TCR: Thor, ‘WHOSOEVER WIELDS THIS HAMMER’ provides great backstory!

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There is something charming about reading a comic from the 1960’s. I truly love reading now-corny phrases like “vengeance shall be mine!” from back when these lines were meant in complete sincerity. Aside from the almost comically excessive use of explanation points and victories that are so conveniently plotted that an elevated suspension of disbelief is necessary, these old comics are quite entertaining! This week Marvel published Thor: Whosoever Wields this Hammer, which combines original early issues of Journey into Mystery (a serialized comic book from the 1960s) marking some of the first appearances of Thor.

Unlike most of my TCRs, I’m not really going to critique much about this comic book. Most of the pages are filled with the old reprints which reflect a totally different style of writing than is popular today. Stan Lee and Larry Lieber were the original authors. When reading the work of Stan Lee it is important for the reader to recognize that emphasis for enjoyment should not be placed on the unfamiliar writing style, which seems quaint compared to the sensationalism of modern comic writing. Instead, take a moment to realize that these are the original panels where decades’ worth of storytelling were born. The characters introduced in Journey into Mystery, would last and thrive and evolve into the richly layered characters of today.

I recommend reading something like Whosoever Wields this Hammer, or other old back stories of Thor before seeing the movie. The primary reason is obvious – it’s fun to know more than your friends when going to see a film based in your particular realm of nerddom, which also has appeal to the general public.

Opportunity for pretentiousness aside, I always feel like I get more out of a pre-established story based movie (or at least can be a better judge of a movie) if I am familiar with its roots. Movies have such short time frames to work with, preexisting knowledge is like having the extended version already in your head so you therefore get to relax and enjoy the cliff notes!

In this issue you will learn the array of Thor’s powers. You will see why he was sent to earth and how, exactly, he comes to have the alternate persona of Dr. Donald Blake. You will meet his greatest nemesis – Loki, the god of mischief, who will also be Thor’s foe in the upcoming movie. Other important characters of introduction include Odin and Jane Foster (who, as you will see is amusingly in the first issue as the blond Jane Nelson and by the third is the brunette Jane Foster. Thor’s not the only one with identity issues!)

All of these older comics are tied together by a sweet present-day depiction of a Volstagg the Mighty, trying to calm his rambunctious children by telling them tales of Thor. I liked how the artistic style of this tie-together story marks a defined shift from the modern story and the rehashed flashbacks.

But, along those same lines, perhaps my favorite part was the added touch at the end. The art for the Journey into Mystery comics was done, of course, by Stan Lee’s comic partner Jack Kirby. But the colors are too vivid and the detail to clear to be a reprint from 50 years ago! … Technology is an amazing thing. In the back of the book you will see side by side frames from the original comics (worn, faded, and slightly yellow) next to remastered frames, which look brand new. How cool is that!

If I had any complaint with this comic book it is that it was so under publicized. This was a spectacular introduction to Thor for those who are not familiar with the comic, yet have (even a low) level of interest in learning the roots of the story before seeing the movie. For further reading I would also suggest Thor 620.1. As I explained in a previous TCR, Marvel’s “.1” line is specifically designed to act as a “jumping on” point for new readers. Thor’s .1 was an amusing story with great introduction to characters and some background on the culture of Asgard (the home of the gods where Thor was raised).

Is this book essential before you see the movie? Of course not. If you want background information on Thor you can always go to Wikipedia. But getting a kick out of the old comics so much more fun!

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