Friday, April 1, 2016


Story and Art by Walter Simonson
Colors by Laura Martin | Letters by John Workman

... Or, "The Adventures of Zombie Thor".

I feel bad about this one. I was ready to like it. I wanted to like it. But, perhaps because of the expectations I placed upon it, it really didn't do much for me.

Walter Simonson's THOR run at Marvel was something I missed out on the first time around. I finally checked it out two decades after the fact, in the THOR VISIONARIES: WALTER SIMONSON trade paperback series, and I found that it completely lived up to the praise I'd seen heaped upon it over the previous twenty years. So the idea of Simonson returning to the Norse pantheon for more sword-and-sorcery tales of heroism, epic high adventure, and occasional mirth sounded great to me.

Thing is, I came into this one blind. I really didn't read any advertising hype or interviews about it. All I knew was that it featured Simonson working on the Norse gods once more, and that premise alone was good enough to guarantee I'd check it out. Heck, I thought the character depicted on the cover of the collected edition (above) was some evil dark elf or something who had stolen Thor's hammer! (Spoiler: It's not. That's Thor as he appears in this story.)

But Simonson realized something I didn't: you can't go home again. Walter Simonson, creator of one of the most legendary THOR runs in Marvel's history (if not the most legendary, period) could not return to those characters and just continue along the same track. His time with Marvel's THOR, the young, spirited warrior of Asgard, was long past. He needed to find something different to say with the character and his world.

So we wind up with a story set some years after Ragnarök, the fall of the Aesir, the Norse pantheon. Their world is now known as the Dusk Lands, a place where darkness rules. Our tale begins as a Dark Elf assassin named Brynja makes a deal with Myrkr, lord of the dead -- he will grant her ailing daughter the gift of eternal life if she will enter the tomb of the "Stone God" and slay him. With a team of mercenaries at her side, Brynja attempts to carry out this task -- but the Stone God turns out to be Thor, final surviving member of the Aesir, alive despite the vast physical decay which has overtaken his body. Awakened by Brynja's trespass, Thor kills her men and then her, but sees something in her dying breath that wins him over. Thor vows to see her daughter spared by Myrkr.

These events cover RAGNARÖK's first two issues. The remainder of this initial six-chapter story arc sees Thor travel the Dusk Lands, coming to grips with the fall of Asgard and the fact that all those he called his comrades have passed on. He befriends a troll, replaces one of his eyes with Odin's, and eventually finds Asgard, where he draws the attention of the demonic Surtr. Meanwhile, Brynja's husband, Regn, accepts responsibility for his wife's failure and promises Myrkr that he will finish Thor off instead.

The artwork is absolutely beautiful and the colors are gorgeous and vibrant, if a bit dark for my taste (though the setting of the story certainly justifies this approach). The letters, too, are terrific -- provided by Simonson's THOR letterer from the Marvel days, John Workman, they really help to sell this as a Simonson Thor epic.

Which it is; it's just not the epic I was looking for. The story is fine; deftly drawn and well told, if perhaps a bit too decompressed for my taste (I'm pretty sure this amount of story could've easily fit into two issues back in the eighties). It's just not what I was expecting and its overly bleak tone doesn't appeal to me. I appreciate Simonson experimenting with a new concept and new direction for these characters, but his choices just aren't resonating with me. I will go back and give RAGNARÖK another chance at some point in the future; perhaps knowing what it is coming into it will result in a better experience. But for now, at least, I think I'll scratch volume 2 off my shopping list.

Available from Amazon.


  1. To be honest, I think with the title Ragnarok and the cover being what it is.That you could expect something that wouldn't be a repeat of his Thor run.

    simonson is now freed of the shackles of Marvels needs, so now we get Thor at the end of his days.

    1. True enough, though as I noted, I didn't really read any of the pre-release materials for this and I genuinely thought the character on the cover was some kind of Dark Elf or something.

      And I don't mind that Simonson is doing something different here; as I said, it's really just that I was let down by my own expectations.


  2. I was really looking forward to this and didn’t make it past the first issue. For me the problem was such decompressed storytelling at $3.99 per serving — that combo is just deadly, even with a modest store discount. I’ve heard mixed reviews of the series overall but I’d still like to check out the first collection at some point.

    1. Yeah, I can only assume Simonson was encouraged by IDW to go the decompression route, because it's not a technique I normally associate with him. I mostly glossed over that above, the decompression really did bug me too. Though at least in the collected edition, it's not as frustrating as reading the series monthly -- but it's still noticeable and irritating.