And here we have it. Finally, after the initial announcement and the resulting debate, the first issue of the latest Thor series is here and we get to see the new, female version of the superheroic thunder god in action.
Er, sort of. With this issue, writer Jason Aaron gives us what is very much a transitional story: the star of the comic is unambiguously man-Thor. Picking up from the events of Original Sin, the issue depicts poor old Thor as having lost the right to use his own hammer, which now sits buried in the surface of the moon as it awaits a worthy wielder.
Although his superpowers have been curtailed, Thor still has it in him to try and save an offshore drilling operation from an army of frost giants led by the dark elf Malekith . The fight ends in disaster, however, and Thor is sent plunging to the bottom of the sea with his arm chopped off – an image which, rather oddly, suggests that he is slowly but surely turning into the nineties version of Aquaman.
And the female Thor? Well, she appears only at the very end of the issue. Her identity is not made clear; the staging of the story hints that she may be Freyja, but as the comic carefully avoids showing her full-on as she picks up the hammer, this could be a red herring.
Speaking of Freyja, the goddess takes centre stage in the issue’s one truly character-driven scene. The gods are gathered around Thor as he tries and fails to pull his hammer out of the ground; Odin is brash and impatient, first trying to solve the problem by loudly yelling at his son, and then rudely shoving Thor out of the way so that he can have a go at retrieving the hammer himself. Freyja watches on with haughty amusement, never really seeing why a magical whacking instrument should cause so much fuss when Thor’s still the same person deep down.
Previously in Thor continuity, Odin had abdicated from his throne and left Freyja to rule as Asgard’s all-mother. In this scene, Aaron makes a point out of contrasting the approaches taken by the two characters: brash Odin on the one side, calm and wise Freyja on the other. Odin insists that he should rule alone, while Freyja believes that she is a necessary part of the equation – and from the portrayal of the two gods in this issue, it is hard to disagree with her. The gender politics touched upon by this exchange form a fitting introduction to our new Thor.
The rest of the issue does not reach the same standard. The scenes surrounding the Asgardian argument are unremarkable stuff: another despicable villain calmly offing civilians with the aid of his formidable grunts, a confrontation ending with yet another amputated superdude. Perhaps this is all here to reassure the reader that, while change is in the wind, the comic still takes place in a familiar world. But surely it is not too much to expect a more ambitious opening number for Marvel’s latest heroine?
Artist Russell Dautermann opts to portray the Asgardians as broad cartoon types who would not look out of place in What’s Opera Doc?: Odin is butch and stocky but also comically short, adding a somewhat Napoleonic aspect; Volstagg is absurdly rotund; and Freyja is tall and dignified, a woman who can be readily imagined standing up to the hot-tempered musclemen around her. The backgrounds are sparse – which is forgivable, given that the story takes place half underwater and half on the moon – while Aaron’s fight scenes are gleeful lightshows of zaps and sparkles.
Parts of Thor #1 are good. Parts are… well, not necessarily bad, just overfamiliar. As opening issues go it is not a resounding success, but if the themes of Asgardian gender roles are fully explored, then the series will be worth keeping an eye on.