Taylor: One of the best (and if I’m being totally honest with myself, the very best) parts of visiting a comic book convention is seeing the costumes donned by the attendees. It’s rare that you get to see grown men and women enthusiastically dressed in costumes which reference their pastimes. In particular, I’ve always enjoyed the gender-swapped costumes which many an industrious con-goer has crafted. It speaks to a reader’s dedication when they take the time to craft a costume that is at once recognizable as being the character in question, but also bold enough to envision that character as a different gender. The reboot of Thor, with a lady acting as the titular character, seems to have taken ques from the bold women who have gender swapped heroes in the past. In similar fashion, this She-Thor doesn’t take guff from anyone and is at once assured and powerful.
Issue one saw the fallout of what happens when Thor loses his ability to wield Mjolnir. Basically no one knows what to do until a mysterious warrior is chosen by the hammer to be the next Thor. In issue 2, we see that this mysterious warrior wastes little time acclimating to her newfound power before flying straight into action. She quickly makes her way to Roxxon Island, where ice giants and Malekith are trying to nab a skull found by Dario Agger’s science team. Dario and his buddies are waging a losing battle when Thor shows up and beats up some more ice giants, but not before losing Mjolnir.
This issue, more so than the first, really serves as the proper introduction to the new Thor. We still have no idea what her identity is, but at the very least we are able to see her personality shine through her gleaming armor. A lot of Thor’s dialogue is spent in awe of the power contained within Mjolnir. Yet, while she is cognizant of how powerful she has become, Thor still seems unsure of her own abilities. This dichotomy is apparent from the beginning when Thor first takes off from the moon, is struck by her ability to fly, but then has to ask the question “How art thou supposed to steer?” This speaks to the idea that whoever is behind Thor’s mask, is both familiar with Asgard lore, but also new to the superhero scene since flying is recognized but not understood. This seems to take the edge off of my argument that Freyja is the new Thor, but I still think it’s too early to tell exactly who it is at this point.
While the identity of Thor will remain a mystery for the time being, at the very least we do know that Thor is now a woman. While that’s not a revelation in this issue, I did enjoy the way writer Jason Aaron inverted gender norms in a subtle way. When Dario (the sometimes minotaur) is in trouble, who should come to his help but Thor?
Instead of the male coming to rescue the damsel in distress, Aaron switches the formula around and has Thor coming to the rescue of a man. For the most part, this action goes unnoticed save from the put-downs of the ice giants and the skepticism of Darrio. Aaron doesn’t call attention to this and maybe that in itself is a statement. Maybe by not making a big deal about a lady saving the day, we should accept it as the new norm. And really, isn’t that what having a female Thor is all about?
Artist Russell Dauterman also does nifty work on this issue, especially with the action scenes, of which there are a lot. Given the heavy focus on ice giant bashing, it would be a challenge for artists to keep it all fresh and interesting. After all, we’ve seen Thor, both old and new, bash many an ice giant: what could make this time new and interesting? Dauterman’s answer is panel layout. I love the way he arranges the panels when Thor encounters her first giants.
Going from left to right, we see the panels go from fairly ordered to more jagged and haphazard. It’s a great parallel to the action that is contained within in the frames. As Thor investigates and the giants impede her way, things get more hectic and action packed. Same thing goes for the panel layout. It’s a great visual effect that heightens the sense of excitement in the panels and keeps you interested in the action.
Spencer! Any guesses to the identity of this new Thor? What about that skull that Malakith wants so bad? Are you feeling this new Thor so far or do you take a pass?
Spencer: I’m definitely charmed by this new Thor, Taylor. I wasn’t so sure after the first issue — which set up some compelling mythology but was frustratingly bereft of its titular hero — but Thor 2 won me over. I guess I’m just a sucker for heroes honing their abilities and having fun with them, and this issue gives us plenty of both.
It’s hard not to feel Thor’s joy at the discovery of her flight, especially with Dauterman’s gorgeously rendered facial expressions doing a masterful job of showing us exactly how happy she is. Really though, it’s the contrast between Thor’s more mundane, human thoughts and the fantastic new powers she finds herself in possession of that makes the character so much fun to read about.
Thor’s conversations with herself sound like two totally different characters talking to each other. Again, the contrast between her down-to-earth human thoughts and her eloquent Asgardian dialogue is always good for a laugh, but it also goes to show how thoroughly transformed Thor has been by Mjolnir. In fact, the heavy, heavy implication here that Thor is (or was?) human basically rules out Freyja as a candidate for the role (although, Taylor, I agree that issue one made a compelling argument for the theory), and the idea that Mjolnir can automatically alter Thor’s appearance means almost anyone could be under the mask.
My guess? It’s Roz Solomon. Besides being a human and a woman, we also know the new Thor has met Dario Agger before, and as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent she could easily make it to the moon, making Roz the ideal candidate. Even Roz’s personality — fun and upbeat but also powerful and capable of taking charge, plus fascinated by Thor and his world — fits with what we see from Thor here. I like Roz a lot, so I’m all for this one.
No matter who this new Thor is, though, her personality is only half of what makes this issue so fun — the action scenes are just as fun, and for more than one reason. While Aaron and Dauterman make sure to establish that Malekith and the Frost Giants are unimaginably dangerous — they take down a fleet of Asgardians and the Avengers — Thor has a fairly easy time fighting them. She makes fools of them and tosses around clever quips, making for an enjoyable, breezy read, but it’s Dauterman, colorist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Joe Sabino who truly make the action scenes stand out.
I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after first reading this page. Sabino’s loose, sketchy sound effects throughout the issue are always fun and visually appealing, but on this page they’re an essential part of the action, marking Thor’s trail of carnage in a particularly creative way. Something like this might have come across as a little silly in the epic Thor: God of Thunder, but I like that the creative team of Thor feels free to run with the lighter tone.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Dauterman isn’t just as capable of creating epic, iconic Thor images as the artists who came before him. The various panels of Thor standing around summoning lightning could be posters, and Dauterman shows a particular knack for putting together distinctive, immaculately composed shots.
The first thing I noticed about this page was the extra-thick gutters that make the image look like it’s in widescreen, and it’s a smart choice to amplify just how “big” this splash feels. Frost Giants are pouring into the panel from literally every direction — from off-screen, through the ceiling, from underground — and filling it to capacity, purposely overwhelming the page to make the poor unarmed, outnumbered, cornered Thor look even more tiny, powerless, and alone. No matter what this would have been an effective cliffhanger for our fledgling goddess of thunder, but Dauterman’s work here transforms “effective” into something much more striking and powerful.
Also effective is how Aaron handles the mystery of Thor’s identity. I still don’t quite know how I feel about reading a comic with an unknown protagonist — I suppose in some ways I’m amazed that, in the age of the internet, her identity hasn’t been spoiled, but I also feel like I should be more frustrated than I am. There’s a type of story I like to call a “never-ending mystery”, where a question or a mysterious past is hinted at for months and months without any real progression towards an answer (the plot about Dinah’s husband in the New 52 Birds of Prey or the mystery behind Coulson’s resurrection on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. both fall into this category); I cannot stand these kind of plots, and a mystery as prominent as Thor’s identity could quickly fall into this category. Part of why it hasn’t so far is because Aaron draws so little attention to it. People are surprised that there’s a new Thor and that she’s a woman, but not a single character in this issue tries to figure out who she actually is under that helmet. We’ll discover who she is soon enough I’m sure, but for now Aaron makes sure to let his readers know that there’s far more to this new Thor than a secret identity, and that’s certainly to the book’s benefit.
Taylor, there’s a lot of merit to your reading of gender in regards to this issue, but I’m actually impressed by how little gender ultimately comes into play. Sure, Agger and the Frost Giants throw around a few misogynistic remarks, but they feel awfully perfunctory. When all is said and done, this isn’t really an issue about how Thor is a girl now, nor is it an issue about the mystery of who is behind Thor’s mask; it’s simply an issue about a new Thor growing into her powers, and that kind of focus allows Thor to transcend any gimmicks and simply shine as a fun, good-looking, character-based story. I certainly can’t argue with the results.
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