Review by Frank Plowright
More so than any of the accompanying Season One standalone graphic novels, Thor isn’t informed by the earliest escapades as presented in the early 1960s, but by the movie version released the previous year. Instead of starting with the lame Donald Blake finding an on stick in a cave, it begins hundreds of years further back, in the world Marvel once marketed as ‘Tales of Asgard’.
Matthew Sturges’ initial pages draw very much on the opening sequence of the first Thor movie, with the youthful Thor, Loki and Volstagg heading to Jotunheim to steal a frost giant’s sword, Thor being presented with his hammer, and the arrogant Thor lording it over his brother Loki. As in the movie, Thor’s foolhardiness brings Asgard to the verge of war, and Odin casts him to Earth, where we pick up with surgeon Don Blake.
From this point Sturges wends his own path, occasionally touching base with those primitive Marvel Thor stories. Jane Foster is promoted from nurse to neurosurgeon, and unlike the original stories she accompanies Blake to Norway on the expedition when he first discovers, or in this instance, rediscovers, the power of Thor.
As an artist Pepe Larraz is about as far removed from Thor’s co-creator as one could imagine. His style lacks Jack Kirby’s power, immediately putting the strip at a disadvantage, but a less dramatic approach when it comes to the scenes of everyday people entrenches greater naturalism. Sturges weaves the representations of three fates through the strip as narrators, and there’s an illustrative elegance to the way Larraz portrays them, but his Asgard is the spartan cold grandeur of the films in preference to Kirby’s opulence.
The treatment Sturges applies to the human cast is very much rooted in the tropes of TV melodrama, with much soul-searching on Blake’s part as to whether he should release the power of Thor, while Foster represents the voice of concerned reason advising of the dangers of tampering with such matters. The wonder is supplied by parallel conversations occurring in Asgard where danger is ahoy. It’s all extended far beyond any reasonable expectation, and considering Sturges is producing what’s fundamentally his own material there’s never any sense of tension or unpredictability.
It’s all put to shame by including the first issue of Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s latter day relaunch of Thor, which has action, suspense, and a greater dynamism all round.