Sometimes it takes something truly special to make you fall in love with a character.
Sure, I always liked Thor just fine—there are amazing runs of the character by a whole host of incredible creators, some of whom are complete legends in the industry. But, as a kid, his wasn’t a title I had access to often, and as a young adult, he always felt a bit tertiary to me—a book to be read in support of reading Avengers, but only after reading Captain America. I missed Simonson altogether, and I returned to comics at Ragnarok.
What’s more is that the wholly incredible, insulated world of Asgard, with its vast cast of supporting characters and mythology, often felt impenetrable to a casual fan. I knew of the Warriors Three. I knew of Sif. The (then nine) realms were unnamed vagaries in my head, as were major, non-Loki villains. I knew iconography. When the first Thor film hit cinemas, I knew enough to know what The Destroyer was on sight but didn’t quite understand its narrative significance.
When the crew hit Broxton, I started to get to know them a little better, to actively participate in Thor comics on their own grounds—but, still, a lot of that reading came in support of that Bendis-era barrage of crossovers and events; I had to read Thor so I could read Siege.
But when Thor: God of Thunder hit a full decade ago this November, something felt different. Esad Ribić’s artwork was ethereal, otherworldly, and the opening overtures of the series embraced a sense of godlike eternity. The whole confusing concerns of true gods in the Marvel Universe—something that never quite jived with the Starlin-and-Lim view of the cosmos I grew up within Silver Surfer—suddenly felt impossibly and fittingly huge and palatable. Thor was no longer tertiary, it was essential.
Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection Vol. 5 finds us, after four volumes collecting seven years of stories, at the end of the Thor run that opened my—and many others’—eyes to the complexities and joys of Asgard (and Asgard-adjacent) spaces and peoples.
In this volume, we receive the finale of something so huge, so monumental, that it can only conclude at the very end of the universe. The twenty issues collected herein are, by necessity of the largeness of the preceding narrative, all over the place. While telling the bombastic conclusion to long-running threads over in War of the Realms, Aaron is able to utilize the 16 issues of 2018’s Thor to tell stories, large and small, addressing supporting cast and narrative themes. It’s the comic book equivalent of turning off the lights and locking the door on his way out.
Utilizing Mike del Mundo’s mad, vibrant, and chaotic artwork, we’re told War supporting narratives featuring concluding story beats for supporting cast members like Odin, Roz Solomon, Cul Borson, and even, after the war, central villain of the piece Malekith the Accursed. Interspersed are tales concerning the young Thor and All-Father Thor introduced during Aaron’s God-Butcher opening seven years earlier, with seemingly lit-from-within work of Christian Ward to explore the outer cosmic reaches of the end-of-time, and contrasting this with the relatively down-to-earth comic realism of Tony Moore to look back at Young Thor in the era of the Vikings.
It’s a book that wants to set-to-rights beloved supporting characters, to find as many firm resolutions as possible before its conclusion. It’s a loving book, caring deeply for even its smallest players.
Concluding with King Thor, Aaron then turns his attentions to the very end of the universe, telling what is his definitive conclusion of the Marvel Universe with a perfect thematic bookend; Thor concludes, as should have always been the case, with Loki—with a little help from Gorr, the God-Butcher who kicked off Aaron’s run.
It’s a fitting, if bleak, end to not only Aaron’s tenure on the character but to the very concepts of divinity in the Marvel Universe. Rarely has heat-death and inevitable collapse felt poignant instead of existentially troubling.
This fifth, final volume of The Complete Collection manages to find powerful closure to all the strange corners of Thor stories Aaron’s run taught me to love in the first place. Rather than feel like an end, however, the care and joy of the characters charges a reader to dive straight into the new series…and to finally explore the wonder and joys of Asgard’s past.
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