With so many big names and big events plastered across the shelves of your LCS, sometimes great comics get left behind – buried in longboxes until someone comes along to find these Hidden Gems.
Written by Roger Langridge
Art by Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Published by Marvel Comics
Like all major comic companies nowadays, Marvel seems fixated on bringing new people into the habit of comic-buying and reading, and yet some of their editorial decisions lately seem oddly counterproductive to this goal. Flooding the market with double-shipping titles, “Point One” issues, and endless tie-ins and crossovers to company-wide events do not seem like the most inviting environment to potential newcomers to the world of comics. If they truly wanted to capitalize on those who are curious about trying their books, they should have spent more time and money promoting titles that are more or less free of the convoluted continuity of the majority of the Marvel Universe. One of the best books that fit this bill was the unfairly-cancelled Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Debuting shortly before the Thor movie premiered in theaters, this book reintroduced the Asgardian God of Thunder to readers in a fresh, lighthearted vein that was perfect for new readers but at the same time was smart and entertaining enough to appeal to longtime Thor fans. It could have developed into a wonderful primer to people who liked the movie and wanted to read more about him, but sadly Marvel didn’t have the confidence to stick with the book.
The first of two trade collections of Thor: The Mighty Avenger reprints the first four monthly issues of the comic as well as the character’s first two appearances in Journey Into Mystery from back in 1962. The main storyline is similar in many ways to the Thor film in that the son of Odin finds himself stranded on Midgard (Earth to us mere mortals), only in the comic, it’s for a reason that he cannot remember. His search for his trusty hammer Mjolnir leads him directly to a museum in Bergen, Oklahoma and its newly-appointed curator Jane Foster, who soon finds out that this oddly-dressed stranger truly is the Thor of Norse myth. Jane soon lets Thor stay at her apartment while he tries to recollect just how he wound up banished from his home. His attempts to learn the truth are frequently interrupted by visions of his wicked brother Loki, encounters with the powerful supervillain Mister Hyde and fellow heroes Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Captain Britain (all of whom he meets for the first time in this particular universe), and a visit from his comrades from Asgard, The Warriors Three. At the end of the first volume, Thor still has not found out the true reason for his banishment but is beginning to warm up to his new home and his budding relationship with Jane.
Everything in these first four issues helps to create a fun and satisfying reading experience. Roger Langridge’s writing wisely avoids the Elizabethan-style prose of earlier Thor stories and manages to balance real-world and otherwordly aspects even better than the movie did. Thor’s acclimation to the mortal world might be a little quick for some reader’s tastes, but Langridge does take advantage of Thor’s inexperience with the ways of Earth from time to time, such as in a hilarious scene near the end of the trade where Thor shares an awkward moment with an English barmaid while enjoying a night out with The Warriors Three. Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson’s art perfectly matches Langridge’s light script, especially during the battle scenes with Hyde and the aforementioned heroes, who of course come to blows over silly misunderstandings. Their art is vaguely reminiscent of the old-school Marvel style but maintains a modern look at the same time. His Thor looks less like the impossibly brawny Thunder God of the 616 books and more like a brash young kid who realizes that he is in over his head.
Most longtime Marvel readers, myself included, never truly saw Thor as a particularly sympathetic or relateable character in the 616. He was always the strong, cocky guy who could be counted on when things got a little too hairy for Cap, Iron Man, and the other mortals on the Avengers. Thor: The Mighty Avenger, however, gives us a completely sympathetic protagonist who starts out on Earth and has to learn how to get by in an unfamiliar territory. He more than likely was banished by Odin to learn humility, but by not immediately showing us what exactly he did to earn such punishment, Langridge is making it easier for readers to identify with him so that, when his past actions are revealed (hopefully in the second volume, which is the only other one that exists in the series), we can see how much progress he’s made since then. While short on action, the character development, dialogue, and art make Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Volume 1 a wonderful introduction to the character that manages to give longtime fans even more of a reason to love Thor. Perhaps if enough fans pick up the trades, Marvel might be influenced to give this book another chance, but until then, we can all enjoy the issues that exist and take comfort in the fact that Marvel does focus on quality over hype from time to time, if only briefly.
4.5 out of 5 Bukkehorn Blasts.