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Bringing Thor Down to Earth

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I usually do not attend panels when I am at a comic convention, but I did have the opportunity to stop by J. Michael Straczynski’s panel at the New York Comic Con in February. The panel was mostly about his latest Babylon 5 project, but he did touch briefly on his upcoming Thor series.

He didn’t go into much detail, but he did describe his approach to the character and gave a few examples as to what to expect. His enthusiasm for the project, and his unique line of attack, made me experience something about Thor that I didn’t often feel—excitement.

Back in the halcyon early days of my comic collecting, I was adventurous in trying new books. When I had an extra 60 or 75 cents, I would experiment with titles that I didn’t regularly collect. I’d give Power Man and Iron Fist a chance, take a shot at Dazzler, or even pick up an issue of Captain Carrot to see how it was.

But I didn’t try Thor. There was something about the character that didn’t appeal to me. Whether it was his faux-Shakespearean way of speaking, the fantasy elements of his stories or the fact that he was the most powerful of all of Marvel’s characters, I just didn’t find him interesting.

That was, until Walt Simonson took over. The first issue of Thor I got was his first writing it, #337. It featured a Thor I didn’t recognize on the cover, a strange and alien creature. This was only the first of many shake ups Simonson made to the status quo. He turned Thor into a frog, took away his invulnerability and gave him a new secret identity.

Simonson did make the character exciting and I was interested, but not enough to add Thor to my pull list on a regular basis. Sure, I’d pick up an issue here and there, but it wasn’t a must have.

Straczynski, whether it is deliberate or not, is making a metacommentary with his approach to the character. He is mimicking how the many comic fans cannot relate to the character by having Thor return in America’s heartland. Thor has placed Asgard smack dab in the middle of Oklahoma, and part of the conflict will come from how his all-too-human new neighbors react to a bunch of gods living next to them. Thor will have to struggle to find some way to relate to the townsfolk and they will have to do the same.

The return of Thor has been a long time in the making. Neil Gaiman and Mark Millar both came up with proposed ways on how to bring back the Thunder God. How much, if any, of those ideas Straczynski will use in his incarnation might never been known. But Straczynski has been setting the stage for Thor’s return since his days on the Fantastic Four and is the ideal person to shepherd the character’s comeback.

Will Straczynski’s plan to bring Thor down to Earth attract more readers into the comic? Well, I count as one new reader who will jump on board. The concept has a lot of potential for all types of stories from humorous to dramatic. Thor is finally back, and this time he might be sticking around for the long haul.

Also out this week:

• New Avengers/Transformers #1

With all the problems the New Avengers have been having with the Skrulls in their own title, it seems only natural that they would now team up with the robots that are "more than meets the eye".

War is imminent between Latveria and Symkaria, and Doctor Doom isn’t the only bad guy involved. The Decepticons are up to something over there, and only the team of the New Avengers and Autobots can find out what it is. But will they be quick enough to stop the deadly and destructive war?

Released just in time for the Transformers movie, this might be the only time when the team the New Avengers crosses over with can actually bring in more readers than they can.

Stuart Moore (W), Tyler Kirkham (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

• Black Canary #1

The days leading up to a wedding are a trying time for a woman. There is so much that a bride-to-be has to do before her wedding day. She has to pick out a dress, choose some floral arrangements, meet with photographers, decide whether she wants a band or a DJ, and save a little girl from the League of Assassins.

Okay, not every bride has to worry about that last one. But Black Canary does. The League of Assassins believes that the girl is a top killer in the making. Dinah has other plans for the girl’s future. But the League isn’t going to allow the girl to get away that easily. If Black Canary can’t escape the League, the wedding might just become a funeral.

Tony Bedard (W), Paulo Sequeira (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Four-Issue Miniseries.

• Into The Dust #1

Can something be derivative and original at the same time? That’s a question that Jesse Rubenfeld is about to answer with this title’s twelve issue, bi-monthly run. His story is "loosely based" on a combination of The Wizard of Oz, Grapes of Wrath, and On the Road by Jack Kerouac, maybe with a bit of Hollywood Babylon, Buck Rogers, David Lynch movies and Chinatown thrown in for good measure.

A farmgirl named Judy is transported by a tornado from 1930’s Kansas to 1964’s Beverly Hills. There, after accidentally killing a well known actress, she becomes embroiled in a plot for revenge, deceit and murder. Her only option is to follow Route 66 east in the hopes of making it back to Kansas. But the road is lined with dangerous strangers determined to stop her from completing her mission.

Jesse Rubenfeld (W/A), Tool Publications, $2.99. Twelve-Issue Miniseries.

• Who Wants to be a Superhero?: Feedback

Do you remember last year’s "Who Wants to be a Superhero?" reality series? The one where people dressed up in gaudy costumes and when through a series of trials and tribulations in the hopes that their hero character would be good enough to win the contest? Well, one of the "prizes" of that show was to have a comic book featuring your character be written by Stan Lee.

Well, at long last, that comic has arrived for last year’s winner Matthew Atherton. His Feedback character gets a one-shot from Dark Horse written by Stan Lee and with art by Will Conrad. Inside, we find out how computer whiz Atherton became the hero known as Feedback.

Stan Lee (W), Will Conrad (A), Dark Horse Comics, $2.99. On-Shot.

• Creature From The Depths

When it comes to classic Universal movie monsters, the Creature from the Black Lagoon gets no respect. It is Curly Joe to Dracula’s Curly, Ringo to Frankenstein’s John and Joey Bishop to the Mummy’s Dean Martin. Even Peter Jackson decided to pass on doing a remake of the character, deciding on King Kong over the Creature when offered both.

Image throws a little love to the Creature, as it debuts a new book inspired by the 1954 film star. While not a true adaptation, the Creature From The Depths is "in the tradition" of the Universal character, by way of H.P. Lovecraft and E.C. Comics. It is brought to us by the team who brought us the unique zombie/war mash up of several months ago, ’68.

Mark Kidwell (W), Mark Kidwell & Jay Fotos (A), Image Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

• Faker #1

In its over 10 year history, Vertigo Comics has provided a showcase for a lot of talented creators who often went on to bigger and better things. The latest of these is Mike Carey. Carey has been handed the reigns to Marvel’s biggest franchise, the X-Men and will be one of the writers guiding them through their next big crossover.

But let it never be said that Carey has forgotten his roots. He returns to Vertigo with this miniseries. A huge college party unravels the lives of many of its guests. One young woman is faced with unpleasant memories she has been long suppressing. One man has had his personal records erased to such a point that it’s like he never existed. And they find out that one of their friends is not what he appears to be.

Mike Carey (W), Jock (A), DC/Vertigo Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

• Welcome to Tranquility #8

Perhaps you found out about this title from it’s appearances in Gen13. Or maybe you are buzzed about Gail Simone taking over Wonder Woman and want to check out more of her work. Or it could be that you are just looking to try out something new and different.

If any of the above is true, this is the perfect issue to pick up. It is a stand alone issue, featuring three special tales about the residents of Tranquility. We find out more about the Lindo Sisters, the origin of Zombie Zeke, and follow the Emoticon. The issue offers a perfect opportunity for new readers to jump on board and see what the title has to offer.

Gail Simone (W), Jason Pearson, ChrisCross and Georges Jeanty (A), DC/MINX Comics, $9.99. Graphic Novel.

# # #

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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