Images & Words – THOR #616

[images & words is the comic book pick-of-the-week at OL. equal parts review and diatribe, the post highlights the most memorable/infuriating/entertaining book released that wednesday]

[cue the music]


The lightning cuts the atmosphere in half. Believers raise their eyes skyward as they suck in a whiff of ozone, an affirmation of their hopes and dreams. Skeptics raise their eyes skyward, incredulous no more. There is a new presence in the air. A force to be reckoned with. A beautiful blond with a heavy fuggin’ hammer.

THOR. As written by Matt Fraction. And illustrated by Pasqual Ferry.

In the past, I might lament the fact that the comics companies start focusing on characters when a movie is on the horizon. I would’ve moaned and groaned, “They’re pumping out comics as a means of advertising the movie. A comic should be a piece of art unto itself, not an advertisement. I’m philosophically opposed to the use of comics as Hollywood propaganda!”

Fuck that.

Well, I’m not saying that comics should become the creative fodder of the movie industry. I don’t want that. I like comics. I like movies. And I want to keep liking them for their respective strengths.

But the fact of the matter is that Hollywood has noticed comics. Over the last decade, there’ve been more superhero movies than I ever would have dreamed possible. For the most part, these films have been adaptations of origins and the more well-known tales from comics-lore. For the most part, no new ground is being broken. For the most part, nothing is being added to the mythology that we’ve come to love.

But then again, there are exceptions.

And – perhaps more importantly – doors are being opened for comics creators. Let’s assume the stance that Hollywood is essentially looking at funny-book companies are research & development agencies. The safe, time-tested stories will undoubtedly be relied upon to make a quick buck. But, as with any research & development department, the mad scientists will be given a bit more free reign. “Go ahead, wily-eyed madman, conduct your experiments. Blow up the laboratory if must. Create something novel and unstable and potentially even frightening. Just make sure that you tell of us your findings.”

Don’t think this is how it’s going down? Think again.

Albeit in the name of the Almighty Dollar, I believe that the comics scientists are being encouraged to conduct their most insane trials yet. While the dependable creators are tasked with constructing the bland, run-of-the-mill stuff, new teams are being assembled in the hopes of stumbling upon redefinition.

My new favorite team? Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry.

Two issues into the newest arc of THOR, this duo has already started dabbling in concepts that restructure the way fans approach the character’s mythos. Asgard was first displaced to Earth and then totally caught in the crossfire of an unjust war. As a result, there is a void where Thor’s home once existed. Unfortunately, it looks as though this vacuum is going to be filled by some ultra-dimensional terrorists.

Hoping to avert the impending disaster, Volstagg asks Thor to listen to the explanation of his new scientist-friend:

I don’t know…if this is going to make any sense to you.

The Asgardian world tree is kind of a map, okay? The Nine Worlds you recognize as being a part of the Yggdrasil are just the tip of…a maybe-infinite iceberg.

What you know as worlds…are universes. Complex, discrete, fully formed.

— Look. You’ve taken the heart of one of those universes and put it inside of another. You’ve taken all the water in one glass and poured it in another.

You might believe there are only Nine Worlds, but brother, I’m here to tell you…

There’s more. And they’re hungry.

Okay, so let me get this straight — while Asgard has typically been perceived as an otherworldly, heavenly sanctuary of the Norse gods, it’s actually more akin to an alternate dimension? And in the universe, which is infinite, every dimension has its own place which must be accounted for? So by moving to Earth, Asgard has created torn open a pocket in the universe? And this pocket is going to be invaded by bloodthirsty savages from Ano-Athox?

Holy shit. Count me in.

Fraction isn’t concerned about appeasing the drooling masses that are going to see the Thor flick. What he is clearly invested in is pushing the limits of what has been accepted as the legend of Thor. It’s not all gods and magic anymore. It’s space-time and alternate realities and aliens and science. And it’s all blended together so damn well I could nearly weep.

Don’t worry, though, the standard devices are still in place. Thor’s an arrogant asshole, unwilling to consider the advice of Volstagg and the mortal scientist he’s enlisted. Lightning strikes are still aplenty. And there’s no doubt that Big Blondie is going to swing that hammer with some authority.

My word’s aren’t going to do Pasqual Ferry’s artwork any justice. Please, visit Ferry’s blog and see the beauty for yourself. Trust me, this art — the coloring especially — will take your breath away. The quality of these visuals should be every artist’s aspiration.

THOR #616 is undoubtedly the comic of the week. And if I had to guess, I might say it is the second issue of the storyline of the year.