Underneath the trippy Tommy Lee Edwards cover, J. M. DeMatteis delivers an existential examination about gods, faith, and the loss of both. DeMatteis tells us of Thor’s battle against the forces of the Chaos King through the thoughts and words of Becca Steinhardt, a woman who has lost more than many people will ever have. Through this retelling of the Thunder God’s struggle, DeMatteis introduces Glory, a member of the hordes fighting under the Chaos King. Glory is “the embodiment of an entire pantheon of gods: vile, twisted, insanely violent.” Yet Thor stands toe-to-toe with him, fighting when most would give in or even perish.
Schwager’s secondary and tertiary-soaked colors coat this book in heavy emotion strained from DeMatteis’ script. This isn’t an over-the-top superhero adventure, it’s a story that pits the unthinkable against the indescribable, and the colors play that up to perfection. The panel framework is jet black during the battle between Thor and Glory, but white when Thor – as Don Blake – is on the mortal plane, trying to help Becca find herself while he tries to remember himself. The coloring isn’t the only facet of this issue’s art that is worthy of praise.
I am admittedly unfamiliar with the work of Brian Ching, but his work here has aspects of Olivier Coipel, Travis Charest, and even some Tom Mandrake. Some of the faces are squat, more football-shaped than egg. It’s not a consistent problem across the entire issue, but it is frequent enough to be distracting. All the same, Ching manages to keep the characters recognizable throughout. The combination of Ching’s art filtered through Schwager’s colors brings the battle between Glory and Thor to the cusp of epic, while the down-to-earth (literally) scenes following Thor’s apparent defeat are filled with strong moments of characterization and interaction that left an impression on me once I closed the cover.
The “Chaos War” story has been an interesting story to this point. As it stretches out from the main series to this first of many one-shots and spinoffs, this issue offers promise that the supplemental tales may be more than just fill-ins or tales that might have been better left untold. I’m dialed in for the next issue of this story and my curiosity is piqued to see how this story impacts the main series.
Thor is a hot ticket on the new comics rack nowadays with Marvel pumping out what seems to be no fewer than two new Thor titles each week. This title, however, is a departure from the standard-issue Thor tale of late. This is a story about Thor, but not his origins, his allies, nor his time on Midgard before this. This is a story about what it means to be Thor and what Thor means for others.