Jack Kirby and Stan Lee deliver some of the most jam-packed wonderment you can get on the stands.
When you’re shopping for a trade paperback collection that’ll give you the most bang for your buck you’re not only looking for a solid story arc but a lot of the highlights you love from a character. With Thor, that requires a certain amount of alien entities, fights, and melodrama with Jane Foster. Enter Marvel’s latest “epic collection” out this week in comic shops. It has it all folks!
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
A masterpiece of immortal action and boundless drama, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Thor is a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe. And in this Epic Collection, Thor’s saga explodes onto the cosmic stage with the debut of Ego the Living Planet! And the action continues nonstop with the High Evolutionary, Ulik the Troll and the unstoppable Destroyer! Then, Loki conspires to have Odin strip Thor of his power and banish him to Earth. Stranded, Thor must struggle to survive the machinations of his scheming half-brother, while attempting to return to All-Father Odin’s good graces! Plus the return of Lady Sif, and battles against the Growing Man, Replicus, the Super-Skrull…and your favorite enchanted-crowbar-wielding galoot, the Wrecker!
Why does this matter?
This is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby at their finest with Thor going up against Ulik, High Evolutionary, and even the Super-Skrull. On top of that, this collection harnesses the origin of Ego as well as appearances of Kang, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, and the mighty Galactus!
Taking place between 1966 abd 1968, this collects Thor #131 to #153 and the second annual.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Kirby toys with some mixed media like in this shot; I’m pretty sure those are cotton balls on the bottom.
If you’re consistently bummed by comic books due to how quick they are to read this is the comic collection for you. Stan Lee loves to wax poetic with words and that’s especially so with Thor’s backward sort of language. It’s been a few months since I’ve read a classic tome by Stan Lee, but wow does he lay on the thickly captioned pages with tons of dialogue in this volume. The thing about this dialogue is that it’s beautiful in its own way. Lee manages to stuff the pages with alliteration and big words that I’m sure helped foster future authors and screenwriters. Once you get over the sometimes garishly slow passages you’ll come to admire how well this series is written. It’s melodrama at its finest. Verbosity that embodies wonderment.
And wonderment it sure does deliver on. Kirby is a master, but man does he kill it on a consistent basis. Even the best modern artists have a bad page or panel, but it seems like Kirby knocks his work out of the park no matter the smallness of a scene or the largeness of a moment. Sure, he might have a bevy of super close up face shots of characters screaming in rage or fear, but dammit that’s part of the over the top fun of Thor.
Any Kirby fanatic knows his style is best imagined on the page when technology is shown off and there’s a lot of that in this volume. The aliens themselves seem to always be encased in metallic armor and the contraptions they wield are impressive. In an excellent full-page spread for instance, Galactus looks jaw-droppingly epic. Not only his clothing, but also the random contraption he weilds as he tells the universe he will be eating Ego and soon. Visually there’s also a surprising turn during the Ego issues where Kirby appears to have used mixed media on the page, which is also above (in what appears to be photography colored over mixed in with conventional ink and color drawing). It only occurs on two pages in this volume, but it’s striking and seems incredibly modern. Kirby was also a master at posing his characters and Thor always seems to have a new striking visage to admire. Whether he’s riding a motorcycle (yeah that happens) or standing idly as he calls his hammer he always seems to be holding back an immense amount of power. He’s a god and this volume shows that.
Being a god is displayed in cool ways in this volume. First off is his bravado, which seems to be the main driving force of his character. He knows he’ll achieve anything because of who he is and who his father is no matter the threat. Take for instance his battle with Ego, where he never doubts himself even when a robot-recorder stands by remarking on how impossible the threat is he faces. That bravado again occurs when he faces off against Destroyer who ends up being the recurring threat in this volume. It seems Thor is consistently up against impossible threats, but never bats an eyelash. This collection also captures the time Thor was also Dr. Donald Blake when in human form. This further reminds readers of the god theme Thor used to carry much more heavily and it’s fun to see him change over and attempt to act like a lame–his words–and weak human.
Jane Foster fans will get a kick out of her inclusion in the earlier portion of this volume as she ends up putting herself in harm’s way only to be rescued by Thor. This leads to a brief moment where she becomes a God since she must be immortal to marry Thor and it ends in a somewhat comical and tragic way.
Odin sports some impressive head dresses.
It can’t be perfect can it?
The type of storytelling Lee and Kirby did was very episodic and somewhat repetitive which hinders the flow of the stories. There’s always an amazing new alien or threat to discover, but ultimately you know it’s going to be defeated because Thor clobbers it harder than even he can fathom. That gets rather repetitive. The characters aren’t the most intriguing either, but I don’t think anyone dives into these classic Thor tales expecting incredible character work!
This was also a time when Thor wasn’t really interacting with other heroes. In a way that’s a good thing–Lee and Kirby consistently focus on a slice of the cosmic universe–but it also makes these stories feel out of place amongst the rest of the Marvel universe.
Is It Good?
I recommend this collection to anyone who wants to sit back for a good two or three hours so as to explore the classic cosmic side of the Marvel universe. Kirby’s art is incredibly dynamic and Lee is and was a master at drawing you into amazing adventures that induce a sense of wonder.