We know Jason Aaron can do fun and silly, as he had to such great effect with Ghost Rider (ghost shark!) and the anarchic Wolverine And The X-Men, and we knew he could do gritty long-form, as with dearly missed HBO-show-in-waiting Scalped.
There was little suggestion that he could do cosmic and epic, rivalling even Kieron Gillen’s recently concluded run on Journey Into Mystery.
There was little suggestion that he couldn’t do cosmic and epic either, but going in blind, with only a residual fondness for the creative duo of Aaron and Ribić (Uncanny X-Force, Wolverine) and an interest in Chris Hemsworth’s arms, made Thor: God Of Thunder one of the biggest and most brilliant surprises of Marvel’s broadly brilliant and surprising NOW! relaunch.
God Of Thunder is a very different book from Journey Into Mystery, which placed likeable schemer kid Loki at the heart of a Sandman-style domino pattern of cause and effect that rippled outward across heavens, hells, and fantasy otherworlds.
In contrast, despite a scale that includes time as much as distance, and features just as many deities and demigods, God Of Thunder is a very intimate tale, one that could only be told with a character like Thor, and one that we as readers feel uniquely privileged to be sharing with him.
Following the impetuous, pre-Mjölnir Thor in the Viking age as he larges it across Scandinavia, bedding wenches and guzzling ale like a fur-clad braggadocio, the heroic Walt Simonson-esque Avenger in the present, and the tired, lonely old King of Asgard at the end of time, transforming piece by piece into Odin, his father, in both appearance and role.
Across these three ages, Thor battles and strives to unravel the mystery of Gorr, the inky-black serpentine ‘god butcher’ and his relentless, featureless hellhounds – the Black Berserkers – as they murder their way across creation, determined to snuff each pantheon from the heavens for their collective hubris.
Artist Esab Ribić brings each era and creation to life with such incredible humanity – the young Thor a smirking, iron age quarterback, and the older Thor as grim and determined as David Gemmell’s Druss, while Gorr drips inky black dread and incisor-sharp malice from every panel.
Our journey through the story touches on each era in turn, creating a unique and utterly compelling story that jumbles the chronology of the events as they unfold in Thor’s own narrative for the benefit of the reader as we’re introduced to the Gorr and his first battle with Thor, and then immediately shown a far future where Asgard is crumbling and its throne room besieged.
It’s supremely clever stuff, that gets the most out of the setting and the character, and proves that even knowing some of the later points in the journey diminishes none of the thrill of know in how we got there.