Friday, August 16, 2013

Issue Review: Thor, God of Thunder 11

In this concluding issue of the epic "God Butcher" storyline that began in issue 1, we finally see the three Thors, past, present, and future, defeat Gorr the god-butcher.  In the previous issue, Gorr's bomb had begun to explode. The bomb will destroy all gods down through all of time, past, present, and future.  As this issue opens, the bomb is exploding, and Gorr gloats to the elder Thor that he and all other gods are dying.  However, modern-age Thor has entered the center of the bomb itself, with both his hammer and the elder Thor's hammer, and he uses them together to create a giant lighting-and-thunder explosion inside the bomb's blast radius.  His display of power works, and he begins absorbing the essence of the bomb into himself.

In a very touching moment, as Thor attempts to absorb the bomb into himself, all the still-living gods down through time sense what is going on.  And the gods, to whom people normally pray, instead pray together as one, to Thor.  Even Odin prays to Thor in that moment.  The prayers and Thor's power combined are enough, and Thor absorbs the entire bomb.  He returns to face Gorr, and we learn that the bomb has transformed into a blacke blade called the Necrosword.  This new blade is beyond Gorr's control, and Thor, now wielding its power, uses it to blast Gorr, a killing stroke.

As Gorr lies on the ground crumpled and dying, his son returns to him, accusing him of causing all the trouble in the first place. But then the son vanishes, leaving in place a black dagger -- the remains of the necroblade.  Elder Thor explains, "There never was a son. There was only ever the weapon, and the things Gorr made from it."  Gorr screams in anguish, and younger Thor, tired of him at this point, uses his great-axe to chop off Gorr's head. Thus ends the tale of the god butcher.

The modern-day Thor dies from having absorbed so much god-bomb power, but elder Thor uses his Thor-power (which is his version of the Odin-power) to restore modern Thor to life and health.  Then we see that many of the gods who had been slaves and prisoners of Gorr for eons have come to populate Asgard.  Thor brings some of the gods with him to the planet Indigarr, where he returns to the little girl who had prayed to him because her world had no gods of its own any more.  He tells her that the world now has gods again, showing her a lovely image of glowing spirits in the sky above.

This is a wonderful conclusion to the opening two-arc storyline of this new Thor series.  We see the power and glory of Thor, but coupled with the moments of epic battle, we also have many touching scenes. In particular, I was moved by the scene where Odin prays to his son Thor, and where Thor brings back gods to the forsaken world.  Ribic's art continues to be absolutely stellar, and the only bad thing I have to say about it is that he is apparently leaving the book, at least for the next story arc, based on what was said in the letter column.

Throughout this story arc, I have been concerned for the implications that the meeting of Thors would have once the arc was over.  For example, early Thor had not yet lifted the hammer and should not have known ahead of time he ever could lift it, but now he has seen himself doing so in the future.  This is changing history, which gets us into all kinds of paradoxes.  To avoid the paradox, Aaron states in the narration that "Given the nature of the time travel involved, their memories of recent events would soon begin to fade." Although the statement dispenses with the temporal paradox, it is also a cop-out.  If we accept that time travel causes selective amnesia, we give writers license write absolutely any time-travel story they want, with no consequences (because once the story is over, it "never happened" as far as anyone can remember).  I'm not a big fan of there being no consequences to a story, or of stories that end by having "not happened" after all. This means that the whole entire 11-part story might just as well have been a dream, because starting on issue 12, Thor won't remember any of it.  I'd have preferred if Aaron had come up with a better solution to the time travel than "selective amnesia."

I was also mildly disappointed by how quickly Gorr was defeated.  After 11 issues, Thor wins with a single blast to Gorr using Gorr's own power.  Now, the poetic justice of that defeat was satisfying, and I loved the prayer by all the other gods to Thor, giving him the power to succeed.  But I expected a little more from the final, climactic battle, than a single two-page spread.  I thought the ending was well done, but somewhat abrupt.

On the other hand, Aaron surprised and delighted me with his "old fashioned" writing style.  Most significant is his use of the old-style "narrative boxes" in the voice of an omniscient 3rd person narrator.  Narrative boxes, which were a staple of comics from their inception until the late 1980s, have long since been abandoned by most writers.  Comics these days are 100% dialogue. If we see a "narrative box," it is almost always a first-person internal monologue from the main character.  Although these first-person narrations can be enjoyable and reveal character quite well, I miss the old-style 3rd person narrator, and I was pleasantly surprised in this series to see that Aaron has brought it back.  For Thor, at least, this just feels right -- Thor is a character of ancient myth, and so a more classical scripting style is appropriate.

Overall, this was another outstanding issue from Aaron and Ribic, and I am absolutely along for the ride now with Thor, God of Thunder.  The story was excellent -- epic and sweeping, yet deeply personal for both Thor and Gorr. The villain was intensely evil and insane, yet still human and believable.  And the art has been a visual feast -- highly stylized yet appropriate to the character and scope of the tale.  The other creative teams out there for both major companies -- DC and Marvel -- ought to read this 11-issue story and take note. This is how it's done, people.

My score: 9/10

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