Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Thor, God of Thunder, Volume 3: The Accursed Review (Jason Aaron, Ron Garney)

Thor may be the God of Thunder but Jason Aaron is the God of the One-Shot Comic!

His day in the life of Doop was arguably the best comic in his Wolverine and the X-Men series, and his Wolverine’s week issue (I forget which series) was so damn good – it looked at how Wolverine was able to be a part of the many superhero teams he’s a member of, like the Doop issue, in a comedic way. And then there was his brief stint at DC before he joined Marvel and became one of the Marvel Architects, when he did a Penguin one-shot which Gregg Hurwitz used as the foundation for his excellent Penguin mini-series, Pain and Prejudice. Aaron did in one issue what Hurwitz took five issues to do – Aaron’s issue is included in the back of the Pain and Prejudice trade paperback, though both writers’ stories are worth reading.

So we come to Thor, Volume 3: The Accursed which has two of Aaron’s signature one-shots bookending it, Thor #12: Once Upon a Time in Midgard and #18: Days of Wine and Dragons – and both are outstanding! 

Thor #12 is a day in the life of present-day Thor where he drinks mead at a New York dive bar, visits a prisoner on death row and gives him a rare final meal, brings food to the street children of Brazil, helps out some nuns, visits a monk in the Himalayas, and too many other cool things to list. Remember a while back when a marine posted a video on Youtube asking Justin Timberlake to go to her graduation ball as her date? Thor does something similar for a SHIELD graduate. This is why people like Thor!

But the highlight was visiting his ex, Jane Foster, who’s with someone else – a non-superhero man – and is going through cancer treatment. Aaron effortlessly writes their scenes so well that within a single panel you instantly believe their years of history, and Jane gets some great lines that make me wish Aaron were scripting the Thor movies.

Thor #18 stars young Thor back in the days of Vikings getting plastered with a talking dragon called Skabgagg. It’s basically a comedy issue with an ending that shows the young Thor growing up a bit. It has my favourite exchange of the book where Thor and Skabgagg are explaining themselves to the female Vikings – both are badly hungover and Thor woke up in the dragon’s mouth covered in vomit (some of it his own).

(Thor and Skabgagg fought trolls and of course won):
Thor: Afterward... we discovered their stockpile of grog. Enough rancid liquor to fill a swamp. I thought it smelled of rotting horse. But the dragon dared me to drink it.
Skabgagg: Yes. And then you wouldn't stop.
Thor: What about YOU? You gulped that swill by the barrelful. And then blew FIRE at me, I seem to recall.
Skabgagg: Was that before or after your buried your axe in my FACE?
Thor: I woke up inside your MOUTH you foul...!

Days of Wine and Dragons indeed! The whole issue is full of great stuff like that.

The main story of the book features the villain of the most recent Thor movie, Malekith the Dark Elf, who is (as is always the case) far more interesting in the comics than his bland cinematic depiction would have you believe. He’s set free by some followers and begins a civil war amongst his people. Standing in for a kind of fantasy UN peacekeeping force, Thor forms the League of Realms which includes the delightfully named Sir Ivory Honeyshot of the Light Elves, Screwbeard the dynamite dwarf, a giant, a Dark Elf sorceress and a troll.

The Accursed isn’t a bad storyline but it’s your fairly standard “heroes chasing the villain” plot. Occasionally they meet up, they fight, they continue the chase, and so on until they defeat Malekith (though to Aaron’s credit the ending has an unexpected twist). It has some nice moments but it was a very easy story to put down.

They are pretty good moments though, like when Thor takes his League to a pub to get drunk in a team-building exercise (ingenious!), and Thor even pulls off a trick worthy of Loki, showing off his oft-underplayed cunning and intelligence.

There was also a genuine belly-laugh scene between the dynamite dwarf and the troll when the dwarf lights a stick of dynamite then gets it stuck to his hand – the troll chops off the dwarf’s hand and saves his life, though as Screwbeard says “Stupid troll! You could’ve cut fuse not me!” Ron Garney’s wonderful art sells the joke, and then later when they’re yelling out their battlecries – “For Alfheim!” etc. – the dwarf yells “For my hand!” Brilliant! That’s why I read Jason Aaron’s Marvel comics – he really is the funniest writer they have.

I haven’t loved Aaron’s Thor as much as many other readers but I think that’s down to The God Butcher storyline which took up the first two volumes – the third is a lot more fun and enjoyable a book and finally won me over to the series. I wouldn’t say it’s one of Aaron’s best books – I’m comparing this to Scalped and his Wolverine and the X-Men run, both of which are superb – but despite not being as consistently good a read as I’d hoped, it’s definitely his best Thor book so far. It’s certainly worth checking out for the one-shots alone.

3.5 stars.

Thor, God of Thunder, Volume 3: The Accursed

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