Monday, 16 January 2012

Rating the Thor Scribes

At the Thor Message Board the other day a challenge was put forth to rate out of 10 the writers on Thor going back to Dan Jurgens.  I tweaked the criteria slightly and said I would only rate the writers on the ongoing title, not mini-series or one-shots.  I thought I would expand on my reasonings here.

Kieron Gillen - 10/10
I've said this before and I am sure to say it again, Kieron Gillen is the second coming of Walt Simonson when it comes to Thor.  Like Simonson, Gillen has a great grasp on Norse mythology and weaves it seamlessly into Marvel's interpretation of the worlds of Asgard.  His dialogue, a tricky subject when it comes to Thor and company, is great, a perfect updating of the old "thee and thou" days.  His villains are layered, and have many aspects to their plans; watching Loki and Mephisto verbally spar with each other was a real treat.  What is especially impressive with Gillen's contributions is he has never been annointed the regular scribe on Thor, it's always been to pick up the pieces of somebody else's work.  I would love to see what Gillen could do with Thor if he as free to set the direction of the character, and if you're not reading it you have to check out Journey Into Mystery, one of the best books Marvel puts out and is written by, surprise surprise, Kieron Gillen.

Mike Oeming - 9/10
Oeming's Ragnarok storyline was perhaps one of the best send-offs a character could ask for.  Lots of great nods to past continuity and Norse mythology, real character growth and evolution, it was a great read.  The story itself I would rank a full 10/10, but Oeming had an advantage over the other writers in that he knew he didn't have to put the toys back in the sandbox when he was done, meaning he could effect some really drastic changes and developments that normally wouldn't be possible.  As such, it didn't seem fair to give him the full 10/10, but if he were to come back to the title I'm sure he would be embraced with open arms by the Thor faithful.

J Michael Stracynzki - 8/10
What I really liked about JMS' run was the slow boil of the story; you could tell he was building to something, and each issue advanced the plot nicely.  Most of the issues could be enjoyed as a somewhat standalone story, a rarity in today's market.  Some people think there wasn't a lot of action, but we got to see Thor take on Irom Man, the Destroyer, Surtur, those are some real heavy weights.  Fights need to have a reason for being, and every battle Thor entered was charged with personal or larger stakes; with Iron Man he was expressing his displeasure at Tony's actions in the Civil War, with the Destroyer he was fighting to save his people, against Surtur he was fighting for the life of his father, there were real consequences beyond something as simple as a grudge match.  The only real problem with the title was the delays, it really derailed the story and is the only reason I knocked JMS' ranking down.

Dan Jurgens - 6/10
I'm the opposite of a fair number of fans, I liked Jurgens later run on the title compared to his earlier issues.  I think part of that was the art; John Romita Jr. is a master storyteller, and a lot of guys could learn how to tell a story from him, but I've never cared for his sketchy/blocky style (I was a huge fan of his old style when he was working on Amazing Spider-Man the first time around).  But I didn't care for the story elements too; I thought Thor's dialogue was atrocious, for starters.  I didn't care for the whole Jake Olsen thing, so that didn't help either.  However, I absolutely loved Jurgens "King Thor" era, which slowly saw Thor turn into Odin, essentially.  It was a phenomenal way to explore and extract aspects of the character that hadn't been explored before.  Yes, Thor was returned to the status quo for Oeming to tidy up the series, but man Jurgens was cooking in the later part of his run.

Matt Fraction - 1/10
I'm probably being generous giving Fraction the 1 point, but he's had great artists doing his stuff, even though the colourist destroyed Pascal Ferry's art on his first run.  Anyway, Fraction seems to have simply ignored the work done by JMS and Gillen, taking away the more contemplative and mature Thor we were enjoying and replacing him with a hot tempered brute.  The dialogue, as I've chronicled before on this blog, is atrocious.  The story concepts are great, but the execution is horrendous.  I love Thor, and have a full run going back to volume 2 of the book, so Fraction not only got me to drop a book I was invested in emotionally, but also as a collector.  That is very hard to do.  I look forward to when he leaves the book and I can come back to it, and the collector in me has resigned himself to maybe getting the Fraction books in the dollar bin in future to re-complete the collection.

1 comment:

  1. As a Thor fan, I confess I haven't read much of the recent stuff -- except for Straczynski's work, which I quite liked. Oeming is one I've been meaning to get a trade collection of, but I shied away thinking it was part of a larger crossover (Avengers Disassembled? Is that right) which I hate. But Oeming loves the mythology -- have you ever read his own Norse epic, Hammer of the Gods? He also had a nice What If? one-shot for Marvel, where Thor became the herald of Galactus.
    For me, though, the gold standard on Thor was the Simonson run in the 80s. Maybe because those were among the first Thor comics I ever read.