illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000 digital

illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000
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Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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How to write Thor in one easy lesson...

Writer and Penciler: Walter Simonson
Inkers: Walter Simonson, Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek
Trade Paperback reprinting THOR #337-348
Published by Marvel Comics, 2001

Reviewed by Matt Singer

Reviewers are not journalists.  All we write are our opinions. Nevertheless, there's an odd element to reviewing any sort of work.  Though obligated to give your opinion, you must be fair and unbiased. In other words, I can't say I don't like "Amityville 3-D," until I actually sit through the whole thing and survive it; even though any human on earth can tell you they won't like the movie just from hearing the title.

It's easier with movies, but reviewing mainstream comics gets tricky. Often times you'll review a book you've read before and not enjoyed. Even reading something by completely different creators, it's still the same characters engaged in similar situations. How much different can they be? It's like James Bond. After nearly twenty films you know what you're going to get. You know whether or not you'll enjoy it.

Such is the case when a person like me reviews a comic like THOR. I've read it a few times (including one ill-advised run of the spin-off THUNDERSTRIKE) and never enjoyed it. As a teen, I was much more in-tune with Spider-Man's New York City street level action than Thor's mythological jaunts. Not to mention all the "Thee" and "Thoust" are not exactly killer dialogue when you're fourteen. About the only thing I liked about THOR was the problems his heroic identity caused his real life persona (as Donald Blake or whoever).  And that was just Spider-Man stuff under a different name.

But Walter Simonson's (Walter? I always thought it was Walt!) run on THOR is widely regarded as one of the finest works of his career. After enjoying the DAREDEVIL VISIONARIES trades by Frank Miller, I thought to give THOR a shot. What could I lose, besides twenty-five dollars and the time it takes to read and review it? 

Cutting to the Asgardian chase (and bumming some lines from Passover), why is this Thor different than all other Thors? Is it different? Well...I suppose. The trade charts the first dozen issues of Simonson's run as Thor first encounters Beta Ray Bill, loses his original human identity and develops a new one. It slowly builds up to a big battle over something called "The Twilight Sword," but just as that begins the trade ends. (Presumably that battle's in Volume 2 of Simonson's work).

All the stuff I never liked reading THOR is here: the gods, the holier-than-thou speaking, the talk of honor and courage and all that garbage. Plus you've got the evil god of shenanigans, Loki, a character I'd really like to get rid of permanently. As Thor's evil sibling and eternal nemesis, he's supposed to be a character you love to hate, but I think he might be a little too good at his job.

Reading Simonson's introduction in the front of this trade, you can see the affection he has for this character. Hell, he's the exact opposite of me when it comes to Thor. And despite all that stuff I said above, his love and affinity for Thor shines through in his work here. His artwork is superb, exciting and expressive. His skill at balancing numerous storylines over multiple issues (at times four separate stories running concurrently) is truly impressive. And as adverse as I am to this type of story, you can't deny Simonson does them well. He doesn't exactly make Thor a character I sympathize and identify with, but he comes closer to making him someone I want to read about.

I knew going in to this that I liked James Bond and didn't like Thor. Walter Simonson almost changed my mind.  Almost. If you're a devoted fan, you'll no doubt love this trade. (If you don't already own the issues and slobber over them nightly.) If you've never read a Thor comic before, this is a fine place to start.  And if there's any book that presents him in a good light, it's this one.

As for people like myself, who don't care much for the character - you might just find yourself among the converted.

Recommended with Reservations

Matt Singer is Head Writer for PopImage's From The Wire column. And if he ever wears a helmet like Thor's, you have permission to beat him.

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