The Mighty Thor/Journey Into Mystery: Everything Burns And I Need Your Help

everything-burns

I’ll admit; I probably should have been reading Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery to have a better understanding of what was going on. This volume collects the series’ final arc, which was a cross over with The Mighty Thor. It’s up to Kid Loki and Thor to save everyone, and tie up the loose ends of Gillen’s run on Journey and Matt Fraction’s on The Mighty Thor.

Unfortunately, I picked this up completely cold. There is a lot of stuff going on that required tons and tons of Googleing to figure out. What happened–or at least what I think happened–was that Kid Loki has been feuding with the spirit of his older self all this time. And as a result, he’s somehow freed the fire demon Surtur. So it is up to him and his older brother Thor to save the universe.

There’s a lot of deception, trickery and flat-out lying between all the characters, as well as allusions to some of the previous plot lines in Journey Into Mystery. All of this really confused me to the point that I still don’t have a clue as to what exactly happened. So I’m going to ask you my reader pals what happened.

What I do feel comfortable talking about was how much I liked Alan Davis’ art on the Thor parts of this. He’s such a great–and underutilized–artist.

But getting back to this, I’m going to say that it’s pretty forgettable unless you have been following the Journey series. If you were a faithful reader of that series, I will give it a hearty recommendation. And if you knew what happened in this, please let me know!

Silver Surfer #4

silver-surfer-4

In this issue, Silver Surfer almost let’s his altruistic nature almost take the best of him when he encounters Loki.

The Asgardian’s story is pretty typical for this time. Loki really really hates his brother Thor and is always looking for new ways to destroy him. His latest plan involves using the Silver Surfer to do his bidding, with a little treachery.

Loki explains to Silver Surfer that his brother Thor is a huge miscreant and is a danger to Asgard. Silver Surfer, for all the cosmic power he wields, is a bit of a rube and believes Loki’s story. The two make a deal: if the Silver Surfer goes to Asgard and kills Thor (who is planning on taking over Asgard), Loki will remove the enchantment that keeps the Surfer imprisoned on Earth. He is a god of sorts, after all.

This plot really is textbook Loki logic. He has a problem that he himself can’t solve, so he manipulates someone into doing it for him. Surfer is transported to Asgard and is on a mission to kill Thor. Eventually the two meet, and Surfer attacks him as he thinks he is a liberator to the Asgardians. The whole fight sequence by John Buscema is filled with so much energy and kinetic-ism that it rivals something that Jack Kirby would have done during this period.

Surfer has the advantage in the fight and realizes that Loki is doing something to not only augment his powers, but control his body. He also notices that the Asgardians are coming out to protect Thor; if he was as villainous as Loki described, no one would be doing this. Surfer confronts Loki, who does admit that this has been a more villainous plan all along and sends Surfer back to Earth as he wasn’t able to live up to his end of the bargain.

Poor Surfer. He gets duped into doing Loki’s work and gets beaten up by Thor. But on a positive note, Thor wasn’t too mad at him as he knows the lengths Loki would go to in his diabolical schemes. The book ends with Silver Surfer still upset that he’s still trapped on a planet that he really doesn’t understand and had been tricked by someone he had trusted. The moral of the story: don’t help strangers.

Amazing Spider-Man #698: Invasions of the Body Snatchers

Amazing Spider-Man #698 came out today, and it is definitely one of those issues that was designed to be a big deal. So what’s so special about this? Peter Parker dies.

Completely simplifying it, an ailing Doctor Octopus was able to switch bodies with Spider-Man. The eight-limbed villain switched bodies with Spider-Man, leaving poor Peter to die in his old body. Octopus gets to live on, having assumed Peter’s identity and life.

Amazing Spider-Man is getting re-launched as Superior Spider-Man in January, so I’m sure this storyline will have some sort of temporary resolution, with the long-term leading to Peter Parker returning to his status quo of being Spider-Man and you know, being alive.

So how does Spidey come back?

Someone, say Mary Jane or even Aunt May could make some sort of deal with Mephisto to restore the status quo. This would be a bookend of sorts to the One More Day storyline where Mary Jane made a deal with the devil to save Aunt May’s live in exchange for her relationship with Peter to have never existed. Is it possible that Mephisto would offer someone else a similar deal to save Peter’s life?

Spider-Man also has an outstanding favor due to him from Loki. In Amazing Spider-Man  #503-504, the trickster god needed the assistance of Spidey in saving his mortal daughter. Even though Spider-Man is technically dead at this point, Loki could decide to do him a solid and return him rightfully back to the land in the living. I am not sure if this is possible, since Loki himself was reborn as a teenager, but it’s a debt he owes nevertheless.

Regardless of how they bring Peter back, it has to be well executed and I have good faith in writer Dan Slott being able to pull it off.

Siege: Norman Osborn and Loki’s Failure

I finally got around to reading Marvel’s Siege and realized something: even though they set in motion the destruction of Chicago’s Soldier Field and the subsequent casualties, Norman Osborn and Loki were trying to be heroes.

Unfortunately for them, they go about it the wrong way.

The goal of the Soldier Field incident was to spark a war between the United States and Asgard, giving a chance for them to be seen as heroes by their respective people, which would finally give them a chance to ascend to power legitimately. Norman would shed the image of being the sociopath Green Goblin and overcome that stigma by forcing Asgard out of the United States. Loki, always seen by the Asgardians as being a power-hungry, manipulative trickster, would be seen as a great hero by protecting kingdom. These acts of heroism would allow Norman to be the President of the United States and Loki could take the throne of Asgard, finally fulfilling their quests for power.

There plan is flawed, and soon their diabolical plan is exposed. Norman is captured as a war criminal, pretty much ruining any chance of him being perceived as being a brave and noble hero.

Thanks to their arrogance, Loki suffers a much worse fate. Norman lost control over the insane minded and insanely powerful Sentry who winds up killing Loki. But before Loki dies, he shows a character trait that separates him from Norman. Loki has the potential for good. Realizing that he himself is the sole reason for the destruction of his beloved Asgard, he arms the Avengers with the enchanted norn stones that give them a fighting chance in stopping the out of control Sentry.

Their actions in Siege shape how the characters will be regarded in the future. Norman is still insanely power-hungry, blaming his failures on a re-emergent Green Goblin persona and is plotting a new way to take over the world. Loki, after showing noble and selfless acts in an attempt to save Asgard, has been reincarnated as a child and is given a second chance to redeem himself for his past transgressions.

So What Did I Think About Thor?

So I just received some fan mail about what I thought of the Thor movie. I guess that’s appropriate, since I shared what I thought about Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, and have previously reviewed X-Men: First Class and Green Lantern.

Out of the three comic book/super hero films, Thor stands out to me as the best of this summer’s crop. For those of you who don’t know me, I have admittedly bad taste in movies. If it isn’t really funny or have a lot of explosions, chances are I haven’t seen it.

Even though I’ve been a lifelong Thor fan and wanted the movie to be as awesome as the Simonson and Kirby and Ellis comics, the thought of a super critically acclaimed serious Shakespearean director like Kenneth Branagh directing the film scared me. What if he was going to make the movie serious in tone? What if he tried turning this into an epic like Lord of the Rings…and by that I meant long and painful to watch? What if he decided to turn this into a critically acclaimed piece of cinema?

Well Branagh didn’t do that; he made a perfect Chris film, balancing action and humor. Other people seem to like it as well; Thor has pulled in receipts of almost $460,000,000 worldwide and the movie had many positive reviews. Branagh made Thor in the image of the first Iron Man, where the audience is introduced to the super hero, and elaborate action scenes are passed over in lieu of ample character development.

Stop! Hammer time!

At heart, Thor is a film about family relationships. Odin, king of the Asgardians, has two sons. Thor is the more well liked and respected one, but is ultimately to brash and immature to take his throne. Loki is a bit conniving and genuinely means well, but Thor’s status as Odin’s favored son hurts him.

This family feud ultimately comes to a boil, as Thor is exiled to Earth and stripped of his power by Odin for arrogantly trying to defeat Asgard’s long-standing enemies the frost giants of Jotunheim. Things only get worse in the house of Odin. Loki learns of his true frost giant heritage and becomes enraged at Odin for hiding this from him. As a result, Odin (who is masterfully played by Anthony Hopkins) collapses into a catatonic state.

Loki, realizing this is his only chance to be the ruler of Asgard, takes his adopted father’s throne and plans to destroy Jotunheim once and for all, as a way of showing Odin that he is just as powerful (if not more) than his brother Thor, that he is just as strong a leader as his father, and that Loki would be willing to kill off every single frost giant–even though he himself is one–if it would gain the love and favor of his adopted father. To make sure that Thor doesn’t interfere, Loki convinces him that he should never return.

Ultimately, Thor accepts his humility (as he spends time learning about the human condition and spirit with human scientist Jane Foster) and returns to Asgard. He takes it upon himself to stop Loki, as slaughtering the frost giants of Jotunheim is ultimately wrong. The two brother fight through the realms of Asgard and Jotunheim, destroying the bridge that connects the two realms. Odin comes to stop them from fighting and prevent his sons from being lost in the cosmic abyss. Humiliated by being defeated in front of Odin and now having to reach out to be saved by his brother Thor, Loki would rather fall into the cosmic abyss then be rescued by Thor.

Even though Loki would never believe it, the film ends with Odin and Thor mourn his loss, as they always unconditionally loved him.

There was some comedy, mainly as Thor tried to fit in with the humans. The action scenes of Asgardian viking battle were well executed. But this story is what made this movie.

At the heart of Thor isn’t as medieval battles, instead there is a strong examination of family dynamics reminding us of why we have to be compassionate to others and to strive to be supportive. Loki’s demise is tragic as it was spurned by him never understanding how much his family cared for him.

This was always the theme of the Thor comics and Branagh found a way to tell this epic, grandiose story, making it just as heartfelt and complex as anything Shakespeare could come up with.

And that is why I loved this film.

And if that’s not good enough, Thor comics legend Walt Simonson, his wife and writer Louise Simonson, and longtime editor Ralph Macchio (not the Karate Kid) all make an appearance during Asgaridian banquet scene.

Looking for something to read at the beach?

I was asked to put together some recommended comics that are suitable for an adult audience.  Here is a list I put together, including four based on recent superhero movies and four that have nothing to do with super heroes.

If you went to the movie theater this summer, chances are you’ve seen that Hollywood has been making movies based on comic books! Comic books (or their more sophisticated cousin the graphic novel) are not just for kids. In fact, most comic books are written for adults! Not only that, but story wise there is much more to comics then just super heroes!

Here are some great books that were the basis for some of this summer’s biggest movies, as well as some of the most popular graphic novels on the shelves!

Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers
written by Rob Rodi
art by Esad Ribic

This cautionary tale shows family dynamics of the godlike brothers Loki and Thor from this summer’s blockbuster. Showing their lives infancy to adulthood, Loki is constantly reminded of his inferiority in comparison to his brother Thor, as well as not being able cope with the utter disdain his father Odin has for him. These strained relationships show give a glimpse on how a lifetime of sadness and self-doubt created a rift between the brothers.

We3
written by Grant Morrison
art by Frank Quitely

After three beloved pets are abducted and forced to become military weapons, all they want to do is return to their human families. When they find out they are going to be “decomissioned” (destroyed), they set out on a perilous journey to survive. Morrison created three extremely sympathetic characters, that remind you of your childhood pets. The book may have limited dialogue, but Quitely’s innovative page design and stunning artwork will fully capture your imagination.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow
written by Dennis O’Neil
art by Neal Adams

Green Lantern made his movie screen debut this summer, but this story from 1970 is his most compelling adventure. With his more socially conscious friend Green Arrow at his side, the typically space faring but somewhat naive Green Lantern goes on a cross-country journey of self exploration through Vietnam War-era America. Along the way, the pair encounter racism and bigotry, drug abuse, sexism and discrimination, and corruption; all subjects not typically shown in comics at that point.

Pride of Baghdad
written by Brian K. Vaughan
art by Niko Henrichon

Based on a true story, this graphic novel shows the life of four lions trying to survive their escape from a war-torn Baghdad Zoo in the early 2000. Much to the chagrin of the other animals, Zill feels that his pride can only survive by leaving the gutted zoo.  By humanizing all of the zoo animals, a story is an examination of the role off family and the cost of freedom.

FablesFables
written Bill Willingham
with various artists
Did you ever wonder what it would be like if your favorite fairy tale characters were real? Willingham explores this topic in the Fables series. The fairy tale characters you grow up with live amongst in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, dealing with real world situations like the nasty divorce of Snow White and Prince Charming due to his infidelity, the now human Big Bad Wolf trying to redeem himself for the transgressions of his youth, and even the strained father-and-son relationship of Gepetto and Pinocchio. Each part of the series is different in subject matter, falling into genres like crime, mystery, romance and even political suspense.

Magneto: Testament
written by Greg Pak
art by Carmine Di Giandomenico

As seen in  X-Men: First Class, the superhuman Magneto is a Holocaust survivor and this book tells the story of how he–then a teenager named Max Eisenhardt–loses his family and barely survives. All elements of super heroics are stripped from the character, leaving a compelling narrative. The art is moody and dark, creating a sense of drama and sorrow. The book also features a powerful short story by comics legends Neal Adams and Joe Kubert, chronicling the life of Auschwitz prisoner Dina Babbitt, whose artistic talents were exploited by Josef Mengele in exchange for him guaranteeing her and her mother’s safety.

Captain America
by Ed Brubaker
art by Steve Epting

This ongoing series chronicles the most recent adventures of Captain America, from the return of his long assumed dead sidekick, to him facing and overcoming his own mortality. Filled with espionage and mystery, as well as dealing with themes of personal loss and adapting to an ever-changing world, Brubaker creates an intriguing take on one of America’s most iconic characters.

The Walking Dead
by Robert Kirkman
art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard

Zombies have taken the spot of vampires as America’s favorite supernatural creature. This series is less about monsters and horror, as it revolves around small town sheriff Rick Grimes and the community he protects, trying to find a way to survive in a post apocalyptic world. This has been adapted to a popular television series on AMC.

These and other great comics can be found at your friendly neighborhood comic book shop. Don’t know where you can find one? Go here or call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK. If you can’t find one, try your local library or one of the fine book retailers in your town or online.