I’m not really familiar with Malekith, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this comic.
It’s not a super-dense plot or anything, but there will nonetheless be SPOILERS
A bunch of dark elves free Malekith, their former king, from imprisonment in Niffleheim. They fight giant spiders and there are horrible injuries and deaths on both sides, and it all leads to a pretty fantastic full-page splash of Malekith emerging triumphantly from the deep pit in which he was held. That image is one of two that Ron Garney totally nails and that, between them, sort of tell the entire story of this issue. The page of Malekith’s victory is first, coming about halfway through the issue, and then five pages later we see Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three springing into heroic action in a half-page panel, Mjolnir taking up the foreground imposingly. These two moments capture the might and power of both sides of the conflict that will make up the center of this newly-beginning arc. Malekith gets twice as much space as the good guys, setting him up as a massive threat more than capable of handling whatever Thor and friends throw at him. Yet his expression is one of self-important smugness, while the good guys are more serious and determined, racing toward an unknown (at the time) danger as quickly as they can. It’s a powerful contrast, beefed up significantly by Ive Svorcina’s coloring. The Malekith page is shadowy and dark, done almost entirely in black and blue hues to match Malekith’s flesh. The panel with the heroes is much brighter, backlit by a soft purple light that reinforces the characters’ obvious confidence. As I said, these two pictures pretty much sum up the whole issue, as all it really aims to do is re-introduce Malekith as a villain so the rest of the narrative can unfold in future chapters.
Jason Aaron makes this story as new-reader-friendly as he can, even wedging in some unnatural but fittingly brief dialogue from Volstagg and Sif about who Malekith is and the basics of his history. And because the first half of the issue is a fairly straightforward prison break, it’s familiar and easy to jump into even if you’re not familiar with the Norse underworld setting or dark elf characters involved. And once that scene is over, Aaron breaks things up with a couple pages of Thor and his crew hanging out casually together before they learn that something wicked is afoot. This gives the audience a short but helpful look at who the title character is in his down time, and then immediately afterward we see him in full-on superhero mode, boldly and bravely facing his old enemy. This is a fresh start for Thor: God of Thunder, having just come off of it’s first mega-arc about Gorr the God Butcher, so it’s nice that Aaron makes a point of starting with an accessible, digestible jumping on point. The downside, I guess, is that not much happens in this issue—there’s the jailbreak, the good guys rushing in, and then Malekith lays out his plan to massacre all the dark elves across the Nine Realms as vengeance for replacing him as their king. That’s pretty much it, but for the first beat of a new arc, it’s a decent portion of story. All the players are in place, and now the action should be able to really cut loose.
I’ve only talked about two specific panels of art so far, which is silly, but they really are a pair of images that get a lot done on their own. Garney’s work on the rest of the issue is strong, too, as is Svorcina’s. They put together a cohesive world, even though we travel from Niffleheim to Asgardia to Svartalfheim. Garney’s linework is detailed but not overdone, so that everything looks nearly realistic but maintains an air of mythology. It is Svorcina’s rich palette that really brings the art home, though. It looks (and may even be) painted, adding depth and life to the visuals, as well as a certain thickness that makes everything feel a little weightier and therefore more important. I was admittedly worried about Esad Ribic leaving this title, but having Svorcina stay on as colorist keeps a consistency to the look of the series, and Garney, though his figures are not quite as epic in build or stature as Ribic’s, still renders his cast as impressive, mighty, and distinct.
A very good opening to a promising new tale, Thor: God of Thunder #13 reassured me as far as the future of this book is concerned. I didn’t know what to expect from the series in the post-Gorr era, so I’m glad it wasted very little time in setting up another terrifying villain for Thor to battle. While this particular issue didn’t thoroughly astonish me, it absolutely kept my enthusiasm for the book as a whole intact, and excited me for what is to come.