Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Oliver Coipel
Color Artists: Matthew Wilson
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino
Unworthy Thor #1 is one of the manliest books in all of comics. There’s violence, bloodshed, anger, trolls, and a space goat as Thor begins his long climb toward redemption. Let’s recap.
Back in 2014, Nick Fury (the David Hasselhoff version) whispered something in the ear of Asgard’s favorite son. Instantly, he was deemed unworthy by Mjolnir and unable to pick up the hammer. Jane Foster has wielded the hammer since then, we still have no idea what Fury said, and Thor (referred to as Odinson from here on out) has been on a quest since then to find meaning in his now Unworthy life.
That quest has brought him to the pages of this wonderful, buy-this-now, book. In Unworthy Thor #1, Odinson learns that another Mjolnir (the one from the now dead Ultimate Universe) has made its way to All-new, All-different, Less-profitable Marvel Universe and decides it’s time for a Viking-style road trip. Armed with his axe, Jarnbjorn, and his space goat Toothgnasher, Odinson marches with glorious intent to claim Mjolnir and prove to himself that is he still worthy of being the son of Odin.
It’s a familiar story but Aaron’s script and Coipel’s art elevate this book to a must-read. Aaron is a master at using his script to inform his action sequences. As such, he has Odinson in a berserker-rage for half the book. There’s blood and limbs everywhere but it’s the strength of his script that gives this brutality meaning and purpose. For example, we’re used to Thor swinging his hammer and calling down thunder with the grace of a warrior but in this book, Aaron has Odinson slashing wildly with his axe and biting his opponents with the exasperation of a brawler. This is a subtle change that some readers may miss but by overlaying Odinson’s internal monologue with the carnage, the fight scenes become a vehicle to convey his desperation and despair to the reader.
Furthermore, Aaron masterfully avoids the inherent pitfall of writing a redemption story. For a redemption story to work, a writer must depict a character struggling with feelings of self-hatred and regret but do so from an angle that can highlight their resolve and tenacity. It’s a very precarious scenario as the former is necessary but delving too deeply into those feelings can make a character seem hopeless and unlikable. Aaron avoids this by utilizing brief yet potent lines of dialogue that convey his angst, quickly follows them with proclamations of determination, and then punctuates these moments with action shots. In this way, Aaron shows how Odinson is able to turn his despair into strength and gives the audience a resolute and brutal man hell-bent on taking back what he has lost.
Coipel, a definitive Thor artist, draws a perfect depiction of Aaron’s vision. He draws a beaten, broken, and haggard Odinson with incredible detail. I marveled at how Odinson’s punches indented a monster’s skull, how swings from Jarnbjorn left troll flesh serrated and bleeding, and how ferociously Toothgnasher tackled a giant troll. I also commend the panel layout of the book. Fight scenes are stylized and frantic to accentuate the feel of the battles while the introspective scenes are depicted with vast, yet somberingly empty wide-panels that emote Odinson’s existential despair. Coipel also inks the book so no muscle-flex, blood splash, or wound goes unaccounted for. This may be one of the best drawn Marvel book of the year.
All of this, plus Toothgnasher; the best goat I’ve ever seen. Odinson can ride him through space, he can tackle trolls, and he’s the sure fire breakout star of the book. Yea, the book does all the necessary first issue stuff like set up a mystery, promise character revelations, and have a sweet surprise return of a fan-favorite fringe character/ hook on the last page but for me, it was all about Toothgnasher. He’s Marvel’s great goat of hope. DC has dominated the market in recent months by riding their Rebirth wave and Toothgnasher is just the character Marvel needs to head-butt their fan-base out of apathy. I smell a spin-off. Believe in the goat.
Verdict: There’s Hope in Goat!!!
Jason Aaron continues his career renaissance at Marvel with the next part of his Thor Epic. Coipel and him prove to be a match made in Asgard as they tell a tale of a once great man trying to remember how to be great. Combine that with the promises of finally revealing what Fury said to Odinson, a long and brutal journey to Mjolnir, and the return of a beloved character in the last few pages and you have a masterpiece of a #1. And Toothgnasher. I can’t wait for #2. Go buy!