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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?