Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #1

"Original Sin" #5.1, or "Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm" #1, has the unenviable task of combining two very different (though very good) series in a storyline that's been heavily spoiled in the press. Despite those handicaps, Al Ewing scripts an enjoyable opener that gets straight to the point without sacrificing too much of the character and quirk that's made his run on "Agent of Asgard" so entertaining. Though the issue inevitably suffers from having to spend so much page space on setup, it's surprisingly smooth -- and it'll certainly exceed expectations for event-related retcon.

However, readers who were worried about the use of Angela will find neither relief nor grief here. The long-lost sister of Thor and Loki (and poor forgotten Balder) just barely makes an appearance, but she and the angels at least seem to be thoughtfully integrated. Lee Garbett and Nolan Woodard do a fantastic job of making her world look visually consistent with Asgard's, drawing a battle from the past that feels as epic, fiery and full of ridiculous costumes as anything the sundry "Thor" titles have seen. Simone Bianchi, who'll be drawing the Tenth Realm itself, only has the two pages, which are beautiful but too brief to give a fair assessment of the aesthetic. Aaron and Ewing, for their part, have also given the Tenth Realm a backstory that feels feasible if not highly compelling. (To be fair, if it's a Thor storyline and the explanation is "then Odin got angry," I will probably go with it.)

On a more micro level, Ewing and Garbett are just as good at adding character moments here as in "Agent of Asgard." Given more room to play with Thor, Ewing writes him as amusingly overblown, with dramatic dialogue contrasted with Loki's more succinct, sulky lines. The artistic details are also smartly handled, from the ridiculous way that Thor eats a chicken to the spot-on transition into Bianchi's pages. Readers who were worried that the crossover might lose those elements will be reassured, but it will be interesting going forward to see how this Thor works with Aaron's. I'm not sure they'll feel at all consistent.

Unfortunately, the story is a bit robbed of its dramatic high points. Now, it's obviously unfair to blame the creators for the fact that the story's spoiled, as no creator worth his salt would let a press release stand in for a story, but readers won't exactly be shocked by any of the developments. In that way, "The Tenth Realm" #1 can feel somewhat directionless for a first issue, all set up and explanation. When it moves, it does so with aplomb, but it is heavy on the explanation -- and it's unfortunately explaining things that most of its readers will halfway know.

Speaking of readers, "The Tenth Realm" seems designed to facilitate new(ish) ones. It requires only a bare-outline understanding of "God of Thunder" and "Agent of Asgard" to follow, and this issue provides a quick update on both.

All told, "The Tenth Realm" is quite fun, but I'll have to wait until Issue #2 (or should I say #5.3?) to get a clearer sense of what this crossover will look like, and how Angela will fit into the new MU status quo.

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