Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
With the eagerly anticipated debut of an all-new female Thor just around the corner, I’ve decided to go back and take a look at the beginning of writer Jason Aaron’s critically acclaimed Thor: God of Thunder run. Volume 1 – “The God Butcher” – covers the first five issues of the ongoing series, and sees Thor facing a timeless horror whose M.O. just happens to be the torture, dismemberment and (yes, you guessed it) butchering of gods.
I’m almost ashamed to admit that I hadn’t read any of this series prior to picking up the trade paperback, and… well…. damn have I been missing out. Perhaps the first thing that grabs you about this title is the absolutely stunning artwork of Esad Ribic. His innate gift for cinematic layouts and breathtaking action set-pieces injects this series with an epic feel that truly emphasises the enormity of every clash, every decision and every tense cliffhanger. Credit must also be given to his character design of Gorr, the titular ‘God Butcher’ who oozes menace and hatred in almost every panel. Like some sort of shadowblade-wielding Voldemort, he serves as a truly formidable adversary to Thor, and the way Ribic depicts him only adds to that growing sense of horror. In a lot of ways, Ribic’s near faultless visuals could practically carry the bulk of this book single handedly, so strong is his sense of visual storytelling.
Thankfully however, writer Aaron shows he’s no slouch in the storytelling stakes himself, constructing an emotional, deeply personal tale as we see the effect that his lifelong battle with Gorr has on the God of Thunder. In theory, the narrative structure that Aaron employs – flicking backwards and forwards between three ‘versions’ of Thor at different stages in his life – could become a little jumbled and disorientating, but his confident plotting and steady hand keeps things flowing smoothly throughout, providing an incredibly dramatic conflict which spans centuries.
The difference in characterisation between the ‘Thors’ is also brilliantly executed, as we see our hero evolve from the headstrong thrillseeker of his youth to the noble, heroic Avenger we are all familiar with, before finally becoming little more than a burned-out husk, hoping and praying for a warrior’s death. This unique structure is helped immeasurably by Ribic’s stellar character design, with each Thor sporting a distinctive look and becoming instantly recognisable as the narrative shifts from past to present to future become more and more frequent.
The only minor niggle I could possibly begin to level at this collection is that readers looking for a clean, self-contained arc may wind up disappointed. The ending, while impressively dramatic and epic in scale, does little to resolve the ongoing story, and only spurs the reader onwards with the series (on a related note, a review of Volume 2 – Godbomb is coming very soon). A minor niggle perhaps, but one worth mentioning for people thinking of picking this collection up. That said, I actively defy anyone to read these first five issues and not instantly find themselves wanting to continue with the series, so in that respect, the point is rather moot.
I’ve previously been a fan of Aaron’s other work on titles such as Southern Bastards and Scalped, but will freely admit to being somewhat tentative about how he (or anyone, to be honest) would be able to handle a storyline with such intense media and fan focus as a ‘female Thor’. Well, consider those doubts well and truly allayed as, based on what I’ve seen here, the prospect of Aaron tackling any version of the God of Thunder – be it male, female, animal, vegetable or mineral – is nothing short of mouth-watering. Count me in.
You can purchase Thor: God of Thunder Volume 1 from Turnaround Publisher Services (who generously provided the review copy of this title) via their official website.