I honestly only watched the first Thor movie last year, four years after its release in 2010. Like I said, not a Marvel fan in general, but I got to admit that of all the movies Marvel Studios have released so far, the first Thor film is my most favorite next to the first Iron Man. Admittedly, I love mythology stories which was why I stumbled upon this 2013 title, God of Thunder rather easily (also, it's written by Jason Aaron who is writing Wolverine and the X-Men which is a part of my comic diet this year). Much like with Ms. Marvel, I went into reading this unaware of the content I was being served with and it was only when I finished the two volumes, The God Butcher and Godbomb, that I've done some research just to see how my experience is comparable to that of other people; and I was pleased to see that a lot of them were just as positive as mine had been.
The truth of the matter is that I immensely enjoyed God of Thunder in a scale that I didn't expect since I only read it with the mindset of someone who has only encountered the titular character in the films. I know just enough about the original Norse mythology it was based on, and watching 2010 Thor was almost reminiscent of the Hercules television show I was very fond of as a kid. I suppose that was the draw of Thor's characterization in that movie; that he was an arrogant god who could not see past his war-advocating aggression until his own father banished him and stripped him off his powers to teach him a valuable lesson. And then a hero's journey follows where he has to claim his own powers back by proving that he has learned the importance of temperance and the meaning of leadership. It's an archetypal narrative I have a strong penchant for.
Now I wouldn't consider Thor as a favorite character (nor Loki, even though Tom Hiddleston's portrayal is painfully orgasmic for me), but I'm invested enough in the general atmosphere of his mythological story to want to read him in the actual comics medium, so I selected something that was fairly recent and something of a standlone from the rest of the roster. And it pleases me to no end I chose God of Thunder. I think this is a comic book story that is digestible for a first-time reader of said character so anyone can pick it up because it's actually a rather intimate tale that follows a detective story structure while it also blurs the timelines among past, present and future.
THOR: God of Thunder, volume 1: "The God Butcher"
In God of Thunder, long-time Avenger Thor is patrolling the galaxies when he encounters a small nation living in a planet where one of its young citizens claimed that they had no gods to pray to which was why they sought his help instead. Naturally disbelieving this, Thor decides to visit the planet's own absentee gods in their kingdom so he could possibly chastise them for slacking off and ignoring their worshipers' calling. Upon arriving to said land, Thor was shocked to find that all of its godly inhabitants were gruesomely disposed of; disfigured and hacked corpses littered every corner of the palace, prompting Thor to investigate what and who could have possibly murdered these gods.
Meanwhile, in the distant future, a worn-down and ancient Thor, now the last king and remaining survivor of Asgard, which is now being relentlessly attacked by soulless entities who seek to bring him down, tries to hold off the evil forces by his lonesome. We then jump back to the past where an axe-wielding and strapping young Thor, who is as reckless and as fun as anyone expects from an adolescent jock, accompanies the Vikings on earth as they pillage and loot across the lands. These transitions would feel slightly abrupt at first until we slowly find out in the present that Avenger Thor's encounter of those mutilated deities is only the beginning of a horrific cycle that will touch upon different levels of reality where the god of thunder himself is at the eye of its storm.
The first volume is a bleak and serious murder mystery set in a mythological landscape that hit my sweet spot just right. Comprised of the first five issues of the series, The God Butcher is a sweeping epic that manages to be very personal and character-driven at its core in spite of its seemingly expansive premise. In it, three versions of Thor seeks out a madman by the name of Gorr, a serpentine black-hearted rogue whose shade of darkness is only matched by the vivid ink streams he is often depicted with in the pages. He is on a personal mission to wipe out every living god in existence, and he is not going to stop until he accomplishes this.
Back in the past, it seems like a young Thor has encountered Gorr before but lacks the self-awareness and wisdom of his Avenger's version in the present, and therefore unable to comprehend the possible horrors that Gorr would be committing someday. The stakes increase significantly once present-Thor and future-king-Thor finally collide and join forces with the past-Thor. But this set-up will be expounded more by the second volume collection which also provides a more detailed background about Gorr, his origins and the driving motivation for his ultimate goal.
Artist Esad Ribic's visual style and illustrations are phenomenal and consistent for each issue; each panel has great fluidity and substance. My most favorite moment that showcases Ribic's dynamic fight scenes as they unify alongside Aaron's storytelling is the scene in issue #2, featuring the confrontation between past-Thor and Gorr. It was a chilling narrative concerning Thor's memory from childhood when he meets certain type of killer he could not understand:
If these weren't enough to get you excited, I don't know what will.
THOR: God of Thunder, volume 2: "Godbomb"
The second volume collection of the continuing God-Butcher epic/murder mystery is Godbomb which revealed the accumulation of all of the villain Gorr's plan from the beginning ever since he started his personal crusade of wiping out every living god in existence. Comprised of issues 6-11, Godbomb has all the essential elements to increase the stakes and fairly conclude this arc, and some of its important parts did manage to deliver a solid ending; but there are details across said issues that make less sense once examined more critically. Still, this volume is what the first one's set up was eluding to: it was brisk and exciting filled with great action sequences and small crowning moments of awesome among the three versions of Thor.
The sixth issue focused primarily on Gorr's origin which was emotional and believable enough to accept. He was an ordinary being from a harsh environment who lost his wife and unborn child to unfortunate circumstances. Even with the worsening conditions, his wife remained faithful to the higher powers, often lecturing and assuring him that the gods are looking after them. Already an aspiring atheist, Gorr questions her religious allegiance and after her tragic death, he began to outwardly and passionately despise the concept of gods in general and so began his lifelong hunt to exterminate every kind of deity across the universe.
The one god who struggled to find a way to prevent this is Thor and all his past, present and future incarnations gathered together because each version feels responsible about Gorr in some way, and the strength in their number should be enough to overcome the god-butcher's ill-intentioned and widespread hate-mongering disease. All three of them--though initially uncomfortable with each other--arrive to a common goal to destroy Gorr and his malicious plan to render all godly creation null with this 'bomb' he created as reinforced by the surviving gods he had managed to acquire and enslave for his own personal use. His personal army, the Black Berserkers, meanwhile, face the Thors from every counter point holding them back until the climatic confrontation with Gorr himself.
Thor: God of Thunder is spectacular because it was every bit of fantasy and mythology fiction that I have always wanted from a character I am slowly and steadily growing to love and look forward to. The story was uncanny and unlike anything I would have believed is possible to read in a Thor title. It was a haunting tale about the myth of gods and why people need to believe in a higher power; as well as what happens when that faith is taken for granted and betrayed such as the case with Gorr. I didn't personally connect with him as a villain but I thought he served his role well enough for the plot. The three Thors fighting alongside together was always a hoot and I especially love future-Thor the most. I like glimpsing into the possible king and leader Thor will become someday. He was a prissy, cranky old man, sure, but you can tell he knows what he's doing and why he must do it. The overconfident version of him as the past-Thor was oddly endearing, though, and present-Thor was possibly the Thor I'm most closest to because I do believe he's in the middle of an important transition at this point, and seeing him interact with his past and future is rather intriguing.
I found this moment between him and past-Thor moving:
It's an eye-opening moment for both Thors. Young Thor aspires to be just like Odin, his father, but the future-Thor invalidates this and tells him for his own good that he will never be the son Odin wants him to be and there's nothing to fear or be ashamed of in understanding this truth. Future-Thor is also admitting this for himself; for so long, whatever kind of man he shaped himself to be was dictated by what his father wants but not this time, and he hopes his past version would fare better by imparting him this knowledge. Perhaps Thor needs to come to terms with this by himself though.
I'm so excited to read the next issues for this series (there are 25 of these by now). Overall, The God Butcher and Godbomb are worthy installments that you should pick up if you like mythology stories that feature the Mighty Thor. Somehow, his characterization for this series needs more work but I'm confident that both Aaron and Ribic's collaboration will have more ways to move forward and improve.