After the events of "Thor" #600, Balder is lord of Asgard, Thor is banished, Mjolnir is broken, and Loki proposes a move to Latveria for the Asgardians. Certainly not what anyone thought would be happening 14 issues into J. Michael Straczynski's run on the book, but definitely entertaining. And surprisingly lighthearted.
Straczynski weaves through all of these plots in issue 601, giving a wide view of reactions and consequences, all while having a lot of fun. Balder dining with Loki and Dr. Doom is wonderful, as the new lord of Asgard toys with the notion of emigrating to Latveria rather than staying in an Asgard floating in the middle of Oklahoma. It's hard to get a read on him as he both seems to distrust and listen to Loki.
Thor and Donald Blake's experiment with their switch now that Mjolnir isn't whole is lightened by the banter between the two. It's rare to see Thor talk with another person like they're an old friend, a buddy that he can just joke around with, but Blake fills that role well. Hopefully, Straczynski continues to play up the friendship the two have.
Another great comedic scene features the Warriors Three, as a drunk and distraught Volstagg stumbles upon a plan to circumvent Thor's exile that everyone but him saw as obvious. Straczynski goes a little over the top in this scene, trying too hard to be funny with the large drunk, but even then, there are several good laughs.
Marco Djurdjevic join Straczynski on art as he has in the past, but, this time, his art isn't quite up to its former standard. It suffers from an overabundance of 'detail' in the form of lines piled atop lines that don't help anything. As well, his figures sometimes border on parody, not quite fitting with the tone set by Olivier Coipel. The style does work in the more comedic moments where liberties are less a hindrance. But, hey, take a look at the preview pages and maybe I'm wrong.
Beyond the comedy, Straczynski lays on a few more surprises for the characters as Balder makes the decision regarding Asgard's future and Thor finally learns why Sif didn't appear along with the other Asgardians. It's great to see that Straczynski's new status quo continues to work just as well as the previous one. Now, all it needs to do is get back on something approximating a monthly schedule.