After writing multiple volumes of Thunder God adventures, Jason Aaron takes full advantage of the Secret Wars event to have something of a “working vacation”. Although far from phoned-in, the debut issue still plays heavily into the whimsical sidestep. Additionally, it also wastes no time tying back to the ongoing narrative like it was the next regularly-scheduled beat.
Despite page one’s grim, in-progress homicide investigation, the book is loaded with wistful nostalgia. Indeed, a huge part of the appeal of Thors is the “hey, remember that?” factor. Countering that is how surprisingly grounded it feels! On paper, a flying police force of hammer-wielding variations on (mostly) the same being sounds far too fantastical to lend it any real credence. Yet, there it is: three well-rounded dimensions in twenty crisp pages.
The greatest asset is Aaron’s all-but-forgotten ability to command an unwieldy combination of characters. Three years of various Thor series have kind of given him an inadvertent “solo exclusive” vibe. It’s one he’s currently shedding with Star Wars but like his Original Sin event series, it can be argued that those are still driven by one central protagonist (Luke Skywalker, Nick Fury) with tremendous wingmen (and women). The fact that his Wolverine and The X-Men met widespread acclaim is something of a footnote these days. Given how much Aaron digs in and steeps each Thor with trademarks of individuality, he is well on his way to taking back the streets.
A huge part of the “grounding” effect is artist Chris Sprouse. Perhaps best known for co-creating Tom Strong for Alan Moore’s America’s Best Comics imprint around the dawn of the millennium, Sprouse’s Marvel credits are few and far between. Penciling a Sue Storm-centric issue of S.H.I.E.L.D. earlier this year, Sprouse’s straight-laced and traditional linework makes him an early typecast for quasi-cop show procedurals dressed as super-hero comics. This is by no means a bad thing and definitely serves him well. It will be interesting to see what assignments the future holds- as there’s a slew of Marvel properties easily workable in his idiom. Still, “Forensics Frog and Groot Thor” as its own monthly wouldn’t be bad, either…
The colors also dictate a huge portion of the tone. Marte Gracia operates with a dark, flat palette that is decidedly different from either of Aaron’s previous Thor collaborators. Forget the fanciful capes and raiments- these are cops on the case. From back alleys and low-lit bars, the cinematography is a constant reminder. A good amount of the noirish “murk” owes to interplay with inker Karl Story. It’s very similar to the eye-catching exchange between Gracia and Wade von Grawbadger on All-New X-Men.
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There’s a lot to like about this latest turn in the Thunder God saga. However, like summer vacation, it comes with an unspoken understanding that this is a fleeting commodity. With respect to comic and the timer placed on this iteration, it would have been nice to have more pages. As it is, we haven’t seen “Ultimate Thor” do anything remotely “ultimate” and clearly this about more than him finding his groove. Extending only just a few pages more would have put this book over the top and given it true hour-long prime time “cop drama” feel. In all, it’s still a most worthy journey into mystery…
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