(Just giving folks unfamiliar with J. Michael Straczynski’s Thor run a moment to process that. We good? We’re good.)
It’s one of those ideas where you have to wonder what the writer was thinking. It’s one of those ideas that shouldn’t work – the kind that can’t work, that fans will detest, and that will make editors think you’ve lost your shit and call the next name in the conga line of writers eager to take your place. But somehow, someway, someone in charge at the Marvel offices had balls big and brass enough to let the Babylon 5 guy resurrect Thor, pull the realm of Asgard into Earth, and settle this godly kingdom in the airspace above Broxton, Oklahoma. What follows is a seventeen-issue saga about the power of faith and stories, the transcendent power of love, and the strength and weakness of family legacy.
You know Volstagg is RSVPing.
Also, seeing the residents of Oklahoma deal with the brave, loud, and ravenously hungry Asgardians integrate themselves into their town halls meetings, diner discussions, and lives never gets old. Watching the Warriors Three break bread with truckers provides laughs, and watching Bill the fry cook fall in love with Asgardian beauty Kelda (A JMS original creation) and become a true hero. As funny as the god/human interactions are, the heart of the comic is JMS’s apparent intent: to show that the heroic quality in the Asgardians and superheroes of the Marvel universe isn’t in their superpowers, but rather in the choices they make and the way they live their lives. And that this doesn’t separate them from humans – it makes them the same.
This must have all been a ploy to make Thor feel super awkward, right?
Oh and also, for a while, Loki was a lady. A Sif-shaped lady. Wonder what the Avengers would do with that.
Now, speaking of other superheroes. With artist Oliver Coipel by his side to construct this larger-than-life/more-human-than-ever Thor, JMS plunges the god of thunder into the Marvel universe. He’d been in a state between life and death after Ragnarok took his people at the start of the Avengers Disassembled saga years prior, and he was waking up to an all new Marvel universe. It’s post-Civil War, and the Avengers have been disassembled, fractured, and pieced back together haphazardly. While it’s the concept of the series that makes this run stand out, some of the greatest moments come from Thor’s interactions with the other heavy-hitting Avengers. Early in the series, he and Iron Man come to terms with all of the changes in the world and the role Stark has had in the Civil War and Captain America’s death. Watching these two former friends go head to head with such venom is tense and painful, kicking off a feeling that Thor’s absence has left him disconnected from the Marvel Universe since his absence.
And that’s not a mistake. JMS clearly had a wildly original and specifically him take on the series, only integrating with the larger Marvel Universe when it worked for his story. Unfortunately for us, the devoted readers, the brilliant execution of this run is what ultimately led to JMS stepping down. The Asgard, Oklahoma storyline was so well-received that Marvel decided to make an event series called Siege that depicted the villainous Norman Osbourne launching an attack on Asgard, ending with the fall of the Kingdom. Not down with the idea of his storyline being hijacked for the company vision, JMS tied up a few loose ends and promptly split.
Many great writers – including Kieron Gillen, Matt Fraction, and Siege scribe Brian Michael Bendis himself – would follow JMS in crafting the next tales in the mythology of Thor and Asgard. I’ve loved those stories and others. But it says a lot when, after re-reading those old trades, I still dream of those untold stories we’ll never get to read. But until the day JMS awakes from the Odinsleep and returns to Asgard, these stories will do just fine.
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment. He still mourns for good ol’ Bill the fry cook.