Part of the conclusion to Kieron Gillen and Billy Tan's first three-issue "Thor" arc is known since, in "Siege" #1, the Asgardians have been seen inhabiting the floating city of Asgard in Broxton, Oklahoma. But the journey of how they get from Latveria and fighting against Doom's undead cyborg army of butchered and vivisected Asgardians is pretty good. Not only that, but various questions are answered, like the status of Kelda, how Loki ingratiates himself back in Balder's good graces, and just how a fight between Thor and Doom-inhabited Destroyer plays out.
The answer to that final question is 'With a whole lotta hitting, smashing, and good ol' fashioned brawling.'
It's been a few issues since Thor has been able to cut loose against an enemy of equal or greater physical strength. This match-up with Doom is refreshing, with the villain using the lifeforce he's stolen from Asgardians to power the Destroyer armor and hammer Thor down. Normally, Doom relies on energy blasts from technology or magic and, while his use of the Destroyer armor is a variation on that, it's not often we get to see Doom rely on physical superiority to deal with an opponent. Watching him man-handle Thor early on is jarring; Doom beating up Thor with his fists? That isn't what anyone expected here.
Another area where Gillen shines is the interaction between Thor and Balder, which takes its cue from "Thor" #600, where Thor's exile was based on a technicality that Balder reluctantly enforced. Since then, Balder couldn't help but appear like a second-rate ruler, a stand-in until Thor returned, and Gillen plays with that idea a little to bolster Balder as ruler of Asgard. No one will walk away from this issue wondering if Balder deserves to be the King of Asgard.
Along with Gillen, Billy Tan does solid work in this issue. I wasn't Tan's biggest fan during his recent run on "New Avengers," but his overly detailed style is more at home on this title with the ornately-costumed Asgardians and the near non-stop action. He does his best work in this issue when Thor and Doom are going at it, or when Balder confronts one of his former subjects. He still has difficulties with facial expressions and scenes that rest on dialogue, but since this issue is mostly people hitting one another, Tan delivers strong, striking art.
The issue does lack a sense of suspense because of "Siege" #1 revealing that the Asgardians do leave Latveria, which takes away somewhat from the reading experience. The issue also has a somewhat mechanical feel to it, as Gillen works to put the pieces in place for "Siege" and "Doomwar." With so many elements a foregone conclusion, plot points lack an organic and fluid feel. The final pages, in particular, read like Gillen is working too hard to set up other stories and not ending this one in its proper place. A less than satisfying ending, though, can't cover for the strong beginning and resolution to the Asgardians' fight with Doom. I can't wait to see how Gillen handles these characters over the next three issues during "Siege."
(Billy Tan's style is much more suited to this title as you can see in CBR's preview of this issue!)