Thursday, September 13, 2007

Occasional Reviews: Thor, Working-Class God

Thor #1-3: "Working Class God"

With Straczynski's "Thor" we might have our first Red State major superhero. But he is of the post-Katrina Red State -- disaffected, dejected, and mistrustful of Authority (i.e. G.W. & Tony Stark).

But first let's discuss the proper way to read the new "Thor" -- in chunks.

The first time I read issue #1, I pretty much wrote off the series as vacuous, self-indulgent pap.

It took Chris from Wild Pig Comics in New Jersey to convince me to give the title another chance -- and throwing in a free issue as part of the bargain.

So I waited to collect #1-3 and read it as a section of a graphic novel, rather than judge each issue separately. The effect was stunning.

Call me a "Marvel Zombie" or fangirl all you want -- call me naive.

But I really thought this book was a masterpiece.

Of course, part of the impressiveness is Olivier Coipel's art.

Holy God, this guy is talented.

Coipel's Thor is at once massive and possessing a delicacy of soul. And when his thunder god grips Iron Man by the neck, he captures the sheer terror of Tony Stark like no other artist has done in the several versions of the post-Civil War "Confrontation Scene."

Thor's sense of betrayal by Tony Stark and the U.S. government is key to understanding this new series; it is a sense of betrayal that echoes hauntingly through the rest of the book -- in flood-ravaged New Orleans, in the sleepy God-fearing town in Oklahoma that Donald Blake decides to settle in.

Thor is the living embodiment of the frustrated Mid-Westerner, the disenfranchised Southerner -- he appeals so much to fans exactly because Straczynski has remade the character as the champion of the working-class hero.

He is an Aryan god who has built his fortress in the middle of the Bible Belt, a fortress under scrutiny and possible danger by the government and populated by down-on-their luck lower-middle-class Red Staters, Red Staters who have woken up from the dream/nightmare of the last seven years to ask:

"...where were the heroes?"

As if by fate, my boyfriend changes the channel and I'm faced with G.W. & another presidential address.

"...tonight our moral & strategic imperatives won."

"...our strategy is working."

"...we kept the pressure on the terrorists."

He's bringing some of the troops home.

G.W. looks tired. Tony Stark is humiliated and forced to limp home with his offline armor.

And somewhere in Oklahoma is the New Kingdom...



  1. sold! i will take half a dozen.

  2. I think the problem is that they're selling too few pages at a time. If the team is going for Katsuhiro Otomo-style pacing, I'd rather do one of the following: package it with something else; or give people more pages per issue AND more pages per dollar.

    The fact that they're able to get away with this at all is because Coipel is so good, AND new to most readers. He's not old hat yet.

  3. No one I know cares about it but me; your analysis is interesting. Though, I still would like to see Tony Stark ACTUALLY WIN A FIGHT.

  4. Well, despite losing against the Hulk, he still put up a good fight against him before his smackdown.

    Against Thor, though? Well, let's just say a guy in a metal suit vs. a Norse God goes into Robot Chicken's category of "World's Most One-Sided Fights."

    Then again, Tony Stark pisses me off like never before so I enjoy every one of his beatdowns.

  5. Sounds like a national socialist black metal song.

  6. That art is indeed amazing, but after the ever-so-precious 9/11 issue of Amazing Spider-man, I'm never again putting money down for Straczynski to have some everyman character yell at a super hero for not stopping a real world disaster.

    But yeah, that Coipel guy sure can draw.

  7. This book continues to blow me away. #3 had so much going for it on so many levels, between social commentary, Thor's hunt for the lost gods, and his inevitable confrontation with Iron Man. The overall pacing of the series may be slow, but then it lends itself to being more of a sweeping saga. A very excellent book.

  8. See, I think Tony Starks decisions make him more interesting as a character; I'm more inclined to care about the guy than before.

    As to the guilt-trip-for-not-intervening-in-the-real-world, I normally tend to agree; in this case, though, I'm more flexible. Given that Marvel has sold Civil War as an allegoy & commentary on modern events, & the failure of "the system" (regardless of where you lay blame) in regards to New Orleans, I'm a lot more open to it than I was to a crying Doctor Doom.

  9. You're the first commenter that's gotten me interested in the book -- despite my love of Copiel's art. I'll have to think about getting the trade when it comes out.

  10. I've always rather liked Coipel's art, but had a vague feeling of "bleh" to a lot of it that I couldn't quite identify. Now I realize that it was the coloring, because his stuff looks a hell of a lot better with Laura Martin on the job.

    (For full disclosure I should note that I'm the world's biggest LM fanboy, and she's the sole reason I made it past that first issue. Although Iron Man getting pwned all over the place made me very much look forward to #3, and it didn't disappoint.)

  11. I splurged on two of the latest THOR masterworks (when Kirby & Lee started to sizzle) and was AMAZED at how incredibly creative and entertaining they were. And this is from a 30+ years Marvel/comix fan.

    Of course, the new run is light years away from that material (there is always GODLAND for as pop art MU riff) but I have to say I am impressed thus far. The Thor in the Heartland approach, which I was skeptical about, has been working nicely and I find myself liking Dob Blake for the first time ever (he always seemed like Thor's suit: stuffy but you have to put it on sometimes).

    JMS managed an impressive run on Supreme Power before it was rebooted and he seemed to loose interest, so I'm expecting a great year or two of THOR from him.

  12. i think Thor is amazing and one of the best books put out by Marvel.

    And good God is Coipel talented!

  13. I loved Thor's comment about how he was holding back before.

    Anyway, I totally agree. I've been on the fence about this new Thor series, buying it just because I've always loved the character. But this issue really turned the corner for me.

  14. This was one of the finest comic book ass-kickings I've seen in a long time. I'm not tired of people hating on Tony yet. If Marvel put out a collection of "kicking Tony's ass after Civil War" where they JUST collected the pages in which they beat the crap out of him, I'd buy it. Oh yes.
    That said, on a less superficial level, the pacing and depth of this book is beautiful. Though, as a lad who grew up on the Kansan border of Oklahoma (i.e., right around where Thor has rebuilt Asguard), I'll be interested to see what he does with that part of the world. I've long wished Marvel would get out of NYC a little more...
    but can you write comic book stories in the land of one-story buildings? I guess we'll see. I hope he is our new red-state superhero. Interesting way to put it. Can JMS do it? I'd like to see it.
    & Who's pumped to see the Warriors Three next month? My hand's up.

  15. Yeah, see, no.

    I'll echo what another reply said, and amplify it - Straczynski should be banned from ever trying to address "real world" issues in anything that he writes, because his storytelling is already so prone to insufferably sanctimonious oversimplification that, even when he expresses a point of view that I agree with, he does it in such an insultingly condescending fashion that I actually want to disagree with him.

    As proof, I offer the Amazing Spider-Man 9/11 issue, which featured beautiful art by John Romita Jr., which was only marred by some of the most horrendous dialogue and captions ever to appear in any comic book.

    Straczynski's writing has gone downhill ever since his glory days on He-Man and Ghostbusters. Yes, he was writing what amounted to half-hour-long kids' toy commercials, but at least he could write about characters back then, rather than merely using characters as springboards for (a) college freshman-level political posturing, (b) musings on mythology that run about as deep as someone who's just started reading Sandman, (c) totally unnecessary retcons and (d) stupidly nonsensical crossover plots.

    With rare and notable exceptions, Straczynski Is Made Of Fail.