Comics

Title Fight, Majority Opinion: "Thor #1"

It's only very, very rarely that we come across issues of such great importance, that present us with such divergent opinions.


Thor #1

Publisher: Marvel
Writer: Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman
Publication Date: 2014-12
Amazon

The concept of being worthy is as ambiguous as the concept of being weird. In the same way the concept of being weird breaks down considerably at a Marilyn Manson concert, the concept of being worthy breaks down when the standards become skewed. Since worthiness is the main basis by which Thor is able to wield his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir, its standards are often undefined. This may or may not be on purpose because defining such an ambiguous term is like trying to nail pudding to a tree. Its very nature alone makes it impossible. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely without substance.

That substance is the driving force of the story within Thor #1. The main concept of this re-launched title was already spoiled when Marvel announced that Thor would become a woman. The nuts and bolts of this concept still need to be screwed into place. The events of Original Sin did plenty to skew the standards of worthiness, almost as much as the NSA skews the standards of legality.

With one little whisper, the contents of which remain a mystery, Thor is no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir and a good chunk of this story is spent lamenting about it. That’s not to say he acts like a child that just lost his favorite teddy bear. The very idea that he is no longer worthy is more damaging than no longer having the most awesome hammer in the universe that isn’t used to smash watermelons. It creates a tense and somewhat solemn narrative for him and the other Asgardians, who are just as confounded by Thor’s inability to lift his hammer. It calls into question their own understanding of what it means to be worthy, further adding to the ambiguity.

That ambiguity is downright frustrating at times because the concept of worthiness is now somehow so skewed that even Odin, the man responsible for using worthiness as the sole criterion for wielding Mjolnir, cannot lift it. That would be like Donald Trump not being allowed to fire anybody. It’s a major blow that sends a major message. The problem is that the ambiguity of that message limits its impact.

The only real substance offered by this new crisis of unworthiness comes from a threat that’s completely unrelated to it. While everyone else is struggling to understand what worthiness even means, Malekith launches an invasion at some underwater facility with an arm of Frost Giants. It’s as generic and plain as a threat Thor can face without including corn flakes and vanilla ice cream, but it’s a threat that creates the most meaningful impact because it demonstrates just how unworthy Thor has become.

Armed with his hammer, Thor can usually handle Malekith and Frost Giants with ease and still have plenty of energy to snuggle with Natalie Portman. This time, he might as well be fighting a pack of hungry wolves with a feather duster. He tries to compensate by attacking with an ax, but that ax is no Mjolnir. The battle isn’t too lopsided, but Thor’s unworthiness is still on full display for all to see. He’s sloppy, he’s unfocused, and he’s overmatched. He’s essentially become this year’s version of the Oakland Raiders. If he can’t handle Malekith and a few Frost Giants, then his season is as lost as the Raiders.

This is the most powerful message of the story, revealing the extent of Thor’s unworthiness. While the concept remains painfully ambiguous, it’s at least slightly clearer why Thor is no longer fit to be wielding it. If Mjolnir were a judge on American Idol, Thor would have been one of those contestants that left the stage in tears. However, this message is only powerful to the extent that the battle with Malekith forced it. The generic nature of this threat, which basically amounts to Malekith seeking something he and his Dark Elf buddies lost long ago, makes it too easy to gloss over. It still serves its purpose, but it’s still the least compelling part of this story.

The intent of this story isn’t to just shock the world into revealing that Thor is now a woman. Its purpose is to establish just how unworthy Thor and the other Asgardians have become. In this, the story succeeds, even though it does little to clarify the whole concept of unworthiness. Like the concept of weirdness, it’s one of those things that will remain forever undefined. It isn’t until the end where the woman now worthy enough to wield Mjolnir shows up and demonstrates her worthiness. But unlike Thor’s defeat, it lacks the same impact.

This woman basically acts as one of those shadowy figures that show up in every spy movie, not revealing her identity or even hinting who she might be. She just shows up on the moon, grabs the hammer, and just like that she’s Thor. It’s conveyed as one of those ongoing mysteries that won’t be resolved in the beginning. While this does offer intrigue, it doesn’t give many reasons to really care much about this character or even understand why they’re more worthy than Thor or Odin. It doesn’t even matter that she’s a woman. She could just as easily be just some random guy and it would have the same impact.

That’s not to say the impact isn’t meaningful. The mystery-woman says it herself. The world needs a Thor. It doesn’t matter if a man or woman has that title. A hammer doesn’t care which body parts its wielder has, only that it can hit the nails at the right angle. That takes away from the whole novelty of Thor now being a woman, but it doesn’t take away from the more tragic themes explored in this book. Thor struggling with his unworthiness helps make the story in Thor #1 compelling. The new woman who becomes Thor might as well be an afterthought. It might not make this story completely unworthy. But like grading a test on a curve, it still skews the concept as a whole.

7

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.

Music

The Flaming Lips Reimagine Tom Petty's Life in Oklahoma on 'American Head'

The Flaming Lips' American Head is a trip, a journey to the past that one doesn't want to return to but never wants to forget.

Music

Tim Bowness of No-Man Discusses Thematic Ambition Amongst Social Division

With the release of his seventh solo album, Late Night Laments, Tim Bowness explores global tensions and considers how musicians can best foster mutual understanding in times of social unrest.

Music

Angel Olsen Creates a 'Whole New Mess'

No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Masma Dream World Go Global and Trippy on "Sundown Forest" (premiere)

Dancer, healer, musician Devi Mambouka shares the trippy "Sundown Forest", which takes listeners deep into the subconscious and onto a healing path.

Music

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" Is an Ode for Unity in Troubling Times (premiere)

Alright Alright's "Don't Worry" is a gentle, prayerful tune that depicts the heart of their upcoming album, Crucible.

Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.