Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencils: Doug Braithwaite
Colours: Paul Mounts
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Secret Invasion keeps on coming, and now Thor finds himself thrown into the mix. Towards the conclusion of Secret Invasion #4, readers were teased with the arrival of the Asgardian god into the fray against the Skrull attack on Earth, and this mini-series presumably covers the events leading up to his involvement in the conflict, while leaving J. Michael Straczynski and Oliver Coipel to continue their new (and apparently highly successful) re-launch of the Thor ongoing series uninterrupted.
Taking the creative place of JMS and Coipel for this mini are rising superstar writer Matt Fraction and highly regarded artist Doug Braithwaite, which should keep expectation levels pretty high for both long-term Thor fans and more casual readers. So do they bring the thunder?
It all starts pretty well. Commendably, Fraction launches quickly into the heart of the story from the beginning, without wasting real time on introductions and framing. He still manages to retain a relative openness to new readers, and those unfamiliar with the new Thor series can enjoy the tale for what it is, although details like the relationship between Blake and Thor, and Asgard and Broxton are not fully explained (my preview copy did not come with the usual recap page; assuming there is one in the printed book, this will no doubt address these issues and I’d much rather see them outlined there than within the 22 pages of story). The opening sequences are strong, with Blake, Thor’s human vessel, carrying out his duties as a general doctor (in this instance carrying out pre-natal checks for pregnant resident Marie) in Braxton, Oklahoma, when Asgard comes under attack. Suffice to say, Thor quickly rushes into action to protect his people, only to find that the weapon was more friend than foe. Thor enlists the help of his comrades to hold off the Skrull assault, allowing Blake to return to Braxton to finish the delivery of Marie’s baby.
And, without wishing to spoil the appearance of certain characters, that’s really about it. The book tries to deal with the issue of mistrust, which is a key theme of the shape-shifting Skrull invasion, but it does so rather heavy-handedly. There are some nicely written sequences, effortlessly conveying the human angle to the drama, and the tone is exactly right for a Thor adventure. But overall the pacing doesn’t quite hit the mark and there is no real cliff-hanger to drive the tension and excitement for the next instalment.
What is exciting, though, is seeing this book brought to life by Doug Braithwaite’s spectacular artwork. Colouring directly over pencilled pages has been tried on a few occasions recently with mixed results, but here the pages achieve the perfect mix between gritty reality, action and emotion (therefore credit must also be due to colourist Paul Mounts), while still providing Thor with that regal look so important for this mythical warrior. And all this without sacrificing the basic principles of story-telling and anatomy. It really is some powerful and dramatic stuff.
Overall then, Secret Invasion: Thor #1 is a well written story, enhanced by some fantastic art by Braithwaite. This is definitely well worth a read, but somehow it just doesn’t quite have the soul or spark that I’ve some to expect from Matt Fraction.