Rediscovering Walter Simonson's Mighty Thor

Early reviews for the Thor film, directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Anthony Hopkins, are strong (Comic Book Resources called it “The Best Marvel Film Yet”), and a rise in popularity means one thing for comic fans: a surge in comics spotlighting the character. In an earlier post, I highlighted a few of the latest Thor-centric books to arrive in time for the film to hit theaters on May 6th, but one release overshadows them all both in anticipation and actual size: The Mighty Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson.

In the 1980s, I was an avid fan of Walter Simonson’s artwork on X-Factor (where he collaborated with writer and wife Louise), but I never spent too much time with his Thor. There is no getting around the dialogue, with its mythological high speech (“Look to thy weapons, you demons! Up, Toothgnasher! Up, Toothgrinder! Pull for the stars! The foe awaits and joyous battle is before us!”), and Simonson fully commits to it with characters barely breathing between dialogue balloons. But I couldn’t resist the 1,200 pages of what is arguably the most revered run on Thor since the classic team-up of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

Thor.omni.compjpgPlus, the allure of Steve Oliff’s remastered coloring make this a must flip-through (see comparison at left), and it’s beautiful-- faithful to the original colors while giving them a new shine. Shadows are deep and enhance the billowing reds in Thor’s cape, and the ink-work is rich to the point where I was surprised that it didn’t bleed through onto my fingers as I lingered. Simonson loves to give his broad-faced Thor even broader grins, and his figures can be lean and long, as is often the case in his female forms, but blocky and charmingly herky-jerky when it comes to the men. And how does Thor walk in those boots? As the issues progress, so too does the flare around the knees in his footwear. There are plenty of Kirby-inspired energy blasts, and Simonson’s expressions can turn from comical to solemn in the same panel sequence. Artist Sal Buscema arrives later in the series to lend his own class to the stories, and his work easily complements Simonson’s, albeit with a softer edge.

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