Saturday, October 12, 2013

Issue Review: Thor God of Thunder 13

A team of dark elves from Svartalfheim sneaks into Niffleheim, the land of the dead, and frees Malekith the Accursed from his eternal imprisonment.  Unaware that this is happening, Thor and his friends, Sif and the Warriors Three, are on Asgardia, where they celebrate the election of Volstagg to the senate.  They drink and toast one another, until a dark elf in attendance screams that Svartalfheim is burning.  Thor and his friends immediately sober up, and head out via the rainbow bridge to the realm of the dark elves.   There, they find a village slaughtered and Malekith holding an elf woman hostage.  Thor demands she be released, and Malekith cuts off her arm and throws her at Thor.  Then he disappears.  Thor uses lightning to cauterize the wound and prevent the elf-woman from dying. Meanwhile, Malekith summons those elves loyal to him and begins the great hunt.

This is another outstanding story by Jason Aaron.  The man is writing out of his mind right now. This first part of a 5-part story promises to once again contain the epic grandeur appropriate to Thor.  Malekith is one of my favorite villains from the Simonson era, so it's great to see him back as an enemy of Thor.

The opening sequence is fantastic..  It reads like something out of Red Sonja, full of swords and sorcery, elves and giant spiders.  Malekith's prison is sufficiently horrific, and his escape is both interesting and (since this is Malekith) appropriately brutal.  One thing Simonson perfected with the Dark Elf is the evil leer, and artist Ron Garney captures that to a T.

The Asgardians' celebration is also a strong scene.  The characterization is good, and there are several funny lines from Sif and the Warriors Three, such as when Volstagg cries out, "Another roast goat. Someone appears to have eaten all of this one when I wasn't looking!" I laughed out loud at that -- since we know it was Volstagg who did the eating.

But the best scene is probably this issue's climax.  When the villain and hero finall come together at the end of the story to face each other, the normal expectation these days in comics is mindless combat.  Aaron is too good a writer for that. Instead, Malekith holds a knife at the throat of an elf woman, and with her standing terrified between them, he and Thor spar verbally, rather than physically. The dialogue here is excellent and reveals character. But more importantly, by making this scene about the safety of the elf woman, Aaron personalizes it.  Rather than thinking on a cosmic "nine worlds" scale, we are focused on one innocent person, and our concern is for her safety.  This shows that Aaron really knows how to tell a story, because it is the personal connection to the characters at this smaller scale, that will make the upcoming "cosmic level" story elements matter to the reader.

With regard to the art on this issue, it is fairly good.  I'm not sure I'm in love with the way Garney draws Thor's face (in several panels Thor looks downright ugly, actually, which he really shouldn't -- he's supposed to be a handsome lady-killer), but I can't argue with his action sequences, the poses of the characters, or the way he draws the backgrounds, especially in Niffleheim. Also, for all that I don't like how he draws Thor's face, I love how he draws Malektith -- the Dark Elf looks like  he's pure evil.

Marvel also gives us a bonus at the end of this issue - a double-page spread showing a map of the Nine Realsm by Haemi Jang.  This is beautiful and is a nice refresher for those of us who haven't read Simonson's stuff (or any Thor stuff) in a while and may have forgotten which realm is which.  It looks pretty too.

Overall, this was another excellent issue of Thor, God of Thunder. The story was excellent, with good pacing and strong dialogue, and interesting character interactions.  The art was significantly better-looking in this issue than last month's, and definitely has an appropriate fantasy "feel" to it, but I really miss Ribic, who was so perfect on this book. But I can't really argue with the end result. Thor is outstanding again this month as usual.

My score: 10/10

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