Thor by Kieron Gillen Ultimate Collection Paperback – 14 Dec 2011
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About the Author
Doug Braithwaite has illustrated many popular characters including Batman and the Hulk. His collaboration with Ross and Krueger began with Earth X.
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That's not to say it is without merit, however. The first arc (collected standalone as Latverian Prometheus) is the aforementioned conclusion to JMS' last story and pays off nicely the various plot points he set up: how long can a god survive without a heart?; how long shall Thor remain in exile from the Asgard he founded himself? I would maybe go as far to suggest simply reading that book instead of this if you just want the follow-up from JMS' books, because the rest of this Ultimate Collection is a bit of a mess.Read more ›
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THOR ULTIMATE COLLECTION collects all of Gillen's run on Thor, including:
Thor: Latverian Prometheus (except Sif #1)
Thor: Siege Aftermath
--Considering each of the links above have a far more detailed review of each story, I won't write out a review detailing each story as much, and I suggest you read each one for better understanding.--
To begin with, Gillen had the difficult chore of picking up JMS's un-concluded ending, then writing the many sub-characters of Asgard during Siege, and then picking up the events for Thor after Siege to lead into Matt Fraction taking over as Thor main writer. That's an utterly difficult task for any writer to deal with, but Gillen manages pretty well. To start with, Gillen writes a convincing Thor. Though he doesn't quite live up to JMS's Thor, Gillen still carries on most of JMS's best features about the cast and characters as well. Thor is still slow and methodical, fairly intelligent and still convincingly powerful (as he should be). Balder and other Norse Gods are still fairly involved and interesting to watch. Loki is still Loki, but Gillen finds a great way of making it where the characters don't fall for his tricks. I'm a bit tired of Loki always getting his way, so seeing Gillen write it where it doesn't always work is beautiful. It should be noted Gillen's Doctor Doom is impressive and menacing to watch. Even if Doom's presence is short in the book, it's good enough to hope for more of Gillen writing the evil doctor in the future.
Of the 3 stories, Latverian Prometheus is must pick-up if you fell in love with JMS's Thor run and were disappointed in the ending of Thor, Vol. 3. It left every reader hanging, but seeing Gillen actually finish JMS's run and add layers to his story arc really is amazing to read. The arc is short though, but well worth reading. Not to mention Latverian Prometheus is out-of-print and costly to buy brand new, so having it here is a real treat. Thor:Siege and Thor:Siege Aftermath are also well written by Gillen and can still be bought in most outlets, but is mild compared to Latverian Prometheus. And because of the average story telling of Thor:Siege and Aftermath, it does bring the collection down.
The negative around the collection is not the writing itself, but the stories. Gillen shows the man can write a good story and compelling characters, but Thor:Siege and Aftermath are "just okay" stories in the long haul. Again, Latverian Prometheus is excellent and the big pick up for the book, but it's short, and it ends JMS's story arc. Thor:Siege has nothing to do with Thor personally and talks about the Asgardians (and a Vostagg story) during the Siege event. It's good if you're interested, but it adds really nothing to the Siege event, so it can be passed on. And Aftermath is mostly a story about Thor going to Hel and clearing up a dispute between Hela and Mephisto fighting over land. It's not a needed story, so it might feel incomprehensible to want to read as well. But again, none of the writing is bad at all. But the last 2 stories don't quite live up to the first story.
The other thing might sound weird, but since all 3 stories are different (as well as the changing art styles), they're written differently to which might not fly with everyone. You would think since Gillen writes every story, they'd have a certain flow or consistency into one another like many other trade paperbacks today, but not here. You might really enjoy Latverian Prometheus, but not like the 2 stories as much. Or you might really like Aftermath, but thought LP and Thor:Siege were not as good. 3 different stories means you might not like all 3 because of the differences. I enjoyed the 3 stories regardless, but again, read the reviews for each book individually to get a feel for what you're in for.
THOR ULTIMATE COLLECTION is pretty good read, especially since this might be Gillen's only time to really shine as Thor main writer (though he is writing the current books of Journey Into Mystery). Even if one story is great while the other two are okay, it's still pretty good to have it in one whole package. If you followed JMS's run, I strongly suggest picking this book up. If you haven't read JMS's run on Thor, and then take caution into buying this collection first. But if you enjoy Gillen's writing, then it's a good lead up to his future writing on Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself and Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout.
One challenge of this collection is that it spans around the Marvel event Siege - meaning it includes material that happens before and after that pivotal story. But, the editors did a fantastic job organizing the structure. About two-thirds of the way through, there is a separation page of panels that simply say "The Monster's Rampage. The Traitor Redeemed. The Traitor's Doom. The telling Strike. The Final Strike. And the Villain Apprehended." Siege in a nutshell! This was very effective. Those who wish could put the book down, go to Siege and return. However, it isn't absolutely necessary. I was already familiar with the basic plot of Siege and was able to continue without any confusion. A testament to the skills of the author and artists is presenting the stories.
And these stories are excellent. I won't deny that Loki is my favorite villain and he figures prominently in this collection. This is fitting since he is the architect of Siege, though other villains take center stage for that conflict. But, I think Gillen has a particular flair for writing the Trickster. His machinations and schemes are par for the course, and made for very entertaining reading, but I was surprised to see a different side to him. Frankly, it was awesome to see Loki kick some a@@ "You have no idea what I am. No one does." And, it was also great to see him express regret - when no one is around to see it (e.g. not manipulation). The scene with Kelda is quite moving. Gillen gave the character a new dimension that lends credence to why Thor is willing to forgive and even miss him when he is gone. But, this is a Thor book and there is no shortage of amazing fights and noble acts of courage and sacrifice to keep a reader enthralled. And Volstagg throws a bit of humor into the chaos when he starts throwing his, ahem, weight around! Moreover, this Thor showed more wisdom than I am accustomed to seeing, and his journey through Mephisto's realm is an exciting way to end the collection. Gillen deftly continues Straczynski's story, carries the reader through Siege, and sets them up for Matt Fraction's Mighty Thor.
Finally, the production values of this book are top notch. The cover is thick and glossy, as are the pages. The colors are vibrant, the text legible, and the book is logically laid out with no bubbles creeping into the spine, and with section breaks with recaps to help orient the reader. Overall, this is an amazing collection and I cannot wait to jump into Siege. And, I hope to read more of Gillen's Marvel stories in the future.
The writer had a lot to tie up after Straczynski left so much unresolved and did an almost great to superlative job.
ARTWORK PRESENTATION: B plus to A minus; CHARACTERS/DIALOGUE: B to B plus; ACTION SEQUENCES: A minus; STORY/PLOTTING/PANELS: B plus to A minus; THOR MYTHOLOGY: B plus to A minus; WHEN READ: mid December 2013; OVERALL GRADE: B plus to A minus.