The first six issues of Donny Cates’ new volume of Thor (collected in The Devourer King) wisely spent its time establishing its potential scope and impact: we can go big, we can be cosmic, we can kill Galactus. It’s the book equivalent of shanking someone as soon as you get to prison. You must prove to every last MFer that you’re willing to do literally anything to survive. In this case, survival isn’t the concern so much as proving that the new narrative can be as bold and fresh as the near-decade-long run that preceded it.
After a couple issues pleasantly spent tipping the hat to earlier Thor stories — particularly the famous post Civil-War Tony Stark vs. Thor moment in Thor (2007) #3 — establishing a few narrative threads concerning Mjolnir (who seems unconcerned about who may or may not be worthy), and solidifying some roles for the other Asgardians (Sif is Heimdall now; Beta Ray gets a job as war captain, Huginn and Muninn are Thor’s bro-crows), Prey dives directly into existential terror.
It’s this new, horrifying turn in the narrative that is Cates’ strongest hook so far, and it shows the writer playing with old, neglected Thor components in order to develop a new, distinctive direction for the mythology; Donald Blake, Thor’s occasional human counterpart, is revealed to have been a creation of Odin all along, and has spent years and years in a sort of sunshiney suburbian Limbo, unaware of what he was. When he discovers the truth and finds himself in this eternal middle-American labyrinth, he, to quote the book, “has since gone rather majestically insane.”
The move to destroy the overlooked, to radically alter Thor’s relationship with his past, could be a dangerous move if done casually without a plan. The book, however, seems to know exactly what it’s aiming for: Donald Blake isn’t the only one on the chopping block — instead, Blake places others on the chopping block.
Indeed, Red Norvell, Thunderstike, all other Thors, but also basic constants — Asgardian magic, now faltering; Odin, adrift in space booze; the very security of Yggdrasil — aren’t safe in this new era of Thor, nor should they be if readers are to expect surprises and growth. After the relative simplicity and general goofiness of the earliest Thor stories, all the way through the convoluted ’90s and beyond, this book wants you to know that all of it matters, but mattering doesn’t mean it matters.
Thor is a book, now, in which nothing is spared the rich, rewarding shock of change. Sure, the previous run of the book was one huge epic of change, but this version deals in quick blows, savage and violent, that telegraphs a punchier and perhaps more horrifying whole.
This feeling of change is compounded by the work of artist Nic Klein, whose work here feels in constant motion, a world of constant flux. Even in moments of calm, Klein inserts objects arrested so that there is never a sense of stillness or static.
With his linework, violence is rapid and the aftereffects are gruesome; even a bite of steak feels savage.
Matthew Wilson’s colors, likewise, carry a narrative weight: scenes of Earth are all soft, calm hues, while stark magentas, turquoises, and greens tinge all uncanny spaces — it’s a swirl of arcane tones that denotes a world not meant for the human eye.
All of which means that Thor is a book whose every detail contributes to the whole in a synergy not always achieved in comics, and Prey shows that it’s only getting better.
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