Book of the Month
What did the
Art by Chris Samnee
Colors by Matthew Wilson
Letters by Rus Wooton
Cover by Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson
Size: 216 pages
By late 2010 I had been reading comic books for over 30 years and I had been reading them on a weekly basis for 22 straight years. I had been covering the comic book industry for 9 years, professionally for 2, and I knew how the sausage was made. I was no longer capable of being completely and utterly surprised by a comic book.
Or so I thought.
But that was 2010. That was before Thor: The Mighty Avenger.
Thor, The Mighty Avenger was an all-ages series from Marvel Comics. Written by Roger Langridge with art by Chris Samnee and colors by Matthew Wilson, it debuted in July 2010 to little-to-no fanfare. Created, no doubt, to capitalize on the big Marvel Studios release, Thor, that hit theaters in 2011, it found itself relegated to the kids comics ghetto in most comic books stores—the shop in Brooklyn that I frequented at the time was, and still is, super progressive and it even racked it there—and it went unnoticed by most “serious” comic book readers.
I can’t remember why exactly I originally picked up Thor: The Mighty Avenger. I am pretty sure it was because Chris Samnee was on art and I love his work on The Mighty the year before. (I just now see the connection between the two titles.) Or it could have been that I missed the first issue and Paul Montgomery’s positive notices on the book lead me to go back to the store to grab it. No matter how it happened, I picked up the book and immediately fell in love just as I fell in love all over again while reading Thor: The Mighty Avenger – Complete Collection, the iFanboy Book of the Month for March 2013.
When Marvel originally collected this series in two small digest sized trades, fans grumbled but this new collection lives up to its title, it’s the most complete collection that you’re likely to ever get for this series. It’s full-sized and contains all 8 issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger as well as Marvel’s 2011 Free Comic Book Day issue which featured a team-up between Thor and Captain America (both of whom had films that summer). It also contains a few pages of character designs and notes which are as delightful as anything found in the story pages (Jane Foster’s look is based on Party Down’s Lizzy Caplan rather than the film’s Natalie Portman).
Fans of the film will find the general premise familiar: Thor finds himself banished by his father Odin to Midgard in order to learn a little humility. On Earth, Thor is very much a fish out-of-water who quickly comes to love his new home and its people mostly because he sees it all through the eyes of the comely and newly appointed head of the Nordic department at the Bergen War Memorial Museum, Jane Foster.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger is a lot of things. It’s a superhero story—there are plenty of things and creatures and villains for Thor to hit with his fists and his trusty hammer, Mjolnir . It’s a love story—Thor and Jane’s tentative romance is one of the most heart-warming in recent comics history. It’s a team-up book—almost every issue finds Thor meeting someone new like Captain Britain, Ant-Man and Wasp, Iron Man, or Namor. It’s a comedy—Thor’s (mis)adventures are laugh out loud funny. It’s an all-ages book—there’s nothing that happens that so adult as to be inappropriate for kids but nothing so kiddie as to be inappropriate for adults.
One of the most impressive things about what the creative team, led by writer Roger Langridge, has done is take all of the elements listed above and weave them together into one of the best and most entertaining comic books in recent memory. One finds himself thinking as he read this book that if a lot more superhero comics were written and drawn this way that there would be a lot more people reading them comics. And one of the reasons for that is the tone. Langridge couches the entire story in a tone very similar to that of Batman: The Animated Series. It feels modern and the story is clearly in a contemporary setting, but from Tony Stark’s awesome Howard Hughes mustache and giant clunky Iron Man armor to the way that the superheroes are all can-do do-gooders, there are enough throwback and classic elements as to recall the past, in this case the 1960s. Thor: The Mighty Avenger walks that line that seems to have become increasingly finer these days but used to be more common in comic books in that it features a story and storytelling that doesn’t talk down to kids while remaining sophisticated enough for adults.
And it’s just a whole hell of a lot of fun. From a night out drinking with the Warriors Three that ends up in first a brawl and then more drinking with Captain Britain to Thor’s first encounter with giant robots, I couldn’t get enough of this Thor’s adventures. The best thing I can say about Thor: The Mighty Avenger is that it’s fun in a way that most superhero comic books aren’t anymore.
When Thor: The Mighty Avenger first came out in 2010, Chris Samnee was someone that was definitely on our radar at iFanboy but he hadn’t yet achieved wide acclaim among the general comic book audience. Now, he’s the much loved artist of the hit book Daredevil at Marvel Comics while still managing to squeeze in interesting side projects like IDW Publishing’s The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom and the upcoming story in the Adventures of Superman anthology at DC Comics. While he has certainly become a better and more confident storyteller in the intervening years, his wonderfully expressive art style is on full display here. Colored wonderfully by Matthew Wilson, this one of the best looking books around. Whether it’s a full page shot of Thor decimating a giant robot with a swing of his hammer or a small scene of Thor and Jane hanging out in her apartment dancing awkwardly around their mutual attraction, Thor: The Mighty Avenger features the wonderfully lush and detailed pages that Samnee is now famous for.
The tragedy of Thor: The Mighty Avenger is that it’s unfinished. What was originally intended to be a 12 issue story only made it to 8 and we’ll never know which other heroes Thor was meant to team-up with, which other villains were set to feel the power of Mjolnir, and we’ll never know for sure just who the villainous Mr. K was (I’m still holding out hope that it’s Kermit the Frog). But I am not here to lament, I am here to celebrate and to raise a glass (of mead, mayhap) to one of my favorite books of the last few years, and possibly of all-time. It’s the way that Thor would want it—let us not cry for Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Let us tell tales and laugh and sing songs in praise of its gloriously short life that, much like the flash from a lightning bolt called down from Mjolnir itself, shone brightly and then suddenly vanished.
Jason Aaron gave me a glass of mead at MorrisonCon. It was sweeter than I expected.