Thor: God of Thunder 20

thor 20Today, Spencer and Shelby are discussing Thor: God of Thunder 20, originally released March 19th, 2014.

SpencerAs its name would suggest, Thor: God of Thunder is a book concerned with the more theistic side of Thor’s existence. Although at first glance this current storyline seems more interested in environmentalism than examining godhood, that doesn’t mean this element is missing completely; it just means that Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic are making us work a little harder to find it. After all, this issue features two different versions of the thunder god, a cosmic force so powerful that he makes gods tremble, and an evil CEO with the ego of a god. What’s the one thing they all have in common? They all do whatever they want, no matter what the consequences may be.

In the present day, Thor the Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon discuss strategies to take down Roxxon. Roz has little legal recourse available to her, so Thor does things his way, bypassing “the accordance of man” and “making war” by destroying a number of facilities belonging to Roxxon and other environmentally dangerous companies. Roxxon CEO Dario Agger — a.k.a. “The Minotaur”, a dangerously literal nickname — isn’t pleased, and decides to take the fight to Thor, starting by moving operations to Broxton, Oklahoma, the town Asgardia currently resides above.

Meanwhile, many millennia in the future, King Thor and his granddaughters find Galactus readying himself to consume the dying, abandoned Earth. Despite his granddaughters’ wishes, Thor sends them away and appeals to Galactus. Thor wishes to save the devastated planet mainly for nostalgia’s sake, but Galactus wants to destroy it out of spite, and won’t be abated. Naturally, a fight ensues.

When discussing last month’s issue I mentioned Agger’s god complex, and this issue only reaffirms my diagnosis.

Forget what I said last month, Agger would be a perfect Captain Planet villainAgger is thoroughly immoral, completely focused on his own gratification, and more than willing to tamper with the natural order of the world in order to meet his needs; that last point especially screams god complex. In all honesty, Agger’s corporate plans are far scarier than his cruel demeanor and Minotaur transformations, and both of those traits combined with the fact that he’ll do literally anything to get what he wants makes him more than able to stand beside the more genuine deities that otherwise populate this issue.

His opponent, of course, is Thor the Avenger, whose attempts to save humanity from itself has him bypassing S.H.I.E.L.D. regulations and any sort of due process to attack Roxxon and its ilk head-on. I know I have no room to criticize here — all superheroes, just by the sheer fact of being vigilantes, are breaking laws, and I certainly loved seeing Thor rattle Agger’s cage — but it is troubling how little Thor is thinking about the consequences of his actions. I know Thor’s actions stem from noble goals (and a little bit from trying to impress Roz, of course), but by harassing Agger without considering how he’ll retaliate, he’s opening himself, Roz, and all of Broxton to attack-by-Minotaur.

Whether Thor’s impetuousness stems from his godhood, his personality, or even just his crush, he needs to spend more time thinking before he acts. Roz could be the perfect person to temper Thor’s recklessness, but at the moment she seems both too nervous and too excited to really call him out. I’d love to see her grow into that role, though!

What interests me most about the fight between Old Galactus and King Thor, meanwhile, is how much lower the stakes are. Humanity is long gone, and Earth is on its last legs; there’s nothing there for Thor to protect besides memories. Galactus has even less to gain by destroying Earth. At this point it’s the galactic equivalent of eating celery; he’ll expend more energy consuming Earth than he’ll get back from the withered planet. Still, Galactus insists on destroying the planet, fueled solely by spite and ego; it was the only planet to ever defy him, and therefore must be destroyed. Galactus accuses the humans of long ago of being arrogant for defying him, but he misses the point; much like Galactus eats planets to survive, so too the humans fought against him so that they may survive. By accusing humanity of arrogance, of feeling too important, he’s revealing his own feelings of superiority.

Still, maybe those feelings are valid; humanity is long gone, but Galactus is still here. With no people left on his beloved Midgard, King Thor is largely fighting for nostalgia’s sake, and perhaps due to the promise he made Roz:

Apparently, much like an elephant, Thor never forgetsThat’s noble (though possibly still misguided), but there’s more to Thor’s motivation that I don’t quite get. When he sends away his granddaughters he seems like he just wants to die alongside Earth. Then he tries to talk Galactus down instead, but claims he doesn’t want to fight. Then his hammer and arm returns and he fights Galactus anyway. There’s a weird escalation to the events that’s leaving me slightly puzzled; is Thor just changing his mind each time, or does he have some sort of plan in mind we’re not privy to?

Either way, Thor’s likely decision to die alongside Earth is ignoring three little things: Frigg, Ellisiv, and Atli. Thor has a family and responsibilities, and he’s throwing them all away. Now, I know Thor can’t stick around with his family forever, and I’m not saying he hasn’t earned the right to choose how he dies — if anyone has, Thor has — but I am saying that his decision, in at least some ways, is fundamentally selfish. Being selfish isn’t always a bad thing, though, and I’m curious to see if any of you guys have any thoughts on which selfishness-factor this decision falls into.

Man, I’m bummed; I really wanted to talk about Ribic’s artwork, which, despite a few wonky faces here and there, truly captures the epic feeling this title deserves, but I’m totally out of space. Shelby, is there anything you’d like to say about the artistic team? Did you understand King Thor’s actions better than I did? Do you think he’s being selfish? And hey, shouldn’t Agger be in the middle of a maze somewhere, not running a company?

Shelby: Oh, I’ve always got something to say about Ribic’s work. During the God Butcher and God Bomb arcs, Ribic gave us some of the most epic, side-of-a-van worthy spreads I’ve seen this side of the Viking Metal section of a record store, and this book is no exception.

minotaur and the bearNo big deal, just a minotaur restraining some man-eating bears. The fact that this minotaur happens to be spouting some corporate boardroom-style language is the cherry on the awesome sundae that is this page. I kind of expect him to start raving about Huey Lewis and the News or sweating over a coworker’s business cards. Ribic operates on a scale which is perfectly matched to a story about Norse gods and monsters and the end of the world; he’s a perfect match for the raw nature and epic scope of Aaron’s story-telling.

Much like the two Thors in this arc, I feel two ways about the story. Honestly, I think Thor the Avenger’s portion is a little too on the nose, with the monstrous (literally and figuratively) corporation bent on destroying the Earth for profit and the somewhat naïve god bent on saving it no matter the cost. An evil plan to decimate the world’s supply of fish with genetically modified bears? Billions of dollars worth of evil facilities destroyed, only to be pledged to be rebuilt at double the size? It’s almost too much; the God Bomb arc could be as big and epic as Aaron wanted because that was the nature of the story. We were dealing with a creature who killed literal gods across all of time and space; that is an outrageously huge premise. But this part of this story is supposed to take place here and now. I know that events in ComicBookWorldLand need to be taken with a pretty hefty grain of salt, but by grounding this story in “reality,” Aaron makes it seem more ridiculous than epic when he goes over the top.

I much prefer King Thor’s side of the story. There’s more nuance, I think, to Old Thor’s motivations. Does he actually just want to go down with the ship? Is he just being a stubborn old man and refusing to give up? Or is he just a sad old man trying to hold on to memories of people and places gone long ago? It could be as simple as every battle with Galactus is; Galactus has his job to do, and the defenders of the planet have theirs. This portion of the story is big in a way that matches it’s setting; the scope of it all seems like it was sized better. Hopefully as the story continues we’ll see a little more balance. Who knows, maybe the title of the arc, “The Last Days of Midgard” actually refers to Thor the Avenger’s portion of the story; maybe he is actually fighting the end of the world, and King Thor is just dealing with the epilogue. That would be a rather sobering adjustment of scale to be sure.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

7 comments on “Thor: God of Thunder 20

  1. I love the way Aaron is handling the King Thor / Thor the Avenger dynamic in this story arc. Last issue only had a little tease of King Thor’s adventures in the far flung future, with a lot more focus on The Avenger’s motives. That’s reversed in this issue, which actually gives me a lot of faith in Aaron’s ability to revisit The Avenger’s seemingly simplistic motivations in the next issue.

    Also, I kinda love that King Thor might want to deal with Galactus in a more nuanced way, but really, what other choice does he have but to hit him with a hammer. I mean, Christ, he’s still Thor, right? Billions of years and he’s never encountered a problem he can’t smash in the face with Mjolnir.

  2. Shelby, I had a lot of the same objections to the Minotaur’s overly-evil evilness in issue 19 – environmental problems are real, why do they need to be made hyperbolic? But, on the flip-side, maybe the scale does need to be blown out so it requires the attention of Thor. Like, if real world climate change issues are a human problem that humans can address, then comic book climate change issues have to be bigger so Thor can address them. The real problem with that is that Thor’s only course of action is fucking lightning, and humans have no such analogue. In fact, human beings will need to sacrifice (a lot) to defend the environment — maybe that’s where the parallel to King Thor holds up stronger to our experience.

    • For me, the issue is that we do have pretty effective analogues for smashing up/destroying environmentally damaging facilities, but that, by anyone’s definition, their use would constitute eco-terrorism. Like, destroying somebody’s property is illegal no matter how immoral that property might be. Aaron gets around this a bit by virtue of the fact that Thor is a literal god, so may be more qualified to pass judgement on what yardstick we should use to measure the morality of property (and to dole out smitings for amorality), but like, this feels like it’s stretching beyond vigilantism in terms of things readers shouldn’t emulate. I’m never one to confuse the actions of a fictional character with an endorsement of their actions (or encouragement to emulate them), but where does this story leave us, morally.

      Actually, the problem may not be that this is too big, but that it’s too simple. Inspiring us to smash/lightning bolt our problems away doesn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good when the problem is so much larger, so much more systemic than we are. It’s hard for me to turn any inspiration here into a call to civil service, or even picking up trash. Again, not that a comic needs to inspire us to actionable goals, but then why address a real-world problem?

      I should add that I loved the holy heck out of this issue, and am quickly becoming a Roz booster (I’d gladly swap her out for Jane in the Marvel movies). I’d probably read Aaron’s shopping list if Ribic were drawing it.

      • From this point forward, I will illustrate all of my shopping lists… you know, just to see if something good comes out of it.

        Drew, I think that’s what I mean by Thor’s approach being too unachievable. Like, it’s simplistic to the point of being a) impossible and b) sort of immoral in it’s own right. And maybe the fact that the Minotaur CAN rebuild all the facilities at double the size speaks to how a “simple” solution isn’t going to work. The problems are deeply systematic, and can’t just be lighting-blasted away. Roz says that a solution may not be reachable in her lifetime, but still worth pursuing. That makes me a Roz-booster too!

  3. This is the only Marvel I’m reading since FF ended, and I feel that it’s been a mixed bag leading into this arc. I didn’t really care for the League Of Realms Arc; it felt like it was hitting too many fantasy tropes and owed too much to Tolkien while never actually becoming exciting. Aaron’s work with Ribic has fared much better, with this issue being my favorite in the run to date. My only complaint is that The Minotaur’s version of Roxxon feels heavily borrowed from Joss Whedon’s Wolfram &Hart concepts introduced in Angel.

    • I find that first statement really surprising. I’ve only been adding Marvel titles to my pull… well, not “only” I feel like I let some go too, but this ALL NEW MARVEL NOW has been totally effective on me: Black Widow, Punisher, She-Hulk, Secret Avengers, Iron Patriot, Amazing Spider-Man, just to name a few.

      Totally agree about the last Thor arc though. Even pretty frustrating in its simplicity.

      • I read a lot of Marvel growing up and just don’t enjoy it very much now. It’s just a house style thing, as both major companies have relatively equal talent pools. I guess I don’t have much interest in contemporary or practical superheroes. I still love to go back and read Kirby, Ditko, Armor Wars, Kraven’s Last Hunt, Claremont’s X-Men, etc. but I much prefer DC’s modern mature-readers take on more antiquated and potentially corny pulp heroes.

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