Thursday, June 5, 2014

Happy Thor's Day!

Fun fact: Thursday is named for Thor, the Norse god of thunder. Today, to commemorate this fact, I am going to tell y'all about three books I read recently about this free-wheeling, somewhat dim, and mighty warrior.

This first book is a retelling of traditional legends about the thunder god. Here he has a big red beard and not the flowing blonde locks and clean shaven look made popular in comic books and movies.
Today's preview theme: two folks riding in goat drawn chariots.
This book retells the tale of Thor and Loki visiting giants and being challenged by Utgard-Loki and his hall of illusions. Faced with a number of challenges, the two Asgardians and the two human children they have in tow acquit themselves well, but are no much for the giant's chicanery. In the end, brains are much more effective than brawn. I like that there are some modern flourishes in the story, such as the young girl calling the giants on their sexism, which make the whole narrative more light and enjoyable. I also appreciate the relationship between the god-like siblings, where Loki comes off less an antagonist and more like a know-it-all younger brother and Thor less heroic and more a bullish mook.

Collaborators Jeff Limke and Ron Randall made this book. Limke is a frequent writer of mythological tales for young readers. Randall has drawn comics for decades and has worked for all the big companies. He is best known for his work on fantasy and sci-fi books, such as his original series Trekker and licensed Star Wars adventures. He recently also had a Kickstartr project for an art book successfully funded.

Reviews I have read of this book are positive though not spectacular. Bekka felt the story was a bit "flat," the artwork "vivid and colorful," and summed up that "for the Norse lovers, this is a must-have comic to add to your own library." Rob McMonigal called it "a pretty well-done comic" for younger readers. He also added, "I'd easily recommend this to anyone with children who want to learn about the legends and myths surrounding the days of the week."

Thor and Loki: In the Land of Giants was published by Lerner Publishing Group under their Graphic Universe imprint.

I reviewed the first volume of Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee's Thor: The Mighty Avenger series here. This second volume continues the action-packed tales of adventure that also contain some excellent character work, and I particularly like the take on Jane Foster, who is warm, feisty, and intelligent. In  these stories, Thor is still banished on earth to learn humility, but he is also somewhat confused about this circumstance because of the machinations of his trickster half-brother Loki. I very much liked the range of adventures, which show him fighting Prince Namor, The Submariner, who is an excellent foil/mirror for Thor, battling the dragon Fin Fang Foom, contending with robots, and meeting Iron Man for the first time.
Thor sure does love riding his goat drawn chariot.
This book contains excellent storytelling and some great, straight-forward superhero stories. I found the artwork crisp and attractive, and the stories are appropriate for all ages, accessible to fans and non-fans alike. The contents of this book are flat-out fun and well told. Plus, as an added bonus, there are two additional tales to round out the book, by original Mighty Thor creators Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, and Larry Leiber, which give readers a glimpse into the early output of Marvel Comics.

Originally slated to be 12 issues, this series was cut short to 8 issues and never resolved, even though it was very well received and reviewed. Conor Kilpatrick called it "fun in a way that most superhero comic books aren’t anymore" and added that it "features the wonderfully lush and detailed pages that Samnee is now famous for." Mario Lebel wrote, "If you like accessible, well written and superbly drawn superhero comics with as much brains and heart as there is brawn and creative costumes, do yourself a favour, pick up a copy of Thor: The Mighty Avenger and savour the brief glimpse into a grand story that could have been."

Marvel Comics originally published this book in digest size, but it is now available bundled as a complete collection containing the entire series.

If the first two books were all ages and aimed toward younger readers, this one is clearly aimed at a more mature audience. The story is dark and foreboding, full of horrific elements and lots of intrigue. The story is clearly couched in not only Norse myth but all mythological pantheons. There is a powerful entity that is hunting down and butchering gods of all sorts across dimensions, universes, and traditions. Thor first encounters it when he is a younger godling and is badly hurt in the battle. Centuries later, he finds clues that the adversary is back and he also finds himself in a very unfamiliar situation, feeling fear as he hunts for the killer.
No chariot, and I don't want to ruin what is hanging, but I will tell you it's not goats.
The story here is by Jason Aaron and the art by Esad Ribic. Aaron is an accomplished writer known for his series Scalped and Eisner Award-nominated The Other Side as well as his work on series like Ghost Rider and Wolverine. Ribic has also done much work for Marvel including the series Silver Surfer: Requiem and Submariner: The Depths. Both talk about their plans for this book and beyond in this interview/preview.

All of the reviews I have read about this volume have been very positive. Charles Payseur wrote that "the story comes across as focused and kinetic, full of memorable visuals and dialogue." The reviewer at Packrat Comics summed up, "This is a Thor book for anyone.  It balances the fantasy with science fiction and horror, and focuses on Thor as a character rather than being overly enthralled with the pantheon and mythology attached to him." Matt Lippman wrote, "While the dark and grim tone might not appeal to some people, it’s so skillfully done and so powerful that I find it tough to imagine it doing nothing for you if you’ve got the slightest interest in the character."

Thor: The God Butcher Volume 1 was published by Marvel.

So there you have it, three different books about the popular Norse god for a variety of readers. Happy Thursday!

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