Norse Mythology has been a great example of how comics can come from anything as long as the source material is sound. The first issue is a great example of how the art itself expands on the story, and the second issue reminds us these old stories of Thor are far different from what Marvel has presented us. Neil Gaiman’s book by the same name is getting adapted by P. Craig Russell with a different artist each issue. In the sixth issue, Jill Thompson takes over, focusing on the time Thor went along with Loki’s plans to get his hammer back. Like any good myth, there’s a lesson in between the pages, but it also flows simply and nicely. Much like Thompson’s watercolors.
This issue tells a tale from beginning to end about the time Loki did the brotherly thing and helped Thor get Mjolnir back. Thrym, lord of the ogres, has taken the hammer and he’ll only give it back for Freya’s hand in marriage. This leads Thor to ask Freya to go marry the jerk Ogre, but that doesn’t go over well, so why not devise a new plan. That plan involves Thor dressing as a woman and pretending to be Freya himself. Sure, you could read what happens in the CliffsNotes, but it’s so much more enjoyable here thanks to Thompson’s skill as a storyteller.
Thompson utilizes white space splendidly in this book. In moments of confusion or great emotion, the panel is void of any color save for the characters within. In other instances, a beautiful cloud of watercolor may brighten the background to further create a focus on the character in the panel. Further, character facial expressions are fantastic — from Thor’s somewhat dumb nature shining through, or Loki’s inability to maintain anything beyond frustration, you gather these characters are very real and feeling things at the moment.
In a key scene with Freya, a lot of emotions are thrown about, including a great panel of Freya explaining how stupid Thor’s plan is which is highlighted by the great use of shadow on her face. This is all of course painted beautifully. As she shouts at Thor and Loki to leave, we see a black visage of Freya starring them down that is juxtaposed well with Thor looking back on her house and reflecting on how beautiful she was. Loki is another character who looks great throughout the book — from his female form later on to his shape-changing into birds, you understand his personality no matter what he’s up to.
The ogre who wants to marry Freya is also ridiculous and over the top, with his double chin and propensity to bowl the reader over with intense emotions. His clothes are simple, basically a black tank top with a belt of furs clinging to it, and his bulbous body helps convey his slovenly nature.
The story at hand is rather simple, like a fairy tale really, right down to Thor undertaking some feats of gluttony which don’t seem to ward off the ogre one bit. In hindsight, after putting it down you might reflect on how simplistic it all is, and how Thor and Loki could have figured out a better way to get the hammer back, but it’s all so beautifully painted it’s hard to resist every cutaway and reaction. In a simple one-page scene, for instance, a woman notices the beautiful rings on Thor’s fingers and reaches to admire them. Over five panels we see Thor look a bit aghast at this ogre noticing them, other ogres then look on at the scene, Thor bares her attention in the next panel, then an extreme close up of the ogre’s face filling the panel and Thor’s small hand help convey the largeness of these ogres. Finally, in the last panel, we see Loki attempting to help move things along and forget the rings. Does it really matter if Thor gives this ogre the rings or not? Not really, but it’s an entertaining moment within the story to help convey Thor’s uncomfortable situation. it’s scenes like this that make the story so fun and alive.
Jill Thompson and P. Craig Russell have delivered an entertaining story from the classic mythology adapted from Neil Gaiman’s splendid book. This is a great example of how so much can be said and done in a story that may not seem deep on its surface, and how a master artist can make it come alive in new ways.
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