Monday, November 7, 2016

Worth Within Unworthiness: The Unworthy Thor #1

The following is my review of The Unworthy Thor #1, which was posted on

Discussions over who is worthy and what constitutes worthiness in the first place is one of those topics that has consumed generations of Avengers fans. Go to any Avengers message board or comic book convention and chances are, there will be some people arguing what it means to be worthy, why Hulk can't lift Thor's hammer, and how someone could get around this rule.

This discussion even found its way into Avengers: Age of Ultron in a very tongue-in-cheek sort of way. It's clear that even Joss Whedon gets caught up in these discussions. He just has the resources and financial backing to turn it into a billion-dollar cinematic spectacle. Jason Aaron doesn't have those kinds of resources, but he did add a twist to the discussion when he made Thor Odinson unworthy to wield Mjolnir after the events of Original Sin.

That twist led to Jane Foster taking up the mantle of Thor. Her story is still one that is evolving in a way that continues the discussion over worthiness down a new path. However, Thor Odinson remains on a very different path and that's the path that The Unworthy Thor #1 explores. It has the feel of a story that's been brewing behind the scenes, but is only now ready to be served. It still feels late, overdue, and a little frustrating.

Despite this, it never feels stale. At a time when Jane Foster is flexing her worthiness like Namor at a beach, that's a remarkable accomplishment. Since becoming unworthy in Original Sin, Odinson carries himself less like a champion of Asgard and more like a whiny teenager who had his cell phone taken away. Aaron makes it a point to abandon that sentiment early, giving us an Odinson that is much more motivated and much less mopey.

The Unworthy Thor #1 puts Odinson right in the middle of brutal battle against the kinds of monsters he used to tear through on a boring Sunday afternoon. It doesn't just hit the ground running in terms of action, giving Oliver Copiel ample opportunity to create appropriately brutal visuals. It establishes that this former God of Thunder is learning the hard way what it means to be unworthy. He can't rely on his hammer or any enchanted weapon to carry him through a battle. He has to take a gut punches and blows to the jaw before he can think about the celebratory mead.

It's not just that he's unworthy of wielding Mjolnir. He's a weaker, more jaded Odinson who doesn't have the same power or ability he once did. He's already lost one of his arms. This means he has to fight that much harder to avoid losing more limbs. It helps bring out a different side of his character, one devoid of the nobility, poise, and bravado that once defined him. He actually resorts to biting his enemies now. That's as unworthy as it gets in battle.

Odinson definitely wields more drive and ambition. He's still not the same Thor that Chris Hemsworth did so much to bring to life in the movies, but we do see traces of that proud warrior throughout the narrative. That narrative isn't just restricted to brutal fighting with occasional biting either. Jason Aaron shifts the sequence of events around to add further context and this context actually goes a long way towards giving weight to the brutality.

Since Jane Foster picked up Mjolnir, the events of Original Sin and Secret Wars have been afterthoughts at best. There's just too much of an imperative to show why Jane Foster is so worthy of wielding the title of Thor. That's entirely understandable. It still leaves Odinson with little to work with.

By revisiting the site where he became unworthy, Aaron sets up an appropriate reunion between him and the new Watcher, who calls himself the Unseen. We still know him as Nick Fury, namely the one David Hasselhoff failed to turn into a viable movie franchise, but that only makes this connection all the more fitting. By having him be the one that gives Odinson a chance at being worthy again, it feels like an overdue continuation of the aftermath of Original Sin. Again, it's a story that feels late and overdue, but it never comes off as stale.

This sentiment helps make The Unworthy Thor #1 feel relevant in that it gives Odinson some badly-needed development that he hasn't gotten since he lost his hammer. It also makes this narrative feel somewhat disconnected and not just because Jane Foster is literally stealing his thunder. It feels like this story took too long to set up. Events like Original Sin and Secret Wars have been over for a while now. Reconnecting with those events at this point feel outdated.

Even if the timing is off, the narrative is still compelling. Jason Aaron still gives us a side of Odinson that is genuine and sincere. This is a character who lost a lot more than his favorite weapon. He lost a title and an identity. Now, he finally has the motivation and opportunity to follow a new path. This path doesn't require those same discussions of worthiness that make for such great fodder in the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. It's uncharted territory for Odinson, but he's forging ahead and it's hard not to root for him.

Overall, The Unworthy Thor #1 creates a narrative that has the right impact. It gives us a former God of Thunder who has to fight harder and cope with being weaker than he's ever been before. It brings out some of his less noble traits, but he still carries himself like a warrior. He gets a chance to become more worthy and he jumps at that chance, if only to ensure he doesn't have to bite his enemies anymore.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

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