There’s no question that Thor is back in a big, big way these days at Marvel Comics. After a death, a series cancellation, a relaunch and re-establishment as the major powerhouse for the good guys of the Marvel Universe, Thor seems to be at the front of a lot of product right now. In a heavy push to acquaint new readers with the Thunder God before his film version hits theaters next year, Thor: First Thunder is an origin story that updates the original telling while keeping all of the simple fun that it had back in the day.
This is the story of surgeon Donald Blake and the moment that leads him to become the earthly vessel of a thunder god who has been banished from Asgard by his father Odin. Bryan J.L. Glass shows us a Donald Blake that is adventurous in his travels; trekking to every corner of the globe with the disability of a bad leg in hopes of proving something to himself and a father that he was never able to impress. While hiking in the Norwegian countryside, Dr. Blake seeks shelter from an odd storm that suddenly pops up. Ducking into a nook in the hillside, he meets two of the locals; a couple that are immediately intrigued by him when they realize he’s an American. Their fun introductions are interrupted, however, when the cause of the storm reveals itself in the form of a spaceship carrying would-be conquerers from space. While being pursued by one of the ship’s passengers, Blake finds a walking stick of sorts that will forever change his life. When slamming the stick down in a moment of frustration, it transforms itself into the mystical hammer Mjolnir and switches Donald Blake’s existence for that of Thor’s.
Thor: First Thunder doesn’t exactly carry the full weight of where the character is at in the current line-up of Marvel fare, but that’s exactly the point. Bryan J.L. Glass goes to this stories' original presentation from all the way back in 1962, breaks it down, reassembles it and gives it some added commentary; allowing Donald Blake some depth that wasn’t there the first time around. It’s a good mixture of the simple writing style from the early sixties and the more ‘fleshed out’ books of today. Glass does a good job of showing respect for the original while trying to still give readers (old fans or new) a reason to keep reading even though they may already know this story.
If you’re quite familiar with this tale then parts of this issue read kind of flat, but... artist Tan Eng Huat brings in some great showmanship to all of Glass’ important beats in the script. With elements of Michael Golden all over the place, Huat portrays the characters in a way that compliments Glass’ added touches exactly when he needs them.
And that’s the good stuff; that’s when you’re aware of how well Glass maintains and respects the classic while still giving you some fresh portrayals of emotion. Since I don’t tend to give spoilers in my reviews, suffice it to say that there are some pages that Glass slips nice touches in to that I really liked because of his subtlety. The inner moments between Thor and Blake, communicating weirdly with each other in their newfound partnership, is handled with a skill that I found really enjoyable.
Sure, it’s got a bit of problems that are inherent in a retelling of an old tale, but I see Thor: First Thunder as a great book to read with your pre-teen kids. Unless there’s some darker stuff coming up with future issues, I think this one is all-ages appropriate (though the really young crowd might not care) and maybe a good book for a 10 year old who has never read a comic or has no idea who Thor is. The tease for the next issue looks really good and I would expect things to get cooking with the introduction of Thor’s brother/nemesis Loki.
Here’s your Mighty Thor starter kit, so get to it!
This book gets a B.