Like it or not, Ben gave me high expectations for J. Michael Straczynski‘s Thor.

Mainly by smiling and saying, “Oh, is that the one you’re reading for the next Comic Virgins?” (Which, by the way, is this recurring series where Amanda reads comics chosen by Ben and Mike.)

You see, Ben smiled while putting on his work shoes, which never happens. Ben doesn’t smile when putting on work shoes, or heading to work, or work in general, is involved. He stood up, walked over to me and said, very matter-of-factly, “That’s my favorite comic.”

I was surprised. “Really?” I asked. “Like, your favorite favorite? Like, no quantifier? Not just your favorite Marvel?”

“Yeah,” he said. “In fact, the first issue of that is my favorite of all time.”

And it was good. Really good. It was pretty, and full of good fights, and yay Thor.

Something something unstoppable force immovable rock metaphor.

Something something unstoppable force immovable rock metaphor.

But it was also confusing. Really confusing. So much so that Ben just had to sit down with me and go through the comic so that I could get a major plot point that I somehow missed while reading the whole thing. And for that, I can’t say that it has been my favorite comic so far, even though I wanted to like it very much, for Ben’s sake.

Yes, I, too, have 476 new questions and no GOD DAMN ANSWERS.

Yes, I, too, have 476 new questions and no GOD DAMN ANSWERS.

For those of you who, like myself, had never heard of Straczynski or this version of Thor, let me be brief: this is a “pseudo-reboot”/triumphant return of Thor, according to Ben. Not a reboot because they didn’t retell the origin story, but Thor was gone for a couple of years. Apparently Asgard was destroyed and Asgardians were scattered about, and Thor reawakens in the body of Dr. Donald Blake, a doctor with a stick that he hits on the ground to become a beefy Norse god with anger issues and a fancy hammer. The first volume follows Thor as he finds the Asgardians and sets them up to protect the world and other god-like business.

It may look like just a stick. But I swear, it's totally got this lightning thing going for it.

It may look like just a stick. But I swear, it’s totally got this lightning thing going for it.

But the finer points are lost on those who don’t have a Thor expert (in my case, Ben) at the ready. Straczynski really did himself a disservice, especially in something that came out after a several-years-long break, when he didn’t revisit any sort of back story in this issue. Yes, there are hints of it here and there, but some sort of flashback/brief rundown (“Last time on Thor!”) would’ve been nice. I know that comics like this one are not written for new-to-comics readers, but how nice would it be if they were? If Marvel took the time, especially when starting a new arc, to dedicate a few pages to a timeline (or hell, even a *gasp* paragraph) to remind people what came before.

So, yes, I had some problems understanding the plot. What I didn’t have problems with, though, was the absolutely amazing artwork. The battles were phenomenal, the detail of Thor himself was exquisite. (Well, except for the fact that I found Thor’s head to be rather… boxy. Like a giant square. He looked like a toad. But a hot, Norse toad.) I think artist Olivier Coipel did a great job giving every character a solid presence on the page – not something you can say about every comic.

Seriously, though majestic, it looks like he ate Mojilnor.

Seriously, though majestic, it looks like he ate Mojilnor and it got stuck in his skull.

But can we talk about the true hero of this comic? Not Straczynski. Not Coipel. It was Chris Eliopoulos. Who is Chris Eliopoulos, you ask? Only the best damn letterer I have read. What he did with the lettering of this comic was nothing short of the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. Seriously, it was gorgeous. From the subtle script difference for Asgardian speech from traditional English (and even a slightly special variation for Thor himself) to the larger-than-life onomatopoeic sound effects that shook me more than any thunder/lightning imagery could, Eliopoulos has set the bar for what I expect from letterers. In short, this comic will be remembered not for what the words meant, but what they looked like – at least for me.

So yes, I liked it. But, like the majority of other mainstream comics I have encountered, it was confusing because of the assumption that readers know all of the backstory they will need – an assumption that often excludes new readers from feeling included in an already cliquish environment. But I’ll write more on that later.

OK, just one more note. I can tell Ben REALLY likes this comic because now he’s sitting on the couch reading it to himself, complete with different voices and sound effects… He’s now taking to dragging my attention away from writing this CV post to point out the finer plot points and nuances I may have missed because of the lack of backstory. He’s gleefully smiling to himself, flipping through the comic to find his favorite panels and read them aloud.

….AND NOW he’s brought out the C2E2 sketchbook where he had comic book artists sketch “Dino-Thor” and he has voices and sound effects for THESE. Oh my. Someone call for help. I’m going to come home from work one day to find him cosplaying, swinging a sledgehammer into the walls.

About The Author

Hey there! I'm Amanda, and I'm the managing editor for DetroyTheCyborg! I come to the job with a background in journalism, English, American culture and all-around interest in what makes up our site.

For a living, I'm a government reporter for a newspaper my hometown. Seeing as that can be a bit monotonous, I welcome the opportunity to write occasional book (and other) reviews for DTC. If you see a book coming up I should review, let me know!

My interests are many and varied. I love table top games, bad movies (and good films!), music of all genres and the occasional graphic novel. Ben P. is trying his hardest to increase my interest in comic books - stay tuned for the outcome of THAT adventure. When it comes to books, I've yet to find a genre that I won't read. I have a particular affinity to Lord of the Rings and non-fiction first-person explorations - see Mary Roach's Stiff or Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals for examples.

My other abilities? I find that I make a mean batch of cinnamon rolls, and I can (most of the time) keep the crayon inside the lines.

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