A Mightily Lost Avenger

Someone at Marvel had a crazy idea: take Thor, distill him down to his essentials, strip away his continuity, hire a killer creative team, and see what comes.

The result is Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Landridge, Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson and their book (which has shipped both #1 and #2) is an example of through and through good comics. What they give us is Thor at his most basic, with Jane Foster, Mjolnir, and an Asgard that looms in the background. In this way, they can explore Thor and his mythos without the awful shackles of continuity, and they're explicitly clear about what they're doing: the titular character is something of an amnesiac. At the same time, though, there are some clever references to the Thor that we know and love that make it clear that this is a different aspect of the same character or, perhaps, the origin of the character if things had happened slightly differently, if Thor had started his adventures in Midgard in Broxton, Oklahoma rather than in a cave. What we've got here, then, is a retelling but not a retcon, a reinvention but without the specter of a bold new direction. What we've got here is an opportunity for some fun superhero stories, one that Landridge, Samnee and Wilson take full advantage of.

Landridge's writing in both issues is solid, solid enough that it's evident that plotting is his strength and that dialogue, while not exactly a weakness, isn't quite at the same level. This isn't really a very big deal, and he seems to have a pretty good grip on all of the characters' voices except for that of Thor. His characterizations elsewhere (particularly of Jane) are strong enough that they carry through some of the titular character's more awkward moments and this makes me wonder if Landridge was trying something funky with Thor's speech patterns, as a way to replicate the effect of the typical Olde English with something a little more modern but with similar effect. If that is what's going on, it doesn't quite work and Landridge needs to work on it a little bit.

Despite this, it's clear that he's very capable, firstly because his plot is very good but secondly, and more importantly, because he gives artist Chris Samnee and colorist Matt Wilson a lot of room in which to play. Whether it was intended as such or it just turned out this way Thor: The Mighty Avenger is, without a doubt, their book. Samnee's artwork, last seen in Siege: Embedded, is thick, bold, and stylized in a way that makes it feel like something Kirby would have drawn, that's just how dynamic it is. Samnee, though, often takes his art in a slightly more down-to-earth direction and his work lends itself to a kind of physical humor, almost slapstick, that makes the book an extra joy. His control of his character's expressions is priceless and this too helps Landridge's writing through some of its more awkward moments.

All these things together give the book something of a comic strip aesthetic, one that's made even more abundantly clear by Matt Wilson's colors, which are difficult to describe. Muted isn't right, and flat has too much of a negative connotation to be of any real help, so I'm going to settle for dynamic but textureless. Because they don't try to be overly realistic they emphasize the stylized and cartoony qualities of Samnee's work and they really make it shine. The coloring really could have destroyed this book if it was done wrong, but Wilson does a bang-up job, and the comic is all the better for it.

I really, really like The Mighty Avenger and I think it's going to go far as a series as long as it doesn't try to outdo itself. This book is great comics with a classic feel, but it's never going to break any new ground- not that I think it's trying to right now, but I think the creative team (and, more importantly, Marvel editorial) need to keep this in mind when planning for the future. Keep the stories simple, keep delivering great art, and this book is going to be a great success. I'm looking forward to it.

1 comment:

  1. Just read issue #1 while standing in a bookstore. Josh, your review is almost exactly sympatico with the way I feel about it. What great well-drawn fun stuff!

    I didn't have any negative reaction to Thor's dialogue though...