Thor comics are tough. More than just about any other mainstream superhero series I can think of, getting into Thor is an uphill battle for new readers. Because of the way it mixes Norse mythology with science fiction concepts, untangling all of the relationships, rules, motives, and motifs of Thor’s world can be a challenge. It’s not without rewards of course — Thor comics deliver mightily when it comes to larger-than-life heroism — but accepting the high bar to entry upfront is important.
With that in mind, The World Eaters is probably not an ideal starting place for people who are new to reading Thor, though it is rousing read. This story immediately follows several HUGE events for the world of Thor, most importantly the destruction of Asgard (home of the Norse gods) and the death of both Thor’s father Odin and brother Loki. Even having read the two collections that immediately precede this one (Siege and Siege: Aftermath), several seemingly major plot points went right over my head. Despite that, I enjoyed The World Eaters for its incredible art, creepy villains, and driving plot.
At some point in the past couple of years of Thor comics, the realm of Asgard — which was Thor’s home and the seat of power for the Norse gods — fell from its place at the top of the cosmos and settled in our world (preparing the way for the massive crossover event Siege which culminated in Asgard’s destruction, for those who aren’t caught up on their Marvel comics). When that happened, it created a void through which sinister forces known as World Eaters could enter our reality and threaten the Nine Worlds of the Asgardian cosmos — including Midgard (aka Earth)! Thor and his brethren are still reeling from the destruction of their home when refugees from worlds that have already fallen to these World Eaters start showing up at their doorstep, begging for protection.
This is where things start to get particularly messy. Thor knows that Midgard is the next target and that he and the Asgardians can’t stand up to the World Eaters alone, so he goes on a quest to revive not one but TWO dead characters — Odin and Loki. Bringing them back from the dead is surprisingly easy, and with Odin’s power, Thor prepares for a final battle with the World Eaters by, um, turning into a giant? And using a sword that clearly has some major significance that is never made clear? Eh, who cares. It’s all very exciting.
Now I don’t mean to be dismissive with those remarks about the plot, it’s just that at a certain point it started feeling sort of incidental, as if those pesky plot details didn’t matter that much to writer Matt Fraction either. Despite that though, I actually liked the book a lot, and what it delivers it delivers very well. The characters are all crisply written, so even if you don’t know the specifics about who everyone is you can figure out their place in the story and know what to expect from them pretty quickly. There is plenty of humor and pathos, as well as brisk action throughout the last half.
And the art by Pasqual Ferry is gorgeous; clear with plenty of interesting page layouts and framing. He handles the copious action well, and the character designs of the different species that come knocking on the Asgardians’ door are all interesting and unique. The World Eaters especially are terrifying, and even though the story gives us little background or motivation or anything beyond “These guys EAT WORLDS!” they are granted enough menace to make them a compelling threat. The colors are bright and exciting, and jump right off the book’s glossy pages.
My only real complaint is with the constant resurrections happening here. Odin had been dead for little more than 2 years when they brought him back; Loki hadn’t even been gone from the pages of Thor for six months! It depreciates the threat of fearsome enemies and impossible odds when your big fight happens right after you’ve shown how little life and death really mean in this universe. If bringing back Odin was as simple as taking a quick jaunt to Valhalla, why didn’t anyone do that in first place? If people can just come back then it takes all the impact, drama, and nobility of having them die in the first place.
In terms of this review though, I suppose that criticism is neither here nor there. What matters is that if you have Thor fans in their library, you could do a lot worse than this book. They may need to consult Wikipedia to untangle the various relationships and find out who’s dead and why, but it’ll be worth it for the great action on display in these pages.