Allow me to be blunt. This is a comic book where on the second page the words “Activating Attack Sharks” is uttered with not a single hint of irony. Yes, in this issue of Thor, a deep ocean sea-lab run by the Roxxon corporation features a defense system consisting of what appear to be technologically enhanced super-sharks, who eventually engage in underwater combat with an army of invading Frost Giants from Jotunheim.
So, in short, it’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to a Thor comic.
The big hullabaloo about this issue has been that the fellow we have come to know and love as Thor is no longer going to be the titular character of the series. In the wake of the crossover event Original Sin, He is unworthy to wield mighty Mjolnir, the hammer that serves as the symbol of his power. Fans fearing that Thor would simply be discarded to make way for a new character will be relieved however, as this first issue in a new series spends a good majority of its time with Thor Classic.
New Thor does not show her face until the final page of the issue. In many ways, the storytelling structure of this issue of Thor is the polar opposite of something like Ms. Marvel # 1. While that issue and series has been a huge success for Marvel, the baseline of the narrative utilized by writer G. Willow Wilson would not suit the type of story that Jason Aaron is attempting to tell here. By the time the first issue of Ms. Marvel came around, the namesake had been vacant for a while as Carol Danvers had transitioned into being Captain Marvel for a bit by that point. The story was able to focus on Kamala Khan taking up the mantle and the circumstances that surrounded her beginning the hero’s journey. With Thor, Aaron seems to be setting up a dual track that will focus on the way that Thor Classic deals with his fall as much as the exploits of whoever it is that takes up the hammer now.
So, does the issue work?
I would say that overall it is a very interesting Thor book. However, I will also admit that I have no connection to the new “Thor” because no attempt has been made to make her anything more than a mystery at this point. At the end of the first issue in this series, ostensibly her series, she is no more fleshed out than she was before the series hit stands. There is no change in my view of her as a concept. As a debut issue in that regard, the book falls short. The book should have given me a reason to stay on board. It should have made a connection between the reader and our new protagonist. If the series is to succeed based on the merit of this new character, shouldn’t we get some inkling of who this new character is as a person? If this book is supposed to center around her, and we are to accept her as our new Thor, making her a side element in the first issue of her own series is not the boldest move to take. Perhaps taking the time to do more setup in the previous volume or even giving the issue the double-sized treatment might have solved some of these problems.
The book is worth a read if you’re a Thor fan. If you were hoping to find something akin to Ms. Marvel, with a fleshed out new female character that sticks the landing on its first issue, this might not be your best bet. For that reason I’m grading it on two separate scales. For longtime Thor fans, this is a solid 8/10. It plays with the lore, we get familiar faces and the best elements of a Thor book are there. For Marvel fans looking to jump on board, it falls closer to a 5/10. The artwork and writing are excellent but the enjoyment you get out of it is qualified by how intrigued you are by Thor and his mythos.
Here’s to hoping issue number two makes significant strides with regards to setting up the titular character.
When Marvel Studios released Thor in 2011, they entered into a different realm with their productions. Iron Man II and Incredible Hulk had begun laying the groundwork for The Avengers but the tone of those films were very similar. They were scientifically based superheroes, if you want to use that word, operating on a very heightened level of reality. With Thor, Marvel pushed the limit and blurred the lines between fantasy and sci-fi in a way that was very impressive, considering that had it failed to connect, the Avengers as a project may never have come together the way it did.
Thor – The Dark World, the sequel to 2011’s Thor is very much another example of Marvel pushing boundaries with how they want to test the public’s acceptance of genre-bending comic adaptations. Which is why Thor – The Dark World is basically the best Star Wars movie to come out in the last two decades. Looking at parts of it, Thor – The Dark World seems like a space opera in a fantasy setting more than anything else. Truly, it is astounding how fearless they were in putting this whole thing together. Moreso than the first Thor film, The Dark World asks a lot of the audience in terms of world building and genremashing filmmaking.
Of course, The Dark World is as much a sequel to The Avengers as it is the first Thor Film. They have much more leeway to play with themes and story-lines here than they otherwise might. The fallout regarding Loki is paid off here, and the second and third acts of the film are very much Loki-centric. Tom Hiddleston continues to shine as the darker foil to Hemsworth’s Thor, but their chemistry together here cannot be understated. Chris Hemsworth’s role as straight man to Hiddleston’s charming rogue is as just as deserving of praise, if not more. If Marvel has done anything right in their movies at all, it has been casting actors for these roles that play off against each other magnificently. Downey Jr. and Ruffalo, Hemsworth and Hiddleston, etc. All of these actors elevate the material in ways lesser actors could not.
The Dark World is definately a step up from 2011’s Thor, if only because the scope is intensified tenfold. We get more of Asgard here, more witty interplay between our central characters, and action that while not as grand as the climax as the Avengers, is perfectly in line with a sequel of this nature. The only shortfall that I can find with the film is that Christopher Eccleston is mostly wasted in his role as Malekith. Eccleston is a fine actor and his role in G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra had more meat on its bones than he is able to display here. I think much of that may stem from the fact that he is speaking an alien tongue for 90% of the runtime, but also his motivations and reasons for being the central antagonist do not get developed beyond rudimentary exposition dumps.
I think they truly nailed this one. Not many will find fault with this entry. They take risks that pay off well in the end. Those who so strongly opposed Iron Man III‘s narrative twists will not find anything similarly enraging here. This is the Marvel Phase II film that folks have been waiting for.
We’ve heard about reshoots on the set of Thor : The Dark World, and now we’re hearing via SFX magazine that Joss Whedon has been brought in by Marvel to toy around with certain parts of the film in the hopes of bettering the finished product. They seem to be playing it up as the architect of the Marvel cinematic world lending his golden touch but does it spell larger problems for the Norse sequel? Director Alan Taylor had this to say about the situation;
“Joss came in to save our lives a couple of times,” laughs the director. “We had a major scene that was not working on the page at all in London, and he basically got airlifted in, like a SWAT team or something. He came down, rewrote the scene, and before he got back to his plane I sort of grabbed him and said, ‘And this scene and this scene?’ And he rewrote two other scenes that I thought had problems. Then finally we let go of him, he took off again, and we shot the scenes; and they were just much better and much lighter on their feet. Much more fun, much more surprising than what we had been trying to do. I can relate to guys who come out of the TV world, since that’s where I come from. And being able to land and work and solve a problem quickly… I really was grateful.”
It seems like Marvel wants to do anything they can to make their Phase 2 films work. It feels like they aren’t putting much stock in the creative teams they’ve hired from the outset and prefer to tinker after the fact, which might spell trouble down the line. Let’s hope we don’t hear of the need for similar fixes for Captain America : The Winter Soldier. The last thing we need is a visible pattern.
Youtube has partnered with Marvel to show us some new goodies for their newly branded “Geek Week.” In this second trailer for Marvel’s Thor : The Dark World, it becomes very clear how different a film we can expect from the first installment. Alan Taylor’s stint on Game of Thrones seems to have heavily influenced the look and tone of the film. The real question is if the number of Dutch angles will be reduced this go-around.
Thor, the Mighty Avenger, returns to the big screen in Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” on November 8, and here is the official trailer, presented first on YouTube for Geek Week! See Thor, Loki, Jane Foster, Malekith and more in this epic trailer for the film!
Rick Remender can write the hell out of some superhero comics. He can write the hell out of comics, period. The guy doesn’t get near enough respect although his run on Secret Avengers gets a lot of love as does his Uncanny X-Force. The fact that he’s now on one of the most high profile books of the year that will bring in readers from the X-Men and Avengers camps with art from the amazing John Cassaday, I would say the general level of anticipation around this book hit some pretty high levels. I know I rushed out to pick up a copy even though I have one on order from my monthly shipment that won’t arrive for another two weeks. Was it worth it?
Let me say this, just seeing Cassaday drawing Wolverine again gave me the warm fuzzies in my geek cockles. I am an unabashed lover of his work on Astonishing X-Men and he hasn’t lost a bit of his magic. He gives these characters life and shows why he is one of the most revered artists of his generation. I don’t know what the schedule for this book will look like, because I remember Planetary and Astonishing X-Men and the intermittent shipping delays, but if the book maintains a level of quality from the artwork, I can do with some waiting. Cassaday is that good.
Remender’s scripting is equally impressive. The man knows how to launch a book. We’re coming right out of the fallout of AvX and while that series was one of meandering quality, what has been birthed from its loins is anything but mediocre. Remender gives us a look at Alex Summers at a crossroad in his life and at a crucial time in his development. He’s approached by Cap and Thor who want to bridge the camps of the Avengers and the X-Men and put hostility behind them. Of course, this is a Marvel comic so at the appropriate time the shiz hits the blades and chaos resumes at its regularly scheduled pace.
The big reveal at the end of the issue is spoiled in one of the variant covers, but if you are unaware I’ll leave it to you to discover on your own but it looks like Remender is going to go for the same sort of over-the-top drama that makes the Avengers work so well. His ideas are the perfect fit for something like this and he has delivered on his first issue. I am confident the rest of the run will live up to his debut.
I’ve been reading The Avengers on a monthly basis since a little before Bendis pulled the whole Disassembled thing. Looking back on it, that’s a lot of time to invest into a title. Couple that with the fact that I stuck with Bendis’ handling of the team through both the New and Mighty Avengers titles and then the “Heroic Age” relaunch and that’s a lot of time spent reading his take on the franchise. I’ll admit that for me, Bendis is the name I will probably always associate with Avengers. I’ve gone back and read most of the pivotal runs and I think only Kurt Busiek’s run matches it in density and enjoyability. Though there are some classic Silver Age moments that I quite enjoy.
I had to drop both of the Avengers titles shortly after the relaunch because of monetary issues. A lot of really good books got chopped, actually. But with the movie recently in theaters I thought it would be a good idea to re-examine some prominent Avengers stories once again and so here we are.
The 2010 volume of Avengers begins in the wake of Marvel’s “Siege” storyline where Norman Osborn’s reign as the leader of SHIELD/HAMMER comes to a close and the status quo reverts to something more akin to what longtime readers were familiar with, this time with Steve Rogers in the role previously filled by Nick Fury and assembling two separate Avengers teams. This volume deals with the more “traditional” Avengers featuring Iron Man, Hawkeye, Thor, etc. with holdovers from the previous volume of New Avengers in Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, and Wolverine.
The book still maintains much of what made Bendis’ run on the first volume of New Avenger such a success, ie. his dialog. He’s especially gifted at writing witty banter and makes good use of characters like Hawkeye, Spider-man, and the more garrulous members of the team. This time around however, there is less focus on grounded street level action and the plot is driven by BIG ideas that the Avengers series seem to thrive on. In this particular volume, we get a broken timestream and alternate realities. We get classic Avengers villains like Ultron and Kang. It’s everything longtime fans of the book should love.
The principle complaint against the book is that Bendis cannot write with his trademark style and manage that sort of plotting. I would argue that this isn’t true. Working with John Romita Jr, the layouts and flow seem to work as well as they ever have with a story of this type. While the artwork does seem more sketchy and rough around the edges than I would really like out of Romita, he does a serviceable job making sure that Bendis’ story comes to life on the page.
My major issue with these six issues is that the book does seem to have too much going on for its own good. The chaos in one timestream seems to suck the energy from the parallel plot and as such the story reads somewhat uneven. It’s not a bad story, it just isn’t very even. In regards to assembling a new team, the book sets up the new status quo quite well. We get a very good idea of what the book is going to do very quickly. You just have to decide for yourself whether it is up your alley.
Did you guys see Jurassic Park III? You know the guy who directed that also helmed this. He was also responsible for The Wolfman last year. Though that won an Academy Award, so I won’t be cruel to that one. Plus, much like Captain America, the best part of that film was Hugo Weaving straight up chewin’ scenery. My point is that Joe Johnston was a bold choice to direct what would be the final piece in Marvel’s film-puzzle before The Avengers hits next may. At the same time, much as Kenneth Branaugh was an inspired choice to take up Thor Johnston is one of those directors who, when on his game, would be perfect for something like Captain America. The number one reason that people have been giving since the day he signed on the dotted line was the fact that he directed The Rocketeer which shares some similar themes as well as the “period piece” setting. Well, Captain America is decidedly better than The Rocketeer. Though to be honest I’d love to see Timothy Dalton hamming it up against Hugo Weaving. That would be golden.
The film begins in the present day, where a team of scientists drilling in the arctic find something unusual. The story is familiar to anyone who has a basic knowledge of Captain America beyond “he fights Nazis.” From there we fade back to World War II, where we meet up with Hugo Weaving’s Johann Schmidt laying siege to a village in Norway hoping to obtain some ancient Norse artifact supposedly taken from Odin’s throne-room. At this point we must accept that if you’re not seeing every Marvel Studios film you’re not getting the full experience. The item in question is of course the Tesseract, or the cosmic cube, which was actually glimpsed by keen eyed viewers in Thor earlier this year. We’ve finally reached the point where everything has come together and while if you missed Thor you can still enjoy Captain America, the sense of connectivity will be an added bonus for fans who have been following the buildup since Iron Man.
I have to say that this is probably the best origin story comic adaptation to date. Only Iron Man really comes close. There have been some complaints that Steve Rogers doesn’t really have a character arc, he just has a physical transformation. Those people clearly missed the point of the film. Steve was always a good man. His discussion with why he was chosen to be a super-soldier with Stanley Tucci’s Abe Erskine (another standout among many) touches on this quite effectively. Steve’s real arc doesn’t get a chance to begin until he reaches the future. With this being a true origin story, we don’t get to deal with that yet. A good portion of that will be dealt with in The Avengers I would assume. And that is the only downside to Marvel’s interconnected universe. There will always be things that get lost in the shuffle. In a movie like this you can’t get everything in a two hour time-span.
But they do manage to work in a good number of things that work, a truly epic villain who isn’t afraid to go big in a way that most villains have been lacking for a while on screen now for one. Hugo Weaving is perfect as the Red Skull and it’s good to see a true, and pardon the term, “comic-bookey” villain on screen and done well. He’s what the scenery chewing villains of the 90’s Batman franchise aimed for but missed entirely. Much credit must be given for making a character that could have been hokey and downright lame into a memorable character.
Chris Evans also does a good job portraying Steve Rogers. He’s almost too likeable. He brings that sense of honor and duty that Steve Rogers has always had as well as a truly great degree of charm. After seeing him in the role I’m not sure if any of the other names on the shortlist to play the character would have worked out near as well. This is the first time where I watched Chris Evans and didn’t see Chris Evans. I saw Captain effing America. As much as I enjoyed him in Fantastic Four, his Johnny Storm was much like the wise-cracking characters he had played in other films. In Scott Pilgrim, I got a feeling he was mostly just Chris Evans making fun of Chris Evans trying not to be Chris Evans. Here, he was Steve Rogers. The earliest parts of the movie where they used all the CGI left in the universe to make him a skinny little runt seemed to distract from the fact that this was an actor playing a part. I was greatly impressed.
But one of the things that truly stunned me, especially coming off of something like Thor, is that the romance element of the story was handled organically and sincerely. Hayley Atwell, who will likely become a lot of young men’s new celebrity crush after this film, plays a fully developed character in her own right whose relationship with Rogers is given time to shift and grow in a way that feels very real and genuine. Compare this to Chris Helmsworth’s attraction to Natalie Portman in Thor that was basically boiled down to “She’s Pretty, He Has Muscles.” Granted sometimes that’s how real relationships do happen but it doesn’t make for the most satisfying cinematic experience. The Rogers/Carter romance is definitely more interesting. Steve’s jealousy of the attention Tony Stark’s dad keeps throwing her way over the course of the film is one of the more entertaining aspects and shows that even though Steve is a good man at heart, he’s just like you. He hates it when good lookin’ dudes start eyeballin’ your girl.
Personally, this is my favorite of the Marvel Studios entries. I’m a big Cap fan and I feel they nailed it with this one. Iron Man comes very very close. But there was something about this film that just felt more like a Marvel comic come to life than any of the previous entries. Iron Man II attempted that feeling but in the wrong manner. Cameos out the wazoo do nothing. But capture the tone and feel of the page and translate it to screen, and you’ll get something truly special, which Captain America is. I plan on seeing it again very very soon.