Today, Ethan and Shelby are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 13, originally released October 9th, 2013.
Ethan: If you’re like most people, when someone asks you what type of music you prefer, you reply “oh, most kinds” or “I’m not picky” or “pretty much anything except [insert genre name].” That said, no matter how coy you are about your favorites, when you find a band that really grabs you, that buzzes to your bones in just the right way – a way that feels a little bit like it must be unique, like it was kinda-sorta written for you specifically – it’s a wonderful thing. So for at least one tour cycle you’re set, maybe you see them live, maybe you wait after the show to get some autographs, and you hear the music in your sleep. But when the interval ends, when the band goes off the grid to put together their next album, there’s room for trepidation. What if their new songs don’t have that special texture that the old ones do? What if they sound EXACTLY the same and there’s no new magic? Well, as far as I’m concerned, Jason Aaron is facing off with a very similar situation in Thor: God of Thunder #14. His first God-Bomb arc knocked it out of the park with great big ideas like faith and deity, and the current question is whether or not he can do it again using dwarves, elves, and goats.
The dwarves in this equation are the the inhabitants of the realm Nidavellir. Short, guileless, lacking manners, and of course builders of things. Currently also playing host to a contingent of Dark Elves, namely Alflyse, Queen of the Dark Elf realm Svartalfheim. Other notable elves are Malekith, Dark Elf Lord of the Wild Hunt and genocidal manaic, and Sir Wormsong, Dark Elf master swordsman but amateur tactician. In a fight between these two, Sir Wormsong quickly wins, and then loses, because Malekith is that kind of elf. Back in Asgard, Thor gathers his warrior friends and gets ready to go hit Malekith in the face, but All-Mother Freyja intervenes, citing Novenary Politics (band-name, TM): the Congress of Worlds has decided it would be illegal for Thor to singlehandedly pursue Malekith, but he can do so as the leader of a multi-realm team, including a Light Elf sharpshooter, a dwarven demolitions expert, a giant, a troll, and a Dark Elf sorceress. I know that’s only six, don’t think about it too hard. The team tracks Malekith to an underground stronghold on Nidavellir, where he’s located and massacred the Dark Elf monarch and her retinue. They fight, triggering a cave-in, and Malekith escapes.
At first glance, the issue is a weird sort of mash-up of Norse myth, World of Warcraft, Tolkien homage, and caper film. The scene where the team assembles is especially formulaic – the one-dimensional personalities of each member representing the stereotypes of their cultures, the late arrival of the not-quite-trusted one, and the charismatic leader holding the bunch together by sheer force of will. Images of Ocean’s Eleven came to mind during this segment, with echoes of The Sting. But with names like “Sir Ivory Honeyshot, Lord of Longrose Hall” and “Oggmunder Dragglevladd Vinnsuvius XVII of the Longstomp Tribe,” we’re clearly immersed in the fantasy tradition instead of some modern heist. Even just the visuals for each panel featuring these introductions felt like character sheets from Neverwinter Nights or Magic the Gathering.
Thank God for unimaginative troll-parents and the uninspired names and (lack of) titles of their offspring!
So, like I mentioned earlier, I was a little bewildered by this issue. The God-Bomb arc managed to do some pretty wonderful things with some very heady ideas, and the interlude that followed it maintained the same creative treatment of what it means to be a god, and what that means for us mere mortals. Now that we’ve left the mortals behind, I’m still trying to figure out where Aaron is going with this new story. We have a new threat – Malekith – and we’ve got a new team to deal with him. I appreciate the effort to bring in some new names and faces – after all the first arc featured Gorr, Thor, Thor, and Thor. And we even get a little character development as the team starts to sort out the prejudices inherent to any hastily created bunch. They don’t understand each other, so they don’t trust each other.
The only things holding this group together is their blond-haired, blue-eyed, leader in the winged hat, and their common goal of killing or capturing Malekith. And here at least we find a bit more substance, because even if this inter-realm hit-squad could use a little more dialogue and a little less stereotyping, Thor and Malekith are still fun to watch in action.
Malekith brings the much needed “edge” – he’s a powerful, unstable personality and force; he feels that he’s been wronged, and he’s out to find some bloody justice. Thor is a hero in all ways, defending the weak, bringing comfort to the poor, taking hammer to hand to right the wrongs. The clash of these two is fodder enough for some great encounters to come. Meanwhile, I’m pretty happy to give Aaron the benefit of the doubt.
What do you think Shelby? Was there more depth here than I picked up on? Was this just a bit of comic relief? This is Garney’s second issue as artist on this title – how do you like his style?
Shelby: I think Aaron is giving us a story that has more depth AND is a bit of comic relief. Sure, there are themes of duty and justice, the nobility of uniting despite your differences for a greater cause, but ultimately this is just madcap team fun. I mean, we’ve got a silent giant, a dwarf demolitions expert, and a foppish elvish sharpshooter: just typing those words was a good time. Honestly, if I could change my name to Shelby Honeyshot, I would; I love that dandy of an elf.
I was thinking a lot about teams as I read through this issue. Ethan, you’re right to compare this to Ocean’s Eleven, the character archetypes are all there: the reluctant yet determined young leader, the surly demo guy, the smartass sharpshooter, the quiet strongman, the guy who’s too good for it all, the total babe who’s also a total badass. Aaron’s got a tough job to maintain those basic types while expanding the characters enough to keep the story feeling fresh. He’s also got a tough job forming a team in the first place. Every team book I read I inevitably compare to Justice League, a book I feel is an example of how not to write a team story. The Justice League started their team with a fight, and never really got over it. They never formed something cohesive, we never saw them as anything more than a group of heroes forced to fight together. It’s expected, of course, for teams to not work out at the onset, but there comes a point in the story where in-team fighting can no longer be the main source of conflict. The reader has to believe these people choose to work together for a reason. I think Aaron’s already off to a great start with the League of Realms. True, they don’t trust or like each other. True, the only thing keeping them together at this point is Thor’s threat of total annihilation (the ultimate motivator) if they bail before the job is done. But we’ve already seen the two elves put their differences aside (kind of) and work side-by-side. I think that, between Thor’s sheer force of will and Malekith’s horrifying crimes, this team will be able to pull it together. I fully expect that, at the hands of the League of Realms, Malekith’s reign of terror will end with blood, tears, quips, and sass. Maybe the giant will even get a chance for a good zinger.
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