Thor: Ages of Thunder
Matt Fraction, writer
Patrick Zircher, Khari Evans, artists
Marvel, April 2008
A while ago I linked to a video of crudely animated Thors performing Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and, in a post that got some attention here and there around the Internet, said basically that Thor comics should be at least that metal. If your Thor comic doesn’t evoke Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” there is something wrong with your Thor comic. Needless to say, there’s been a lot wrong with a lot of Thor comics by that standard.
In Thor: Ages of Thunder, writer Matt Fraction takes a big step in the right direction. The action primarily consists of Thor attacking and beheading enormous frost giants, then dragging their heads into Asgard as trophies; between these feats he has sex. With the exception of the two included stories’ introductory pages, everything is done in big two-page spreads. There are shots of Thor’s war hammer Mjolnir dripping with gore. The chorus of the one Zeppelin song that explicitly references Thor, “No Quarter,” is paraphrased. The coming attraction page for the book’s sequel reveals its title to be Thor: Reign of Blood.
But in much the same way that it doesn’t quite get the “No Quarter” chorus right and didn’t quite name its follow-up after the Slayer album, it doesn’t quite gel overall. Mostly this is because of the narration captions in virtually every panel. It’s not that they’re knowingly overwrought–that’s as it should be–it’s just that there are way too many of them and there are way too many words in each. A action comic about gods warring with giants and constructed solely of two-page spreads should flow effortlessly, but the constant jibber-jabber stops both the eye and the brain short when they should be on cruise control. Show us how awesome your Thor is, don’t tell us. Moreover, I just happened to have read a whole lot of mythology-based comics recently, whether we’re talking about short stories in Mome or minicomics by Eleanor Davis and Matt Wiegle or flashbacks in Incredible Hercules, and the captions make this one feel comparatively belabored.
There’s also a disparity between the art in the two stories. Patrick Zircher’s detail-driven art packs genuine power, and the witty coloring by June Chung (dig the red noses she gives everyone–after all, it’s chilly in the realm of the Norse gods!) puts it over the top; Khari Evans’s figures, particularly his women, seem awkwardly proportioned and inconsistently constructed by comparison. (Though his Thor itself is quite strong, and he’s one of the first artists I’ve come across who truly conveys that Thor flies because he throws his hammer so hard the thing pulls him up off the ground with it.)
That being said, it’s all enormously more appropriate to a character based on gods worshipped by the priests who gave us the term “berserkers” than a leisurely rumination on the cyclical nature of existence set within the rural farms and diners of Oklahoma. It’s also entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that a collection of stories of this type (which is surely in the offing given the announced second issue) will make for a satisfyingly loud read, and be priced more efficiently to boot. In much the same way that I’m comforted that most kids’ first exposure to the potentially awesome character of Iron Man will be from Jon Favreau’s movie rather than Mark Millar and J. Michael Straczynski’s comics, I take great solace in the hope that somewhere, some kid is reading this while listening to the copy of Black Sabbath Volume 4 he stole from his older brother rather than reading something that will lead him to form the opinion that “Thor is boring.”