By: Jason Aaron (writer), Russell Dauterman (artist), Matthew Wilson (color artist)

The Story: Change comes to Asgardia, but old gods don’t change easy.//

The Review: This is it: the debut of a female Thor…

Well, sort of. Though the cover proudly displays an image of the new goddess of thunder, Jason Aaron isn’t quite done with Thor Odinson yet. Indeed, our mysterious new Thor only appears on the final two pages and spends one of them completely in shadow.

It does strike me as a rather conservative way to start this series, however it’s clear that Aaron’s story will be about both Thors and this chapter is about demonstrating just how courageous, and yet how diminished, the Odinson can be, deprived of his hammer. It’s not totally clear what portion of his powers he retains, but this is still the Thor we know.

Aaron has prepared a fitting final challenge for this chapter in the Odinson’s life and an appropriately apocalyptic one for the new goddess of thunder. Especially with Loki off being an Agent of Asgard, there’re few threats more classically dangerous than Malekith the Accursed at the head of a Jotun army. Aaron admirably captures the terror and might of the Frost Giants, keeping them from seeming like cannon-fodder soldiers. Not to be outdone, Malekith’s personable demeanor and absolute disregard for life give him several scene stealing moments and mark him as an admirable replacement for Thor’s traditional foe.

You’d think that an issue that starts with a disheveled, shirtless Thor sitting over Mjolnir, literally pleading with his hammer, would be enough to drive home that the thunder god has fallen far, but Jason Aaron manages to raise the stakes even higher. The battle shows Thor at his best and at his lowest.

The rest of the issue concerns itself with the debate over Thor and Asgard’s future. Odin  has returned after a long absence and he’s not terribly pleased with how he finds his son and his kingdom. While he’s always been a little hardheaded, Odin does not come off well in this issue. Sauntering in, so drenched in misogyny and arrogance you’d think you could wring a bucket’s worth out of his beard, Odin plays strawman to his wife and son. Though the All-Father’s fallibility is a crucial part of both Thor’s history and the Norse myths from which it springs, I can’t help but feel that Aaron laid it on a little thick this go around. Especially with the tension between Odin and Freyja already laid out on the recap page, it would have been nice to see a little more nuance or progress in their discourse.

That said, if Aaron really is looking to present Odin as an embodiment of Asgard’s past, you can’t say that he’s not doing a good job. Simplistic as it may be, Odin and Freyja’s argument is rather amusing, as the pair bicker over how to raise their son and who should rule Asgard. Perhaps the best moment comes when Hugin and Munin return with news of Jotun and Volstagg asks for his lord’s command.

I was thrilled to hear that Russell Dauterman was being tapped to render this new chapter in the legend of Thor. You might wonder if the artist who brought us Supurbia is really the natural choice to bring us among the heroes of Asgard, but, reasonable as that may seem, Dauterman takes to it like a fish to water. His vibrant, gentle lines capture both the larger than life reality of Thor’s situation and the fairy tale strangeness of the Asgardians.

Though particularly smooth and particularly course textures occasionally seem to vex Dauterman, he does an impressive job of filling the panel up with character. Especially in the crowd scenes on the moon, Dauterman shows each member of the Asgardian throng that’s assembled an impressive degree of attention and care. You can read the pain in Thor’s brow, the concern in Fandral’s pursed lips, and even the tenderness in the arms of a random bystander around, I presume, his lover.

While his characters do look lovely, some of Dauterman’s best work is in his compositions. All through the issue, Dauterman produces clever and exceptionally readable storytelling. It’s not the kind of comic art that you spend hours analyzing, but, not only is it not trying to be, it actually goes in the exact other direction: condensing  symbolism and visual cues into simple, legible compositions. Indeed, one of the greatest strengths Dauterman has is how much of his work is communicated unconsciously, gleaned in an instant. One page of Odin struggling with Mjolnir stands out as a particularly fine example, with Odin’s umbrage and Freyja’s wry dignity apparent in every panel. I especially love how casually the All-Mother tends to her son with the lord of Asgard raging behind her.

The one problem I would mention is that the raging waters and uneven scale of the issue’s final battle sometimes make it a little difficult to follow. Combined with a dramatic but confusing cut-away in the script, it might take a second read to fully grasp precisely what happened when.

The Conclusion: Thor #1 is an interesting start to a new chapter in the history of Marvel’s Asgard. Jason Aaron ably balances his focus between the small and character-focused and the bigger picture with engaging results.

It’s not easy to follow Esad Ribic on Thor, but Russell Dauterman’s work is solid as Mjolnir, itself. While his style may take a bit of getting used to for readers of Thor: God of Thunder, over and over Dauterman proves himself a skillful artist and an active contributor to the success of this book.

Though we really could do with more of the new goddess of thunder and a little less time spent on Odin’s pig-headedness, Aaron is clearly crafting a story steeped in the most classic traits of Marvel’s Thor: family, nobility, and worthiness. In the end, the important takeaway is that, yes, this is a worthy title to possess the power of THOR.

Grade: B

Some Thoughts:

  • I understand why the comic industry is, and for that matter has to be, this way, but just imagine how incredible it would have been to read this as Thor: God of Thunder #26, no hype, no warning.
  • I know its unbecoming of me, but, given the long – like potentially back to Pre-Christian Iceland – history of jokes about Thor’s hammer, I must say that Thor’s hurt puppy pleas of “Please, Mjolnir…Please move” become unintentionally rather funny.
  • I wonder what Freyja’s relation to this new goddess of thunder is. The issue seems to point strongly to Freyja being either the goddess of thunder, herself but it seems strange to promise that her identity won’t be revealed until mid-2015 if the answer were so obvious. Perhaps she’s merely the new Thor’s benefactor? If it does turn out to be Freyja behind the mask, I’ll be thrilled. While Thor’s mom replacing him is a tad odd, I’d be happy to see one of the coolest figures in Norse mythology go from essentially not existing to having her own top-tier title in a matter of a couple of years.

– Noah Sharma