Marvel Comics in the early- to mid-eighties was undergoing a transformative time of progressive change. Frank Miller was redefining Daredevil and placing the blind hero up against ninjas. Denny O’Neil catapulted Tony Stark into the ravings of serious alcoholism forcing James Rhodes to wear the suit in Iron Man. Chris Claremont and John Byrne were deep into making the all-new, all-different X-Men become counter-culture saviors. And in Thor, Walt Simonson did away with the Donald Blake identity, replaced the title character entirely with a horse-faced alien and even briefly made the Thunder God a frog. And it was cool.
Walt Simonson’s four-year run on Marvel’s Thor is not only one of the title’s most acclaimed runs, but also one of Simonson’s most known works where not only his art and designs, but his skill as a writer, worked in exemplary union. Simonson has since written and drawn scores of projects, but Thor had always been a highlight. Having Walt Simonson return to Thor? A fanboy dream.
Ragnarok, from IDW, not Marvel, provides such a dream in a certain manner. Simonson writes and draws a different, perhaps more in line with the mythos, Thor adventure taking place in a time of a fallen Asgard, in the post-apocalyptic twilight of the Norse gods. And Simonson’s artwork is amazing. Every panel, every splash page, every call to attention, proves that he is still a master on this or on any of the Nine Realms. And for all of the effort on the art, the writing is merely pedestrian.
Within the pages of Ragnarok, which should have been titled After-Ragnarok, or Ragnarok Aftermath, or The Walking Asgardian, Thor, once presumed dead but really is just missing a lower jaw, has been awoken and begins to take account of the world around him. For the remaining time, in what is assumed the first of a series of graphic novel collections, he doesn’t do much than get into fights. And c’mon. This is Walt Simonson drawing Thor getting into fights with spectacular, over-the-top action. But there is no intrigue. The action, and the character, simply moves from place to place, from fight to fight. Who knew Ragnarok would be so tedious?
Simonson has a proven his writing chops on multiple occasions. His short, and sometimes overlooked, run on Fantastic Four was as fresh a take on Marvel’s first family as was his time in Asgard. In Ragnarok, the plot goes no deeper than providing an incredible showcase for Simonson’s art. If this series does indeed continue, let’s all pray that reality soon fulfills our dreams.