It’s a while before Thor shows up in this first issue by the new creative team of Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry, but there’s much to engage the interest before then.
A mortal scientist tries to explain to an unseen Asgardian why he sees a crisis coming, with the reader given hints enough to guess the listener’s identity, and therefore feel smart. Then we move across the universe and dimensions to visit Alfheim, one of the nine worlds of Norse tradition, and meet an elf-poet yearning for the one woman who can distract him from his art. Finally, the first signs of the coming storm arrive as refugee invaders slaughter the playful elves.
Each scene has its own tone, as the new creatives show immediate chemistry. We leave the everyday comedy of the Broxton diner for the mind of dire bard Mayzen the Poetic, as he realises what he wants only too late. Boffin Eric Solvang is drawn as a near-caricature in a world lit by fluorescent lighting, the blue elves are rendered in traditional fantasy style in an icy milieu, while the massive attackers turn Alfheim a blood-red to match their skin tone.
It’s an impressive debut by writer Fraction, illustrator Ferry, colourist Matt Hollingsworth and letterer John Workman – yes, the guy whose calligraphy was a memorable part of Walt Simonson’s classic run on Thor. It’s great to see his wonderfully open lettering here, contained within joyously rounded balloons. And, best of all, the annoyingly faffy Asgardian font we’ve suffered with for years is gone. The lettering almost steals the show on the spread in which Thor finally appears, a small figure against the sombre sight of the recently ruined earthly Asgard. The Lady Sif yells ‘Thor’ in a comparatively huge, colourful display font while the big man is having a wee brood. He’s missing his half-brother Loki. Sure, he was a murderous cove, but such fun!
And in a nice turnabout, Thor is soon the one telling Balder not to be such a miserable sod, blaming himself for the destruction of Asgard. Thor quotes John Wayne and Kate Moss at him, and who could ask for wiser sages? There’s also a moment in which Thor bickers with the Don Blake persona, as they make like DC’s Firestorm. I’m not keen on this set-up, preferring them as the same guy, with different bodies and speech patterns, but we’ll see how it goes. Given that Blake is setting up a medical practice with on-off love chum Jane Foster, I can’t see him wanting to spend most of his time in Thor’s helmet.
The issue ends with some fine foreboding, and a reveal of the good doctor’s dinner guest.
And that’s how you begin a bold new era without undue hysteria. In just 30pp Fraction, Ferry and co reintroduce our cast, add some new players and give a sense of what might lie ahead. Fraction writes great Asgardians, personalities whose passions are suitably larger than life. Convincing mortals are around to ground the comic, aliens and mystical beings bring a touch of the cross-genre fantastic … there’s a canvas being laid out here that has tremendous potential. I have a feeling we’re going to see it tapped.
So far as Ferry’s art goes, there’s pleasing variety in the page constructions, but they’re not showy – they simply works. He reigns in the super-broad Norseman face preferred by recent artist Olivier Coipel, for features that anticipate the look of actor Chris Hemsworth in next year’s Thor movie. And he’s adding some Kirby Krackle to the down-to-earth duds of recent years, making our hero look the god he is.
And as previously noted, the contributions of Workman and Hollingsworth, master of texture and tone, to this story’s success are worthy of note, contributing to what I hope will be the book’s signature look. Editor Ralph Macchio has assembled a talented team here, so let’s hope they’re not derailed by Marvel’s penchant for events. Thor is on the verge of greatness again.