Thor: God of Thunder #18 Spoiler Review
Jason Aaron, Das Pastoras
The solicit for Thor: God of Thunder #18 reads:
A tale of Young Thor, in the age of Vikings. Here be a dragon. ’Nuff said.
Jason Aaron’s dedication to mundanity has harmed a number of his stories, as he has a tendency to try and ground epic motivations in extremely simplistic character dynamics. I abandoned Thor: God of Thunder at the end of the “Godbomb” arc, which featured a god-killing, universe-spanning madman whose driving motivation to murder everything was, “Man, things sure are unfair sometimes, huh?” But there was always something that kept making me want to like this more than I did, and I think I found it in that brief solicit for Thor: God of Thunder #18, a pulpy call to fantasy and adventure and something larger-than-life.
Young Thor – before his time with the Avengers humanized him – is a wrecking ball, a being of immense power incapable (or unwilling) to think too far beyond the next party. So, an ‘epic fantasy’ tale that pits the drunken god against a rampaging dragon sounded like a blast – but what the issue actually contained was quite different. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I got my Thor-on-dragon action when a group of startlingly ineffective Viking women (as too many of Aaron’s women are; compare them to the very manly vikings who fought the God Butcher in the first arc) begged for his help in defeating a dragon they thought was demolishing their crops. He wasn’t – it was trolls; I don’t know how they confused the two either – but he was ultimately a parody of Aaron’s tendency to oversimplify motivations, getting into an argument with his dad about how the dragon is his own person and humans are his buddies, getting drunk, and then alienating all his friends.
The parody still plays a little clumsily, though, a one-note joke that can’t sustain the character and that fundamentally neuters the issue’s emotional climax – if the character is introduced as a joke and treated as a joke, if his turn to evil is a joke, then why should I suddenly start to take everything seriously at the last minute? It’s a case of tonal whiplash that nearly derails an otherwise fairly charming issue. It’s a good idea, but Thor: God of Thunder was never a book that lacked for great ideas; its problem has always been in the execution.
If Thor: God of Thunder has one consistent strong point, it’s the art. Esad Ribic was a fantastic artist for the first two arcs of the book, and Das Pastoras is an excellent addition. Pastoras is a Spanish artist most well-known for indie and art comics, but his lush, painted style fits Jason Aaron’s epic, self-conscious fantasy flawlessly. The art is gorgeous, and while the action is just a little lackluster, Pastoras brings the world alive with such flair that I can’t help but give in. The panel, for example, where Thor descends from the heavens in his chariot, responding to the prayers of a group of warrior-women, is absolutely perfect, a brief moment that inspires awe and wonder in a way so few comics can.
After the lackluster year-long Godbutcher arc – kept aloft mostly by Esad Ribic’s unambiguously excellent art – Thor: God of Thunder has settled down a bit. It’s always been a well paced book, and a brief piece at the end of this particular issue highlights just how well Aaron has planned his arcs and suggests where the book will be going in the future. What’s more, Thor: God of Thunder remains one of the most beautiful books on the shelves. While I still have reservations about the title overall, Thor: God of Thunder #18 is a fun issue. Even people who have given up on the series will probably enjoy this slight but likable fantasy.
My Rating: 3 / 5