Taylor: What makes someone worthy to wield Mjolnir? Is it their inherent goodness? Their capacity to do good? Or is it something else? Ever sense the Odinson had a terrible secret whispered into his ear this has been the question on everyone’s mind, for if a god isn’t good enough to be Thor, then who is? By now we know that Jane Foster is, but the reasons for her being chosen by the hammer are only now beginning to reveal themselves and even then mystery still abounds when it comes to the universe’s most powerful hammer. The Unworthy Thor, as its name suggests, follows the man who was once worthy of Mjolnir but no longer is. Could it be that in following this outcast, the answer to one of comic’s most tantalizing questions will be answered?
The short answer is no. Those hoping to find a quick reveal about why the Odinson is no longer worthy to carry his hammer will be sorely disappointed. Instead of blunt answers Jason Aaron chooses to keep his readers in the dark, but along the way he does drop some fascinating tidbits that just might clue us in when it comes to the mysterious ways of Mjolnir.
Since leaving his hammer on the moon the Odinson – as the former Thor now calls himself – has been gallivanting around the universe doing the two things he’s best at – drinking and killing trolls. This leads him to the moon where he quickly encounters some foes and wastes no time in tangling them into a fight. As he’s doing this the Odinson, for once, feels like his old, hammer-swinging self.
It’s understandable that the Odinson would feel better beating up trolls. Just like any of us he takes comfort in the familiar, and there’s nothing more familiar to him than beating up trolls. While that’s understandable, it’s a little worrisome that violence is such a familiar thing to the Odinson. Whereas the average person may take comfort in a favorite movie or a cup of tea, the Odinson centers himself amidst the act of killing living things. When this is considered, does it seem all that strange that Mjolnir deemed him unworthy? Pair this with his other pastime, drinking, and you have the makings of a man who resembles not so much a heroic figure but a loose cannon. No one would want to give a weapon to a drunk man with a history of violence, so is it a mystery his hammer chose a new partner?
Perhaps this is too harsh a judgment on the Odinson; after all, the universe he lives is extremely dangerous. At the opening of the issue we find him in an epic battle to claim what appears to be an alternate version of Mjolnir. In this vision, the Odinson struggles everyday to claim the hammer-ax from an endless hoard of monsters, inevitably losing every time. This hellish existence is drawn wonderfully by Olivier Coipel, who captures not only the Odinson’s struggle, but the weird fantasy-sci-fi world he lives in.
The character design of all of the monsters the Odinson battles are fully realized in their hideous designs. They wear skulls and look like hockey players fashioned by the devil himself. While those are nice touches, what really stands out are the horrendously painful looking electro-staffs they use to subdue the Odinson. There’s something about the DIY look of these staffs that makes the amount of pain they’re causing the Odinson highly believable. When you’re as evil looking as these dudes, normal weapons won’t do the trick – you gotta improvise something more painful yourself. These little details belay the message that the world the Odinson lives in is dangerous, weird, and perhaps as unworthy as the Odinson himself.
However, in some ways Coipel is simply the wheel that is powered by the Aaron-engine and his vision of the Thor universe. Inevitably this series will be judged next to the Mighty Thor, if for no other reason than the latter is simply excellent. Knowing that, it’s clear that Aaron has made a real effort to keep the vision of the universe congruent between each title. Part of the joy of this universe is how it mixes sci-fi elements with Norse mythology. At first glance, these two genres make odd bed-fellows, but once you see the Odinson riding a magic goat through space, you’ll forget all of your worries.
While Toothgnasher, as the goat is called, comes from Norse mythology, it’s hard not to see that it basically is a space ship for the Odinson. In most comics this would be hard sell. The idea of a goat propelling a great warrior through space is as ludicrous as it is silly. And while there is some of that here, Toothgnasher’s appearance actually works. Aaron certainly has his previous work in Mighty Thor that helps him pull this off, but he also goes full goat here. There are no reservations about Toothgnasher and their is no explanation for its appearance or how it works. This simply narrative tactic of “it is what it is” is awesome and works to create both humor and drama in the issue.
Spencer: Well Taylor, outside of the Odinson, Beta Ray Bill, and maybe Jane, I doubt we’ll be seeing any more Thors within The Unworthy Thor itself, but it absolutely was an exciting concept back when Aaron told that story in the Secret Wars tie-in Thors. The hammer Odinson seeks actually used to belong to the Thor of the Ultimate Universe, and appears to have survived the destruction of Battleworld and fallen to our world.
It’s funny — when I first heard the Odinson would be seeking a hammer in this series, I assumed it would be the hammer of Thorr, a weapon that can only be wielded by the unworthy that was brought to Earth-616 by an evil, alternate universe Thor during Jonathan Hickman’s run on Avengers, and which the Odinson later took up himself in his final battle before the universe was “destroyed.” Thorr’s hammer would be the easy way out, though, just as accepting Bill’s offer would be. Ultimate Mjolnir offers more than power: it offers redemption.
The Unworthy Thor 1 does a fantastic job of showing just how demoralizing and emasculating the loss of Mjolnir has been for Odinson. He can’t even win a decisive victory over trolls, the one species in all of the Ten Realms he should be able to take down no matter what. Experiences and sensations that Odinson once took for granted are now his grandest fantasies.
I feel for the Odinson, I really do. I’m rapidly approaching 30, and I can already feel my body slowing down. I can no longer handle things that were once second nature to me; I can’t stay up to 3 or 4AM every night anymore, I can’t handle spinning rides at amusement parks anymore, I get overwhelmed if I’m out all three nights in a row on a weekend now. If there was some magic item that could reverse these developments, you can bet I’d do whatever it takes to get it. The Odinson’s case is a bit different because that item does exist, but his quest to obtain it (as seen in the opening scene of this issue) is practically Sisyphean; he has about as much chance of succeeding as I do of turning back my biological clock.
That brings me to a point Taylor alluded to in his half of this article: considering how violent Odinson is, maybe it’s no surprise that he’s no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir. I highly doubt the hammer is squeamish about violence, but Odinson’s first response to any threat is violence, and he’ll keep pursuing the most straightforward, violent path long after it’s proven ineffective. This has actually been a theme of Aaron’s tenure with these characters as far back as Thor: God of Thunder; the final arc of that series found Thor/Odinson’s hot head sabotaging his chances of taking down Roxxon, and Jane’s early adventures as Thor found her succeeding by pursuing less violent, less “macho” methods than her predecessor.
Actually, as much as Odinson says he’ll never become his father, his stubborn insistence on clinging to outdated ideas is very Odin-esque. While Nick Fury’s whisper may be the literal trigger that made him “unworthy,” his inability to move forward may be what’s keeping him there. If Odinson is ever going to reach Ultimate Mjolnir and thus regain his worthiness, he’s not going to do it by charging blindly day after day in the most straightforward way possible; he’s going to achieve it by switching up his approach and thinking outside the box.
Talking about Jason Aaron’s long tenure on the Thor titles reminds me of another of his collaborators who has also joined Unworthy Thor: colorist Matthew Wilson, who also colors Jane’s adventures over in Mighty Thor. The fact that Wilson’s distinctive colors aren’t immediately recognizable in this issue is a testament to his versatility, but, in concert with Coipel’s more grounded and gritty style, it also shows the drastic difference between Jane’s world and the Odinson’s.
Taylor mentioned that the Odinson lives in an extremely dangerous world, but Jane lives in that same world and faces many of the same threats, yet still has a sunny outlook and a bright, bombastic art team. I’m thinking that the darker style Coipel and Wilson adopt in Unworthy Thor is less about the world Odison lives in, and more about his approach to living in it. Odinson is depressed and self-loathing, so of course the aesthetic of his world is going adjust to match.
Before I sign off, I just wanted to talk about the Unseen for a bit. I love Coipel’s approach to the character; he’s remarkably creepy — more scary than any troll — and the chains that surround him are a wonderfully expressive element. They can be unsettling in one panel then suddenly humorous in the next — in fact, I think the biggest laugh I got out of this issue is the first wide-shot of the Unseen, where we see the chains lying behind him, just splayed out all around him on the ground.
Those’re gonna be a mess to untangle.
I don’t think I ever fully understood the ending of Original Sin, but I’m pretty sure the Unseen is actually Nick Fury, right? If so, that adds a whole new element to his interactions with Odinson — the very man who caused his unworthiness is pointing him towards a possible cure. Somehow, I don’t think Odinson’s exactly gonna be grateful if he finds out.
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?