While I was disappointed in his recent - yet brief - run in the pages of "Avengers" during AvX, I'm a fan of the work I've seen from Simonson. His art on "X-Factor" in the 80s (written by his wife Louise at the time) was great, and I got the chance to read a couple of issues he did on Thor during the "Mutant Massacre" crossover. While his pencils were strong - even though they were in a black-and-white Essential set - I found the writing to be a wee bit antiquated, even for the 80s. That said, over-the-top dialogue and a lot of characters talking to themselves has a certain charm that you can definitely get away with when your source material involves Norse mythology.
In his foreword, Simonson notes his enjoyment for Thor comics he read in college by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, pointing out how interesting new characters would debut all the time. It should be no surprise that he sets out to do the same immediately by introducing Beta Ray Bill, a grotesque alien warrior whose motives aren't clear from the beginning. Is he a hero or villain? And... holy crap, did he just pick up Thor's hammer?!
Sorry, I'm feigning shock. I already knew that that happened, but I could definitely see how that would blow minds at the time. Bill and Thor have a fight over the hammer, and the end result has Odin crafting a second one. While the storyline is strong, I'm far more impressed with Simonson's drawing. The recoloured art is gorgeous, especially the first two covers which are all-time classics. The design of Beta Ray Bill is also very well done, which Simonson explains in an appendix.
The rest of this trade focuses on a few smaller stories while leaving a few threads hanging. There's the ongoing saga of Balder the Brave who has lost the will to kill after a trip to Hel. There's Loralei - Enchantress' sister - trying to dupe Thor into drinking a mead that will make him her slave. There's - believe it or not - a very witty appearance by Superman. And all the while, a dark creature is crafting a sword. Each strike of hammer to metal sounds "DOOM."
I can't exactly say I was blown away by this trade, but I was still very impressed. The first story is great, and what follows is very entertaining but I've seen better. However, the signs of a legendary run are very much in the cards. What's here has left me wanting more and I'm inclined to believe that Simonson has barely shown his hand.
After all, there's Frog Thor to come.
Up next: X-Factor Investigations falls apart.