The Mighty Thor 12

mighty-thor-12

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing The Mighty Thor 12, originally released October 19th, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Taylor: Even though it’s easy to recognize a fairy tale or myth, it’s hard to explain what sets them apart and makes them so recognizable compared to other forms of storytelling. True, there are the usual suspects that jump out to tell us that what makes a story a myth is a moral, an explanation of how things came to be, or supernatural creatures. More than these, however, there’s something about the structure of a myth or fairy tale that makes it instantly recognizable as such, something intrinsic and deep down that on some level defies explanation. So, even though it’s hard to say exactly what makes these stories work the way they do, they simply cannot be misunderstood for anything else. And in just this way, there’s no denying that The Mighty Thor 12 is a myth in all the best ways possible.

Having recently witnessed Mjolnir take the physical form of herself, Jane is brought to the Hall of All-Knowing at the Nexus of the Gods to figure out what exactly Mjolnir is. There she meets a librarian who tells her the myth of Mjolnir’s creation. No one knows exactly how Mjolnir was created but legend has it that Odin defeated and captured a massive space storm and contained it in an unbreakable metal. The result was a weapon no god could wield…until eventually there was one who could.

Readers of the Mighty Thor will recognize the structure of this issue. Just like issue 7, a guest artist has been brought on board to illustrate the story-within-a-story section of this issue. In this case, Frazer Irving pens the legend of Mjolnir with stunning results. Irving’s style is perfect for illustrating a myth, as his charcoal inspired, impressionistic drawings do wonders in bringing to life a story literally larger than life.

i-just-wow

As can be seen, Irving perfectly captures the surreal atmosphere of a story that deals with gods fighting sentient (maybe) space storms. He somehow achieves a color palette that is at once dark and moody but somehow bright at the same time. Part of this has to do with using bright colors, like with the rainbow bridge and Odin’s magic, in tasteful amounts. The page doesn’t splash with color but it is balanced in a way that it offsets the overall dark tones of the page. Despite most of these four panels being a shade of grey, black, and blue, the little color used does much to liven up the page in a way that is pleasant to the eye because of just how well balanced all the colors are. Aiding this color scheme is the matte finish that graces Irving’s pages. It recalls childrens’ story books which perfectly aids the mythical overtones of this story, since it does so well to evoke feelings and memories that in some ways just can’t be verbalized.

Jason Aaron no doubt is aware that he’s writing a myth here. After all, the story is being told at some place called the “Nexus of the Gods” — not exactly the place you set a story about the day’s gossip. Because, or perhaps in spite of, this awareness, Aaron’s story reads, and more importantly feels, like a myth. Aaron already showed us he can write a folk tale with the story of Bodolf the Black, and here he expertly tries his hand at a myth and does so with flying colors. Really thought, isn’t this exactly what we want from a comic that bares the Thor name? Again, Aaron knows this and cleverly acknowledges that he’s writing a story on the final page of the issue.

myth-buster

Yes, the story that Aaron is writing is already on the shelf at the Hall of All-Knowing. It’s so epic it’s practically a myth even as it’s happening.

But there are other reasons this issue works as a myth aside from Aaron basically proclaiming it such. So much of myth making is an attempt to explain that which is ultimately unknowable. In doing so, things are often described using metaphor and hyperbole, which Aaron also uses in his myth. Take, for example, the story of the dwarves forging Mjolnir out of unbreakable metal.

story-telling

In their effort to forge the metal the dwarves melted mountains, hooked a star and harnessed its power, and shaped the metal for days on end. On the one hand this is ostensibly all taking place in the Marvelverse so it wouldn’t be that far fetched to believe these things actually happened. More likely though, they didn’t. Several times the librarian telling this story warns us that “know one knows” exactly how Mjolnir came to be and it’s safe to assume that all of this is simply figurative language used to show how hard it was to make the hammer. Regardless of how it was forged, though, the point is that it took a lot of power and time to create it — so much so, in fact, that it became an undertaking of mythic proportions.

Spencer, I really liked this issue because Aaron is so good at writing tales that seem somehow authentic to both the world of Thor and our own. Do you feel the same way? Can you better put into words what exactly makes this story such a successful myth?

Spencer: Taylor, I think you’ve done a pretty fantastic job of laying out why this particular story reads as a myth and why those methods work so well. I particularly like your point that myths often use metaphors and hyperbole to explain the unexplainable; in The Mighty Thor 12, that idea doesn’t just apply to Aaron’s writing, but to Irving’s art as well.

feeling

There’s no denying that Irving’s work is absolutely breathtaking, but it’s not always clear exactly what is going on at any given moment. Irving’s art isn’t detail oriented, but nor does it need to be. This story is a myth, and that means that feeling is more important than details, and Irving excels in that department. In the above image Odin’s exact magic spell is never specified and the storm is barely even seen (and is pretty much imperceivable throughout this entire tale), yet we can feel exactly what is going on because of Odin’s mighty poses and the flashes of opposing colors.

(It does make me a little sad, though, that Irving’s art is broken up by such clean, traditional panel borders and gutters — they don’t fit Irving’s aesthetic. It would’ve been more fitting if the team could’ve found more period-appropriate borders, or perhaps even avoided prominent borders and gutters altogether, as present-day artist Russell Dauterman does in his opening pages).

That’s why this story feels so mythical. A myth shouldn’t get caught up in specifics and details. Myths deal with archetypes, myths are primal, myths are larger than life, and Aaron and Irving’s story succeeds on all those accounts.

legends-of-mjolnir

As stories that were never fully meant to reflect the exact truth in the first place, myths are also remarkably pliable. They naturally change over time, shifting and evolving the more they’re told. Aaron’s tale in this issue is, if not exactly a retcon, close enough, but Aaron obscures that fact beneath the veneer of myth. He even lists some of the previous in-continuity origins of Mjolnir to show how the weapon’s myth has already changed throughout Marvel’s history. Aaron’s origin isn’t altering anything essential — it’s simply one more addition to the myth of Mjolnir.

Taylor made another point I really liked: myths are usually intended to answer a question, to explain something that may be unexplainable. What question is this myth answering? It’s more than “how did Mjolnir get made,” because we basically already knew the answer to that. The real question here is “how could Mjolnir possibly be alive?” Aaron gives us a (possible) answer to that question, but it only begets further questions: for example, if this sentient storm is trapped within Mjolnir, why has it only been able to start interacting with Thor within the past year?

The most important question this issue poses may be one of worth. While narrating this myth, the High Lord Librarian mentions that the God Storm reserved the worst of its wrath for those who truly deserved it, that it was “a storm that passed judgment.” In a way, the storm is able to tell who are worthy and who aren’t. That’s always been Mjolnir’s most famous ability, yet it appears that the storm’s ability to judge has nothing to do with the famous spell of worthiness.

worthy-enchantment

The enchantment that meant that only Thor Odinson could wield Mjolnir was cast by Odin even in this incarnation of the myth. If this spell allowed Thor Odinson to wield a lifeless (if infinitely powerful) Mjolnir, then perhaps somehow the God Storm is the entity that has judged Jane Foster worthy of wielding a far more animated Mjolnir? It would make sense, but it still raises further questions. Why is this happening now? And why has Odinson become unworthy in the process?

That last question feels especially pertinent when you consider that the Odinson-starring Unworthy Thor launches next month, and that highlights the beauty of this issue. Aaron’s myth is able to address some questions raised by the events of last month’s issue, but it also succeeds at reminding the audience of a few of the series’ long-running open questions just in time for them to be important to the narrative again. That kind of immediate payoff — combined with the one-off nature of the issue — already makes Mighty Thor 12 a more successful interjection than the Bodolf story from earlier this year. I wouldn’t mind seeing Aaron tackle myth again in the future — although with a guest artist on the next two issues as well, I hope we get plenty of Dauterman-illustrated issues before we need another fill-in.

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?

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12 comments on “The Mighty Thor 12

  1. Frazer Irving is probably my favorite comic artist that I don’t want as a regular artist on a title. That feels almost like a criticism, but his style is so distinct that it lends itself (to me) best as a supernatural contrast to the ‘normal’ world. I think I only know him from The Shade (Egyptian gods), X-Men (Dormammu) and here (Asgardian Legends) which all contrasted the bizarre but regular world of the preceding comics.

    Aaron’s Thor has been going on for… three years? Hickman’s Avenger Thor was during that time also. I think there’s a very good chance that people are going to look back at this as one of the true golden ages of Thor comics.

    • I’ll agree with that assertion about the Golden Age of Thor Comics. It’s so cool to see the Hall of All-Knowing again as this implicit call-back to the God-Killer storyline. Hell, we even see some of the spacesharks from that story in here. It’s a kick-ass reminder that this is all part of one super epic that Aaron has been patiently crafting forever. I’m super excited for Unworthy Thor next week to continue adding to this thing.

  2. And now I see that Irving did the art on Garfield #36, out last year. I’m fascinated as to what that might have been like. I want to know. Demon Garfield eats Jon Arbuckle’s soul? Odie skins Nermal?

    Or maybe it’s just Garfield being Garfield and I’m typecasting.

    (This is what happens on test days and my students really try on their tests. i can sit at my desk and look at comic type things without having to worry too much if they’re being terrible.

  3. In some ways, I almost struggle to know what to say about these issues.

    First things first. I love how artists are used in the Mighty Thor. I love how guest artists always have a very specific purpose, and Dauterman is still there, doing the present day parts. It really builds a cohesive aesthetic to the book.

    Secondly, I love how it feels like a myth. Between Irving’s atmospheric art, the incredible scale, the keen understanding of the tropes, this issue truly feels like a myth. As a pastiche, it is perfect. And it will create a new twist on the idea of ‘Whoever holds this hammer, if they be worthy, shall have the power of Thor’.

    Thirdly, I loved Odin being slightly subversive in the story with his grumpiness at the dwarves.

    But these issues always seem to be setting up Chekov’s Guns, and as well done as they are, I feel that their stories are ultimately less deep than the main story. This is a great myth, and I look forward to seeing how the Mother of Storms is going to be involved in the future (and what its status as a ‘female’ ancestor to Thor is going to mean with respect to Odin and his patriarchal stance, even if the storm is technically without gender). But everything that really excites me is in the future.

    It is a great myth, but nothing but a great myth.

    Still, I am thankful that Thor is so great that I can make that critique. I also agree. THis is a Golden Age of Thor comics

    • I’ve always wanted to see more of that kind of use of artists on long-running books. I understand that no one can keep up the pace of drawing one issue a month with no breaks (except Salvador Larroca – he’s more machine now than man), but I wish this kind of solution was used more frequently than the usual plugging in guests artists or rotating between artists.

      Though, rotating between a regular set of artists can be nice too – I’ve appreciated the way Duggan’s run on Deadpool keeps coming back to the same couple guys (though, man, what do they have to do get tempt Shalvey back to the fold? The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly remains my favorite Deadpool arc to this day).

      • The difficultly with this solution is that you need to have constant, story motivated choices to do what Thor does. Thor uses flashbacks, but you need some sort of transition to justify changing artists in that way. There are many types of transitions you could use, including temporal, location, character or identity, but you need the right sort of story, with enough transitions that you are actually giving the artists the time they need. It really, really needs the right story.

        Still, utterly awesome when it happens

        • I think with Thor there is a better chance for this kind of story. The fact that time is limitless to the stories that can be told about Thor and associates makes it easier to explore pieces of his past (or his hammer’s past) and his future because it’s nearly infinite. We’ve almost run out of ways to explore Peter Parker’s past or Batman’s future because of the finite nature of them. Batman has had zero year and year one (and I think year two) and plenty of grumpy old bat stories, so there’s not a ton of new ground to cover there that would lead to pieces like this.

          Of course, it takes a writer like Aaron still to pull it off.

          I like Slott more than some here do. He tried to add to Peter Parker’s origin with Clash, but Parker’s high school years are getting pretty crowded story-wise.

        • Thor certainly gives you a wide canvas, but nothing is stopping you from saying that this adventure took place 1 year ago. Batman and Robin Eternal is a good example of finding a place in the narrative where you can have a big adventure that took place in the past. And the Captain America comics have recently found a lot of space to explore Steve’s childhood, instead of his time in World War II (and I’m not just talking about Spencer). Doing origins has the problem that everyone else does origins, and so it is harder to find a new angle. But what Spiderman and Batman do in Year Three of their careers is wide open. And futures are infinite, though always have the problem in being wrong (unless you have a character like Thor, whose King Thor timeline can never be wrong simply because it will never be reached). There is plenty of space for stories like this, especially if you avoid the obvious places. If you have a great idea, you can do it with ease. Even Ms Marvel has an 8 month time-skip to play around with. Honestly, I think the only rule is that if you are telling a past story, make sure it matters in the present. Because if he doesn’t it usually suffers from the fact that continuity strangles it and prevents it from being interesting. That appeared to be the problem with Spidey

          And, of course, the art tricks here could be something like Gotham and Metropolis having different artists. Or both protagonists having different artists. Or different art for Batman and for Bruce Wayne (isn’t this what Moon Knight is doing at the moment?). There are a lot of ways to do it. Though you need to know what you are doing, like Jason Aaron.

          On Slott, I do love his ideas. I just always get disappointed with the exact execution. If I read what this Clash story was, I would probably approve of the idea. Even if I didn’t like the story itself

        • Oh yeah, it’s actually just occurring to me that Thor, God of Thunder DIDN’T take advantage of this kind of artist rotation when it probably would have made the most sense. Remember, that was a series that told the story of three different eras of Thor: young, present-day, and very old. That was early enough in Aaron’s run that I think he and Esad Ribic were maybe more interested in making sure the series had a solid visual identity before getting fancy rotating out artists.

          And while it certainly does take a specific writer working towards using artists in this way, I don’t think that should be a totally impossible task – just a choice the creative team makes. Obviously, mediums like film and television are frequently restricted by what that can and cannot film. Budget constraints mean you can’t have any extra sets or actors? Write a bottle episode! Same concept is true here: Dauterman needs a break? Find a way to tap Ivring for 80% of an issue.

        • I don’t know if God of Thunder didn’t do it because of the need for a solid visual identity – the current Thor series has a solid visual identity because of how it uses transitions to swap to people like Irving.. It was instead a creative choice made at the time. And as the book has changed, so has the creative choices.

          But yeah, it certainly isn’t an impossible task. It just requires enough time to plan your story around such breaks. TV Shows do things like bottle episodes, largely because they are planning around budgets. Same thing here. You can create a story that takes into account the fact that Dauterman will need a break, but if Dauterman falls behind, it is really hard to find a reason to justify an art shift to Irving.

          And, of course, this sort of art shift, as opposed to ‘let’s go a one shot with a guest artist after our arc’ requires a narrative that has some sort of transition you can exploit. If you want to write a story that is very singular in focus, it becomes much harder to justify a change in artist.

          But when someone pulls it off, it is beautiful, isn’t it?

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