Oh, my, so much to unpack.
I took on the task of reading the current The Mighty Thor and this Epic Collection from 1989-1990 simultaneously. It was a mistake.
Do I just remember comics differently almost 30 years out from the publishing date? Or am I just reading with a 2017 lens? Did this really work when it was published, or did readers at the time have some of the same issues with the problematic wording, elementary school color scheme, 1940s radio-hour thought bubbles, and poor storytelling?
The Mighty Thor Epic Collection: In Mortal Flesh covers the adventures of clean-shaven Thor from 1989-1990, issues #401-418 and the Annual #14. The main theme running throughout is how Thor is dealing with being merged into his mortal construction pal, Eric Masterson, and his pull towards protecting Earth rather than being on Asgard as Odin wishes. And that’s fine. Thor sounds like someone took a basic course in Shakespeare and applied it to an even lesser knowledge of actual Norse mythology, but that is also fine. It is what it is. Until recently, this is what Thor sounded like. Stan Lee set a fine example for writers Randall Frenz, Tom DeFalco and others. They have not let him down. The reader, on the other hand…
My biggest issue comes in some really problematic moments that I cannot believe made it to print. Within the first issue, villain Quicksand gets turned back into a flesh-and-blood woman, rather than the Lady Sandman shape she normally takes, for a short while and Mongoose actually says the following words: “Interesting! I had no idea you were an Oriental.” What??
Not to mention Loki pulling an Uther Pendragon and marrying another Asgardian while disguising himself as her fiancee, whom he made sure got killed on a raid. Why, you might ask, would Loki do this? Well, he was sad and she was hot. End of reasoning. He reveals himself after the wedding, not to everyone demanding his head for essentially planning to rape the woman and having had her real fiancee murdered by trolls, but with Odin declaring her the new goddess of fidelity for agreeing to stay married. WHAT??
Oh, Hogun the Grim, living caricature of what someone thought a Mongol would have looked like, had he also been a Norse god and one of Thor’s besties, gives some tough love – read, cruel treatment and a near beating – to a kid who wants to be a warrior even though his father wants him to be an engineer or something. I stopped paying attention.
In the end, I think both this book and this review suffer from perspective issues. I can’t even take this book seriously. The best thing in it is Doctor Doom, and most of his story doesn’t even involve Thor directly, but revolves around a Doom clone ruling Latveria. Even when the dialogue doesn’t read like it was written to be read without pictures, it’s pretty terrible. I honestly can’t recommend this book unless you pine for the late 80s Thor and his oblivious companions. This one will go on a shelf somewhere and collect dust.