From the halls of mighty Asgard to the shores of Jotunheim, he will fight his father’s battles no matter what that traitor Loki and his girlfriend Jane Foster want. Writer Lilah Sturges and artist Pepe Larraz have modernized the origins of everyone’s favorite thunder god, bringing the story of Thor into the 21st century. Rather than simply retread the same worn path as other origin retellings, Sturges focuses on the characters and their motivations much more than the events leading up to and after Thor’s exile and return to Asgard. In doing so, she breathes new life into the story of Odin, Thor, Loki, and the battle with the Frost Giants.
Beginning with the brashness of Thor demonstrated in a foolish raid into Jotunheim, the book quickly lays out Odin’s decision to first give Thor the hammer Mjolnir and, after falling for a disastrous prank of Loki’s, his banishment to Midgard to live a secret life as neurosurgeon Donald Blake. Got it? Good. Moving on.
Seeing Thor as Donald Blake brings back the right memories from Thor’s origins in the 1960s without all of the added fluff that can come with older comics (see my review of The Mighty Thor Epic Collection: In Mortal Flesh). Donald is a full-on surgeon this time, hoping to open a free neuro clinic with Jane Foster and offers to sell his ancestral home in Norway for financing. After a fall into a cave, a chance encounter with a mysterious stick, and an attack by giant rock creatures, Thor is drawn back to our reality, free momentarily from the shell of Donald Blake.
The modernization of the story here isn’t just in updating the time period or the language. The speed at which the story moves is an indication (or an indictment) of contemporary storytelling as well. Even as we might lament retelling origin stories, there is a need to update the telling for new audiences. Sturges does an excellent job of getting right to the point with her characters, letting the reader know immediately who everyone is at their core, from Jane Foster, to Odin, to the Warriors Three.
Side Note: Lady Sif belching is a delightfully drawn panel. Well done, Larraz.
The inclusion of the Norns as a Greek chorus is inspired, even quoting Hamlet, another prince with daddy issues, in Central Park. Blake himself refers to hearing Thor’s memories as “like an epic poem translated into English by a bad Shakespeare wannabe,” covering every criticism about the foolishly epic speechifying ever-present in the first thirty years of Thor’s existence as a four-color superhero. This truly modern take mirrors the tongue-in-cheek take the films have worked to maintain. How, in a world like ours, do we put aside our incredulity and believe in a god of thunder whose very speech bubble exude pomposity? With snark and good-natured ribbing along with a few pages of good old-fashioned Mjolnir-wielding ass kicking.
In a jarring juxtaposition, the first issue of Thor: God of Thunder (2013) is included, showing dark times in Thor’s life where the mysterious god butcher methodically and horribly, well, butchered gods. The art is fabulously grim, matching the tone set by the first severed head and continued through the literal end of Asgard. It’s a great contrast and an intriguing add.