Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Mighty Thor Vol. 2

The Mighty Thor Vol. 2
When Thor eats cheese before bed,
his dreams get super wierd.

Writer: Matt Fraction

Artist: Pascal Ferry and Pepe Larraz

Read as trade paperback.

Background Info:

You may not know Thor if you’ve been living under a rock for a while. I mean, the dude’s been in three movies so far, not to mention that there’s a whole tradition of Norse mythology that focuses on the God of Thunder.

What you may not be familiar with, however, is the event Fear Itself, in which Thor’s uncle, The Serpent, decided to raise hell on earth. The crossover-event saw Thor killed at the end of the story, which is possibly the second favourite pastime of superheroes.


Credit goes to Marvel to not trying to trick us into thinking Thor’s death was permanent. C’mon, man, it’s the superhero genre; nobody’s buying that “dead means dead” shtick. In fact, Marvel goes the opposite way in The Mighty Thor and gives us a return of Thor only a few issues after Fear Itself. Thankfully, lest this be an “over in one issue” story, writer Matt Fraction decides to draw it out a bit by giving us a plot that, while interesting, is grossly underutilised.

Immediately following Thor’s funeral, a new god of thunder emerges. This year’s model is Tanarus. And not only does he replace the thunder god, but his presence wipes Thor’s memory completely out of the memory of almost every Asgardian. The only one is Asgard or Earth who seems to remember Thor is the now child Loki, who takes it upon himself to set matters right.

If Fraction had chosen to stick solely with that part of the plot, I think we would have had a much better plot than we do now. Instead, though, Fraction decides to let us know what Thor’s doing at the time as well. Thor is on his way to be eaten by a creature called the Demogorge. Naturally, that would be a bad thing, so he has to escape. It’s these parts of the book that feel profoundly uninspired. The Demogorge has no personality. I get it that he’s a monster, but even for a monster the Demorgorge has no personality. He’s as blandly drawn as he is written; looking more like a developing baby in utero than anything fearsome. What makes it worse is that Fraction fails to convince anyone that Thor is in any real danger. It’s obvious from the get-go that Thor’s going to make it out and get back to Asgard without even getting blood on his golden locks.

That said, Fraction and the volume’s multiple artists do a fantastic job at creating Tanarus. At first glance, Tanarus appears almost to be an alternate universe version of Thor. But as the story progresses, very real differences set in. Tanarus’ squat facial features and inhuman expressions become a world apart from the more noble-looking Thor. What’s more, Tanarus’ attitude is appalling. He’s brash, misogynistic and completely uncouth. It’s a nice way to get the reader behind Thor, but it’s one of those things that just make’s Thor’s battle against the Demogorge even more tedious; you just want to see whether Thor’s nobility really can defeat Tanarus’ brutality.

The Mighty Thor is by no means a fantastic book, but it does its job; it brings Thor back from the dead. The main story is told well enough, but it’s marred by elements too ridiculous and predictable to be truly enjoyable it gets a two and a half out of five rocks to live under.

** ½

+ Tanarus is great.

+ Half the story is really quite interesting

- The Demogorge is pathetic.

- Predictable to the end.

Alternate Option: Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon

The Mighty Thor is not Matt Fraction’s best work, but Hawkeye manages to give readers a glimpse of Fraction at his best.

The Transformers Issues 1-6

The Transformers Issues 1-6
Optimus tries in vain to shoot the review.

Writer: Mike Costa

Artist: Don Figueroa

Owned Digitally.

Note: This collection can be bought in print form as Transformers: For All Mankind

Background Info:

IDW took the Transformers reins a few years ago from Dreamwave Publications. With it, came a total reboot of the series. The series actually titled Transformers is somewhere in the middle of IDW’s continuity. So here’s what you need to know.

Before this series actually started, Optimus Prime and the Autobots fought and defeated Megatron and his Decepticons in a maxi-series called All Hail Megatron. Megatron is presumed dead, the Decepticons and Autobots are in hiding.

And, oh yeah, everyone knows the transformers exist.

Not only do they know, but they’ve developed a group to systematically hunt down and neutralise them using what look like generic mobile suit gundam.

Fans of Transformers are used to seeing their favourite series continually rebooted. One minute they’re animals, one minute they’re Japanese, one minute they look like they came of the set of Popeye and inhabit a world of short people with saucer-eyes.  So there isn’t a whole lot of room to be disappointed by an apparent lack of loyalty to the original storyline in these issues- it’s something Transformers fans have come to expect.

But even if it wasn’t, this is still an excellent book. Writer Mike Costa takes the characters that we loved in the original cartoon and slides them into a world that makes sense. Not everyone is nuts about big destructive robots romping across America. And as such, all transformers are being rounded up and locked away.

The story really kicks off, however, when Optimus Prime turns himself into the human organisation known as Skywatch. This creates a schism between the Autobots that remain. Half of them decide to keep calm and carry on under the leadership of Bumblebee, the other half decide to follow Hot Rod in his ill-fated attempt at leaving earth and making friends with the remaining Decepticons.

Dear Micheal Bay, please take note: A Transformers movie should focus on, well, THE TRANSFORMERS, not Shia LeBouf (I have given up trying to spell his name and have resorted to guesswork) running around yelling “no, no, no, no, no, no!” and Megan Fox leaning over engines and pouting. If you want to see this work, read this comic. Costa creates this great moment of strained relationships between the Autobots and makes them interesting characters. Sure, there’s enough shooting and such things to make it fun as an action title, but the real meat comes from the Autobots trying to deal with the fact Optimus Prime has left them by his own choice. Up until then, the only time we had been without Optimus was when he spent a short time dead. The fact that Optimus throws in the towel, naturally freaks the Autobots out, and Costa handles it beautifully.

Costa even writes good human characters. Costa’s Spike Witwicky is not some bumbling kid whose job is mostly to be rescued and talk about how amazing the transformers are. He’s a commander in Skywatch, and has the interesting job of interrogating Optimus Prime. It’s these moments, more than anything that show just what great characters both he and Optimus are. One isn’t superior to the other. These are two equals who actually see eye to eye more than they know. These aren’t the humans we have seen on movies or television shows, and that’s a very good thing.

Costa’s writing is backed up by great art from Figueroa. Most of the characters in this series are redesigned versions of their 80s selves. They are more slick designs that somehow manage to refer back to what you may remember from television without looking like every Transformers comic/cartoon that came before it. Figueroa’s only problem is that he gives his robotic characters these creepy, skeletal faces. I suppose this is his way of hearkening to the Bay films, and yeah, I know they’re meant to be robots. But it has the weird effect of giving all the characters a sort of robotic five o’clock shadow that often serves to distract the reader.

The first collection of Transformers is a definite must-read for those who have become jaded by the poor storytelling of the Bayverse. It gets a four and a half out of five robotic five o’clock shadows.

**** ½ 

+ Relationships between Autobots are perfect.

+ Human characters are done right.

+ Character redesigns look AWESOME.

- Those skeletal faces… urgh.

Alternate Option: Beast Wars: The Ascending

The only other Transformers book I’ve read. Figeuroa’s artwork generally steps up a notch here.