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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, April 19, 2024

‘The Immortal Thor Vol. 1’ proves Al Ewing’s staying power

A spiritual successor to his most acclaimed work, this debut issue shows a writer at the top of his game.

Al Ewing, the writer of “The Immortal Thor Vol. 1,” is pictured.

Al Ewing, the writer of “The Immortal Thor Vol. 1,” is pictured.

There are certain expectations that come from Thor Odinson as a Marvel Comics character. The hammer. The boasting. The grand scale of his adventures. Over 60 years, numerous writers have developed the once proud prince and now righteous Avenger into one of the core characters of Marvel Comics. Al Ewing’s “The Immortal Thor Vol. 1” (2023) embraces these roots, but also expands on them, resulting in an incredibly engaging and spellbinding first issue. 

Ewing is a man who knows, even in superhero comics, how to tell a great long-running story. His career has included some of the most critically acclaimed runs involving characters like Loki, the Avengers and the X-Men, but it was his time writing the Hulk that made him known as one of the most gifted storytellers of his comic generation. “The Immortal Hulk” (2018–2021) was one of the most acclaimed comics of the last decade, to the point where Ewing himself admits he questioned if he could ever top it. Here, through the purposeful reuse of the “Immortal” tagline, he has challenged himself to do so.

The Thor that readers find in this issue is familiar, but stronger. Having become the All-Father of Asgard during “The War of the Realms” (2019) event and lost his father in a separate yet also devastating battle, Thor finds himself a respected and worthy ruler of Asgard. He surveys the Ten Realms with an air of authority and calm. Loki, now the God of Stories, has rebuilt the Bifrost Bridge that was destroyed in a previous issue. As anyone who’s read a story knows, this level of calm portends a storm — in this case quite literally. It’s a storm that threatens to destroy everything Thor holds dear, and one that he may not be able to defeat so easily.

Like any inaugural issue, “The Immortal Thor Vol. 1” serves mostly to put the pieces together for the run to come, which both works as an entry point for new readers and makes the issue feel a bit slow. The events of the first three quarters of the story are mostly just Thor surveying the realms and living his life, which can make the issue feel more interested in set-up than in telling a story. In the hands of a lesser writer, that’s all this issue would be. In the hands of Ewing however, it falls in line with the Norse Eddas that gave us Thor in the first place.

There’s a clear attention to detail in Ewing’s script to connect his story to that of the Nordic sagas of old. This is hardly new to Thor comics, but it’s Ewing’s ability to replicate the prose of the Eddas that makes this tale feel like a true blend of the dark, weighty tales of old and the explosive and pulpy stories of Jack Kirby or Walt Simonson. This is not just a meaningless throwback to the popular Thor stories, though. Ewing’s strength is his ability to not just rely on long-established or forgotten Marvel concepts for nostalgia, but use them to enhance fresh directions for characters. Though, like with the earlier issues of “The Immortal Hulk,” it seems like these old tales will take awhile to bear fruit, their inclusion helps to bolster the already strong foundations laid out by Ewing and others.

Martín Cóccolo, like Ewing, is not new to Thor’s unique brand of spectacle. His art in the previous “Thor” (2020–2023) series where Odinson fought the Hulk is evidence enough that he knows how to show the god of thunder at his mightiest. Yet even in the quieter moments in this story, his work carries weight and purpose. The designs of the characters have been purposefully made to look more akin to the Kirby designs of the ‘60s, another nod to the book’s return to a more colorful and established time. When combined with the more modern interactions between Thor and his allies, this gives the art an appeal to both the old and new styles of comic art.

A promising series beginning is hardly a guarantee of continued success, but Ewing’s track record with “The Immortal Hulk” and his many other series provide faith that this level of polish and care will lead on for however many more issues this creative team has planned. Ewing proves that his skill as a writer is unmatched right now in superhero comics, and the possibilities of where this story is going are too great to ignore.

Summary Though this first issue provides only a glimpse into Ewing’s plan for the character, “The Immortal Thor Vol. 1”already proves that said plans are well laid and formed. A bombastic and heady return to form.
4.5 Stars