THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 by Jason Aaron, Jen Bartel, Ramon Perez, and Matthew Wilson
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 is a bit of a mixed experience. The first story, featuring the granddaughters of King Thor from a distant future, feels nearly perfect in its execution. The second, following the wartime exploits of Malekith the dark elf, feels a bit jumbled in its plot, but its characterization and art measure up well.
90 %
Split Experience
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Jason Aaron’s THE MIGHTY THOR ends in the best way possible. It pushes Jane Foster’s Thor to the very brink of defeat and sacrifice to defeat the Mangog. The ending of the story brilliantly celebrates the character’s massive impact on modern comics. It pays homage to the impact she has had on those around her. Now Aaron has done it again, though this time it’s by showing how Jane impacts the distant future. THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 makes Jane Foster into a legendary icon. Thor’s future granddaughters look to her for inspiration. More importantly, this issue looks to the near future of the Ten Realms and at what role Jane may play in the coming war.

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THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 is separated into two distinct stories. Each ties into current events within the Ten Realms. The first sees Thor’s trio of granddaughters hopping through time to various points in Thor history. They witness the far future of the Ten Realms, as well as Thor’s distant past, all in search of the legendary Lady Jane Foster, Goddess of Thunder. The second story switches perspectives to Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves. The mastermind behind the current War of the Realms, readers see Malekith hopping between each realm. Whether joining the battle or strategizing, the mischievous grin of the villain flashes constantly as he carves a path through the battlefield.

On Legacy and the Future

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1
THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1, Page 1. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

Being that these two stories are so different, I found myself a little perplexed upon finishing THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1. I absolutely fell in love with the first story. Thor’s granddaughters (Frigga, Ellusiv, and Atli) are relatively new characters to the lore, but they have such cool personalities. More importantly, their story simply feels like a lot of fun. The time hopping excursion flows along at a really nice pace, and the ways it acknowledges Aaron’s entire run feels really satisfying. In many ways, the first story acts as the perfect homage to Aaron’s time with all things Thor. The moments seen through this story fit perfectly together, even with the added confusion of time travel. Also, the hints that the Mighty Thor may return got me really excited.

On the other hand, I didn’t feel nearly as strongly about Malekith’s story. I really did enjoy several moments throughout this piece. The opening, wherein Malekith addresses his peasantry is actually really creepy. Also, getting the chance to see this character playing general and parlaying with certain groups worked well. However, the story does feel a bit jumbled. The scenes just move too quickly. While I enjoyed seeing the Ten Realms and how they fit into Malekith’s plans, I didn’t feel like any receive the coverage they deserve. I understand that Aaron wrote this story to whet the palate for things to come. However, it sometimes had me more confused than excited.

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Lighthearted but Creepy

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1
THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1, Page 2. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

As with the plot, the first story in THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 has the strongest characterization. The four way perspective between Thor’s three granddaughters and Jane really adds a personal touch. Atli, Frigga, and Ellusiv have such deep and distinct personalities, helping differentiate them greatly. However, it is their commonality that really feels satisfying. They each have such a deep admiration for Jane Foster and her many deeds. Place this next to Jane’s own fear of her cancer treatments, and you have a really interesting dichotomy from the start. This story really beautifully captures why Jane was such a hit with fans. It wasn’t the thunder goddess, but rather the strong-willed woman that inspired so many fans.

Now, while I didn’t absolutely love the second story, that doesn’t mean that I disliked the characterization in it. In fact, I find the character work with Malekith to be sort of brilliant. There is never any doubt about the evil and cruelty lying in that man’s mind. The very opening scene, where he allows one starving family to actually eat another, truly sent chills down my spine. Pair that with the manipulative and militant sides we see, and it immediately becomes obvious how much of a threat he is. As a spotlight on his threat level, this sequence does a brilliant job introducing new fans to this terrifying foe. After this story, we can immediately grasp how difficult the coming war will be.

Visions from the Front

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1
THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1, Page 3. Image courtesy of Marvel Comics

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 is the first issue in a long while not to be penned by Russel Dautermann. At first, I was a bit disappointed by this fact. Dautermann’s work has become synonymous with the character for me, and I hesitated to accept any new voices to the game.

I needn’t have worried. Jen Bartel drew the first story, and I loved the cleanness of her line work. It gives the story a much more lighthearted edge in comparison to what I am used to. Her style looks a bit like the Saturday morning cartoons that I loved as a kid. It fits the story incredibly well. Thor’s granddaughters are fun characters. They are so archetypal in their interactions (the tough one, the smart one, and the leader). Any degree of seriousness wouldn’t pay them justice. The art also fits the themes so well. This story focuses intently on hope and the strength still in Jane Foster. It’s all about Jane’s positive impact, and Bartel’s lighter style seems to mirror the fact that Jane had made the Marvel Universe brighter.

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Ramon Perez tackles the Malekith story, and his work is so brilliant in the opposite way. His linework is messy and chaotic, with lots of heavy detail. This gives the story a more serious edge, but it also feeds into Malekith’s darkness. Any of that light from Bartel’s drawings is simply gone with Perez behind the pencils. It really feels astounding to see. His art perfectly captures the intricacies of the environment as well, giving some of the most detailed landscapes I have seen in comics for a long time.

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1: Final Thoughts

THE MIGHTY THOR AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA #1 is a bit of mixed experience. On the one hand, the opening story by Aaron and Bartel is almost without flaw. The brilliant focus on the legacy left behind by Jane Foster and the lighthearted atmosphere made that story a pleasure to read. On the other hand, though, Malekith’s story feels a bit jumbled. Aaron stretched himself a bit thin with this story, I think. Instead of focusing on longer, intense scenes from a handful of realms, he sought to visit them all in one story. While Malekith’s brilliant malice carries you through the story, the pacing stumbles a bit throughout. Still, this book is a total must read, whether you want to honor Lady Jane’s many adventures or whether you are looking ahead to the grander stage of war.

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