Number 9 on the Comics! List

9.) J Michael Straczynski’s Thor (Marvel) 2007-2009 — Now, JMS I HAVE heard of. And maybe you have too. Babylon 5 is his most famous piece of work and he’s also the second television-writer-turned-comic-book-aficionado on this list as well. Which speaks well for the guy, actually. Adam has a theory that all movie stars want to be rock stars and all rock stars want to be movie stars. The same holds true for television guys wanting to be novelists and novelists wanting to be movie directors and so on. Which is why some things are fantastic books (Queen of the Damned) but absolutely horrendous movies (e.g. Queen of the Damned); they are simply different formats and it’s hard to make what works for one work for the other. By succeeding in multiple ways, it shows that the creator truly knows what makes a story tick and conveys that to an audience well.

Which is why JMS’s Thor is spectacular. Guy knows how to tell a story and tell it well. Captain American has just died, the Avengers are disassembled, Asgard has been destroyed — don’t worry ’bout it, ’cause with comics, sometimes you just dive right in — and Thor, sharing a human body with Dr. Donald Blake (eh?) — has to undo the events of Ragnarok. But, oh noes! Loki is back too — and HE’S A GIRL. Promising not to betray Thor (have we heard this before?), Loki offers his help in restoring the Asgardians to a new home: Oklahoma. From there, it’s all about the interactions and how a small dustbowl town deals with an influx of gods and their enemies.

It’s a nice intro into the Thor mythos, if you’ve never read a Thor comic, and is just a darn good plot. Time travel, Dr. Doom, love triangles, Iron Man getting pwned…It has everything! Oftentimes comics fall short in the emotions category and, looking through my choices, the ones that have a good ability to express and make the readers feel tragedy, loss, and longing are what make this list. A superhero like Thor — really, just Marvel’s version of Superman — can be hard to identify with and even harder to make interesting, but JMS has done it and I feel he really breathed new life into a character that can be, at times, stagnant.

Oliver Coipel’s art — especially the looks that Lady Loki gives — will stop you cold. I have never personally been afraid of a panel of ink drawings, but holy guacamole, does Coipel know how to draw a woman that Thor hath scorned. I got goosebumps — GOOSE FLESH — all up and down my arms with some of the panels and the sprawling Oklahoman landscapes almost don’t do justice for the wide-open vastness that Coipel achieves. Usually I’m not a big fan of realistic comics — I want artwork, not Renaissance Faire fantasy drawings — but Coipel makes it work for me with his little touches of elegance. Having Heimdall’s cloak turn into the vastness of space, even to the lack of eyebrows on Lady Loki all are such little details that others wouldn’t have necessarily put thought into.

A drawback is the somewhat slow pacing of it all. Loki’s eventual betrayal (believe me, that’s not a spoiler) takes some time to build in which everything almost seems as if it’s just a day in the life of. Which, I mean, if that life is Thor’s and the day is when he decides to rebuild Asgard in Oklahoma, that’s interesting, but it’s still comics and explosions are still demanded at least every twenty pages. Once the plot does get going and Dr. Doom’s presence ramps up, it’s hard to find any fault at all.

However, I was less than impressed with his Midnight Nation, so don’t lose any sleep over that one, m’kay?

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