After some pretty amazing and bold moves from the current Thor creative team—stories about the deaths of space gods, the horrors of neglected characters, and the incredible sorrow of immortals—God of Hammers feels almost painfully low stakes.
Sure, purportedly big things happen in this book: the old All-Father “dies” (without exiting the narrative at all); Mjolnir proves to be sentient and causes enough damage that all the Earth’s heroes show up (and promptly do absolutely nothing). The hammer-being is then destroyed (and instantly reassembled and returned to Thor).
The book makes so many moves to feel big—to tell us the story is powerful without showing us any evidence—that it’s starting to feel like writer Donny Cates wants his Thor run to have the impact of earlier stories right now without having dedicated the time to achieve it. It’s a shame because most of what came before God of Hammers is truly different and innovates the character.
Adding to the sense of unearned importance is the inclusion of a celebratory milestone issue for Thor Legacy #750, which takes the classic form of an anthology of shorts by celebrated past creators. At its best, this sort of issue manages to tie legendary work to the present story, whether that be thematically or (as in the case of Thor #700) narratively. At its worst, it feels like a tedious afterthought, as if editorial didn’t realize the big day was coming and had to scramble to get creators.
Issue #750, despite the quality of the creators, feels like the latter. Framed as Odin’s funeral, the book would have felt seamless had all the vignettes gathered felt tied to that moment in time by either celebrating or vilifying such a divisive character—particularly because, by the point of the vignettes, we don’t realize Odin’s spirit is in the hammer.
Certainly readership will never say no to a new Simonson Beta Ray Bill story, or a quick peek at Olivier Coipel’s gorgeous take on Earthbound Asgard. It simply feels like a missed opportunity to lend credibility to the current narrative. Hell, one of the vignettes is essentially an ad for Al Ewing’s current Defenders book, as if to say “Hey, put this down and come over here. We’ve got sexy genderfluid Loki, you know you want it.”
All that is to say that God of Hammers feels like a low point to the current Thor narrative. And though that is certainly a bummer, I don’t want to lead you to believe that there isn’t any good here, either. Big, cosmic, and cool ideas pepper these issues—things like the Gauntlet/Black Hand of God, a giant disembodied hand left adrift in space by Cates’ beloved Goo-Daddy Knull, now turned into a gladiatorial arena.
Or the moment when Sif, seeing the desperate situation Thor and Odin are in battle, uses the Bifrost to send the villain to ‘The Farthest Place From Here’ (thereby answering Tyler Boss & Matthew Rosenberg/Blake Schwarzenbach’s ever-pressing question), a place that Nic Klein illustrates as an eerie, alien plain seemingly strewn with ancient tombstones.
These are the big, cosmic, crazy ideas we’ve come to expect from Cates, and while they’re momentary amongst larger concerns that feel ineffectual, the kernel of greatness is still there, waiting to announce itself as we veer into yet another narrative corkscrew in the next volume.
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