Out this week is Marvel’s nearly 400-page Epic Collection War of the Gods, which may be one of Len Wein’s greatest works. Wein is usually noted for his incredible works like Swamp Thing, butafter putting down War of the Gods I couldn’t believe how modern and fun the book was. Paired with John Buscema, this is an iconic era for Thor with important moments and great melodrama.
When it comes to Epic Collections I’m usually looking for consistency, first appearances, and great supervillains. This collection could be split in half with the first half focused on Jane Foster going on adventures with Thor and the second half focusing on the war of gods. In both stories, Thor’s father is a real thorn in his side which keeps a consistent vibe throughout the book. In the first half, he’s pissed he’s dating Jane and practically wishes Thor would die over it, and in the second he fears Thor will fight him when the gods spar.
Buscema is a legend, make no mistake, with most of this book looking as sharp as anything you’d read today. He’s joined by inkers/finishers like Joe Sinnott, Tony DeZuniga, and Pablo Marcos. Given the level of detail in this book it’s incredible Buscema is listed as the main penciler on every issue. Published between December 1975 to May 1977, there’s a lot here that inspired a generation. From the Kirby-style space scenes to intense action and great fight scenes, everything is easy to follow and well rendered.
Wein proves he’s a master of the trade throughout this book. You see it in how characters speak as if they are thousand-year-old friends–because they are–or how Thor handles himself in conversation. Jane Foster is a bit of a damsel, but she also knows she loves Thor and he loves her back. There’s a maturity there that’s unmistakable.
Where this work sets itself apart is when it gets into lore and backstory. The Tomorrow Man, for instance, gets a full flashback backstory revealing what he was up to since we last saw Thor. It’s a fun story within the story that adds layers to the evil, yet well-intentioned villain. The introduction of the Time Twisters in the very same story is quite a cool concept. They’re barreling through time, hitting our timeline every thirty centuries. This is a killer concept that makes them seem impossible to defeat but also makes their soon-to-be appearance all the more dangerous.
Aside from Zarrko the Tomorrow Man, Thor must fight Mangong, the Grey Gargoyle, Hercules, and even a T-Rex! The second half is far more of a fight comic style, but there’s plenty of swinging and thrusting of hammers into faces in the first half too. Another highlight is the Warriors Three getting their very own issue. They’re partying way too hard on Earth and things don’t go well.
One minor gripe is how Thor #254 is actually not reprinted here even though it says it is on the back. That’s because it was a reprint of Thor #159 and thus does not continue the story. That said, seeing the cover and then the book moving on to Thor #255 is an odd choice, especially since this is a lighter Epic Collection.
Len Wein is a master storyteller and this chunk of Thor comics is proof of that. Paired with the great John Buscema, this is a masterclass in action and adventure that only the ’70s could provide.
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