Review: Thor: God of Thunder #19 – Tales From a Dying Earth

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Series scribe Jason Aaron has already touched on the sorts of grand, sweeping tales that we’ve come to expect since taking up the hammer with the relaunch of Thor: God of Thunder. However, it’s also good to see Thor not neglecting the smaller conflicts of his adopted second home of Midgard, especially now that Asgard floats in the skies over a small Oklahoma town. And while stopping muggers on the streets of New York City is more the purview of Daredevil or Spider-Man, the Thunder God’s solo title isn’t really a place to handle Avengers-sized threats either. What is a brash Norse deity with a penchant for smashing things to do? Well, Thor: God of Thunder #19 endeavors to set us up with an answer to that very question.

The first issue of “The Last Days of Midgard” (and may I take a moment here to voice how much I really like Marvel’s new system of cover tags to mark the beginning of new story arcs? Well done, guys!) finds Thor back on Earth again. But not Earth of the past, as we’ve so often glimpsed in the series to date. Nope, just good old, modern day Earth with modern day Earth problems. For instance, greedy megacorporations and illegal whaling.

Indeed, this issue really picks up where Thor: God of Thunder #12 left off. In that downtime issue between the conclusion of “The God Butcher” and the beginning of “The Accursed” story arcs, we were introduced to S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and environmental scientist, Rosalind Solomon. You might remember her as the girl who half-jokingly asked Thor to be her graduation ceremony date via internet video… only to have him actually show up and accept.

Things begin with Roz chasing down an illegal Japanese whaling operation, being clandestinely conducted via specialized submarines. It all goes a bit pear shaped before Thor eventually shows up on the scene in suitably spectacular fashion to smash subs with Mjolnir while poor Agent Solomon endures Phil Coulson’s ribbing about her new “boyfriend.” Like it’s not hard enough for a special agent to fight for their life submerged in freezing Antarctic waters, am I right?

Thor: God of Thunder #19Eventually we’re reintroduced to an old Marvel standby, the Roxxon Energy Corporation (formerly Roxxon Oil) who have reemerged with a new CEO in the form of Dario Agger. As a character, Agger appears at first blush to be a caricature of the grossly amoral business executive. He smiles and glad-hands the press while nakedly embracing his avarice and power. He plays very transparent and almost cartoonishly evil, lacking merely a long moustache to twirl or white cat to stroke. Still, no matter how much temporal power one may wield, nobody enjoys getting upstaged at their press conference by a god who can bench press a mountaintop. This causes Agger’s veneer of cool to briefly break in private, giving up a glimpse at something worse under the surface.

The entire affair is bookended by far-future segments featuring the craggy old All-Father Thor from “The God Butcher.” Trudging forlornly around the remnants of a long-dead Earth, Thor and his three granddaughters eventually face up to one of Earth’s most persistent and ultimately dangerous threats. But does this threat still matter when the planet itself no longer lives?

This arc sees the very welcome return of the series’ original art team of Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina. While Ribic’s action scene muscles don’t get a huge workout here, his focus on tight paneling allows those few big moments when the camera pulls back to really pop (can we get a poster of the full page splash of Thor KO’ing the Jotun, Marvel? Please?). Ribic also isn’t huge on detailed backgrounds, but not in a lazy, Rob Liefeld kind of way. Instead, it gives us a chance to feast on Svorcina’s layers of soft, subdued color.

For a life so typically full of adventure, both solo and with the Avengers, rarely do we get to see Thor just dinking around on Earth. However, I tend to find these smaller, grounding moments to be some of his most fun and endearing. While his fellow Asgardians understand a life fraught with battle and glory, other humans who get drawn into Thor’s orbit are used to a far more peaceful existence (as peaceful as the Marvel Universe ever gets, that is). With S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Solomon, Thor is juxtaposed against a capable human counterpart who, while not super-strong or nigh-invulnerable, is no stranger to conflict and is far from a typical damsel in distress, yet is still vulnerable to his stupidly hunky charms. It’s also nice to see Thor potentially getting involved with another human who isn’t Jane Foster. While the Odinson has historically never been huge on the idea of commitment, I think he’s long overdue for a mortal partner.

Thor: God of Thunder #19 serves as a fairly good jumping-on for new readers. It builds off of most of what Jason Aaron has penned for the series to date, but at no point is it required reading (though I would still recommend issue 12, if you can find it). And while the time-split narrative is territory Aaron has already tread before, we’ll have to wait an issue or two to see how the parallel stories play out before rendering judgment on it. As it stands, “The Last Days of Midgard” #1 looks to be a solid start to a new chapter.