Today, Shelby and Patrick are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 17, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Shelby: Sometimes you have to sacrifice what you want for the greater good. If it’s the happiness of just you versus the happiness of many, you just gotta bite the bullet and go for the greater good. It sucks, but it’s the right thing to do, and generally there is some consolation found in that. But if the greater good you’ve sacrificed your happiness for actually leads to even greater suffering, where does that leave you? I can tell you this much; it leaves me with a very unsatisfying end to the latest arc of Thor: God of Thunder.
When last we left Thor, he had killed Ud the Troll as a traitor to the League of Realms and followed Malekith to Midgard, where we find he had bugged Thor, making our plucky god of thunder the traitor this whole time. Except Ud isn’t dead, Thor tricked everybody, and a fight ensues between the League of Realms (who showed up just in time, of course) and Malekith’s dark elves. Things seem to be going all right for the good guys until the council of dark elves stops everything with a surprise announcement; they’ve decided to crown Malekith their king. But, he still needs to serve the rest of his sentence in spiderjail, unless he can find a proxy to take his place. Naturally, Waziria volunteers. So now, evil, murderous Malekith is king of all the dark elves he didn’t kill and Waziria has about a thousand years to wile away in a hole with giant spiders. But hey, at least Thor managed to bring together a team of races bred to kill each other to do some good in the universe, right? Oh, but also Malekith is forming an evil League of Realms with the frost giants.
This issue really took a turn, and not in a “ooh, fun twist, I didn’t see that coming!” sort of way. More like a, “wait, that doesn’t make any sense” sort of way. Bad enough Jason Aaron gave us such a heavy-handed reveal that Thor didn’t actually kill the troll.
But to have the whole quest to stop Malekith’s killing spree be basically for naught? I feel somewhat similarly to how I felt after finishing Nabokov’s Lolita; I was extremely dissatisfied with the end of that book because I didn’t feel the right amount of justice had been served to the pedophile protagonist, just as I am dissatisfied with Malekith’s crowning here. And to have Waziria volunteer to take his place in prison after he slaughtered thousands and chopped off her own arm? I suppose I could possibly get on board with the idea that dark elves need to be ruled by fear, and this will ultimately be for the good of her people, but I cannot fathom why the Congress of Worlds would grant power to a villain like Malekith. They may have stopped him from murdering his own kind, but they’ve just granted him the power he needs to bring war to the realms and murder everyone. It’s a stupid decision: so stupid that I found myself distracted from the rest of the story. And Waziria’s request to Thor, for one last kiss to keep her warm at night? Give me a fucking break.
There were some interesting things happening in this arc concerning leadership and diversity and banding together to fight in the face of darkness, but I feel like Aaron has thrown a lot of that away with this bizarro wiz-bang ending. Was this whole arc just to set us up for whatever war Malekith wants to wage in the next story arc? That makes me feel cheated. I don’t know, Patrick, is there more to this issue than I’m getting? Maybe some deeper commentary on story-telling tropes that I’m missing because I don’t think the characters’ choices make any sense?
Patrick: I’d say if you’re missing the value of anything here, it’s Lolita. It’s not about punishing Humbert Humbert – his whole life is an excruciating punishment. He finds the most sublime beauty in the form of Lo, the one thing he just can’t justifiably have. His fate is want something that makes him terrible, and live with that desire — until he’s killed of course, but even that mostly serves as a way of setting him free of his insatiable lust of Lolita’s exuberant youthful energy. The book is basically an exploration of being obsessed with beauty, joy and cleverness at the expense of relateability. If you end up doing another lap through Lolita, you’ll notice that Nobakov lingers on his smarter turns of phrase just a bit too long, making his own cleverness revolting. His love of language is supposed to mirror Humbert’s love of Lolita – it’s perverse and pure at the same time.
But no, the ending of this arc was fucking stupid.
I was getting grumbly from the second it was revealed that Ud was still alive. I get it: you can do magic in order to make it look like something happened when it really didn’t. And if I didn’t get it, Thor can toss off a totally throw-away line about Loki to justify it. The question is: what’s the goddamned point? If Thor’s plan was to lure Malekith out into the open, why didn’t he just disband the league and (or not) and go to the Dark Elf counsel? What part of that plan was predicated on Ud being dead? Furthermore, I don’t understand why the Elves would need to have Malekith right in front of them in order to elect him as their leader. I’ll even accept the asinine scenario that they’d ever want him as their leader in order to entertain this question. Are they literally just waiting for Thor to tell them they need to elect a leader?
I absolutely despise the catch-all answer that Waziria spits out “this is the way it must be.” Differing cultures are one thing, but it doesn’t work when seemingly every character is motivated by causes and effects that appear totally unrelated. It’s clumsy storytelling, and it doesn’t even feel “unsatisfying” as Shelby suggests – just nonsensical. The ending would be much more upsetting if it made any sense — if Thor’s sense of fighting an uphill battle had any basis in reality. But it doesn’t.
Also, Shelbs has brought this up before, but it’s gross the way Aaron is unable to express Waziria’s sexuality in a reasonable way. There’s her gag-worthy last request for a kiss, but there’s also Malekith’s teasing that he might even arrange for her to have some conjugal visits from Thor during her imprisonment. Oh goody. If that was a male character in the spider-pits, we’d never hear a word about fuck-visits.
I don’t know man – once this series let go of it’s half-articulated questions about what it means for God to die, I’ve had a hard time pin pointing what’s valuable about it. When Esad Ribic is drawing the action, its appeal is a little more self evident. While Emmanuela Lupacchino and Ron Garney do their best Ribic impression in this issue, the brush-strokey kineticism is mostly absent. Even aided by Ive Svorcina’s washed out, moody colors, the visual magic of the series takes a holiday when Ribic’s not on the title page. (The other colorist, Lee Loughridge, did the first dozen pages, and he doesn’t appear to be emulating Svorcina’s dusty style at all.)
So, there you go: Malekith is the King of the Dark Elves and there’s a new League of Realms in play. And what does the previous League have to say about them?
Yeah, it’s sorta strange, but doesn’t actually matter. Got it. That’s how I feel too.
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