Thursday, December 19, 2019

"I don't want it to end." On King Thor #4

The other day, for some reason or another, I went back and read my CBR review of Young Liars #18. It was the final issue and I gave it five stars and the review was part celebration of a comic series that I really connected with and felt passionately about, part giant fuck y’all to everyone who wasn’t on board with it. I haven’t read that series since it ended. I should go back and give it a look, I think. I believe there have been final issues I’ve liked a lot since that one, but it’s what stands out for me when I think of final issues that really landed.

It didn’t take long for me to realise that Jason Aaron stuck the landing. Page seven cemented it for me. King Thor is going to die in a black hole of Gorr (literally) and the narration breaks down his lifelong struggles with self-worth, depression, all of his inner demons, and how he always hoped he’d overcome them some day. Except that day never comes – will never come. “You only learn to better live with the demons. To channel the rage and shame. To be the storm.” All while Thor yells for his father, about how Odin was right, how Thor wasn’t strong enough, worthy enough, and... I almost lost it there.
This isn’t a perfect comic. The middle section is Jason Aaron being Jason Aaron in a way that kind of makes me roll my eyes with Thor as cop or Thor as living planet or Thor as whatever the fuck. But, as much as I’ve lost my patience for that sort of things over the years (the Age of Awesome is behind us, I’d like to think), I can’t help but appreciate that there’s room for it in this issue. Aaron gonna Aaron, y’know?
It’s a big issue that packs everything in. Everything is tied up or addressed (oh, except for the odd thing, but, as the comic points out, there’s power in untold stories, so more about Volstagg and Roz will have to wait). The future, the past, the fate of Loki, the fate of Thor... the idea of Thor. The spirit of thunder.
It’s a little too fresh to really take in. This is becoming a fragmented thing and I didn’t want that. I wanted to, somehow, sum it all up and say something meaningful.
I guess I’ll go back to that seventh page.
Back when I began this newsletter, I said that part of my goal is trying to figure out why I feel such an affinity for Thor. I don’t feel worthy a lot. I’m very critical of myself, hate most of what I say, and seem to spend much of my time cringing at myself in real time. The more self-aware I become, the more I’m able to both overcome this and fall prey to it. I spend a lot of time wondering what the right thing to do is; the right thing to say; the right way to feel. What’s allowed, what’s too much, what’s too little, what’s appropriate, what’s not. Usually, I try to console myself with the idea that the struggle is enough; that I question myself and my actions and my thoughts and my feelings means that I’m not a lost cause at all.
I think I always liked Thor because he was just worthy. He just was. And his dad still thought he was a fuck up anyway. I never thought that my dad thought that, but our relationship was strained for as long as I can remember. Over time, I’ve realised that it had very little to do with me. I know that. I know that. But. But, that little bit of self-loathing on the matter is still there. I never related to Thor so much as when he was in the same room as his dad. Issue 491 held a great sway over me with Odin’s appearance.
And, at the end of time, Thor still can’t get over his bullshit with his dad. He still can’t get over every little bit of self-loathing and shame and feeling of unworthiness. But does he give up; does he fuck!
I related to Jason Aaron’s Thor run like no other Thor run. This wasn’t a Thor who was worthy because he’s worthy because he’s Thor. This was a fuck up; a mess of self-doubt and self-hatred, who had to struggle for so long to think himself worthy and, then, a single phrase took it all away. Thor never stopped being worthy, he just stopped believing himself to be worthy. He gave in to those terrible thoughts that haunt us all. And he kept going. It took him a while, but he kept going. And he’d get beaten down and he’d keep going. The whole thing began with that story: King Thor in the future, nothing but a mess of self-loathing and self-pity, but, after some time and a reminder of who he is, he was a grandfather and brought Midgard back.
Actually, it didn’t so much remind me of Young Liars as the end of Gødland. Enlightenment isn’t a destination; it’s a process. There’s no point where you become enlightened and just stop. It doesn’t work that way. Same with being worthy. You just keep going, trying to do your best, waking up every day and hoping you can still lift that hammer. We all have our hammer. It may just be looking yourself in the mirror and not hating the person you see. Most days, I’m successful. It was nice to read about a Thor with those same struggles.
Jane had those struggles, too. Her struggles helped the Odinson find his way back. She was worthy, but didn’t really know what that meant. It reminds me of when I met my wife and had this other person basically telling me that I was great. I was worth loving and liking and being around. And I had no idea why. I felt a little like a fraud. Still do. I always got that sense with Jane and Mjolnir. She didn’t understand why exactly she was chosen, why she was worthy when so many weren’t. Sometimes, I think that lack of awareness is part of the why.
I don’t know what now. I know that there’s a new Thor comic that I’ll be reading in two weeks. Just two weeks. It all keeps moving, doesn’t it. I don’t know if I’m ready. How often do you get to read the best of something and know at the time that it was the best. Is this what it was like when Simonson left? When Kirby left?
It’s a weird feeling. This was something special. And it’s done. But, it’s also here on my desk. I have the entire run stacked, ready to be read any time I want. It’s complete. Ha. Pretty cool.
This isn’t my last word on this comic or this run. Not by a long shot. It’s just what I’ve got tonight.