J. Michael Straczynski has been fearless in his "Thor" run, unafraid to take the characters in new directions and alter the status quo, which he continues in this issue as Thor solves one problem while creating another with a little help from Dr. Strange. Which raises another consistent element to Straczynski's run: not knowing where it fits in with the rest of the Marvel universe.
The book uses its shard-universe status seemingly only when convenient, like the confrontation between Thor and the Dark Avengers in issue 600, or Loki using membership in the Cabal to strike a deal with Doom, but, in other cases like this issue, it directly contradicts what's going on elsewhere -- actually, in another comic that ships this week, "New Avengers." It's not a major issue since the appearance of Dr. Strange is merely a means to an end, but it will surely be a point of contention for a certain segment of readers.
Aside from that little continuity snafu, this issue pushes numerous subplots forward as Thor finally learns of the true whereabouts of Sif, and Baldur explains his true reasoning for relocating Asgard to Latveria. There's also William, the human who has given up his life in Oklahoma to live in Asgard with Kelda, and his reaction to the news that Asgard is now in Doom's homeland. He provides a grounded, relatable view of Asgard and what's going on with Baldur as king.
While all of these stories are handled well and do advance, none of them drive the book forward, all feeling like subplots -- with no plot to attach themselves to. Straczynski's approach of blending them all to create an ensemble feel is laudable, but it also takes some of the urgency away from the book. Past issues have juggled multiple threads, while still pushing a strong 'a story' forward, but this issue doesn't do that. If anything, this issue is all set up for what's coming next, which is a necessity, but does make for a less than spectacular read.
Marko Djurdjevic continues to work on his interior pencils, still rough in some spots, but improving. His style hasn't quite come into focus yet as some panels have softer blacks, while others have crisp lines (too many lines in some cases). He is adjusting well, though, since the leap from cover painter to interior penciller is a tougher one than it would appear. Thankfully, he seems to make clarity a priority, so while his art lacks in aesthetic appeal at times, it is never difficult to comprehend what he's going for.
A slight issue of "Thor" with a big continuity gaff that should get people talking, if only because not much else stands out in this issue. Another fine chapter of Straczynski's story, but one that seems to be setting up what comes next rather than standing on its own.
(See Marko Djurdjevic's interior pencils for yourself at CBR's preview!)