Writer: Donny Cates
Art: Nic Klein, Matt Wilson, and VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 9th, 2022
Recap: THOR and Odin went on a bit of a mini-adventure across the Ten Realms as they began to notice people missing. Heck, people were even becoming murdered by someone who appeared to be wielding Mjolnir. However, their adventure ended in Broxton, Oklahoma where they saw the town annihilated by Mjolnir itself. Somehow, THOR’S hammer was… wielding itself. Yet once the story gained clarity, THOR discovered that somehow Mjolnir and Mangog’s essence fuzzed together after being left in the sun by Jane Foster. And, once returning to Earth, this “personification of Mjolnir” has been scheming and manipulating everything since Donald Blake. So, with the power of Mjolnir mixed with the Mangog, who could possibly stop this monumentally new creation?
Fast forward to the last issue of THOR where the Asgardian King had to pull out all the stops, especially once his friends arrived only to be brushed aside like yesterday’s news. So to protect his friends, family, and the Ten Realms, THOR received a power upgrade from his on-again-off-again Mother, Gaea as well as the full, unbridled power of the Odin Force which officially- unofficially killed his father for good. This transfer of power has now made THOR the true King of Asgard and possibly all the Ten Realms. However, will this Super Saiyan upgrade be the epic boost needed to defeat this corrupt Mangog-Mjolnir hybrid? and was the upgrade even required? Let’s dive into THOR #23 by Donny Cates for the epic conclusion.
Without going too heavy into details and spoiling the concluding issue of THOR #23, readers are going to first notice Cates take an idea from the THOR movies and wield it for what looks like (may very well be) the first time in comics. He manages to basically use the Bifrost as a weapon to trap and destroy this devilish Mangog-Mjolnir hybrid.
What?!? Timeout: You’re probably thinking… “You just spoiled it!”. Well, hang on to your hats until the end of the review for clarification.
Anyway, it’s not that I necessarily have a problem with the Bifrost as much as the means making the last arc of Cates’ THOR series pointless. If all THOR needed was Lady Sif’s sword to control the Bifrost to utilize as a weapon, then why did we need the on-again-off-again Mother Gaea angle? Why did we need the Odin force? This concluding issue of THOR #23 made the prior elements trivial and unnecessary and thus simply used like nothing more than the ridiculous flair buttons on a T.G.I.Friday’s apron.
Without playing too much Script Doctor, one would assume after seeing the ending of the issue, that Cates intended to pull at the heartstrings of Odin’s loss. The Father-Son relationship. Yet if he really wanted that to reach its full potential, that should have been the final piece to bring down Mangog-Mjolnir. His death should have been the final nail in the coffin and not the use of the Bifrost. Granted, some would argue it was. However, without a more thorough explanation from the writer as to why THOR was now capable of wielding the Bifrost and for some reason couldn’t before, one could simply assume he could have just done all of this prior without the need of the Odin Force or Gaea. The flashback as the story opened could have hit on that point making it more clear instead of the silly back and forth with Odin and THOR as a young adult.
Additionally, the confusion surrounding Gaea as his mother and harnessing her abilities was also pointless. Why was it in the last issue of THOR? It didn’t appear to help now nor did the Odin Force. And regardless of whether or not you liked what Jason Aaron did to change who his mother was… he did. So, for a writer to just decide to switch it back without explanation, setup, or a story behind it is just wrong. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of Aaron’s Phoenix reveal. But I don’t get a choice. So, if I take over writing THOR tomorrow, can I say that his brother is actually Peter Parker? Nope… but according to Cates’ logic, the answer is yes. And not only was there no explanation for the switcharoo but there was absolutely no point in doing it. Did THOR need power from Gaea? Did he need the Odin Force? Did he need anything from the last two or three issues? Nope. He just needed the Bifrost.
And to those saying he needed Gaea’s power, as well as the Odin Force to wield the Bifrost, I’d argue strongly against that premise. Heimdall didn’t require it nor does Lady Sif now. Plus, in the movie canon neither did Loki or Hela in either movie. And if I could take your ear for a moment, let me bring you back to why I revealed what I did in the review.
Why did MARVEL release a preview that ultimately reveals exactly how THOR beats the Mangog-Mjolnir? Almost everything was spoiled in that preview alone which is why I feel even less taken back by what I’m sharing now since fans could have easily deciphered from those pages what was going to happen. Granted, this isn’t Cates’ fault, however, why release these pages? Why steal the Thunder from the concluding issue? Preview pages are outstanding but should never reveal large plot threads as well as the means to thwart off the enemy. Yet fans could ultimately decipher exactly how this issue would go from those pages.
As always since this run began, Nic Klein and Matt Wilson provide fans with some of the most vibrant illustrations and colors each week. These two are just so uniform. You know what you’re going to get each week and they never disappoint. Klein’s renderings are always so fierce while Wilson’s colors stimulate the page with their bright and vibrant tones. The power from these two literally surges off the page while they always portray THOR with such command even when he looks as if he’s been beaten by Sammy Sosa with a bat.
These two also do their very best to convey a sense of emotion from THOR that just doesn’t hit the mark this week, but not for lack of trying. I lend that misstep more to Cates and what was revealed and less to what they illustrated for fans this week. Nevertheless, these two continue to do their very best with the story that’s laid out for them. And, the one thing they can always thank Cates for is his wild imagination that constantly provides them with the opportunity to showcase their amazing talents.
THOR #23 lacked the emotion Cates was hoping to convey by taking away the importance of his father’s sacrifice and replacing it with the ease of Hofund and the Bifrost making the premise of the Odin build-up seem for nothing. Couple this alongside MARVEL practically laying out the means of destroying Mangog-Mjolnir in the preview with other dramatic flatlines involving his Gaea re-retcon and fans get an issue that is filled with more pomp and circumstance to hide that actual lack of substantial narrative plot threads. Moreover, what was the point of the PET AVENGERS issues ago? What was the point of the THANOS visions? Why did THOR place the hammer for three issues in Avengers Mountain only to get “stolen”? Readers, if you look back at prior issues, you’ll see that more times than not, Cates’ issues are cluttered with crazy good premises that are completely disconnected and rarely revisited simply for shock value that provides a lack of depth and substance.
Now, the obvious overarching theme since Cates has taken over THOR has been (in not the best terms) Odinson working on his Daddy issues while learning how to become King. However, I’d argue that these 23 issues could easily have been condensed down to 12 which would have made the stories more powerful and legitimately contain more significance. Nevertheless, fans will read this issue, like the prior 6, as if it’s a blur in under 5 minutes max. I hate to say it fans but I think we’ve had a large enough sample size to see where this story is going. Granted, I’m excited about BANNER OF HULKS mainly because I’m a huge HULK fan. Nevertheless, if the story appears to be stagnant after that, I may be on my merry way with Cates’ THOR. Let me know what you think, have a great week, and God Bless!