It’s been a while since my last Thor review, and for that, I apologise. In that time, three more issues have come out, as well as a Thor Annual that collects three short stories from guest contributors. In light of all that, and because they don’t really warrant individual reviews, I’m reviewing #4 and #5 together. One big, Thor-sized double header, with reviews of issue #6 and Thor Annual #1 to follow.
But before I get into it, a quick spoiler warning: the cliffhanger at the end of issue #3 is so central to the events of the following chapters that it’d be more or less impossible to review #4 and #5 in any substantial degree without talking about it. So, if you’ve yet to read issue #3, I’d suggest you stop reading this review right now – go read the comic instead, it’s really good! With that out of the way…
Thor #4 is appropriately called Thor vs. Thor, because at the centre of it is a fight between Thor, The Goddess of Thunder, the new wielder of Mjolnir, and Thor Odinson, the Norse god and former holder of the Thor mantle, before he was deemed unworthy. Odinson is none too happy about his hammer being “stolen”, as he puts it, so he sets out to get it back.
This was something that was bound to happen sooner or later, but both Odinson’s appearance and the resolution of his conflict with Thor feel a bit rushed. At the same time, this issue (and the next) is laying the groundwork for a build-up to the end of the first story arc, and feel a bit like they’re treading water as a result.
The scriptwriting is still top-notch, and some of Odinson’s internal monologue is particularly poetic. It’s just lacking a bit in momentum, which makes the sudden beginning and end of the “Thor vs. Thor” element strange. This is something that could easily have filled two issues, and could have played out in a much more organic fashion if it had that chance.
Bringing us to issue five, which continues to tread water as it sets the scene for a the first arc’s wrap-up. Odin is also upset about the “theft” of Mjolnir, and he’s doing all he can to unmask Thor and find out who she is – even if it means throwing Asgard into chaos. Odinson, meanwhile is seen at his weakest, wallowing in self-pity at the loss of his hammer. He’s also determined to find out who Thor is, but it’s coming more from a place of loss than of rage, as is the case with Odin.
Interestingly, issue five is one the of least Thor-centred chapters so far, instead focusing on the supporting cast – Odin, Freyja, Odinson, and a few more returning characters that longtime Thor fans will recognise – and setting things in motion for subsequent issues. Thor still has her moments, of course, and some great dialogue, but this is an issue that’s not so much about her as it is the people (and gods) who surround her.
One of the interesting things about both #4 and #5 (and part of the reason I wanted to review them together) is a sort of meta-commentary on the position of female superheroes. The series hasn’t exactly been subtle in its addressing of sexism, with plenty of villains doubting Thor’s abilities because she’s a woman, and then subsequently getting the business end or Mjolnir. But these issues turn that critique towards comic fandom itself, and particularly, the common complaint about putting women (or other under-represented groups) in the mantle of someone as well-known as Thor.
“You wanna be a chick super hero? Fine, who the hell cares? But get your own identity. Thor’s a dude,” says one particularly misogynistic villain in the opening pages of issue five, before his humiliating defeat at the hands of this “chick super hero.” A constant point of discussion throughout these issues is that Thor is Thor, and not She-Thor, or Lady Thunderstrike, or anything like that. She doesn’t just have the power of Thor, she has the title, the name, and all the prestige and responsibility that goes with that.
Instead of the usual Russell Dauterman/Matthew Wilson combo, Thor #3 has interior art by guest artist Jorge Molina. His style is more realistic, with heavier use of three-dimensional shading and a more muted colour palette, rather than the distinctive linework and bright, solid colours that Dauterman and Wilson employ. This will largely come down to personal preference, but I’m not convinced Molina is a great fit for this book; the regular artists’ style gives it a sense of personality that Molina’s art lacks. There are also some technical issues, like faces looking misshapen due to difficult perspectives, and the more lifelike approach serves to highlight these where a more cartoony style would mask them.
Overall, Thor #4 and #5 are slow points for the series. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination, and if you’re already invested in the series there’s no reason not to read them. They just don’t seem to be quite on the level of the first few issues, but hopefully the dramatic events being foreshadowed for the coming chapters will fix that.