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The Grief of Gods

Thor #3
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales

Some time ago, Straczynski tackled a national tragedy in a black-covered superhero book "…destined to be a classic." That was written in a time of reflexive grief, sincere and pain-ridden, but also ridiculously maudlin. So upon opening Thor #3 to see the Thunder God in New Orleans, it would be understandable if you closed it and walked away.

Understandable, but wrong. After a mixed bag of a first issue, this Thor revival has turned into a must-read, commenting on the Marvel Universe only slightly, but in two issues also containing more story bang for your buck than most other Marvel books.

Stracyznski takes on three major ideas with this issue, all of which interweave with delicate skill. Being dead for a few years does take some adjustment, but Thor looks around at what has become of Marvel and gets pissed.

The overall drive for this arc, and perhaps for this book, is for Thor to restore the lost gods of Asgard. Somehow sensing his kindred spirits - and for now, wisely, they are spirits inhabiting mortals - Thor begins his search in the Big Easy, which we all know has become anything but.

However, his sense of duty toward mankind outweighs his quest as the devastation tears at his soul. How, he asks, could responsible superbeings allow this to happen? Of course, the answer is because they are fictional, so it's always weird when a real-life event pokes into a comic book like this. But another answer, which JMS provides here, makes more sense in context - they're too busy fighting their petty fights.

No fight to Thor could have been more petty than the Civil War, so that comes into focus as well when Iron Man touches down in the devastation. Forget World War Hulk; Marvel might as well just have "beat the crap out of Iron Man" month. Here, however, it's absolutely justified and completely satisfying.

Without being too heavy-handed, this issue comments on sorrow and helplessness while still delivering on straight-forward superhero action. Let us be reminded that JMS is particularly good at things like subtext and poignancy when he's at the top of his game. With Thor, he's at the top of his game, the passion restored after a few months of killing time with Spider-Man (of course, it looks like it's back for his farewell to Spidey, too, with "One More Day").

Coipel and Morales, too, fire on all cylinders. Rapidly becoming a memorable art team, they portray a Thor that looks like more than just a superhero (especially contrasted against Tony Stark) - there is something just slightly beyond human in his appearance. Yet they convey that sense of desolation and sorrow that Straczynski wants to infuse into the story.

So I eat my words of a couple of months ago - or want to say that I was right. When I read the whole arc together in a trade paperback, I'm going to love everything this creative team did to tell the story. And I will be getting the trade paperback.

Hey, write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about it on the forums!

Derek McCaw

 

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