Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review # 115: "The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson Vol. 4"

Why is Walt Simonson the greatest writer in the history of "Thor?" Easy: he took a story about turning Thor into a frog, and made it a compelling drama.

I keep expecting his run to let up after the dynamite "Surtur Saga" but here we are two volumes later and it still hasn't. Everything Simonson does works. Seriously, he spends two issues devoted mainly to a war between frogs and rats in New York and you can't put the book down! Then Thor gets his hammer back, turns into a GIANT frog with the powers of the God of Thunder, and you only blink at the visual a few times before anticipating the joy of Loki getting his ass kicked by a giant amphibian.

Now I know I'm only into the third paragraph of this review, but I don't know how anybody could read the previous two and not want to buy this collection. It's Thor vs. Loki! Only Thor is a giant frog! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

OK, suppose you don't like the idea of Thor as a frog and want some more of Simonson's top-notch fantasy storytelling. While I will admit this collection does not match up as well from that standpoint with the "Balder the Brave" miniseries or Thor and the armies of Asgard storming Hel, a fantasy fan will still find a lot to enjoy. The best of the bunch involves finding out what happened to Balder on his journey back to Asgard to assume Odin's throne. There are some stories that are difficult to get tired of if done well, and the basic plot of sirens placing a spell on one guy so he battles another is one of them.

Volume Four also sends Thor back to Earth as a human for the first time in a while, with one story that ties in with Jane Foster (involving a pair of kids put in a situation that tugs at the ol' heartstrings) and another with the X-Men "Mutant Massacre" crossover. We also get the setup for the final volume as a showdown between Thor and Hela is in the works.

Finally, this volume is noteworthy for a change in artists. With Walt Simonson taking over pencils on "X-Factor" at the time (written by his wife Louise,) "Thor" becomes full-time work for Sal Buscema. He doesn't miss a beat in terms of artistic direction, making for one of the best substitutions in the history of comics. If Walt needed a break, I'm not complaining: his work as a writer here just does not stop impressing me and I'm eager to get to the finale.

Rating: 9.5/10

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