Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thor #603 Review

THOR #603

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Marko Djurdjevic

The best way to describe Thor #603 is overwritten.  From the melodramatic, near soap opera-like, speeches of Kelda to the laboured, ego driven dialogue of Dr Doom and Loki to Thor's and Sif's long winded, over the top Shakespearean speeches that opened the issue, it all felt like Straczynski was trying too hard to write this issue.  Instead of letting Djurdjevic's beautiful artwork tell the story or show the emotions of characters, it read like he was trying to force it down our throats with bloated dialogue and grandiose speeches.

Another shortfall of this issue is the pacing.  It's been a carefully crafted and finely paced journey of discovery and wonder for Thor since JMS relaunched the book.  Every detail and plot was given room to breathe and you could savour each moment like a fine wine.  With only this issue and an oversized one-shot left on JMS's run, everything seems to be rushing to a conclusion to the detriment of the story.

For example, after the big production made of saving Sif last issue and the search for her over the past several issues, neither she nor Thor appear for more than a page or two this month.  In fact, they open the issue with the long winded, dialogue heavy conversation I mentioned in the opening of this review and that's the most we get on the topic.  From there, we have a minor comedic page of Sif in human clothes, the landlady confusing her for Donald Blake's prostitute and they're never heard from again.  I don't mind not having a focus on Thor every issue, but for what was a major subplot and someone Thor risked his life for to save when he reforged Mjolnir with his own life essence, I kind of expected some follow up beyond what we were given here, especially in light of how the rest of JMS's run has played out.

However, the problems with this issue go beyond mere pacing.  There's also oddities such as Bill's discovery of what Dr Doom and Loki are up to in Doom's lab.  After the pure melodrama of Kelda's conversation with Bill, which lacked the playful nature of their previous interactions and went on far too long here, Bill leaves to do, well, it's never explained what he was going to do.  He just takes his sword, heads off to Doom's castle, climbs a cliff and stumbles on Doom's lab, where Doom is busy playing mad scientist on a random Asgardian Loki brought for him to dissect.  Doom's "lab" is a random room on the exterior of the castle, has a half boarded up window and was, despite Bill climbing a cliff to reach it, right next to the road and castle entrance based on the flow of panels as Bill attempts to flee after being discovered by Loki.  Simply put, that's ridiculous.  Loki and Doom were shown in the depths of the castle in a secret lab earlier showing off their upgraded Doombots.  Now they are performing vivisections on Asgardians next to an open window in an area that can be viewed and screams can be heard by anyone that happens to be passing by?  The entire scene feels like it wasn't given much thought and just thrown together to get the plot moving for the upcoming giant-size conclusion.

While it may sound like I'm being overly negative about this issue, I don't think it's unfair criticism.  This is a book I regarded as one of the best on the shelves (or, at least whenever it came out *razzafrazzadelays*).  While the issue has it's share of the charms that made the rest of the series a delight to read, it's clearly a significant drop in quaity by comparison and simply being better than other comics on the shelves doesn't mean the book should be judged by lower standards or given a free pass.

On the positive side of things, Bill's last stand, as it were, was perfectly scripted and what we've come to expect from the series, as was the comedy stylings of Volstagg and his companions as they moved in and took over Bill's old diner .  Also, even though I disliked how drawn out the Loki and Doom conversations were, both are still entertaining to see playing off each other and Iloved the vivisection scene. 

Verdict - Buy It.  While there are problems with this issue that prevent it from being a must read in my eyes, it's still quite clearly a great comic; just not up to the lofty standards this series has set for itself. 

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