some amelioration in terms of execution, yet the slow pacing alongside an uninteresting villain and a weak artistic direction doesn’t make for a very satisfying comic.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière