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Graphic Novel Review: Thor by J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel

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J. Michael Straczynski has won me over with his new Thor series. Not only did he find an extremely cool way to reintroduce the character to the Marvel Comics universe, but set Asgard in Oklahoma, my home state. How freaking cool is that?

Over the years, Thor has been in good hands and not so good hands. The nobility of the character has always seemed to shine through, and the other-earthly trappings of Norse mythology has always been around, but I’ve never seen the two come together quite so well as it does in Straczynski’s pages.

The first issue of this graphic novel is absolutely amazing. It reads incredibly quickly, but holds tons of information and potential plot threads. In addition, Olivier Coipel’s artwork is tremendously beautiful and vital. Thor looks like a Viking god in these pages, complete with robust build and cool armor. Once I finished the book, I turned around and read it again, just to take in all the nuances Straczynski is setting up for the characters of Thor and Dr. Don Blake.

I loved the way Straczynski uses the small Oklahoma town background. It’s not quite the small town I grew up in, but it’s close enough. Not only are the Norse gods going to be continuing and important characters, but it looks like a lot of the local residents are as well. I didn’t know how that would go over at first because if the author wasn’t careful it would get in the way. Instead, the theme of how people are supposed to live with each other – including gods – carries over and is immensely relatable.

This Thor maintains quiet nobility at all times, and Don Blake is his equal in many ways, except that he gets along with the Oklahoma people in a much simpler fashion. I like Thor in this incarnation, and I look forward to seeing how he has to deal with everything he has on his plate.

I enjoyed Thor’s first quest to find the other gods as well. This was a great jumping on point for new readers and a wonderful trip down memory lane for old-time readers familiar with the characters. Straczynski obviously intends to change up the Norse world and throw his own curveballs into the mix, but he’s got a great feel for the characters and the plot points he’s spinning. Even with all his power, Thor isn’t going to find an easy path to his goals. An encounter with Iron Man was well done, and I was amazed to see how easily Thor dealt with the combat. Moreover, I felt totally vindicated in Thor’s point of view. It’s going to be interesting to see how this relationship turns out in issues to come.

If you haven’t read Thor but have always been curious, J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel’s current version is one to pick up. It’s a fantastic blend of Norse mythology, the current world, and real characters.

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