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Hammer Time

  The Mighty Thor: Lord of Asgard

 

Dan Jurgens (writer), Tom Raney, Scott Hanna and various artists

Marvel, 2002

Rating: 3.4

 

 

Posted: September 12, 2002

 By The Gentleman (exclusive to Shaking Through)

Mainstream comics veteran Dan Jurgens (the man responsible for Booster Gold) has proven surprisingly flexible in his run on Marvel's re-vamped Thor title (issues #45-50 of which are collected here). But although he's shown he can sustain a soap-operatic momentum in a high operatic setting, his usual sturdy, workmanlike approach gets in the way of the fertile material he's been handed. Thor's father, Odin, has died in battle, leaving the Thunder God to rule an increasingly fractured Asgard. Needless to say, the battle-happy warrior finds the throne an ill fit. Likewise, on Earth, Thor's erstwhile alter ego (don't ask), paramedic Jake Olson, also misses his glory days as a God, and manages to once again "become" Thor -- or at least a version of him.

The genuine article, meanwhile, feels his godly power ebbing as a result -- in the middle of a pitched battle with some uppity frost giants, no less -- and quickly dashes off to "Midgard" (that's Earth to you) to rectify the situation. This doesn't sit too well with the Asgardian hordes, who are still recovering from the many losses sustained in the war that cost Odin's life, and rightfully suspect their new ruler of divided loyalties.

So far, so good. But that's not all: there's also a vengeful god-slaying hood named Desak (bearing an unfortunately unimaginative resemblance to both Terrax the Tamer and DC's Darkseid), and a female psuedo-Thor, Taren, who's also something called "the Designate," an entity destined to one day usher in mankind's evolution to a higher plane. Got all that? These principals all come together, of course, and battle, as it is wont to do, quickly ensues. Unfortunately, Jurgens feels compelled to throw the Grey Gargoyle, a decidedly lame second-tier supervillain, into the mix as well, needlessly distracting from a promising clash of deities and deity-killers.

Nonetheless, these are intriguing characters, and Jurgens likewise does a (mostly) credible job with the minions of Asgard, most notably Thor's trusted ally Baldur the Brave and the scheming Enchantress. But he also leans a little too heavily toward the turgid and trite (a part of Asgard called "the path of shattered dreams?" Please.). Further deadening the pace, nothing is quite resolved in the aforementioned showdown, and to make matters worse the final chapter (issue #50) is an anti-climactic epilogue writ large (thanks to many well-executed but pointless full-page spreads). Jurgens does manage to further his story a tiny bit in this elaborately empty chapter, dropping an important piece of information regarding secondary characters Desak and Taren. But as plot twists go, it's fairly easy to spot from a mile -- sorry, a league -- away. (There is one rather surprising and fascinating development involving Asgard itself, although the jury will have to remain out on this particular point until we see how it's handled.)

But if Jurgens occasionally drops the enchanted hammer, his artistic collaborators fare much better. Tom Raney, in particular, comports himself quite well; his linework invests the proceedings with much-needed drama, especially in some rather dynamic and visceral panels during Thor's face-off with Desak. Guest artist Joe Bennett also does a credible job, although his style is perhaps a bit too clean.

Lord of Asgard, despite its flaws, does spin an engaging tale, competently told. But Thor, by its very nature, lends itself to an air of high Shakespearean drama, and the conflicts Jurgens sets up from the premise of Thor ruling Asgard in his father's stead are rich with possibility. Granted, it's a bit unfair to expect a mainstream Marvel superhero title to quite reach those Shakespearean heights, but it's nonetheless lamentable that Jurgens doesn't come any closer to scaling them than he does. After all, a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's an Asgard for?

Related Links:

The Mighty Thor: Godstorm (Issues #1-3)

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