Thor 1

Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Thor 1, originally released October 1st, 2014.

Taylor: The internet is a powerful beast that once mobilized can bring on a sea-change in our society. Many of the recent and memorable movements in the world have been brought about in large part due to social media and other online resources. The likes of the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring are testaments to the power of the internet and at this point it is clear that any meaningful change in the world might just begin in front of a computer screen. In much the same way, women are using the internet to voice their opposition to the inequalities they face everywhere from the workplace to the glossy pages of comic books. Of the latter, while there is still much reform to be had, there are clear signs that things are getting better. There is perhaps no better example of this than the transformation of Thor into a female character, and as issue 1 of this series shows, perhaps we need ladies in comics more than we could have ever believed.

For mysterious reasons involving super-spies and whispers, Thor has lost the ability to wield Mjolnir. Thor pouts on the moon when Odin shows up and assumes his son is being a sissy and attempts to pick up the hammer himself. But guess what: no dice! Freyja, the All-Mother, however is more resolved than her counterpart. She gives Mjolnir a tug and it deems her worthy, thus she becomes the new Thor! Meanwhile, in the Norwegian Sea, Malekith the Accursed, King of the Dark Elves, has shown up with some ice giants in search of a mysterious object. Thor shows up to save the day but without his powers promptly has his arms ripped off. Things aren’t looking so good for our former titular hero. Good thing there’s a replacement.

This is an introductory issue through and through and while I normally hate the set up that is required when launching a new series, Thor 1 pleased me, verily. In large part this is due to the way writer Jason Aaron has justified the need for a female Thor. Look, I love the idea of a female Thor and am excited by its very premise, but I also realize that something like this could easily be nothing more than a gimmick to generate reader interest. Luckily that’s not the case here. Deftly, and with a sense of purpose, Aaron gives us great narrative reasons for Thor becoming a woman.

The first and perhaps most entertaining reason is that the men in this issue simply just don’t cut it. Thor, for whatever reason has lost his powers and without them he’s basically useless. Thor has never been one for brains and without might he has no recourse but to blunder into battle with borrowed weapons from the Asgard weapon vault. Needless to say, this isn’t all that useful. His father is equally unhelpful when it comes to protecting the realm of Asgard. He arrogantly blusters and pounds his way to Mjolnir thinking he’ll  be able to pick up the very thing he enchanted.

By Odin's Raven!Of course it’s a fool’s errand and he fails in almost comical fashion. The thing is, in this instance Odin is the embodiment of macho pride. He’s arrogant against his better judgment and he thinks that his problems can be solved by  the use of simple force as opposed to a more nuanced approach. Additionally, he blatantly doesn’t listen to Freyja and fails and this lack of consideration causes him to lose ever more face. In both the case of Thor and Odin, Aaron makes a convincing case that traditional masculine methods of problem solving are out of date at best and harmful at worst. If that’s not a case for a female Thor than it’s hard to say what is.

Aaron’s other reason for a female Thor is of course Freyja herself, who in this issue proves to be both the voice of reason and prudence. When her son Thor is hurting and embarrassed from his loss of power, she comforts him. When Odin won’t listen to reason, it is she who corrects him. And most importantly, when no one else proves worthy of Mjolnir, she does.

Sticking out like a thor thumb.Essentially, she’s the most well rounded and capable person in this entire issue, regardless of sex. However, it has to be noted that Aaron gives her a perfect balance of feminine equanimity and masculine resolve. These of course are generalizations and outdated stereotypes and there’s no reason a person, regardless of gender, can’t possess both. However, we live in an imperfect age where such thinking isn’t necessarily the norm and Aaron is making a statement by acknowledging that yes, people can possess these qualities regardless of their gender.

Drew, do you see this issue as having such a strong statement as I do? I guess we don’t know for sure who picks up Mjolnir. Could it be someone other than Freyja? Also, what’s going to happen to the armless torso we once called Thor?

Drew: You know, I was actually shocked when I read your assessment that it was Freyja that hoisted Mjolnir at the end of the issue. I mean, the Thor-ified woman at the end doesn’t look all that much like the aged All-Mother.

Thor?I thought Freyja could be an interesting twist, but we’re at the very least supposed to think it’s someone else…but then I realized how clever that reading is. On the surface, there’s a whole lot of circumstantial evidence — Frejya is left looking at Mjolnir as the rest of the Asgardians depart, and when we return to the moon, it’s a lone figure that is ultimately deemed worthy — but there’s also a lot of emotional evidence. Freyja has been acting as the unquestioned ruler of Asgardia, so it’s downright insulting when Odin returns and gives her zero authority as a matter of course. Her abilities and intelligence are not respected, so perhaps proving herself worthy — indeed, proving herself capable of something NONE of the men of Asgardia could do — is something she needs right now.

Ultimately, I think this volume might at least in part be designed to address the de facto misogyny that tends to exist in fantasy realms like Asgard. We accept that Odin is sexist because he’s super old and used to doing stuff the super old-fashioned way, but maybe it’s about time that feminism arrived in Asgardia. Maybe this arc can be about how Odin comes to value his wife’s contributions and opinions as equal, rather than worthless. It’s for that reason that my favorite image comes just after the sequence Taylor included, where the “he” on Mjolnir’s inscription finds itself with a brand new “s”:

if (s)he be worthy…At the very least, Mjolnir is acknowledging equal rights for women.

Of course, that inscription also brings me to your joke about what we call Thor now that he can’t wield Mjolnir, and I think the answer is obvious: Thor. Unlike Batman, The Flash, Captain America, or Captain Marvel, which are titles that can (and have) been held by different characters, Thor is a name. He was Thor before he was worthy, and he’s still be Thor now that he’s no longer worthy. The inscription goes so far as to avoid saying that the wielder of Mjolnir becomes Thor, stating instead that they “shall possess the power of Thor”. I mean, Beta Ray Bill hoisted Mjolnir back in the day, but that didn’t make him Thor. That is to say, in spite of all of the press leading up to this issue, and in spite of that heartfelt letter at the end of the issue, we really shouldn’t be calling this new character “Thor”. You know, unless her name also happens to be Thor. I’m not trying to downplay this character — I’m super excited, and won’t deny that she’ll be equal to Thor’s old powers — just clarifying that Thor Odinson is the dude’s name, not a title that comes with Mjolnir.

Anyway, back to what makes this issue so great; it’s probably time that one of us mentioned Russell Dauterman’s art. Esad Ribic is a hard act to follow, and while I think his distinctive, otherworldly style was a great match for Thor: God of Thunder, I think Dauterman’s slightly more traditional (though still incredibly pretty) style is a perfect match for this series. I mean, we’re getting a straight-up superhero origin here, so more straightforward linework makes sense, right? Beyond the surface style elements, his storytelling is crystal clear. Dauterman has a way of mixing his layouts up to keep things from ever getting repetitive — I was particularly fond of his descending vertical panels as we learn the outcome of Thor’s battle with Malekith — and I’m impressed at how thoughtfully he uses the layouts to express story elements. My favorite has to be how effectively he uses crooked panels to convey the size and weight of the approaching Frost Giants.

Frost Giants are big

I’m excited about Dauterman, I’m excited about Aaron, I’m excited to find out who’s holding Mjolnir, and I’m excited to see what happens to Thor. I suppose I’m just excited for this new chapter in Thor’s story. With Aaron in the writer’s chair, we know it’s going to be epic, and with Dauterman on art, it’s going to look great. We’re not worthy.

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?

22 comments on “Thor 1

  1. I’m surprised at how much this issue seems to tie in with events from the previous run. I suppose Malekith and Roxxon are perennial villains for Thor, but their inclusion here seems designed to reassure readers of Thor: God of Thunder that Aaron isn’t forgetting about those storylines. Maybe you don’t need to recognize those elements for it to work, but I wonder if this works at all against the appeal to new readers that we tend to associate with new #1 issues.

    • He addresses that specifically in the letters page, which cherry-picks a dumb fan’s sudden objection to the changes in the Thor mythos. I think Aaron is well aware of the kind of pointless backlash Lady Thor is going to cause (and/or has already caused), and is making a special point to make this story the undeniable next act in his on-going Thor Epic.

      I think it’s interesting that the big Avengers Now #1 (Cap and Thor) are being penned by their long-time writers. Of the big three, only Iron Man has a new writer, and the changes to that character are minor and non-controversial.

      • Dude, how stupid was that letter? The dude refers to himself as a “die hard Thor fan”, but gives up almost as soon as he thinks he might not like something. I consider myself a total fair-weather Thor fan (I’d drop this series in a heartbeat if I didn’t like it), and even I’m on board.

  2. I’m with Drew on that I don’t believe Freyja is new-Thor, but only because that seems too pat of a solution. I think Taylor’s reading is totally legit – like, it’s insane to think that we’re witnessing a DIFFERENT warrior lady on the moon, right?

    • Well, Sif is oddly silent during the “we all tried to lift it” scene. Also, I didn’t read the Thor/Loki Original Sin stuff, but maybe it could be Angela? None of these people are blonde, but maybe that’s just part of the power of Thor.

      • I read most of that Loki/Thor thing but bailed toward the end because the art was so bad. It could maybe be Angela? I mean, if the hammer can bestow armor and shit, surely it can dye some hair too.

        • The Loki/Thor thing didn’t really confirm or deny whether it could be Angela, but she’s got her own ongoing launching soon, so I doubt it’s actually her beneath the helmet

  3. I cannot express how much I loved Malekith slicing Thor’s arm off and leaving him for dead. Someone remind me – is Old Man Thor missing both of his arms or just one? I was expecting that to be one of the developments that comes about much later, but BAM – first issue without the hammer and he drops a limb.

    • Oh holy shit, I hadn’t considered that this could be permanent. Yeah, it’s just the one arm — the left one, which he loses here. Interesting

  4. I’ve cut my pull list considerably and while I’m interested in what goes on here, I’ll rely on reading it vicariously through your readings and opinions. The Malekith story-line really soured me on Thor (I hated almost all of it) so I’ll be a bystander.

    BTW: Nothing from you guys on the Futures End stuff? I know it was still September break, but I actually liked a lot of what was done in there. Some of it. . . well, most of it wasn’t necessary, but I still liked the 3-d covers and a lot of the stories were actually relatively well crafted one-shots.

    BTW #2: Not talking about Edge of Spider-Verse #4 is a crime. Read it. For three or five pages you think, hmm, I’ve seen this before. Then it loses its mind.

    • I read exactly one Future’s End tie-in, Swamp Thing, and actually liked it quite a bit, but I’ve been burned enough times by DC’s September stunts to give them a pretty wide berth. Any issue that doesn’t feature the regular creative team is going to be skipped by me entirely…which was almost everything.

      • Yeah, I’m in aggressive-cuts-to-my-pull mode here, so I was actually pretty happy to pretend DC didn’t exist for a month. I read three issues: Swampy, Batman and ‘Tec, and nothing struck me as particularly good or bad, just all dealing with a future that I’m not invested in. I’m sure there’s a big conversation to have about Futures End and all the September tie ins, but I kind of made the decision to opt out. Otherwise, I would have done the whole Tour Guide thing and read everything. Those are my speeds: “fuck it” and “give it all you got.”

        But Spider-Verse is my bad: it all looks fun.

        • My comic guy sold me every 3D cover for $25/week for 4 weeks. That was a reasonable value to me. I honestly believe there was more good than bad and made me appreciate the DC Universe quite a bit more, especially now that I think I’m down to just Batman for DC titles. (DC really alienated me over the past year. It wasn’t anything specific, but each title interested me less and less.

          (Spider-Verse: You’re not missing anything if you don’t read Edge of Spider-Verse 1-5 other than fun alternate reality Spider-Stories to introduce some characters in the Spider-Verse land. I would strongly recommend reading Superior Spider-Man #32 and #33 and then pick up Amazing #7, Spider-Man 2099 #5, and Amazing #8 as they come out. Both Superiors that have come out are great.)

    • In terms of the Futures End tie-ins, I absolutely loved Grayson and Green Arrow. Like, that Grayson Futures End tie-in was just exquisitely structured (I’m kinda geeking out about today’s issue 3 as well, I’m really digging the series). Flash and Harley Quinn were fun but both essentially served as regular issues of the series as opposed to anything particularly exclusive to Futures End. Batgirl was a little bizarre but also really sweet at the same time and a really cool way to end Simone’s run. ‘Tec, Action, and Batman were both interesting one-shots that I enjoyed but wasn’t essentially wowed by. Most of the other Futures End tie-ins I read didn’t impress me, and I actively avoided a lot. But overall the event wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Drew was right to stick only to books written by their regular creative team. The only tie-ins that worked were the ones that kept their regular creative team but also avoided the continuity of the actual Futures End series, essentially just acting as one-shot Elseworlds (with Green Arrow being the exception; somehow Lemire at least made me interested in Ollie’s future role even if he’s failing at making Futures End itself appealing).

      Actually, speaking of Green Arrow, I read issue 35, the first by the new creative team, and man did I not like it. I mean, I really liked Lemire’s run so of course anything new is at a disadvantage, but still, it was a pretty crummy comic altogether.

      • Comments on a few of Futures End:
        Justice League: Martian Manhunter should be renamed Deus Ex Machina. I liked the Captain Atom story, liked the sadness of the prison and the jailer, hated the execution.
        New Guardians: It was ok.
        Batwoman: Decent and creepy. A weird future I didn’t see coming.
        Batman/Superman: Also a weird and creepy story that I didn’t see coming.
        Batman and Robin: My favorite Robin story since Damian died.
        Superman: A Shazam story that was a fun read.
        Aquaman and the Others: The Others suck. Really.
        Justice League Dark: Tries to be dark and twisted but isn’t very fun to me.
        The Flash: I think I needed to read recent Flashes to understand this.
        Catwoman: The first New 52 Catwoman story that I liked.
        Harley Quinn: Ugh. I can’t believe I liked 3 issues of Harley.
        GI Zombie: What the hell was that?
        Red Lanterns/Sinestro: I’m very non-Lantern, but I sort of liked both stories as one shots
        Booster Gold: I have no idea who would like this comic.

        Those were the ones by my desk. But I liked more than 75% of them I’d guess. Only 3 real stinkers out of the bunch.

  5. Wow. I didn’t get the impression Freya was the new Thor at all. When I read that paragraph I said WTF out loud lol. Kudos if it is actually her. I mean it could be Freya as much as anybody else.
    From all the articles I’ve read Thor 1.0 will just be known as The Odinson from now on.
    Hey will you guys be covering any of the new superhero shows this month? Love to hear your opinions on Gotham et al.

    • Hey Happy, sorry about getting back to you late on this one, but it’s actually a little bit of a tough area for us. You’ve probably noticed that we like to toss out a quick Chat Cave when a new superhero movie comes out – it’s a nice quick way for us to weigh in on the biggest things in the world. But that coverage always feels a little lacking. While all the same characters and situations are present, there’s a completely different vocabulary that we use when writing about comics than when we’re writing about film. Obviously, they’re simply different experiences on basically every level and while we all have opinions about them, expressing them feels decidedly un-Retcon Punchy.

      And then the issue is exacerbated with TV shows. They feel more like comics because of the serialization, but ultimately, it’s a totally different art form. We also don’t have a good gauge on where to cut it off. I wrote something about the first episode of Arrow when it aired (https://retcon-punch.com/2012/10/11/arrow-episode-101-pilot/ if you’re curious what that looked like), and while it’s by no means a bad write-up, it does feel like the conversation a billion different websites are having about TV shows. Point of fact: we sorta modeled our format off of the AVClub’s TV Club (on the occasions that they had point-counterpoint articles). We believe pretty strongly that we’re providing something unique and necessary in our deeper conversations about comics, and it’s just not that novel when it comes to TV.

      Covering shows also begs the question of where to draw the line? This year, it’d make sense to write about Constantine, The Flash, Arrow, Gotham, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and that Agent Carter show, because they’re all superhero shows (or superhero adjacent shows). But then like, what about Walking Dead? That’s more strongly related to comics than almost all of those shows. And then what about when Heroes comes back? Not a comic, but it does have superheroes. And then what about cartoons? Ninja Turtles? Where’s that line? What are the shows that it makes sense for Retcon Punch’s brand to cover? And as an inconvenient follow-up, how many of those are actually any fun to watch.

      PER THAT LAST POINT: Gotham is just dreadful. I watched those first two episodes, and I have a very hard time not trash-talking right at the TV (much to my girlfriend’s chigrin, I’m sure she’d rather just not watch it).

      • I also really didn’t like Gotham — I didn’t even make it past the 15 minute mark on the first episode. I’m probably not immune to criticism of being too precious about the characters (there’s no way in hell Alfred would ever call someone “mate”), but my bigger issue is that the writing is just so unabashedly ham-fisted. Gordon isn’t just a good cop, he’s the best cop, which is conveyed first in an entirely unbelievable hostage standoff, then in an equally unbelievable heart-to-heart with a freshly orphaned Bruce Wayne. I wouldn’t have even thought about continuing to watch it if it weren’t for it’s relation to characters I care about, but with so much good media featuring those characters, it’s hard to justify watching something I dislike so much.

      • I actually liked the first episode of Gotham, but each episode has only gotten significantly worse, and I spent the entire third episode rolling my eyes every thirty seconds.

        The whole plot of the third episode is that a vigilante is tying people to weather balloons and killing them by sending them into the stratosphere, and at one point some random mugger Gordon and Bullock are shaking down mentions that “weather balloons eventually come back down” and Gordon and Bullock freak out like this is some kind of grand revelation. Seriously?! What did they THINK balloons did, just kept going up until they passed into outer space?

        That said, the Flash is pretty damn killer so far. I haven’t dug something like I dug its first episode in a while.

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