Thursday, November 03, 2016

The First Thorsday: On The Unworthy Thor #1

Jason Aaron began his run on the Thor titles in November of 2012. Four years ago. It began with Thor: God of Thunder with Esad Ribic drawing the book and Dean White colouring it. Now, four years later, Aaron delivers his 50th Thor comic, The Unworthy Thor #1 and he has the artist that put his stamp on the two previous big Thor runs with him, Olivier Coipel. I've been looking forward to this comic ever since it was announced as, unsurprisingly, an underlying mystery that has obsessed me is the words that made the Odinson unworthy back in Original Sin. I imagine that this mini-series will finally answer that question. I haven't even speculated in private as to what was said to change the Odinson from worthy to not, because I'm sure that I can't come up with it myself. And part of me is certain that the revelation will be somewhat lame. After all, what can possibly be whispered to a god and have such a profound effect? We'll see, I suppose.

But, back to the business at hand...

I must admit that, beyond the mystery of how he became unworthy, my other big reason for anticipating The Unworthy Thor was that it continues the story of Thor Odinson. Given the amount of backlack that the Jane Foster Thor has gotten from some sections of Thor fandom, it feels wrong to say that in some ways. But, you know, as much as I'm enjoying The Mighty Thor currently (and I am, quite a bit), it's not the same character, a character that I'd have to say is my favourite mainstream superhero comic character. Part of the reason why I've wanted to write about Thor is to see if I can figure out why I love this character so much. After all, it's a character that seems the opposite of me: not necessarily bright, very violent, a bit of drunken oaf... He's not a character that I see myself in, like Peter Parker or even wish, on some level, I were, like Spider Jerusalem. While there is a part of me that would love to hit things with a big fucking hammer, I can't say that Thor is character that I would like to be, beyond using his action figure to play superheroes with my son. So, the unstated question that will run through this newsletter is


Let no more be said of that question...

A return to the Odinson has been something I've been waiting for. In part to answer the mystery, in part because he's my Thor. I dig the other Thor (I dig all Thors, really), but it's not the character that I've been reading about for most of my life. Is that sad? It might be, but fuck it. I have enough love in my heart for many Thors and I'm not ashamed to say such an obviously shameful thing.

The last time we saw the unworthy Odinson, he was trapped in some energy/mechanical thing and, nearby, on the ground, was Ultimate Mjolnir. Here's the continuation as we begin with the Odison fighting through mobs in a daily attempt to get that hammer -- and every day he fails. Then, we get the beginning of how he got the idea to get Ultimate Mjolnir in the aftermath of Secret Wars. Aaron has the Odinson narrate the story and Coipel, along with colourist Matthew Wilson, delivers some gorgeous work. It's a good comic. At least, for me, it's a good comic.

I recently reread all of the Thor comics (including Journey into Mystery) from J. Michael Straczynski (I didn't have to look up the spelling) until the beginning of Jason Aaron's run -- so, the JMS run, the Gillen run, and the Fraction run with a bunch of Loki stuff thrown in. Olivier Coipel drew most of the JMS run, with some help from Marko Djurdjevic (I didn't need to look up how to spell that, either) and, then, later did the first six issues of relaunched Mighty Thor under Fraction (that was the story where Odin fought Galactus, the Silver Surfer moved to Broxton, and a local pastor became the new Herald of Galactus, a fact that was probably never followed up on by anyone). He also drew Siege, which was the second-closest event that we've gotten to a Thor-centric event (after Fear Itself). He's clearly got a fondness for the character and the news that he would draw this series was less a surprise than a friendly bit of news. A moment where a familiar face pops in for a visit. His work here with Wilson is quite good. More lush and detailed than the last time I saw his art; a bit sketchier in spots, a bit rougher... yet more refined. I've been a fan of his for a decade and this is the best work I've seen from him. I'm still not sophisticated enough to fully articulate the ways that I think I see Wilson making Coipel's line work better, but, rest assured, he does. Wilson and the fact that Coipel is inking himself are two things that assist in this 'level up' moment...

The version of Thor Odinson we get here is a bit pathetic. He's less than he once ways and knows it. He's full of self-loathing... and pride. That undercurrent of pride is important, because it shows that no matter how unworthy he may be, there's part of him that can't escape who he's been his entire life. He's still the Odinson. He's just fallen and desperate and sad. That opening scene where he's fighting off hoards of aliens and creatures to reach Ultimate Mjolnir -- does he drive himself on because he's THOR SON OF ODIN GOD OF THUNDER or because he's desperate to be that person again? It's the same character, obviously, but is he the same man/god that we've been reading about for so long? That looks to be the point of the series (which Aaron confirms in his text piece at the end of the issue) and it's an intriguing one. In the small amount of Thor comics I've been (re)reading lately (the Simonson run, the aforementioned JMS/Gillen/Fraction runs, and a few issues into the second Essential Thor volume after reading the first one) (okay, that's not a small number of comics, but, in the overall number of Thor comics, it's not large), the idea that the Asgardians are malleable beyond other superhero characters has cropped up. They are explicitly beings of stories and, thus, are more easily shaped and reshaped according to the needs of the narrative. There have been numerous contradictions and changes and retcons and they all work, because the characters shrug and say "It was so long ago, who can remember for sure?" and just get on with it. The most recent issue of The Mighty Thor gave a new origin for Mjolnir and it's great. If someone retcons that in a few years, it won't matter, because the story was good. Thor and the Asgardians yield entirely to the story and that's cool.