The wayward God of Thunder returns to form in Thor Vol. 1: God of Thunder Reborn. Jason Aaron crafts two distinct narratives that are cohesive in their plot, but worlds apart in tone and direction. Covering the first six issues of Thor’s latest run, I’m amazed at how Jason Aaron can shift gears tonally, approaching each story as if a new writer had taken the helm. The God of Thunder story arc re-introduces fans to the one true Thor while presenting his new status quo. The Gods story returns to the distant future where All-Father Thor has restored Earth from the ashes, but several familiar faces are against humanity’s newly renewed state.
God of Thunder Reborn is an unbridled love letter to Thor’s past, gathering together some of the Thunderer’s most significant allies and enemies, but it also serves as a reunion between the fans and Thor himself. Malekith, The Dark Elf King, holds dear to his machinations of conquering all nine realms. The Rainbow Bridge is shattered, barring travel amongst the realms. Jane Foster lives, but her battle with cancer persists. If that weren’t enough, Asgardia has been torn asunder, and with it, the enchanted items in Odin’s Weapons vault have been cast across the nine realms. We catch up with Thor in the middle of his quest to acquire the enchantments, preventing the war from descending further into chaos.
Audiences of the Marvel Universe should be delighted to read the first arc, encompassing four issues. Rather than attempt to finish such a significant arc in one fell swoop, writer Jason Aaron creates the opening chapter of what is undoubtedly the beginning of a grander event; Marvel’s recently announced War of Realms. The story here serves two primary purposes, the first of which is to bring audiences up to speed regarding Thor’s world, as well as the mythological lands, creatures, and gods that encompass it. Secondly, the story can be likened to one battle on a warfront, focusing on Niffleheim, the cold dark realm of Hel. However, the inevitable War at large still looms on the horizon.
Thor’s journey through the land of the dead has the God of Thunder meeting a veritable who’s who of Norse Mythology and the Marvel universe. Juggernaut, Namor, Hela, Karnilla, Baldur, and Loki are only a few names to cross Thor’s path; and believe me when I say I’ve left a few surprises for the fans to enjoy. Thor begrudgingly forms a union with Loki, who seeks his own gains (this is Loki after all). The love/hate relationship among the brothers is in full swing as they venture to Hel. It is here they are greeted by Baldur, the current ruler of Hel whose reign is being undermined by Sindr, daughter or Surtur. Thor must gather his troops to face a growing horde of unliving monstrosities.
It would be hard to deny the whimsical feel the writer and contributing artist Mike Del Mundo have taken here. It seems apparent to consider that Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok had some influence on the creator’s approach. Witty one-liners are commonplace, Hel is filled with Monster Trucks and Speed bikes, a dinosaur is used as a mount for a god, and an undead wedding is well within bounds. Nothing feels too absurd for this tale. It was quite a gamble taking this new direction, but the wager certainly pays off. The wedding as mentioned above, in particular, makes a fascinating turn.
Del Mundo’s art also captures the humorous, yet adventurous tone. Sound effects are significant and looming, even being used to frame Thor’s eyes, exuding a sense of urgency. Little stars accompany punches with smiley faces (literally). The characters are rendered in a way that blends realistic proportions with a slight cartoonish layer. In most cases, this method would fail, but considering the style Aaron and Del Mundo were shooting for, it blends in almost seamlessly. My only gripe would be that the art lacks consistency. Some panels are highly detailed, yet another page lacks the depth from the previous page.
Thor’s first-person narration accompanies the story. With the bevy of characters popping in and out of frame multiple narrative perspectives would be convoluted. The choice to adhere to Thor’s inner monologue works best. The audience is privy to Thor’s every thought, for better or worse. The doubts of his worthiness, his relationships with his fellow gods, and mustering up courage in battle; all acting as a window to service the story and allow readers insight to a character that generally exudes bravado. Overall, the four issues are an entertaining ride, think the Fast and the Furious with Norse Gods.
Chapters five and six can easily be categorized as modern-day folklore. If someone had told me that the issue was initially included in Bullfinch’s Mythology, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. The humorous tone, the first-person narration, and the massive cast of characters give way to a universal tale of gods and men. Despite the scale of the narrative, the story draws its attention to three main characters: All-Father Thor, Old Man Phoenix, and Doom.
Eons after the earth are but a distant memory Thor has returned the world to the cosmos. He is worshipped by humanity for his apparent benevolence, but not all is what it seems. Audiences are introduced to the modern-day Thor and Wolverine sharing a drink at a local pub. The relationship is clear, a battle-hardened friendship amongst two Avengers. The flashback gives Aaron the ability to direct the emotional weight of the narrative. What was once a bond amongst allies vs. a cosmic level battle between gods.
Wolverine has lived for centuries as the host of the Phoenix force. Surprisingly, the “best there is at what he does” hates the return of Earth. The thought process for his ire can only come from centuries of witnessing harrowing events, bringing our world to life only dooms it more destruction. Phoenix’s words ring true; earth’s newfound existence draws the attention of Doom, now powered by the Star brand, the Iron Fist, the sorcery of Dr. Strange, and the Spirit of Vengeance. Doom is slighted by humanity’s existence, leaving Phoenix and Thor to wrest civilization from Dooms persecution. The ensuing battle spans ages in a struggle that feels immense not just because of the action on the page, but the omniscient third-person narration that accompanies it. Once again, Jason Aarons pulls all the tools from his proverbial writer’s toolbox to embed gravitas to every page.
If the most significant forces in the Marvel Universe weren’t enough, little interludes of a distant story are sprinkled across the issue. Ego the living planet is now a necromantic nightmare, less of a planet and more of an undead world meandering through the cosmos. What could threaten ego? A worm with a silver tongue. Suffice to say there is more here than what’s on the surface, but the classic fabled turn of events does not disappoint.
For most writers shifting gears is an arduous process. The result tends to fail more than it succeeds. However, Jason Aaron manages to tell completely different stories that both cater to the fanbase: an over the top action epic across the nine realms, and a new chapter in mythology worthy of Aesop himself. By no means is this is a perfect book, but Thor: God of Thunder #1 is the reintroduction to Odinson that fans need.