Thor (2018) Volume 2: Road To War Of The Realms. Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Tony Moore (Issue 7) Mike Del Mundo (Issues 8-10) and Lee Garbet (Issue 11).
We sit, on the eve of the greatest war the ten realms have ever seen. Battle lines are drawn, preparations are all but complete, any hope of a peaceful resolution is gone.
So naturally, this final volume before all Hel breaks loose contains a collection of short tales, design to fill out the world of Thor a little more, before a bunch of those characters are brutally murdered, in the coming months.
Our first story is a tale as old as time. God meets Viking Shieldmaiden. God kills troll to impress Shieldmaiden. God and Shieldmaiden fall in love. Classic. The only slight problem is that is that this whole meeting has been engineered by Loki, in an attempt to upset Thor and make him never want to return to Midgard again... Can the God of Lies succeed? Will Thor swear off his favourite realm and never again return to the shores of Earth? Or, in attempting to destroy his brother, will Loki inadvertently create the greatest God that ever lived?
Our second pulse pounding tale sees Thor and Valkyrie Imprisoned! Locked up in the dreaded “Prison of Angels”, in an attempt to rescue Thor's sister Angela, one time Queen of Hel and now an Asgardian of the Galaxy (I wonder how long that title took them). But Thor is made of Uru, and with a little help from Best Dog Thori, they just might make it out of this one in one piece. Maybe...
Our third jaunt through the world of Thor sees us reunite with one time paramour (or would that be... para-thor?) former S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Roz Solomon, as she begins her new job, as an Agent of Wakanda! But her first mission may prove to be her last... As she finds herself alone, vastly outnumbered, and facing an enemy that even Thor has struggled with in the past.
Our penultimate tale of peril is a little more personal. Thor returns to Asgard, to pick up a couple more hammers, and give Odin his “Best Father in All the Realms" award. But, finding him drunk and surly, Thor decides the far better plan is to feed him a hammer or two, with a knuckle sandwich on the side. The tension between father and son has been on the verge of boiling over for a long time now, and things will be done, which can never be undone. Will the All-Father and the Odinson ever be the same again, after this?
Our final tale, thankfully, is much lighter fare. After mooning and moping through most of this issue, Thor gets a talking-to from the only person who can slap some sense into him. His Step-mother. All-Mother Freyja decides to snap Thor out of his funk, by taking him on a little adventure to remind him just why he does what he does. And show him, that no matter how dark the world may seem at times, there is still some good left out there.
Why this book is so good:
No, you're not seeing things. This book is really five short stories bound into one volume. It's sort of tying off a few loose threads, before the War begins.
And, as you would expect from a book that is five self contained stories, it's a bit hit-and-miss.
The opening tale is a strong one. Thor finds love with his warrior princess, it all ends rather tragically, and in the process, he learns what it means to be Worthy. On the surface, it all seems quite simple. A throwaway tale of the Viking Ages. But when you read it in the framework of Aaron's Saga, and of Thor's quest for Worthiness, you see it for what it really is. By finding out how he finally became Worthy the first time, you see his actions now and realise how it is he can become Worthy once more.
The second story isn't quite as impactful. It's cool, sure. And Thori is always good value. But these middle two stories definitely feel like the weakest of the tales in this volume. It was nice to see Angela slowly warming to Thor, after how antagonistic they used to be towards each other, and while there are some strong plot points in this story, it feels like this scene could have easily been worked into another tale, without really changing anything.
The third part of the volume is another slightly odd story. I just want to get this on the record: I'm a HUGE Roz Solomon fan. I think she's criminally underused, and even now that she's a recurring character in Agents of Wakanda, I feel like there's a lot more they could do with her, as this story well shows. But if the whole point of this arc was to show that Roz is now mean and kinda badass... That doesn't really feel like it needs a whole issue.
Oh boy. Our fourth story was fairly divisive, when it first came out. A lot of people dislike what Jason Aaron has done with Odin, and this issue was when the whole debate came to a head. Personally? I absolute love this issue. So much so that even Del Mundo's art, which I'm usually pretty mean about, worked for me. Seeing the brutal fight between father and son, from Odin's perspective, made the whole thing so much harder to read. Seeing his internal struggle as he tried to desperately not to repeat the mistakes his father made with him. Feeling how he wanted to say something, wanted to just tell Thor that he loved him, but couldn't do it, because that time had passed. Honestly, I think that hurt him more than any of Thor's blows did. And trust me, Thor was hitting hard... A beautiful and emotional story, with some blood and gore thrown in, because why not?
The final chapter of this volume brings things back up, a little. After the torture of rescuing his sister, and the brutal fight with his father, Thor spends a little time with his mother, to make him feel better. This story would just be a puff piece, to make you feel better after how grim the rest of the volume is, except that a couple of panels right at the end tease the return of an old friends. And the end of a War!
Overall, this isn't the best volume Aaron has put out, but it's far from the worst. While there are a couple of week stories, they're still fun to read. And when he gets it right, he gets it SO damn right. “Thor becomes Worthy” and “Thor vs Odin” are particular favourites of mine, both because of their value as stories, and in how they contribute to the grander arc.
Art-wise, this was also a mixed bag. Moore's work in the Viking Thor tale was excellent, grim and dirty and vital. Just as you'd expect from a tale of the Norse Era!
Garbet's work in the final tale was classic Marvel style. In a book that so often has off the wall artwork, it's nice to have something classical, now and again. Especially when that art is combined with a fun tale, as it was here.
Then we have Del Mundo. I still don't like it. Sorry. While I felt the art worked in “Thor vs Odin”, I still just don't think it works, overall.
Join me next week when everything explodes and mayhem ensues, in *I have no idea if It'll be Thor Vol 3 or WoTR Volume 1*
If you want to read along with me, you can find every issue of Aaron's Thor Saga on Comixology, Amazon, or better yet, at your local comic store!