“The battles you can’t win are the most important to fight.”
There are few comic writers who can show you how well they understand a character in very little page space, and Kelly & Lanzing are among them. Thor Annual #1 is as much a cool story as it is a showcase of how well these guys get Thor, as well as another character, along with an injection of their love for M.O.D.O.K. Of course, none of this would be possible without the brilliant art of Ibraim Roberson and Dan Brown, who feel like they’ve channeled the power of the All-Father to make an issue this kinetic, gorgeous, and visually interesting.
As far as the plot goes, this is a standard Thor story – the realm is in danger, and he has to save it. However, it shines because of the insanely good character work present here. Thor, being the All-Father now, carries a lot of weight on his shoulders, and yet he still pushes himself until he’s inspired and reminded that even if he can’t win, he should keep fighting the good fight. It’s a really inspiring conversation with Peter Parker that brings this to light, and even though he’s only in it for four pages, it’s four pages that really get him down to his core. It’s also very well paced; this is a story that could have easily fallen into the decompressed story pipeline, but it perfectly works as a one-and-done.
This book absolutely shines with the art though. Just… wow. Roberson and Brown freaking killed it. Not a single page sticks to a “standard” format, instead deviating from the norm and doing differently shaped panels, various kinds of layouts – very reminiscent of the cracks in the Mjonlir. Every page has an insane amount of detail carved into it, and you can tell this book was treated with a lot of love and attention.
As far as Thor stories go, if you ever needed to sell someone on Thor, this issue could honestly do it. It’s awesome.
Meanwhile, the backup acts as a prologue to Al Ewing, Martin Cocolo, and Matthew Wilson’s Immortal Thor, and from the first set of narration, you can immediately tell that we’re going to be in this for a treat. Ewing magic.
“In that moment, Thor was decided… and the die was cast.”
It’s not much, just a conversation with Sif while we see how Thor gets the classic look and Mjonlir back without the cracks. On a surface read, it feels abrupt as to how all this happens, but given Ewing’s reputation, I’m sure there’ll be consequences for it down the line, so I’m not bothered at all. I’m excited to follow where this goes, given the last page.
Cocolo and Wilson’s art is gorgeous too. It’s reminiscent of Walter Simonson’s art in many ways, but also smoother rather than as “blocky”, which I personally didn’t mind. They get it right, and the last page effectively shows us that we don’t need to worry about Thor looking mighty in the upcoming series – we’ll get a lot of that soon enough.
Joe Sabino letters both stories, and both are great. I’m a fan of the scroll border for the narration in Ewing, Cocolo, and Wilson’s story a lot; I thought that was a super neat touch.
Overall, a fantastic annual! Definitely pick this up if you’re a fan of Thor or want to see why so many of us love this character.