Review by Ian Keogh
Worldengine was written by a relatively new writer who’d been producing fill-ins and sequences for secondary titles at Marvel. Shortly after completion Warren Ellis began writing Stormwatch, and a year after that his career really kicked off, and Worldengine therefore maintains a high reputation.
It’s really not deserved. There are flashes of what Ellis would become, but at this stage he’s not connecting his plots adequately. He’s also stuck in his unfortunate phase of believing the blusteringly rude, smart-mouthed, chain-smoking Englishman used in all his stories is somehow cool. At the start Thor is dying, not from embarrassment at the new costume Mike Deodato’s saddled him with, nor from the state his hair’s become, but apparently for real. We don’t know why. He’s then attacked and weakened further, but not before he stumbles across the Asgardian tree of life connected to all sorts of technology and being exploited, while long-time enemy the Enchantress is reconfigured as not so bad after all. There’s very little that’s convincing and too much that’s overwritten.
Likewise Deodato’s art is all excess, and divorced from the era in which it was created, it doesn’t look good. At the time Deodato was a far better artist than the superstars whose style he was knowingly imitating, so among the hundreds of unnecessary lines, the pencil thin women and the confusing, closed-in layouts, the talent is obvious with flashes of what would follow. Breaking a single illustration into multiple small panels as per the sample art is a trick Deodato would use for years to come.
Ellis is at his best on the final chapter, when there’s little place for the English irritant, and a blockbuster plot is knowingly and smartly compressed into a few pages, while the villain of the piece is the only understated aspect of Worldengine. Except when he’s wittering on about cannibalism. Too much information Ellis!
The original paperback release only includes the four chapter title story, but in order to bulk out the 2011 hardcover reissue Marvel include the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby story from 1964 introducing the Enchantress. It’s also overwritten and additionally hokey in places, but somehow it’s not as dated as the 1990s excess. The story also features as around half of Thor Visionaries: Mike Deodato.
Strangely, Marvel still value Worldengine highly enough to use it as the title of an Epic Collection featuring Thor stories from 1995 and 1996, when they’d be better off burying it in a dark cupboard. It’s not difficult to track down plenty of good comics work from Ellis and Deodato, and we’ll start you off with some in the recommendations.