Taylor: Despite what you may think of them, the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies are amazing for one thing in particular. No, I’m not talking about the infinite pools of blue that are Orlando Bloom’s eyes, I’m talking about the insane amount of detail present in each installment. From swords wielded by extras on down to the authentic briar used to create Gandalf’s pipe, it all is produced with detail and realism in mind. And while Thor may not be known for its realism, the series does possess a staggering amount of detail which I find positively delightful. Thor 3 is an exemplar of this and is another solid installment in this run.
Thor is trapped on Roxxon Island amid ice-giants, minotaurs, and dark elves. Worse yet, she has been seperated from Mjolnir by a magic-proof door. De-powered via seperation, an ice-giant freezes and eats Thor, only to later realize that such an action was foolish, moments before he explodes with electricity. Yes, Thor has survived and she continues to smack down the rest of the ice giants. In the room where her hammer sits, Malekith and Dario face off in a dark magic battle only to have it interrupted by Thor, who promptly smashes the object they were fighting over: Laufey’s (an ice-giant of old) skull. However, to make matters even more complicated, Man-Thor shows up swearing to battle Lady-Thor!
Any discussion of detail and this title is of course going to start with Russell Dauterman’s art. While we’ve previously discussed our admiration for his excellent work on this title, I was particularly captured with it this go around. I hadn’t previously taken the time to really appreciate all of the little things Dauterman incorporates into his art. Generally, his art is so kinetic that I find I have a hard time slowing down to appreciate all he does. However, being stuck on a slow bus with this issue, I found myself in the perfect situation to take some time and appreciate just how fine the details are in this book.
Something that really encapsulates the amount of detail Dauterman incorporates into just about everything he draws is the character of Malekith. In just about every panel we see the Dark Elf he is drawn lushly. No amount of detail seems too little to include, as the below panel aptly demonstrates.
Let’s start with that hair. Just imagine the time it took Dauterman to pen all of the intricate curls on Malekith’s head. Not only are they dynamic and full of life, but they flare out in every direction. It adds life to the panel in a way I never would have expected. Additionally, we can see the Dark Elf’s musculature on his arms and beneath his clothes. While subtle, it’s the type of detail that makes a picture memorable because it shows us the tiny aspects of our own daily life we often ignore, but which are crucial for a mind’s eye. Lastly, who could not appreciate the magic symbols flying off of the door in every which direction? Instead of relying on color (which it does have a wonderful amount of) this panel pops off the page because we see so much stuff flying at us. Ancient and evil symbols, elf hair, and ice all collide to create a panel that arrests the eye and it’s all due to the details.
Jason Aaron compliments his artist well with his own clever deployment of detail. Often times when writers talk about writing a fantasy story, they focus on the need to set your story in a fully realized world. The world of Thor absolutely reflects this idea. However, I enjoy how Aaron adds depth in unlikely and fun places. After Thor knocks out the floor in the Roxxon tower, only one ice-giant remains to give her problems.
Yes, the only ice-giant to remain is Spearlip, son of Snowbones. While this could be construed as a throw away line, it’s actually an awesome little bit of world building. Not only is this giant named, but we get his dad’s name! Further, the name “Snowbones” is evocative enough to conjure up all sorts of stories, the like of which a dedicated fan-fiction writer could spend a career on. This moment injects the world of the Thor narrative full of life in much the same way Dauterman’s art does. The use of detail by both creators causes the world to seem vibrant and alive and a pleasure to spend time in.
Spencer! Do you feel the same way about spending time in Thor’s world? What do you think about Man-Thor’s robotic arm? And is it possible that Lady-Thor is an unlicensed superhero given that Thor nor any other Asgardian knows about her existence?Spencer: I’m not sure I fully understand your last question there, Taylor, but it’s clear that nobody knows who this new Thor is besides Thor herself — not even the readers! I’m still a bit perplexed by Aaron’s choice to keep Thor’s identity shrouded in mystery for so long, but it doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of Thor 3 one iota. Maybe Aaron’s keeping mum on the subject in an attempt to work up hype and attract more attention to the book, or maybe it’s an attempt to get the readers to judge Thor by her actions and not by who is under the mask, but either way, it’s just one element of an outrageously entertaining title.
Thor 3 doesn’t really provide any more clues as to Thor’s identity, but we can still learn plenty about who this new Goddess of Thunder is via her actions themselves.
What we learn in this scene is that Thor is working quite hard to emulate the original Thor. Just look at the amount of personality Dauterman imbues her with in that second panel — she’s absolutely dripping with Asgardian swagger. It may be at least partially a front, but Thor’s posturing seems to give her the conviction she needs to fight back, even if it doesn’t distinguish her much from her predecessor. Maybe that’s the point — perhaps Mjolnir’s specific parameters of “worthiness” mean that only a very particular kind of person can wield its power?
Then again, Thor does get a chance to show her own personal brand of decision-making later in the issue when she smashes Laufey’s skull. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if this was a decision Odinson could have made — part of me says yes, as Odinson would be just as disgusted by Malekith and Agger’s pointless war as Thor is, but another part of me thinks that he would have hesitated because of Laufey’s significance, be it as a king, a worthy foe, or even as the bio-dad of his brother. After all, Thor specifically bemoans her opponents’ pride as she destroys the bones, and pride is something Odinson — nay, all Asgardians — have in abundance.
This all suggests that our new Goddess of Thunder may have her own ideas as to what it means to be Thor, but it will probably still be a while before we see that avenue explored further. Aaron seems to be using this first arc to establish just why this heroine is worthy of being Thor — once that’s done, I bet we’ll see more new wrinkles added to this specific incarnation of Thor.
In the meantime, Taylor is absolutely right when he points out how specificity — both in the art and the world-building — benefit this title. Aaron and Dauterman paint a vivid picture of Frost Giant culture that makes them feel like so much more than just the giant blue fodder I’m used to seeing Thor clobber, but he also has a lot of fun fleshing out Midgard, especially in regards to Dario Agger and Roxxon.
Agger’s role as an evil CEO has always been so over-the-top that I can’t help but to laugh at it, but his casually name-dropping his “Vice President of Warlocks” is by far the biggest laugh I’ve gotten out of the character. Specificity seems to beget stronger humor to begin with, and let me assure you, this is one funny book. Again, it’s the specificity of Agger’s boasts that make them shine — mentioning that he “strangled eleven Shaolin martial-alchemists” tells a story that the reader can’t help but to picture and laugh at despite the monstrosity of Agger’s actions.
As for specificity of art, well, I’d need triple my word count to properly address it, but here’s one of my favorite examples of how the detail Dauterman throws in benefits Thor 3.
Every panel here has some sort of tiny detail that makes it stand out, be it the zillions of ice shards in the first, the random icicles hanging off the giant’s face in the second, or, my personal favorite, the delighted little Malekith rejoicing in the corner of the third. Matthew Wilson throws some dazzling detail into the colors as well, such as the icy haze emanating from the giant’s breath and the frozen Thor, and together these numerous tiny details all add up to create a rich, textured, lived-in world.
Still, these artists excel at far more than just acing the small details. I think my favorite skill of Dauterman’s is his staging, the way he uses the shapes of panels and the positions of the characters within them to help tell the story. There’s a stand-out three-panel sequence late in the issue that uses a triangle shape to better emphasize the movement of Thor throwing the ice giants through the floor (shattering the island in the process), but my personal favorite bit of staging in Thor 3 actually shows up early in the issue.
The way Dauterman uses the gutter cutting between panels to represent the wall that separates Thor from Mjolnir is quite clever, but the angle of the gutter is also important here. Both Thor and Agger’s postures match the slant of the gutter; Agger gets lot of space to lean into, making him look even more smug and heartless, while the acute angle of Thor’s panel traps her in its oppressive corner much in the same way the Frost Giants have her cornered. These are some seriously impressive storytelling chops on display here, and that, combined with Dauterman’s lush, detailed style, makes for a title that’s as visually arresting as anything on the stands.
Really though, while I’ve been a fan of Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson on various titles for a while now, this new collaboration has pushed all their work to greater heights than ever before. I always worry about lavishing so much praise on a title this early in its run — there’s still time for things to go off the rails — but in all truthfulness, there was no way a book as fun and visually dazzling as Thor wasn’t going to smash its way onto my list of favorites in record time.
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