Thor: For Asgard Hardcover – May 18 2011
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Before going into Rodi's story, a brief comment about the artist Bianchi. The art is wonderful, though in some segments of the book there is a lot going on without a clear emphasis in the art which makes it appear 'chaotic' and 'unclear' at times. That said: the art is also vivid and seems to leap from the pages; so four stars for that.
I credit the story 1 star because:
The story is a dark one: Asgard is caught in a perpetual winter and the 9 worlds are revolting, leaving Thor to lead war party after war party where none (not even the innocent) are spared. This is a fresh start and sparks interest, and it also sets the tone for a dark, bitter and sometimes cruel epic story. With Odin off the throne and on a side quest, the story of how Thor is not capable to rule properly (due to his nature and his inexperience), and how things spin out of control (from bad to worse); all of this would be a great precursor, but unfortunately Rodi cannot deliver. Instead he goes to lengths to cut corners where possible and -while claiming to have a profound understanding of Norse myth- even bending the myths themselves to deliver a 'quick fix' to his plot. Worse even, many things are not explained: why is Hela (a 'Rodi' rename from the myth where she is actually called Hel (or hell if you prefer it with two l's)) suddenly destroying Valhalla? Why is Odin on a sidequest to his 'wife'? And why does this sidequest remain unresolved? How does the killing of innocents affect Thor, or is he cold hearted? Why is Tyr constantly fighting with Sif and trying to dominate? How come that even the flames of the abyss are frozen? Why do all the worlds suddenly revolt? The only explanation Rodi presents is on the final page: where 'an ancient foe of Asgard' has succeeded in infiltrating the Asgardian city and mumbles to himself that he is responsible. Now I ask you: what sort of plot solution is that? Really? A 'deus ex machina' ending?
Unfortunately, it does not end there. Rodi offers more easy solutions. For instance: Thor cannot lift his hammer so, thankfully, dead balder comes to him in a dream and tells him to die too. So Thor, wounded at the time, lies down, dies and travels to 'Niflheimr' (which in myth is the plane of ice, while instead what Rodi really means is that Thor travels to the realm of Hell). There he convinces all of Asgard's heroes (who tumbled into it after the collapse of valhalla) to climb the worldtree Yggdrassil (an impossible task it is said, but he succeeds without any difficulty, as do the heroes). Naturally, the other dead start climbing the tree too, so one of the heroes sacrifices himself and the other dead are cast down again: why did they not climb the tree before, or what's to prevent them for doing it again? But this plot, too, remains unresolved. And the perpetual winter? You've guessed it...
I feel that Rodi has made choices to avoid a too lengthy story, but some of the choices he made, make the story not only improbable but unfortunately also ridicule the story and even the reader by and leaving many questions unanswered and many things unresolved.
In short: while a very interesting precursor to a great epic tale, it does unfortunately not deliver. Therefore in total 3 stars (4+1=5, rounded up for the effort).
To be sure, the premise by Rodi is certainly interesting, and also benefits in some way from borrowing loosely from "established" Norse myths. What is weakest here is the actual execution of the story, due to Rodi's apparent decision to focus in "For Asgard" on soap opera elements and to present a story about the Norse God of Thunder as a weekly tv melodrama. So little actually happens in "For Asgard" from issue to issue that I twice checked to see whether Rodi was indeed the writer or whether the series had been taken over by Matt Fraction, another Marvel writer well known for pointless navel gazing for issues on end. It's not that Rodi isn't talented or capable of an interesting story about Thor - he has also produced the mini-series "Astonishing Thor" which is so entertaining and so vital that one wonders whether the series are written by the same person. But in "For Asgard," Rodi gets it all wrong - his pitch, his plot, the story elements that get focused on, and perhaps even his conclusion. Although clearly aspiring to be epic in scale, the ending of "For Asgard" suffers from three major problems: first, it's attempt at grandeur is undercut by the mundanity of the previous issues; second it relies on a resurrection cliche' too often overused in Thor comics which de-emphasizes and undercuts any little actual peril the characters faced in the preceding issues, and finally, although it does represent a small character arc for Thor himself, it resolves none of the other tensions, problems, issues or mysteries it spent the previous five issues building towards. Most annoying of all is that Rodi arbitrarily starts a subplot about Odin which is simply left hanging and without resolution - a pointless waste of pages which initially promised some actual intrigue and excitement.
If this volume should be bought, it would be for the art by Simone Bianchi, which while stunning in many respects and also beautiful, is not perfect. Sure, while Bianchi is an excellent draftsman with an impeccable design sense who produces many lush images here, his storytelling is occasionally hit and miss - as images flow into each other in a manner that sometimes confuses about characters' relationship to wider spaces or to each other. This tendency is also not helped by either an inkwash or coloring approach that perhaps should go for more solid colors than it frequently does. In whatever event, it's not that Bianchi isn't a talented artist, it's only that his need to service the story first is occasionally sacrificed on the altar of his obvious skill at drawing gorgeous pictures.
This is not a great collection of Thor stories, and not a great collection per se. If you are a Thor fan and are curious, I would recommend it for a fairly light and inconsequential read with frequently gorgeous artwork, but come prepared to read a story that is merely ok. For a more engaging, more fun Thor story by Rodi I would recommend "Astonishing Thor" when that is finally collected. There just isn't that much entertainment value here.
Thor sits on the throne as Asgard's regent but ruling does not sit kindly with the Odinson and he can no longer wield Mjolnir. A mysterious enemy sows discord and violence throughout Asgard and Thor must do all he can to save his people. Balder taunts his dreams and mocks his failings so the Thunder God travels to Valhalla to confront him, while Idunn and her brother Frey must find a new path to Midgard to find fertile soil for the apples of immortality. Tyr and Sif bicker and squabble as interim rulers of Asgard in Thor's absence. In Valhalla, Hela empties it so the fallen Gods end up in Niffelheim.
Nothing is going right for the Asgardians. Yet Thor learns from Balder that he has not been mocking him, merely trying to put him on the correct path. He learns about the cycle; where everything that has happened before, will happen again. Once there is death, so there is rebirth. Thor realises he must not act as his father would, but to act as he should and submit to the inevitable, and let the wheel turn.
Thor must save his doomed people and restore Asgard to its former glory and seek out the mysterious enemy that attacks from within.
This is a standalone story from a time before Thor's adventures as an Avenger. There is no need to read any of the current or recent Thor volumes since Michael J Straczynski brought Thor and Asgard to Broxton, Oklahoma. I found this tale better than Robert Rodi's other recent story Thor: The Deviants Saga (Thor (Graphic Novels))but it is not yet complete. Whilst I thought it was ok, it was not brilliant, and there is definitely some unfinished business to be explained. Considering this story is now 3 years old I guess it didn't sell well enough to warrant a sequel or continuation. Some things are clearly resolved in this story, so don't think that it's entirely incomplete - but there is a slight cliffhanger at the end.
The artwork by Simone Bianchi is of a very high standard, but it's not the style I would normally rave about.
I'm giving this 2.5 stars as opposed to 3, which is more than I gave to the instantly forgettable The Deviants Saga.
The story was a little jumpy. While Thor was warming the throne, Odin was off on a quest to meet his earth wife. Why he had to put his neck thru a noose was not clear. But having done so, he was given two wolves to continue to lead him on his quest. So, an unfinished quest is in the works. Thor himself embarks on a quest to Valhalla, meets Balder, climbs a large tree and the good guys are all resurrected and drop back to Asgard. This feels like an unresolved comic and that was the plot but I had absolutely no expectations.
So surprisingly, a 3+ to 4 stars from me. I think it was the artwork that swayed me.
The art reminds me of old knight books I had so it did a good job getting an old timey feel.