Walter Simonson is one of the greatest artists to ever write and draw Thor. He bridged the gap between the verbose old school style of Stan Lee and the more modern and relatable version of today. The character was over the top, but also had to manage an alter ego on Earth (aka Midgard). This volume collects 9 issues that tell an incredibly epic story which not only involves the potential end of Asgaard, but many familiar faces from the recent Thor: Ragnarok.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Few people have ever left their mark on one character quite the way Walter Simonson has. His work on the Mighty Thor swept the Norse God of Thunder to heights never before seen and rarely achieved in his wake. Spanning epic tales of heroism and treachery, love and war, Simonson’s work is often considered the definitive Thor. From the majesty and mystery of fabled Asgard to the gritty streets of New York City, Thor was never the same. That is the mark of a true visionary. This second volume continues the collection of Simonson’s epic run – completely remastered from the original artwork and dynamically recolored by Steve Oliff.
Can I jump in easily?
It’s rather easy to jump into, although you might need to look up who Roger Willis is (who I’ve never even heard of). The funny thing is he was only introduced in the previous issue to this collection so you will basically be on the same page as most. The story here weaves in Odin, Loki, Hera and more of Thor’s supporting cast which should be easy enough to remember. The only other aspect that might be tricky is understanding how Thor is balancing his alter ego in this iteration of Thor, but fear not as the writing style always seems to explain things (maybe too much) every step of the way.
Reason 1: Surtur is the big bad guy.
Simonson gave him an interesting look.
Remember Surtur from Thor: Ragnarok? He’s hard to miss as he’s made of flames and not only opens the movie but also closes it.
He also has a huge grudge with Odin and Asgard in this comic as he does in the film. Simonson introduces the character as if he’s Satan himself and he’s not only a formidable foe, but giant and rather freaky. This collection uses him for the first half as a sort of looming threat and then drops him into the story as a universe destroying villain in the climactic end. His aim is to bring Ragnarok and then some, which adds a heightened threat in comparison to the recent film. We also learn more about the character in a key flashback (which includes Odin’s brothers!) and it raises the stakes on a character level in comparison to the film too.
Reason 2: Hela, Odin, and Loki are all in attendance.
You also get to see Simonson’s somewhat melodramatic (they talk a bit like Stan Lee originally intended) versions of these characters. That includes Loki teaming up with Thor and Hela dropping in to get a good smashing in the face. As you can tell from the cover there’s some teamwork going on, which is similar to what was in Thor: Ragnarok but don’t expect a similar story. Instead, read this to get more of the same dynamics in play, but in a different way.
Reason 3: Malekith, love magic, and Beta Ray Bill!
It’s no wonder Thor has had three successful films created about him because he has one of the most creative worlds to explore on the silver screen. This collection shows off the dark and evil ways of Malekith (who appeared in the second Thor film, but this comic version tops that and then some) who aims to wake up Surtur. The complexity of his plan is featured in the first half of this volume and is only thwarted due to Thor’s tenacity and strength (and some help from the very human Roger Willis). As Thor battles, he must also fight with a love spell put on him which is a story beat right out of mythic storytelling. Then you have the inclusion of Beta Ray Bill who shows readers why he’s as powerful as Thor and then some as he leads an army to thwart the take over of Earth. There’s a lot going on in this volume and if you’re hyped by Thor: Ragnarok you’re going to get a lot of enjoyment out of this.
These two never get along.
Reasons to be wary?
This is definitely an older school way of writing that was written to be read in floppy format and not in one sitting. After the third chapter (or issue if you want to call it that) you’ll grow tired of characters thinking or saying what you already know. Thor’s dialogue is also more classic which can get a little tiresome as its aim is to trump up the verbiage rather than read clearly.
There’s also some sometimes confusing plotting involving Balder which Simonson cuts away to rather abruptly and only just barely progresses his story when he appears. It’s more of a distraction than an important element of the series though his very existence is tied to Ragnarok.
It’s also rather strange to see Roger Willis running around shooting giant alien monsters with a handgun. He’s clearly inserted in the story to add a human perspective on all this craziness, but you’ll be begging for more Thor and less Roger through much of this book.
Is there a rationale to the reasons?
I wasn’t immediately in love with this story until it started to show how much it may have influenced Thor: Ragnarok. Walter Simonson’s art is simply fantastic throughout this work (Thor never looked so cool swinging Mjolner) and if you give this collection a chance you’re going to love how he weaves in Odin and Surtur into a massive climactic battle.
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