The latest Thor finally faces off against the original in the conclusion of Jason Aaron's latest arc in "Thor #4," a showdown dynamically illustrated by Russell Dauterman and brightly colored by Matthew Wilson. It's a conflict that truly brings the new female Thor's personality into the spotlight as she tentatively yet bravely stands up to her predecessor, who's none too pleased that his longtime weapon Mjolnir is no longer his to wield. Aaron, on the other hand, wields both characters pretty well, not only capping off the birth of a very likeable and capable new incarnation of a classic hero but also maintaining his mastery of the first one as well.
Aaron can't help but use the old fight-then-unite motif between the two here, but the notion is anything but pedestrian; it is, in fact, necessary. This first encounter is also the first opportunity for the new Goddess of Thunder to truly be tested and to demonstrate that she is truly worthy to wield the hammer of Thor. Inevitable as this battle may be, Aaron makes certain that there's more to it than just what's expected when two heroes sharing a name come face-to-face.
While Aaron has established the new Thor's potential in recent issues, he ensures that she realizes it here when the two come to a mutual understanding before turning their attention towards their shared foes. There are no losers in this hero vs. heroine skirmish; the rookie is made heroic by her empowerment and the veteran is made no less so by his humility. Aaron had mastered the original Thor long ago and powerfully shows that a humbled Son of Odin is no less a hero than he was before.
The big reveals that readers probably expected have yet to be unveiled; the identity of the new Thor remains a mystery, although Aaron drops a couple of very subtle hints. The reason why Odinson remains unable to use his iconic hammer is also apparently a story for another issue, but the lack of answers does nothing to diminish the conclusion to the storyline. The quick and climactic battle against the Frost Giants is more of a denouement than a true climax, as the highlight of the issue is two momentary foes becoming allies and the bond that is formed between them.
It works out just fine, though, as Aaron's focus on the new dynamic between the two establishes some great characterization, which makes the issue soar more so than fisticuffs. Aaron also manages to throw in a moment of humor amidst it all, the kind that he has demonstrated so well in past issues, and caps off the issue with a well-structured voiceover that sets up the new order for whatever comes next.
Dauterman brings a beautiful precision to both the entire issue and the cover. Odinson might have lost Mjolnir, perhaps, but Dauterman frankly gives him a far cooler looking weapon in the form of his axe Jarnbjorn. The Son of Odin himself appears no less imposing for the loss of his traditional weapon, as Dauterman's ensures that this "unworthy" hero is presented as worthy as he ever was before his fall.
The all-new, all-different Thor is equally heroic, with an appropriately patterned costume that's evocative of the original's traditional look, but unique enough to also work as a woman's costume without looking like a gender-modified copy. Dauterman doesn't succumb to any kind of titillating costume design; there's refreshingly not a bit of cleavage or thigh to be seen, and this isn't even noticed amidst Dauterman's pristine panel designs and Aaron's robust characterization.
Dauterman's excels elsewhere, too; his layouts are perfect for the characters' battle that alternates between talking and trouncing. Well-designed perspectives and exquisite facial expressions in close-ups make every panel a treat to peruse. Wilson's colors are vibrant; there's no attempt to subdue anything here. Instead, readers get a superhero smackdown in the kind of four-color splendor that it deserves. "Thor" #4 proves that Aaron remains worthy as the scribe of The God -- or Goddess -- of Thunder, whomever he or she may be.