Donny Cates clearly has his own distinct brand of storytelling. That’s exciting in the realm of superhero comics since so many can feel so similar, and that’s no disrespect to creators — fight comics and/or the monthly serial superhero storytelling adventure can be entertaining, but it takes a certain extra attitude and approach to set it apart from the rest. Cates has shown us with Venom how he doesn’t skimp on cool twists, great ideas, and somehow always sticks the landing with a good payoff. That goes for entire story arcs and single issues. There’s a delicate balance he’s undertaking to keep your interest but also tease us enough to want more. When it comes to his first issue of Thor, he does that and then some.
Right off the bat, Cates has a keen eye for the Thor caption-writing game. They have that old-school storytelling vibe that adds weight to the adventure like we’re in for a story that’ll be told for eons to come. With these captions comes a mini-adventure of sorts for Mjolnir (you can read it all in the preview) that reminds us Thor is a complex character thanks to his very unique tool. It’s also a nice way to connect Thor to the Avengers at a time when he’s retired from superhero’ing and is now king of Asgard. In these first seven pages, Cates has established the realms, the power of Mjolnir, Thor’s current relationship to the Avengers, and sets up his general attitude around his new role all wrapped up in some great captions. It’s efficient and highly entertaining writing.
That quality continues throughout the issue with interesting reveals that are deeply personal to Thor, a matter largely for Asgard, and begin to tether big ideas into this new direction for the character. It’s no surprise some of Cates’ more recent additions to the Marvel universe pop up–including Silver Surfer–and these additions help to build the scaffolding that Cates has been working on over the years. It’s impressive how Cates can continue to build up his corner of the universe while also making much of this accessible and easy for readers to dive into. You’re essentially privy to a fun new adventure with the thought that maybe you should go back and read his previous work (hint: you should).
The biggest win for this first issue is how well it crafts a whole new level of stakes and sets up a brand new journey for Thor to endeavor on. Given how masterful Jason Aaron’s run was I’m actually a bit shocked how quickly Cates pivots and pushes Thor into an all-new direction that feels fresh and worthy of the character. I don’t want to spoil any of it, it’s best to read on your own terms and how Cates lays it out, but it’s ambitious and cosmic in all the right ways.
The art by Nic Klein with colors by Matthew Wilson and letters by Joe Sabino back up the crazy big ideas and awesome reveals. Klein’s art has a slightly raw feel to them that works well with the one-eyed and grizzly looking Thor. The opening pages show how well this team can quickly snap between entire realms giving us enough to understand what we’re seeing while also drawing our eye well. What matters most here is how well Klein can draw facial expressions that connect you with the characters while on the flip side drawing something out of this world large or extraordinary and have it be believable. It’s a talent that you don’t see every day.
If I can find any fault at all it’s how quickly it shifts from a big surprise to the introduction of a McGuffin (or a few actually), and then an even more abrupt cliffhanger. Believe me, I’m all for many twists and big shocking moments, but this issue delivers so many in the last half of the book I was in a bit of shock processing it all. The action and adventure aficionado in me love it, but it could have used a bit more decompression to let it all sink in.
This is yet another example of how Donny Cates can balance payoff, introduce new ideas, and set in motion a story you can’t put down. We’re in for an intense and remarkable adventure Thor, and the likes of the Marvel universe has never seen. This is Thor on a whole new scope and scale that you can’t resist.