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Thunder and Lightning: Prepping for Thor's Big Screen Premiere

On May 6th, Marvel Comics will attempt to translate the blonde god Thor from printed page to screen, and the signs of his impending media rule are everywhere: Walter Simonson’s legendary run on Thor will finally be collected in an omnibus come late April; Jeph Loeb and Frank Cho bring the character back from the dead in the goofily titled Ultimate Comics New Ultimates: Thor Reborn; early tales by dream-team Stan Lee and Jack Kirby come housed in the new Thor: Tales of Asgard hardcover (purists take note: the stories are presented in “all-new, modern coloring”); and Thor’s helmeted visage adorns the cover to the new X-Factor collection even though he stars in only one chapter (the book is great, by the way).

The most recent trailer for Thor, full of government black ops and Chris Hemsworth in the title role, looks less like Classic Thor and more like the Ultimate Thor, and in a new hardcover collection by writer Jonathan Hickman and illustrator Carlos Pacheo, the latter incarnation’s origins are explored. It also looks to be about the best place to start prepping for the film, with flashbacks to Thor’s time spent battling frost giants with his brother, Loki, and bearded comrades in fabled Asgard (spotted in the trailer), to a mysteriously hooded individual who makes nefarious deals with Nazis in favor of a pouch full of glowing runes. In the comic’s modern day scenes, however, Thor sits in a government containment facility (monitored by Captain Britain, natch) and scribbles Norse poems on the floor. No one believes he’s actually who he says he is in either the trailer or comic, but it’s not too long before he starts wielding that famous hammer.

Hickman deftly guides the story as it roars through modern day, Nazi Germany, and a time period described only as “Eons Ago,” and when all three pieces finally meet, it’s comics poetry worthy of etching onto a government prison floor. Carlos Pacheo was tasked with actually pulling off all three time periods, and he illustrates World War II villains with as much aplomb as he does the mystical ones (love the giant ice wolf!). In one particularly great scene, an inebriated Thor and Loki jostle to the aid of half-brother Balder. Here, Pacheo gives Thor a wide grin and a loose stance, while Loki is ever-somber (but not sober). It’s the last time we see them as brothers-in-arms, and readers at all familiar with mythology will sense the underlying dread just below the jovial axe-swinging.

Ultimate Thor was originally introduced in Mark Millar’s The Ultimates, a gritty re-imagining of The Avengers where the heroes are as flawed as the villains, and costumes favor function over flash. Both volumes are a worthwhile read before Hickman’s tale, which bridges a few gaps and heavily references Millar’s story near the end.

--Alex

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