Thor is one of the original Avengers and he has had hundreds of comics over the years. This is the start of the Walter Simonson run so it's a solid way for the graphic novel to begin. Thor is a character that can be difficult to write properly since writers make sometimes make him appear to be a slow minded thinker who just punches until his opponent goes down while others make him out to be a solid thinker, but with strength that cannot come close to matching that of the Hulk's. I am glad to say that Thor looks very good in this collection and it's the best incarnation of him that I've seen in quite a while. (The pre Bendis days after all)
This comic has a lot of plots that occur within its pages and also starts a lot of plots that do not conclude in this volume. The collection definitely has undertones of despair and dread in it as you know that something sinister is about to befall Asgard, but there is nothing that the heroes can do about it. They do not know who the ultimate adversary is and they can only wait for him to strike. Thor is essentially on his own because the rest of the heroes on the planet are basically absent the entire time with only Jarvis making a cameo.
The first part of the collection deals with the debut of Beta Ray Bill. This arc is pretty famous and for good reason. Beta Ray Bill has become a fan favorite character in the Thor comics and while I don't usually care for him that much, he was a solid character in this arc. After he defeats Thor, (Or should I say, Donald Blake?) Beta Ray Bill is taken to Asgard where he has to deal with Odin. Odin decides that Thor and Beta Ray Bill will have a duel to the death and the winner will claim Mjolnir as his own. This begins the epic battle of the two titans.
After the shocking conclusion and the even more shocking decision that Odin makes, Thor and Beta Ray Bill decide to take out the demons that are attacking Bill's species. Lady Sif decides to come and help the two of them as they fight against all odds. The demons are not powerful, but they have sheer numbers on their side. Can the three warriors stop the demons before they destroy the innocents aboard the spaceships?
Next up, Fafnir decides to attack Earth and wreck vengeance on Thor for what Thor had done to him ages ago. His powers have increased considerably and not even Mighty Mjolnir is really a match for him. Thor enlists the help of a senior citizen whom Thor fortifies with the power of youth and together they launch an attack on Fafnir. It's a bold move on their part since Fafnir is one of the strongest monsters (Aside from Godzilla) to attack the Earth. Unfortunately for Fafnir, there isn't a real sense of danger because he picked the wrong city to attack. See, earlier in the comic, we had a shocking pair of guest stars. Clark Kent and Lois Lane were on the scene yes, the famous DC characters successfully infiltrated the Marvel collection and made it 20% cooler. It was the highlight of the collection since Superman got his classic smirk in and even though he only appeared for a page or two, he instantly saw through Thor's disguise. Here I thought Batman was the world's greatest detective! It's always good to see Superman get his props.
The last few comics mainly deal with Balder The Brave as he attempts to deliver a letter that Odin has entrusted him with. He has to deliver it to Loki, but it's definitely a bad time for him. He has sworn never again to destroy an enemy since he has been to Hela's domain and he found out what happened to them. You can't help but feel for the poor guy since the fate of those in Hela is pretty grim. More on that later, since it's something that you really need to think about. Loki has never been the nicest person, so will he accept the letter or turn to the dark side with Malekith?
That's definitely a good amount of plot lines in the comic! There are also many other things happening at the same time and I will get into most of them while talking about the characters. Thor is a solid protagonist in this collection and his character is portrayed well. He's a man of honor who talks dramatically, but unlike most of the other Marvel heroes, he can back it all up. Fans may not appreciate the fact that Beta Ray Bill beats him pretty easily in their first round and that the second round may be closer than it should have been. Regardless, Thor does a good job of protecting humanity and fighting the Kaiju that are around. At one point, Thor decides to get a secret identity which leads into him meeting Superman and Lorelei so it's a mixed bag. I'm not sure that it was a good move having him get a secret identity, but at least he keeps his abilities this time.
Beta Ray Bill is a fighter who debuts in this collection and he's decently cool. When he first appears, he has the aura of an epic opponent around him as he quickly moves in to take Thor down for the count. This guy has fought a lot of powerful adversaries in the past and it's a wonder that he has not already defeated the demons. He even tries to land a hit on Odin, but it does not work. He was a very solid character through and through. While I do not like his humanoid form as much as his real one, it's all right I suppose.
Superman was one of the highlights of the collection and while his appearance was short, it was powerful. The author definitely knew who Superman was since he made sure to keep him in character. Superman smirked at Thor when he fell because he quickly found out his true identity. One could even say that he may have helped Thor behind the scenes during the big fights because with his super speed, it would be a simple matter. Adding him to the comic was definitely a good move.
Odin is back as per usual and he's definitely a lot more reasonable than he used to be. He still has his moments where he will make people fight to the death for no reason, but he has made some progress. He's pretty terrified of the villains that are to come, but at least he makes a (slight) effort not to show it. You have to admire his bravery for such a feat. In the end, he was a decent character this time which is better than usual.
Loki is still one of the big villains of the collection along with Lorelei. They have a subplot where they try to wreck Thor's life and alienate Lady Sif. The plots start to separate as Loki makes a deal with Malekith and Lorelei goes to the human world to trick Thor into drinking the magical elixir. Loki does a good job of messing with Balder The Brave and you can't help feeling bad for the hero. Loki is not someone to be trifled with and he will likely do more in the next volume. He's definitely an intense villain, but his plans can go too far so he's still not really likable. Lorelei 's plans last throughout the whole collection and she is still plotting to get Thor. So far, Thor has unwittingly outsmarted her at every turn, but she has not given up yet. Her plot isn't really interesting and can only be endured while we wait for it to end.
Fafnir is a pretty cool dragon and he's someone that can be admired. His rivalry with Thor is legendary in his eyes and his hypnotic abilities are pretty good. They definitely shouldn't be underestimated and you have to admire his raw power. He was a solid example of how a monster should be portrayed if he wants to be remembered as a powerful opponent. It'll be nice to see him again in the future and how the heroes could possibly defeat him. The way that he lost in this collection was basically plot hax.
There was another plot line involving Hamburgers and French Fries that was pretty interesting. A guy is on the run from these mysterious beings who are chasing him, but they die when they eat human food. This person realizes this somehow and he manages to take down two of the agents. Now, he's got to make sure that he saves the world in time. Unfortunately, it may be too late as one of his associates runs into Malekith and may not stand a chance. There's also another plot with a mysterious fire being creating a sword. He calls it the Twilight Sword and when he smashes his hammer into the ground, the shockwave can be heard through a billion billion planets. This being was powerful enough to fight Odin's two ravens and he shouldn't be underestimated. Odin seems to think that this being will be the end of Asgard .and he may be right!
The art for this comic was very good. This was during the modern classic days of Marvel and everyone is in their signature designs for the most part. The art doesn't really have any faults and everything is just fun to read. I read the whole collection in one sitting and I like to think that the art had a part in that. If the art was worse, then that may have been tough.
One part of the comic that can be sad to think about is the Hela plot. According to the Asgardian rules, warriors who die in combat go to Valhalla while people who die of regular deaths go to Hela's Domain. This doesn't really seem fair as many good Asgardians would end up going to Hela's Domain. Balder went there himself when he died and saw the many horrors that it contained. It's essentially Marvel's version of Hell and it's a scary thing to think about. Knowing this, Balder decided to stop destroying people because they would go into a fate much worse than Death. Could Odin and pals stop this if they wanted too? The sad truth is that they probably could, which makes Asgard look as sketchy as ever. I'm definitely not a fan of this twist since it's something that can't really be solved. Now, we know what happens to the villains that die and it's pretty sad for them. Marvel has quite a few hells already and there doesn't seem to be quite as many happy places for the heroes. I definitely can't blame Balder for his vow, but naturally he was forced to break it, in part because of Odin. Maybe the plot will come back and they'll find a way to resolve it, but I doubt that they could think of such a way unless the place was obliterated by Surtur the fire demon.
Overall this was a pretty solid collection of Thor comics. I'm not sure about Thor essentially leading the Viking into his doom, but since Hela's domain was the only other option; It makes the whole thing a little harder to blame on Thor. The comic had its share of downer moments when Loreli's plot would enter, but for the most part we got a lot of action and solid writing. It'll be nice to see the plots start to conclude in the next volume which I will be reviewing soon. Will all of the plots end or only some of them? All I know is that we will find out soon enough! I recommend this comic and it should be a fun read for all comic book fans.