The Thor Report

A couple of months back, I wrote a piece about Marvel writer J. Michael Straczynski, and it generated a bit of a response. My basic premise, for those who don’t feel like going back, was that he always starts out great, and then the story gets confused, and it ends up being not so good.

At the same time, it might be known that I have been a fan of the character Thor for quite some time. However, when Straczynski was announced as the writer, I decided that I wasn’t into that, and didn’t read it. Many said this was a mistake. I countered that he wasn’t going to use Thorspeak, and therefore, it’s no Thor I know. Yet one user went the extra mile, and threw down the hammer as it were. Six Gun went and sent me a copy of the first collection, and dared me not to like it. Not being one to back down from a challenge, or free Marvel Premiere Edition Hardcovers, I gladly accepted the book, and made with the reading. Now, it’s been a while, and I’ve had time to gather my thoughts on the book, and can offer an honest review.

J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor is pretty good. It’s not amazing, but it’s a far cry from offensive, and there are certainly worse things out there.

Here’s the basic set up. Thor’s been dead for a while. I honestly don’t remember how, because I obviously wasn’t reading it at the time, and didn’t even know it happened. I do remember that Tony Stark and Reed Richards made a clone of Thor, and things didn’t go so well for Goliath during Civil War. In this new volume, Thor is back, and he’s sharing a body with Dr. Donald Blake, and ends up in the middle of the American heartland, with the local diners, and Chevy pickups with gun racks. Thor then decides to rebuild Asgard in a giant field outside of town, and starts discovering his fellow Norse gods living in the bodies of unsuspecting folk, much like in Neil Gaiman’s recent Eternals series. It also turns out that Loki is now a woman.

Let me start with the things that I like. First and foremost, I’m a big fan of the costume redesign. It’s appropriate, refers to the original costume, but takes it in an exciting new direction. For the most part, I’m a fan of Olivier Coipel’s art in this series in general. He does very nice panel layouts, and things are big or small when they need to be. It’s very balanced. Since they go for so many big panels, the whole book reads rather fast though, which can be a strength or a weakness depending on your take. I think it worked out just fine for me. One thing I really enjoy about this book is the setting. I think putting a character like Thor in the middle of nowhere America is a really fun idea. Since the people who live there are so down to earth, the contrast with Thor and the other Asgardians is a good time. I would say that my favorite scene was a town meeting where the Asgardians showed up and interacted. There are some really nice scenes in the local diner where the townspeople are talking about the new developments that are also pretty interesting. Visually, any time the gods are shown with regular mortal things, like a mailbox, it’s always good stuff. The size of godhood as compared to small town America makes for compelling stories to be sure. All matters of scope and size, both physical and conceptually seem to be the strongest parts of the world they’ve set up for our returned thunder god.

I was also impressed by the characterization of Thor. You wouldn’t think that a character like him could undergo much development, but as things have progressed in his immortal life, he’s gone from bombastic blowhard to more a more thoughtful character of responsibility. Likewise, the scenes with Donald Blake are also very good, mostly because of all the stuff going on in his head that isn’t being said. Doing that competently on a comic book page is no mean feat.

The parts I didn’t like weren’t so specific to be honest. Straczynski has a history of weaving the problems of the real world into his comics, and for whatever reason, that usually ends up bugging me. I get an air of just a bit too much self-importance from comics like these. Is there really any need to send Thor to flood ravaged New Orleans, where angry victims can shout “where were you?!” What is that supposed to represent? Is Thor a metaphor for the government? Is there any message there, other than taking every natural and manmade disaster and thinking, “what would have happened had there been superheroes?” Maybe it was interesting the first few times it was done, but at this point, I just don’t see the need. Is there a need to educate the comic reading public that it actually was awful in New Orleans, and is Thor #3 the best place to do that? I really have no problem putting the real world and some political issues into the comic book world, and watching what happens, but I feel like this is something Straczinski does too often to add a gravitas to his writing that isn’t really there. If there was ever a book which doesn’t need to reflect the reality of the world, Thor might be it. Just because you mention New Orleans with reverence doesn’t make your book important. Instead of important, focus on making the book good.

New Orleans does lead to a fun scene with Tony Stark, where Thor holds him to account for the things done in Civil War, most notably the clone. Yet, at the end of the day, it’s just another of the umpteen different characterizations of Tony Stark that took place around Civil War, and they were all so inconsistent, I don’t know what to think of Tony Stark, but I do know that I don’t like him being written as a bad guy. He’s not a bad guy. He’s a very good guy, yet I think Marvel overdid his noble vilification in the pursuit of Civil War, and we’re still trying to shake it now.

Finally we’re brought to my initial complaint of most of Straczynski’s work. That is, it usually flies off the rails at some point. As far as I know, this series hasn’t done so yet, and perhaps the writer has learned from some of his past spinouts. If anything, it’s moving too slowly, which would indicate that a series-ruining paradigm shift is not immediately over the horizon. I’m not sure what the overall plan is, because right now, they’re just opening and staffing the office, which is, in this case, Asgard. So far, it’s been more of a character piece than anything, which is fun, and unique for Thor. But before too long, I think we’re going to need to see some big Thunder God action. I’d also like to see Thor get back into the greater Marvel Universe. They’re wisely holding on that until this Secret Invasion thing goes away, which I think is a good choice, because I’d like to seem him re-enter the world with a clean slate. To be fair, the series has thus far shown little indication of taking a dive, but sometimes it takes years. As I’ve said previously, I don’t trust J. Michael Straczynski, and that’s not going to change.

Overall, it was a fun read. The concepts and set up is fun and interesting, and is a departure from Thor of the past. The art is certainly a strong suit, and I suppose that if you’re going to have delusions of grandeur in your comic books, a book about a god who walks among us is probably a good place to do it. I haven’t been reading Thor regularly, because while I enjoyed this book well enough, it isn’t yet compelling enough to make me salivate to find out what happens next. That low key nature of the book is interesting, but ultimately detrimental, because it just doesn’t feel like a “must read” situation.

Finally, the most important topic of Thorspeak must be addressed. Saying there is none is a bit wrong. It’s not overly stylized bad faux Shakespearean dialog coming out of Thor’s mouth, but it’s also (mercifully) not local mall slang. At no time does Thor refer to Volstagg as “dawg” and I think we can all be thankful for that.



  1. This is probably one of the books I look forward to the most each month.  I can’t get enough of this, and not just because my dog is named Thor.  Mostly I just love the interactions between the Gods and the mortals.  It is just plain fun to see people first react to and then accept the Gods as if its no big deal to have a huge mountain/stronghold floating above your cornfield.

    Highly recommended and if you like this even a little you really should check out Fractions’ one and done stories…


  2. I read Thor Dissasembled and I’m still not sure what happened? Thick ass Thor-speak throughout that arc. All I can say is Ragnarok and Beta Ray Bill. It’s up to you from there.  

  3. Totally agree with mistersizzle on the Fraction One Shots.  Those have been a straight up blast!  I’ve been reading this run of thor since it started.  Luckily my friend has been buying it so i haven’t had to drop a single dollar on it. 

    So far the only part of the book I’m really enjoying is when the gods interact with the Normal Folk.  Otherwise I feel a bit confused with the ongoing story involving Loki and his latest betrayal.  I actually think I missed an issue though, which could maybe explain this.  

     Josh, you’re totally right about the costume redesign.  Its great. I, like you, am also worried about where this story is going and how long it will take to crash and burn.  I just feel it coming.  This has me worried.

  4. Good ol’ JMS. 

    Can anybody give me a weather report on "The Twelve"? That first issue was a good’un, but I thought I’d wait and add that one to my Stack after I heard from people 8 issues down the line.

    I bought Thor #3 when Iron Man was doing his Berating World Tour, when he would pop up from book to book like Whack-a-mole so everyone could have a turn yelling at him. I liked it so much I went back and bought several of the other issues, but as Josh says there was just no fire burning in me to find out which American god is going to get awakened next and move to Oklahoma. 

  5. @Jimski — The Twelve has actually maintained rather nicely. I’m still impressed by it. But it also depends what you want out of the comic. It’s very much a bunch of character vignettes plugged into a REALLY bare plot with this feeling that it’s still building toward a big climax. I suspect that some people will feel like "nothing’s happening" in the book, but each issue is a really interesting look at the various characters. So, I’d give it a solid "B+" thus far.

  6. Did I push you into this Josh? Cause I emailed you a couple of weeks back and you said you didnt want to read Thor. I’m gald you have though.

    Thor has been one, of many, Marvel titles that have been refreshed in todays world. JMS has been very hit or miss but this title has been 99.9% perfect since this series started. His take on Thor, the other gods, and the local farming people are all top-notch. Plus how can you not like Coipel’s art? This also has one of my all time favorite moments, which is the Thor beat down on Iron Man. Sure a lot of people like it, but JMS just did a great job to sum up Thor’s anger and clearly shows how strong of a character he is.

    Keep picking it up, I’m sure another trade is coming out soon, and I heard we got a good Loki and Thor vs Iron Man fights coming up.

  7. Thor’s never done it for me.  It’s weird cuz I can read a good Superman story all day long but even the best Thor one’s kind of leave me bored or cross-eyed from the language getting slaughtered.  I did read some of this new run and have to agree that it is I like the feel better than the older stories, and the Thor-speak is tamed, but still the book leaves me a little underwhelmed.   

  8. I’m enjoying it as well, but more for the Coipel pencilwork. Seeing as to how Jurgens tossed Thor into the body of that EMT Jake Somethingorother back in the 1990s, the conceit of human-bonding has run its course for me, but whatever. No one ever listens to me.

  9. I’ve never read Thor before in my life before this run & JMS is the only reason I picked it up. So, for every JMS hater out there, maybe there is a fan like me who thinks this dude is one of the best writers around … or else he wouldn’t get so much work. I read everything he writes & most of it is awesome, including this Thor run. He’s made me care about a character & enjoy a story about characters I have had no prior interest of knowledge in.

    Seems like it’s "cool" to hate JMS, so now I admit I’m a JMS fan, I guess this means I get beat up on a daily basis by the iFanbase & have my comic money stolen. You bullies.

  10. I’m boycotting THOR until they get a new writer and until full-on Thorspeak returns!

  11. It should be said that most people don’t dislike JMS, and to think so would be a mistake.  The 3 of us have a distaste for him.  You had to be around for Rising Stars to really feel that I think. 

    The collective opinions of Josh, Ron, and Conor are not necessarily representative of the greater community on this issue.   The dude was on Amazing Spider-Man for years, so he must have been doing something right.  Not sure what that was, cuz I wouldn’t touch the book with gloves on, but someone bought it.  For some reason.

  12. I was unsure of this title when it first started.  Decided to give it a try and I think it has been great.  And Josh you should also try the Matt Fraction one shots for some bad ass Thor.   

  13. I’ve read at least the first Fraction Thor special.  It was alright…

  14. I read the first trade of this and enjoyed it alot but I still just enjoy Thor in teams books or cameos simliar to my feeling of Hulk.  Full on Thor speak is annoying Conor.

  15. Maybe I’m a biased source. But man Josh. That was an amazing article. Seriously, it’s tough to find really good (written) comic book reviews online and this one really towered above all of the rest. You aproached the subject completely without bias and by the end we had a well-presented argument that didn’t leave any questions as to how you really felt about the book. 

    I know it sounds like I’m gushing sycophantic. But I really enjoyed this article immensely.

  16. I thought Rising Stars was awesome, even though delays killed it a bit, and the ending wasn’t as strong as it started. If you guys opinion of him is based on the delays/ending of that book, that’s surprising to me.

    His Amazing run was … amazing, and I haven’t read an issue of the book since he left it. Magical divorce is too silly for me to swallow, but newly single Peter Parker has made a lot of other Spider-Man fans happy I guess.

  17. @WadeWilson – I think we’re just gonna have to be be different.  I’ve written a lot about why I’m not a JMS fan.  There’s examples in the above article, and a link to a whole piece I wrote.  I was being a bit flippant about Rising Stars, but it certainly started there.  He totally lost me on Amazing, and indeed, people are split on the topic, since some really dug it, and others didn’t.

    @SixGun – Thanks very much.  You made that happen, so I guess I owe you.  I always feel like reviews on books I’m more or less ambivalent about are the most difficult, and therefore, are less interesting to read.  It’s easy to love or hate a book, but to be in the middle, that’s a bit tough.  Anyway, I appreciate the praise.

  18. @Josh – I will read your JMS article, but I’m not gonna defend him, everyone has different tastes in writers/artists. Different strokes for different folks and all of that.

  19. Now… read Matt Fraction’s one shots.

  20. @lantern4life – Not for me, it’s not.

  21. I’ve never been a Thor fan, personally. He can be a fun character to read, but I’ve always hated the idea of him as a superhero.

    I bought the first three issues of this, basically to see the Iron Man confrontation. The story itself just isn’t that good. 

    I liked JMS’ Spider-Man. I am really digging The Twelve. This, however, is not for me.


  22. I can’t believe the norse gods have advanced as far as they have without a sewer system … I bet they don’t even have aqueducts yet.

    I rate this Thor series as the second best thing Marvel are producing at the moment behind the New Avengers. .. and I don’t mind thorspeak either.


  23. A+ article. wonder how stracznski is going to ruin thor.

  24. Verily, methinks an improvement on yon article wouldst have been to render it wholly in the proud manner of speech of those who dwell o’er the Rainbow Bridge.  Alas, the mortal scribblings are but meaningless patter.

  25. I’m a fun of JMS, I’ll admit. I think it’s the fact that I like that he writes character dramas. Spider-man was hit and miss for me, but the man did Babylon 5, which was awesome. But I wasn’t originally going to pick up thor, mainly because the character never held much of an interest for me (Beyond Adventures in babysitting). And I just didn’t want to start another series, but the first issue was on discount, so i decided to give it a try. And I’m glad I did, for me, Thor is one of my favorite reading experiences every bi-month. I wouldn’t call myself a thor fan, but I’m a fan of this book.

     Now if we can get one of the iFanboys to read Silver Surfer Reqieum, because that was amazing IMO. It’s only four issues, so it doesn’t have the chance to go off the railes as it were. 

  26. Truly, Josh, art thou trying to provoke my wrath? I am Thoir´s greatest villain, the eternal thorn in my half-step-brother´s side, and all I get ïn this entire script is "It also turns out that Loki is now a woman." You doth think too little of Loki. I am the master of lies, the conceiver of all deceits, and I have gone to great lengths to inform you of my true nature. You have been warned and you have not heeded those warnings. You, ifanboy, shall forevermore remember the wrath of Loki.

    Also, if anyone knowest a good waxer, coulds´t thou tell me about it, because I haven´t quite worked out the whole body hair issue. Loki gives you his thanks.

  27. I dropped this title after three issues.  Not the the Thor I like.  Give me Thorspeak and Ron Frenz doing his best Kirby and I’ll start buying it again.

  28. I really never cared for Thor for all the reasons people usually give for Superman.  I find him overpowered (especially after Odin died) and lacking in any identifiable character aspects that I enjoy.  Couple that with my ambivelance about JMS, and I just didn’t care when the book came out.  That being said, I do think this book is well written and well drawn from what I’ve seen.  The big issue I have was with the Iron Man issue.  Like Josh (probably more so), I don’t like Iron Man being written as a bad guy and of all the writers at Marvel, I think JMS writes Tony the most villianous.  On top of that, I feel like JMS doesn’t care to look up what Tony can actually do (the armor’s capabilities, Extremis, etc) because I saw the whole fight going, "Where’s Tony’s nuclear-bomb-withstanding force field? Why isn’t the armor regenerating?  Why isn’t Tony calling for a ride home via Extremis instead of walking?"  I feel like JMS doesn’t  know anything about Iron Man, doesn’t WANT to know, and would rather write him like a cardboard gov’t bad guy without any nobility or grace.  As subjective as it sounds, I think the fact that JMS writes my favorite character as a one-dimensional thug colors my view of him more than anything.

  29. @Tork

    The thing is, and this actually angers me, is that people tend to be more powerful in their own books than when guest starring in somebody else’s. In an issue of Thor, Thor is going to manhandle Iron man. In an issue of Hulk, Hulk is going to rip Iron man in two. But in an issue of Iron Man, he would use his intellect and his technology to their fullest advantage and win either one of those fights. But I agree with you totally, it pissed me off to see how easily Thor took care of Iron Man.

  30. @Six Gun,  I, too, am skeptical of the new Thor being good.  Feel free to ship me a premiere hardcover…

  31. @JohnVFerrigno Well, I don’t think Tony could win one-on-one with Hulk or Thor (even in his own book, he typically gets beat), but yeah, you speak the truth.  I think I was more annoyed at the ease of the whole thing.  It made the whole fight cheap to me.  Why care about the fight if Thor just has his victory handed to him on a silver platter?

  32. I think I was also disturbed at how insane Thor sounds when he says he’ll basically kill every people in D.C. with natural disasters if any official steps on Asgard’s lands (still US soil at the time).  I know it was supposed to this kind of Bruckheimer moment to show that Thor is hardcore, but it still disturbed me a lot to see Thor threatening mass homicide under the justification that he’s basically a god.

  33. I’ve enjoyed the new series so far. The little moments in it have been great. I need to see what it’s building to before I give JMS a lot of credit. I’ve seen every episode of Babylon 5, and it was great, but even that fizzled out completely in the fifth season (though for a reason that sounds logical, but still feels like an excuse). 

    Will you continue to read it?

    The 2 parter with Odin was the strongest part of the series so far, so at least check it out. Or borrow it. Or read it in the store. I don’t care.

  34. Good Article Josh, I do have a quick question though, what about Peter David? I ask this because David loves throwing in real world issues into comics, even in his new X-factor run. Do you find a lot of Davids work to turn you off?

  35. Peter David is a superior talent.


  36. I actually haven’t read a lot of Peter David, and only his X-Factor has really grabbed me.

    With JMS’s stuff, it just feels like he’s trying really hard to shoehorn these issues in and insert a gravitas that doesn’t really belong a lot of times.  There’s an arrogance about it that I sense, and don’t like.

  37. @Diabhol, I find Peter David and JMS simular in writing style actually.

    @Josh, I think a lot of what JMS is trying to do is imitate Star Trek in a way when he shoehorns these issues. I don’t think its really him being arrogant about it, but I can see it coming off a bit arrogant though.

  38. I just read the two Fraction one shots back to back over the weekend and I enjoyed them.  My only problem with them was that there were a few parts that poked fun at the characters too much.  It seemed arrogant and got on my nerves.  They were good stories, though.

  39. Great article Josh.

    As far as my opinion to be honest I havent yet decided about JMS. I havent been around comics for a long time and have only ever read some of his Amazing run, Midnight Nation, Supreme Squadron and Thor. I do find it rather funny that each start up has ended the same. The first several issues are full of characterization but almost entirely void of any action. Then usually with issue 8 or 9 they start to pack some action which throws the book way off cause it feels forced. He has talent no doubt but i think it comes down to taste. 

    On Thor though, Coipel has kept me on for sure. Hes rocking that book like non other!

  40. I dont enjoy EVERYTHING JMS has done, but I am thoroughly enjoying this new take on Thor. I am pumped whenever I see him out of his book as well now. (So far just once, in Invincible Iron Man #2, BUT he will be clashing with Red Hulk next month!)

    You know what they say though. Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one, and everyone elses stinks! Lol!