Review: THOR #5

THOR2014005_DC11THOR #5
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Jorge Molina
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: February 11, 2015

Who is Thor?

No, really—who is she, because we’re five issues in and so far Jason Aaron isn’t telling. On the one hand, it doesn’t really matter “who” she is, because, in the end, she is the Goddess of Thunder and worthy to wield Mjolnir. However, on the other, who Thor actually is matters a great deal.

We’ve seen a lot of new characters acting as legacies before. In DC, for a period we had Dick Grayson operating as Batman. For Marvel, Bucky Barnes spent a long time as Captain America. In both these examples, the change was relatively fleeting. Bruce Wayne eventually became Batman once again just as Steve Rogers regained his role as Cap. Of course, not all these changes have to be semi-permanent. Carol Danvers is the definitive Captain Marvel, with no sign of her turning back. John Stewart is arguably the most recognizable Green Lantern, given his appearance in animated series Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. This new Thor may very well be the Thor for years to come while the Odinson becomes something different.

But I’m worried—and, I think, rightfully so after five issues of mystery. The actual identity of Thor matters because it lets me know how committed Marvel really is to this change. Context clues seem to suggest that she’s a young Midgardian woman, but that’s about all we have to go on. A solid origin story and explanation for who she is and why Mjolnir trusts her would show me that there’s something real here, but instead, we’re meant to trust that this new Thor goes beyond a publicity stunt. Needless to say, especially in the face of a possible summer reboot, I am watching this story very carefully. I want to trust it, but so far, I don’t just yet—and I think that’s part and parcel of who I think this story belongs to thus far.

At this point, because I still don’t know who Thor is or why she does what she does, I very much feel as though it’s the Odinson who owns the tale. It’s his relationships that are being explored and his investigation into Thor’s identity that is the primary theme of the issue. Yes, Thor is involved and yes, she does act—but I never have the sense that she is the protagonist. There is more made of the Odinson’s past with Lady Sif, of his father’s willfulness, of his mother’s diplomacy, than there ever is of Thor’s goals or desires. By my reckoning, she is a MacGuffin that we are curious about but not a person in her own right.

Of course, that’s not to say that she isn’t a useful MacGuffin in that she generates discussion. In this issue, we get some very direct engagement with the feminist discourse. Aaron raises questions about the naming of differently-gendered legacy characters, positively affirms the feminist movement, and really addresses a number of fan responses about Thor’s gender in the plainest way possible. I’m in two minds about this. I’m not sure that I love moments where I can feel the writer basically telling me what’s up, but this kind of narrative support is relatively rare in comics so I feel that I should appreciate it. I think, in all, it comes off just a little bit heavy-handed for me despite the fact that I admire what’s being said. I prefer just a touch more subtlety in my media, even if I’m enjoying the subject matter.

Still, even if I think Thor herself isn’t written as strongly as I would like, I was very much appreciative of this issue’s portrayal of Freya and Lady Sif. Both characters were dealing with the behaviors of their partners, whether past or present. However, rather than merely being acted upon, both women consistently demonstrated agency. Even as Sif walks away in a certain scene, I am convinced that she exists somewhere off the page. I am convinced that she is doing things to further her own ends—which is not something I can quite say about our titular character, who does little more than fight a baddie-of-the-week and have a chat with Freya in this month’s installment.

I can say that, for the most part, I’m really digging Jorge Molina’s style on this book. I like how, well, pretty everyone is. There’s been a lot written about the depiction of men in comics as male power fantasies and I definitely think Molina has avoided that. Rather than burly and manly, instead, the Odinson often actually just looks really cute and friendly. He’d fit in nicely with the Disney prince pantheon, which is altogether perfect for a book designed for an androphilic female audience.

At the same time, Thor is always portrayed as being powerful as all hell. Despite my thoughts on her characterization, one thing that has held true through all five issues is that she is confident, strong, and a female power fantasy in her own right. Molina does a great job of depicting a Thor who is no less formidable than the Odinson and the Disney-esque style really works for both of them. The art makes the entire book feel more accessible and welcoming—with one exception.

I was a bit disappointed in Titania’s costume. It’s incredibly skin-tight—to the point that I think it might actually just be body paint. We can have a conversation about how intentional it was, whether this is Titania’s own enactment of agency over her body, etc., etc., but in a book that was otherwise doing so well in how it portrayed its women, I found it a little bit lacking. Unless a female character makes a specific statement about her costuming, I’m going to heavily side-eye any drawing of her that seems needlessly sexualized and I’m definitely side-eying this one.

Structurally speaking, though, I very much enjoy the way that Molina puts things on a page. There are a lot of moments where characters and items will break through panel borders, visually implying that they cannot be contained by mere ink. I also thoroughly appreciate the layering of panels on backgrounds and the use of colorful borders. Beyond the feminist enactment of the art, it’s still just a pleasure to look at. Between the character design and the design of the pages itself, I think this series would translate well in animated form.

All in all, I still find myself wanting more from Thor #5. The art is certainly something to be appreciated—and I think learned from, when it comes to trying to understand what comics-for-women could look like—but I’m still missing a solid characterization of Thor herself. Especially given how Odinson-centered the last issue was, I thought more could have been done to assure that Thor really owned this story and I’m beginning to lose my confidence that the big reveal of her past will be enough to justify that lack up to now. I’ll wait and see what happens next month, but I’m worried that once again, I’ll be doing just that: waiting.

The Verdict: 6.0/10


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  1. Alec Bings said:

    I think you’re dead-on with everything you’ve written here, although I’m glad I don’t have to give a “verdict” yet, because depending on how the story progresses this may be a great chapter in an ongoing and satisfying story.

    To me, the most problematic thing about the story so far is that the identity character who I hope is the viewpoint character—the title character, the character I come to these books for, the character WHO KNOWS HER IDENTITY—is still hidden from the audience. I’m actually enjoying the mystery (among other things), but I can’t help feeling that, for all that we get some insight into her feelings, by now WE should know more about who she is even if the other characters don’t. That sort of … “others” her, which isn’t what I’m looking for here.

    Again, though, I’m with you on the waiting (and hoping that it’s going somewhere I’ll love).

  2. J. A. Micheline said:

    Yeah, I mean, it’s my hope that I’m 100% wrong and that I’ll look back on this with shame and regret, but for right now I have to call it like I see it, I guess. And what you’ve said about Thor is dead-on for me too. It comes down to expectations, I guess. I expected to follow Thor like we follow any other title character, but it seems like we’re kind of moving around her. That’s not necessarily a wrong thing to do; it’s just not what I’m used to and makes me a little concerned about whether the book really should be called THOR, you know?

  3. Guest said:

    Firstly as many fans pointed out we had a Frog-Thor, a horse-faced alien Thor, a ponytailed 90’s nightmare Thor etc…so having a woman lifting the hammer isn’t outrageous at all, on the contrary it’s really refreshing. Having said that I find these first issues a bit disappointing, I love Aaron’s previous work on Thor (God Butcher and God Bomb made me love a character that otherwise I always found a little boring and flat) but I feel he’s too much focused on the message rather than a building an interesting enough story and a well-rounded cast of characters (for example: i don’t like the way Odin is being depicted as a fool). Focusing on this issue I really disliked the Titania/Creel scene, I must confess I don’t know their relationship well but it seemd really out of character for them (especially Titania) to behave like that, it almost felt like a breaking of the third wall from the author side…does it really serve the story to engage so directly the critics?

  4. Bunny Foo Foo said:

    What’s amusing isn’t the fact that it’s a female Thor (which it isn’t, same as Bill wasn’t Thor, Thor isn’t a mask he’s a person), what’s amusing is the fact that this is a clear political stunt, pandering, not good comic writing. And the writing for issue 5 wasn’t good at all. Titania beating her dude and surrendering for GRRL PWRRR? I think not.

  5. J. A. Micheline said:

    What are you regarding as a political stunt and/or pandering, exactly? A female Thor in general or the Titania/Creel event in particular?

  6. Bunny Foo Foo said:

    Titania/Creet. I don’t care how much of a mold breaking women you are, how big a feminist you are. Titania under no circumstances, under no threat or no amount of ‘respect’ would just surrender like that. Yeah, Creet is that big of a douche, but the Titania side was just plain pitiful and any one familiar with her and her character knows it.

  7. J. A. Micheline said:

    Fair dues. I don’t know Titania very well, but like I said, I prefer that kind of thing to be a little more subtle so your reading of it as pandering makes sense, even if I simultaneously like the idea of women supporting each other.

  8. stan said:

    To be fair most Thor readers already know this change is anything but refreshing. There has already been a female Thor done long ago with an alternate reality story. And she was written pretty well without having to throw in the words feminist and girl power. Most saying this is an amazing change arent even readers of Thor. If asked about previous issues written by Jurgens or Simonson, they’d probably stare blankly and ask if the story had been done on tv yet. This comic story is 100% political and its pretty sad when a fantasy world has to be invaded by todays reality rubbish.

  9. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    “Readers of Thor” is anyone who is buying this issue of Thor. There is no prerequisite to be considered a reader or fan of the book. Let’s leave the fandom gatekeeping outside, shall we?

  10. Stan said:

    Theres two types of fan. One who like the character, and the other who are buying it simply because they think female thor is refreshing and a progressive move for women. When you use these two examples then yes, I believe fandom is slightly important as one person cares about the character, and the other only because its female, zero interest in the history of the character itself. In my opinion the second type of fan is bad for that characters story.

  11. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    WRONG. There are many types of fans, none more important than any other. If you pay the $2.99 or $3.99 to buy the book, you get to call yourself a fan, no matter why you like it.

    Take that exclusionary attitude elsewhere. Further comments of this sort will be deleted.

  12. Stan said:

    Fairly harsh reply, and to be fair uncalled for. Didn’t realize a discussion on a point of view should become confrontational if one doesnt like the direction. While I have my way of seeing it, I can still see your side and don’t have an issue with it. I still believe I’m within my right to question the direction of the comic. For me it seems far too sudden for the change and I don’t believe they have any idea of the outcome just yet. No different to the old superman red/blue story.

  13. Matt SantoriGriffith said:

    All that is totally fair. Question the comic all you want. But we don’t question the legitimacy of different types of fandom here. Carry on!

  14. logwarrior said:

    How very progressive of you to argue against “fandom gatekeeping” and while threatening deletion of ideas opposed to yours.
    It must be a very confusing place to live in your contradictory mind.

  15. Bunny Foo Foo said:

    There is the problem. If a woman wants support, they do not go to Titania. Titania would never support Thor, she doesn’t care what’s between your legs. If you’re in her way then you’re going to quickly find yourself out of her way, the more violent the removal the happier Titania will be.