Marvel’s Avengers: Thor #1 Comic Impressions
Read enough comics, and it’s easy to feel like there’s nothing new under the sun. Heroes will misunderstand each other and come to physical blows. Villains will be foiled by their own hubris. Death will be undone. Hulk will wear purple pants. You forget what it feels like to be surprised. Sometimes though, a comic comes along that does something you’ve never seen before, and shocks your jaded heart back to life.
Marvel’s Avengers: Thor #1 is not that comic. The story is practically paint-by-numbers: Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are building a teleportation machine with the help of Thor’s lightning, something goes wrong, they bicker, they brawl, they bring it together, they bro out. When a comic issue is this predictable, execution is everything. It is fortunate then that there are steady hands guiding the issue: you’ve got writer Jim Zub, artist Robert Gill, colorist Andy Troy, and letterer Joe Caramagna, all consummate professionals.
You can see where the issue could go wrong, but these guys really hold things together. A lesser writer might present Tony’s usual nickname for Thor (which is “Goldilocks”) as the punchline to a joke. Here, Zub uses it as a character beat. You immediately get the notion that these are two have been doing this sort of thing together for a while. Their relationship feels lived in. The banter serves as the means, not the ends.
Those sorts of interactions wouldn’t mean much though without the strong work from Robert Gill. Looking over the issue a second time, I’m struck by how much detail Gill manages to fill each panel with, but never to the point where the art becomes overly busy, Thor’s costume looks old and worn, with little imperfections on the metal, but Gill’s figures are clean and bold and easy to follow. So when Tony is snarking at Thor, their body language does a lot of the storytelling. Even when you approach this issue from a cynical place, you can’t help but respect the work the creators are putting in. It’s good comics!
Last issue, I wondered who the target audience for this miniseries was. While I found this second issue stronger overall, it’s hard to justify reading it over other excellent comics- including comics from these creators! There are more exciting issues of Avengers comics to be sure (including Zub’s own “Avengers: No Surrender). There are excellent Thor comics, and Iron Man comics, and Hulk comics that I would recommend to someone trying to get into those series.
That makes this issue something really fascinating. For intense comic readers, the kind who really sweat the details, this isn’t a cynical tie-in, it’s a well executed comic. I’m talking the kind of people who have very strong opinions of gradient coloring, or on the impact of early 2000s digital art. There are also video game fans (which I imagine you, the reader, might be) who are really excited for the new Avengers game. This issue doesn’t have any obvious hints as to what to expect in the game when it finally is released, but I bet that Tony’s portal technology for example, might end up being a big part of gameplay. I, for one, enjoy expanded universe materials over-explaining small details. In fact, it’s why I thought Solo was a delightful movie. When the Avengers game spins up the teleportation portal, I’ll chuckle as I remember how Tony, Hulk, and Thor fought it out when they first tested the thing.
Ultimately, “Marvel’s Avengers: Thor” is a weird comic. On the one hand, it’s shackled by its source material. It’s got to tie into a video game that no one has played yet, but not give away the games secrets or use any ideas the game might want to try in its mysterious future. On the other hand, Zub, Gill, and the gang are the kinds of comic book professionals who can make material like this really sing. And that ultimately endears me to this issue more than anything else. When you first get into superhero comics, you usually follow your favorite characters. But stick with it for long enough, and you learn to follow creators. A good writer can make any character interesting, and make the best out of the most challenging project. “Marvel’s Avengers: Thor” seems like it was hard to put together, but the high professionalism of the creative team makes it worth your reading time.