NOTE – SPOILERS AHEAD!
Thor. You likely know him as the hot-headed Prince of Asgard, the Lord of Thunder…son of Odin the All-Father and unmistakable member of the Avengers.
And now? He’s retired.
Thor has ascended to the throne of the All-Father, yet before he has the chance to officially settle in and begin ruling over Asgard, Galactus comes roaring in and disrupting his coronation.
Furious, Thor is ready to throw down with the planet-eating super-baddie when he realizes that Galactus is coming to him for help.
Nevertheless, an unthinkable threat known as The Black Winter approaches – an unstoppable force that brings ends to entire universes without feeling or remorse. Galactus has encountered this…thing once before, and was the only one to escape. In an attempt to resist fate and preserve his own survival, Galactus seeks 5 planets of unique characteristics to consume in order to stand a fighting chance.
In this endeavor, he selects Thor to be his latest Herald, as if the wielder of Mjolnir needed another array of impressive abilities, why don’t we go ahead and throw The Power Cosmic into the mix?
Armed with new powers, Thor begrudgingly assists The Devourer of Worlds for the greater good of the universe. His new ally understandably spurs concern and fear among Thor’s friends and citizens…putting him on a path of conflict with friends and foes alike.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown…
Donny Cates and Nic Klein take us on a new, thrilling journey with Thor after Jason Aaron took great care of the Lord of Thunder for nearly 7 years, and it’s a journey that Don Cates takes very seriously.
In his opening letter at the conclusion of issue 1, the writer of the critically-acclaimed Thanos run laments an unspoken casualty that is visited upon those who work in comics – the magic. As Cates explains, readers enjoy a certain distance…a certain magic and wonder when they’re engaging with the superheroes and villains that splash beautifully across the page. When you work in the industry, that distance obviously disappears.
Yet, Cates has always seen Thor as an inspiration, and the opportunity, and privilege, of taking on the next chapter of the notable Son of Odin is not lost on Mr. Cates.
Thor is getting older – and not just in the comic. It has been decades since Thor first entered the canon of Marvel, and even in more recent popular culture: next year will be the 10-year anniversary of Chris Hemsworth’s debut appearance as the hammer-wielding hero. There’s a certain expectation of how he’s supposed to act, and given Thor’s state at the conclusion of Endgame, it can be argued that the magic is currently lost on the modern audience as well.
The work that Cates is doing here is helping to make strides in rekindling that magic…and it starts as most good stories do – at the end.
The end, that is, of the Thor we all knew before. We see an older, experienced warrior, who is simultaneously ready and reluctant to take the throne. There’s a gnawing sense that he lacks something, and the increasing weight of Mjolnir only furthers this doubt.
After Thor makes the decision to support…erm, go along with the plan to heighten Galactus’ powers in an attempt to battle back this otherwise unstoppable threat, questions around his loyalty and worth begin to emerge from others, the first major conflict coming in issue 3 with the standoff against Beta Ray Bill.
Bill, whose own planet was devoured by Galactus before, is on a mission of vengeance that could not have ended any other way once Thor accepted The Power Cosmic and became the Herald of Thunder. Klein’s artistic detail in their clash, combined with Cates’ care in balancing Thor’s justifications with Beta Ray Bill’s inconsolable disappointment, makes the 3rd issue the strongest of the run so far.
There’s also just the fact that Don Cates writes so damn pretty.
From the same issue, I submit for your consideration, the coolest fucking intro to a fight ever:
“Long, long ago, the God of Thunder waged war against an army of thousands. Alone. Without sleep. Without food. Without falling. Uninterrupted, for two entire years. Armed with only his hammer. And the lightning in his wake. And why, you may ask, have you never heard of this mighty feat?
It is because Thor has forgotten it.
In fact, if he is reminded of the battle at all, the God of Thunder could not tell you who the adversaries were. Or what the war was about…or even the name of the battle lands themselves. For in the mind of an undying and ageless god, what is two years of a raging war but a fraction of a second? A decade may be remembered as a minute. A hundred years as an hour. If the hour be worthy.
That is to say, it is impossible to know the true legends of Thor. Of the battles he has won. Of the foes he has vanquished. Of the countless bodies of the wicked that lay unburied in his name. Because for one such as the newly crowned King of Asgard…in time, they will all be forgotten.
Lost, in the ocean of his immortal mind.
However…this battle – in the ruins of a dead planet…as the Black Winter falls across our galaxy – this battle he will remember for all the days to come.”
Of course, it goes without saying that you have to see the art that accompanies this passage.
That being said, it was at this moment, as if the idea hadn’t already been cemented in my mind, that I knew Donny Cates was going to make Thor the complicated, wonderful, harrowing and moving hero we know he could be.
The latest issue sees a ramping up of Galactus’ plans, and a tense confrontation between Thor and Lady Sif. While the two don’t quite come to blows, further questions around Thor’s worthiness to wield Mjolnir troubles the newly ascended King, and that disconcerting realization makes its way into the mind into the reader more and more as you flip the pages to its inevitable end. Staged to face off against the Black Winter, we are left to see how the battle will conclude, and whether Thor will weather the storm unscathed…though the clashes with Bill and Sif have pretty much made that impossible.
Look, Don Cates said he took on the mantle of Thor in an attempt to re-discover the magic of comics. If these first four issues are any indication, I’d say that it’s mission accomplished, and now we all get to enjoy the wonderful journey to follow.
Don’t miss out.