Thursday, January 30, 2014

Review # 95: "The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Vol. 3"

The incredible "Surtur Saga" had me wondering where the hell Thor could possibly go next. Turns out that was the answer.

Walt Simonson's run on the title doesn't lose any momentum following his signature event as the creator continues to pull at his now well-weaved tapestry of ongoing storylines. It was easy to forget after reading "The Surtur Saga" that a lot was still going on in Thor's world, and Volume Three is a series of sweet reminders. First, we get some closure to Lorelei's meddling with Thor's affections. Using a potion from Loki, she turns the Thunder God into a drooling puppy dog who bends to her every whim. (Figuratively, I mean. Given what's coming in the near future, I feel I should make that distinction.) By the way, the series of shots of Lorelei where she assumes control are jaw-dropping. That is some sexy drawing by Walt.

Things don't go as well for Lorelei as she hoped, thanks to a revenge plot crafted by her sister the Enchantress whose return fills a hole I didn't realize was there. She's an expert consultant as an out-of-his-mind Thor declares Loki should be named king of Asgard. Thor's friends manage to use both sisters' mechanisms against each other in a resolution that's out of a sitcom. A sitcom with a vengeful hammer-wielding God. "How I Met Your Mother" could use that.

Remarkably, the great story described above is probably only the third best among what's featured here. The runner-up spot belongs to the miniseries starring Balder the Brave. Regaining his warrior's edge, Balder ventures away from Nornheim and his romantic interest Karnilla to join Thor in battle... just in time for frost giants to invade while he's gone. Simonson does an excellent job transforming the slightly despicable Karnilla into a figure of sympathy. She's forced into slavery, transformed by magic into a bird with clipped wings and forced to live in a cage. Balder returns to find the entire Norn kingdom turned to stone and it's on. This four-issue series really caught me by surprise, actually. It felt more than worth the time to step away from Thor's adventures, and Sal Buscema's art fits Simonson's style like a glove.

Still, as good as "Balder the Brave" is, it doesn't match up to the reason Balder left Nornheim in the first place - to storm Hel alongside Thor, Enchantress, Executioner and the warriors of Asgard.

Eager for battle, Thor means to confront Hela over her wrongful taking of human souls which had been corrupted by Malekith. What they encounter on the way in (and on the way back) is first class fantasy. Simonson continues to tap Norse mythology for all it's worth, in addition to the personal history of the Marvelized characters. Thor's battles with Hela are epic - including one that leaves him horribly scarred - but the greatest moment is reserved for someone who you wouldn't suspect.

Much like with "The Surtur Saga," this is must-buy stuff. While none of the stories match up to it individually, the level of overall quality here certainly does. Bring on Volume Frog! Er... Four!

Rating: 10/10

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