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The Odinson is back in action.

It’s becoming slightly ridiculous just how many times Marvel has relaunched Jason Aaron’s ongoing Thor saga. It started as Thor: God of Thunder, then became Thor, then briefly changed to Thors during Secret Wars, then transformed into The Mighty Thor. And now we’ve circled right back around to Thor again. But no matter how often the title on the cover changes, the quality has remained consistent. If you were reading and enjoying The Mighty Thor before, you’ll want to be following Thor now.

Aaron himself has stuck around for the Fresh Start relaunch, but a great deal else has changed with the series. The most obvious being that the Odinson has reclaimed the mantle of Thor and resumed defending Midgard while the victorious Jane Foster finally has a chance to recuperate. But if happier, Thor is still not quite whole. Mjolnir is MIA. Asgardia has been destroyed, and the Bifrost along with it. And even as the gods are at a low ebb, Malekith’s War of realms rages on unchecked.

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The result is a series that balances foreboding drama with a charming sense of fun and adventure. There’s an undercurrent of darkness and unease to this issue, with Thor ruminating on the challenges facing the Ten Realms and his resurgent feud with his brother. But at the same time, this is a story about Thor getting back into the saddle and finally enjoying himself as a hero again. As great as the Jane Foster era was, there’s something to be said for seeing Thor get back to basics and clobber foes with his hammer.

Or hammers, rather. One of the other big status quo changes these days is that Thor has filled that Mjolnir-sized whole in his life with a literal armory of dwarf-forged weapons. That winds up being another inspired addition to the mix, one that yields plenty of comedy and reinforces the notion that Thor is more an underdog hero than he has been in a very long time. This issue also finds a lot of success with its supporting cast, particularly Odin. The previous series treated the Allfather mostly as a blustering antagonist, but having been sorely humbled by the destruction of Asgardia and the selfless actions of Jane Foster, Odin seems in the midst of his own significant character arc.

The other major change with this relaunch involves the drastically overhauled art style. If Esad Ribic defined the look of Aaron’s run in its first major act and Russell Dauterman in its second, Mike Del Mundo looks to be leaving his own mark in Act 3. The new series blazes far different visual ground. That’s to be expected given how surreal and distorted Del Mundo’s take on the Marvel Universe tends to be.

On some level, I miss Dauterman’s clean, powerful lines. But on the other, Del Mundo brings a very dynamic and unique look of his own to the table. He’s adept at capturing the clash between the mundane and the ridiculous, which is and always has been a huge part of Aaron’s run. And thankfully, this issue shows how much Del Mundo has grown as a general storyteller in recent years. Where his earlier work tended to be too surreal for its own good, his expressive figures never fail to convey the emotions in Aaron’s script.

Readers may balk at the relatively high price tag, but the fact is that Marvel is basically publishing two comics in one here. The main story is accompanied by a lengthy backup feature that touches base with Old King Thor and his granddaughters in the far future. After all this time, it’s satisfying to see the series still forging new ties between Thor’s past and future selves. This tale adds its own foreboding touch to the larger conflict, showing that the aging Thor’s struggles in the future have only just begun. Artist Christian Ward proves to be a strong match for the subject matter. Ward’s art can often be too ethereal for its own good when he tackles traditional Marvel characters. But in this futuristic wasteland setting, Ward’s off-kilter approach is just what the book needs.

It’s only at the very end that the backup story falls flat. Aaron’s script builds towards a big climax, only for the reveal to prove more head-scratching than truly satisfying. The fact that the big twist is so directly reminiscent of another recent Marvel series doesn’t help.

The Verdict

Thor was always one of the safest bets in Marvel’s Fresh Start relaunch. Writer Jason Aaron has been spinning a wonderful yarn since 2012, and that doesn’t change as his run enters its latest phase. This issue deftly balances wacky action and humor with an undercurrent of darkness. The series’ surreal new look also goes a long way towards setting it apart from what’s come before.



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