Published on October 29th, 2014 | by JCDoyle0
Comics Of Delights
I have been reading comics for a fair old while now and, by default, have become a small time collector. If you read enough comics you happen to amass a collection, unless you declutter on a regular basis. The more you read, the more you take an interest in the characters, artists and writers so much so that you start to track down older issues to check them out. And of course everyone knows you are ‘into’ comics so every birthday and Christmas you get related products or random comics. Some are not so good but some are amazing (issue 33 of The Amazing Spider-Man, thank you very much, you know who you are).
And over the years, as so many other people will have done, I’ve witnessed the comic industry go from being a niche pastime and sometimes guilty secret to being accepted as part of mass culture. I for one am stoked about this even if it does mean that I can no longer afford to buy all of the movie DVDs based on comic book characters. However, some seem to really be against this, their elitism will not allow them to accept that someone new might want to be a part of this world and unfortunately a lot of these people are very vocal on the internet. They bully, belittle and threaten newbies or people with different opinions to themselves.
I find this upsetting for two reasons; firstly it tarnishes the fandom and dissuades future generations of fans jumping on board and secondly, while all the websites are concentrating on the most recent on-line outrage, so many amazing things are going unnoticed with little to no coverage.
So, the point of this, and the reason why I have chosen the title ‘Comics of Delights’ (emphasis on the Delights) for this column is that I want to look at something wonderful, something brilliant from the world of comics each month to highlight all of the amazing work that is being produced. Most of the time I will do this by looking at a particular comic, or even a single scene but I may broaden my horizons from time to time. The reasoning behind this is that it is the little things, the briefest of moments that get overlooked in the masses of output on the internet and in print but it’s these fragments that can change someone’s opinion of a story or a creator or even a franchise. To use an example from Television, in the Doctor Who episode ‘Utopia’, the story bumbles along like any other mediocre future disaster story however the moment Doctor Yana opens his pocket watch, in a truly magnificent scene, the entire episode becomes something so much more than the sum of its parts: in fact it becomes one of the highlights of the third series.
This month I want to look at the final page from a comic released at the start of the month which has received a lot of attention already but, in my opinion, for the wrong reasons.
Thor #1 by Jason Aaron.
There has been much talk about Thor being a woman and the worries are that it will destroy the character, the franchise and indeed everything ever produced under the Thor title. However all of this is irrelevant to the story that actually unfolded in the comic itself. For the most part, this issue had a very standard Thor style story, in keeping with not only previous issues and story arcs but also the story coming out of the Marvel Event that was Original Sin*. Thor is a broken God, in fact he is a broken everything and he is no longer worthy to lift Mjolner. This may seem like the end of the Thor comics but no, Jason Aaron and Marvel has decided that this is the prime time to launch a new #1. The story warrants the renumbering more than a lot of recent new number ones because it’s a new direction for the character and in fact, as you can see from the final page of the comic, it appears to be a brand new Thor.
This final page is, on the surface, very simple. God picks up hammer and becomes Thor and you’d be mistaken for thinking that there is nothing else to see but there is. This transformation represents the new direction for the character as well as the comic. This is a New Thor (some will argue that she shouldn’t be called Thor just for picking up the Hammer because, you know Beta Ray Bill picked up Mjolner but didn’t become Thor. There is an explanation for this earlier in the comic. Whoever is taking the mantel of ‘God of Thunder’ is not just picking up the Hammer but replacing Thor as a figure head. She is not the actual Thor underneath, when she changes back to her ‘normal’ self but while she wields the Hammer she is Thor, God of Thunder, in the same way that when Bucky put on the Captain America outfit he became Captain America despite the fact he was still Bucky underneath. It’s a legacy thing)
So there is the transformation of character on display and also an implication of the change in the comics direction, all of this is represented in that single page but there is even more going on. Jason Aaron has introduced the ‘New Thor’ in a very villain-esque type way. The cliff hanger at the end of the first part of a story is traditionally left for the villain to take centre stage. An unknown, mysterious character stepping in at the very end of part one, all seething with power and displaying the potential to cause a status shift in the comic’s central character or premise? That sounds like a villain’s entrance to me. So by using this approach, Aaron has made a bold statement about the New Thor, she is going to be different, she is going to upset the status quo, in essence it’s not going to be an easy or straight forward transition but that brash, in your face entrance says that she’s here to shake things up and stick around for a while to come.
This last page also reminds me of another Thor related character change. In Journey Into Mystery #645, Kieron Gillen ends his phenomenal run on the comic with an image that is not dissimilar to the final page of Thor #1. The images share the same themes. Journey Into Mystery’s final page represents the end of Kid Loki and the re-emergence of Adult Loki; it’s a transformation from one aspect of the character to another. It is also a change of the status Quo for the comic with the central character changing from the male lead Loki to the female lead Sif. There is also a brand new creative team coming on board. The page reeks of change. The two images from the two comics are like different sides of the same coin, one laments the loss of power and the death of a character while the other celebrates the birth of a new, powerful character.
There is a contrast in the tone of the two pages, however, because Gillen is sacrificing a dubious hero for a potential villain where as Aaron has introduced a mysterious hero in a villainous way. But the eyes are identical, Kid Loki and New Thor both stare from the page directly at the reader and there is an underlying accusation from each of them. Loki damns you for not letting him be a hero, expecting him to be the villain he’s always been, where as Thor challenges you not to dismiss her without seeing what she can do.
It’s a bold move that Marvel and Aaron have made but it also makes sense with the narrative that they are telling. New Thor has only just been introduced so, like the character herself on that final page of issue 1, I challenge you not to judge her so soon and allow her story to be told because if that final page is anything to go on, there’s a complex but exciting story brewing on the horizon.
*My sin is I didn’t read Original Sin. I might rectify that at some point but not anytime soon