Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review: Thor #615

Writer: Matt Fraction | Artists: Pasqual Ferry and Matt Hollingsworth

Tis a new day in the land of Thor because one of my favorites, Matt Fraction, is taking over on writing duties. Yay. I am excited and pleased about this first issue for a few reasons, but the main one would have to be the fact that Fraction is getting to tackle another Marvel character. The writer has one of the most interesting perspectives in comics, especially on established, iconic characters. His previous Marvel work of Punisher and Iron Man have only proved this. (The X-men could probably fall in that line too, but I have not read.) If you add to the equation that this classic Marvel character is indeed Thor, the result only gets better.

Matt Fraction and Thor are a perfect pairing because Thor offers so many angles to the mysticism and weird science that Fraction seems to thrive on. According to this issue and a past interview on the Word Balloon Podcast, Fraction seems to be mixing magic and science, making them one. The first few pages deliver us a man of science who deems himself a "Quantum Cosmologist", and he claims that Asgard and Midgard are in some serious trouble. The character, while stuttering, quickly makes an impression for the reader and spins some interesting statements on the old and surely worn concept of "The World Tree", claiming that it exists within a similar structure that parallel universes do. Boom. Right there Fraction takes the traditional concept and spices it up, and right there he blends something of pixie dust and magic with something of 21st century science and theoretical math. It is all well executed, and it all quickly establishes a possible backbone for the extent of Fraction's run - certainly a backbone for the first arc.

For Thor himself, it is early to decode Fraction's entire stance on the character, but I believe one particular scene in this issue may provide insight on Fraction's take. Cut to Alfheim, realm of the ice elves, where we meet Mayzen, a young poet who keeps himself to a diet of serious thought and strict posture.  The concept of fun is an alien one to him as he stares out at his peers dancing and laughing in the snow, an alien concept until a beautiful female melts away his stern outlook. Mayzen allows himself the chance at a dance in the snow, catching flakes on his tongue, but as soon as he lets his guard down, everything goes to hell. All of Alfheim is quickly under assualt. Now, why does this scene exist? At first I would say to introduce this world and Mayzen, but Mayzen dies in the assualt, and I do not see him coming back. No, Mayzen, as a character exists for something else - to comment. I think with this scene Fraction is leading in on his take for Thor: the warrior bound to his duty, bound to a serious role and once Thor lets his guard down things can go wrong.

It is just an interpretation, but it makes sense. Asgard just fell, and Thor now has a major role to play in restoring it. This issue shows Thor taking on the responsibility and realizing what work needs done. He is providing the stern talk to Balder, he is not falling directly into Sif's lap and he is not following the direction of the Donald Blake persona. Thor is getting down to business, putting strict thought to work and cutting out the clutter of emotion.

Last but not least Pasqual Ferry. I love this guy's art. He gave Ultimate Fantastic Four a colorful touch, and his design work on Adam Strange took the book to another place. Here the style and wonderful design aspects of Ferry's art come together so well with the subject. For one, they both speak of Jack Kirby's visual queue, and secondly Ferry's art lends itself naturally to that science-meets-magic idea and visual theme. I just think he as an artist was a great choice for this book at this time, and his artwork creates a unique visual identity for a comic book.

This issue was a great start for Matt Fraction and Thor, and as a reader who has never shown interest in the character before I happily report I am excited about a Thor book.

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