Thor is rooted in mythology and, to a lesser extent, theology. There’s absolutely no clever way of making that statement, so there. I said it. Much of what’s been written in Thor, in the past, has mostly been caricature of actual ancient Norse beliefs, but spliced with some good ol’ American, Marvel imagination. We’re talking: gods, monsters, multiple realms and planes of existence, an underworld, and Valhalla.
The current Marvel Now run on Thor, God of Thunder, is written by Jason Aaron (who is, by a long shot, one of my favorite comic writers) and drawn by the amazing Esad Ribic (check out his work on the 4th volume of Black Panther as well). If this isn’t Marvel’s absolute best book right now, I don’t know what is. This isn’t going to be your typical comic book review, as I believe that much of this story lends itself very well to conversation, and I don’t believe that every issue is entirely meant to surprise you. Here goes…
Thor: God of Thunder finds three generations of Thor battling a new Marvel villain, Gorr the god Butcher, throughout time and eventually together. Young Thor, Avenger Thor, and King Thor are tormented and taunted by what might be one of the most ruthless villains of all time. Young Thor is strung up and tortured by Gorr in a cave, Avenger Thor witnesses the most horrific sights as he travels from realm to realm laying eyes upon the carnage that Gorr has wreaked by slaughtering god after god after god, and King Thor sits on the dead throne of Asgard as the last Asgardian after Gorr and his minions the Black Berserkers practically decimated the realm and murdered or took captive everyone else in it. The Thors Three eventually come together and discover that Gorr has been building a godbomb with the intention to detonate it and annihilate every god that had ever existed past, present, and future. And to give his homicidal plan just a little bit of kick-you-while-your-down, Gorr forces the gods that he’s taken captive to BUILD THE BOMB DESIGNED TO DESTROY THEM.
The real brilliance of the story comes from book #6. This is where we get the back-story on Gorr and we see why he loathes and despises the Gods with such passionate hatred. We’re shown that Gorr was just a man from a withered and dead planet. His father died when he was young and his mother not long after. He watches his faithful, pregnant wife, who worshiped their gods with complete devotion die. He does everything he can to protect his children only to have them all die one by one in his arms. And then, he just breaks. He curses the gods. If they ever existed at all, what had they done for him but ignore every cry for help and every prayer he and his family had ever uttered? He accepts that death is the only escape. But then… the gods fall… Two battling gods come crashing down right in front of him and he realizes that they were there all along. In that moment, his greatest fear comes to life… the gods just don’t care (Or they’ve simply gone crazy). In this moment his hatred reaches supernova level and with his body overtaken by an alien-like substance he murders both gods like dogs and leaves his decrepit home to begin a mission… massacre the gods, end their reign, decimate every holy entity that has ever dared sit above the lowly, and usher in the Age of Man; a godless age where every man is in control of his own destiny and where we are free of the negligence of gods who only serve to abandon us. In his pursuit of righteous bloodshed Gorr begins to, in many ways, become the very thing he hates. He convinces himself that the gods deserve to be slain and enslaved, but he fails to see that he is becoming somewhat of a god himself. The philosophical nature of this story is the most fascinating thing I’ve ever read in a comic book. In the past, comic books have been brilliant pieces of commentary on philosophical, religious and social issues (as well as many others) but this, for me, is something I strongly relate to. I love that you spend an entire book pitying Gorr, and getting the anti-hero view of him. What makes him different than, say, the Punisher? Let’s explore that briefly.
Gorr witnessed and experienced an injustice and he decided to take a stand against that injustice. This is LITERALLY the origin story of how Frank Castle became The Punisher. I think the argument that Gorr believes himself to be a champion of justice is appropriate. I also think there are imaginable (but not identical) similarities between Gorr and a character like Walter White (from Breaking Bad). They both started at the bottom (like Drake!) and now they’re feared; Just two regular men, with nothing to really make them stand out, but once their backs were against a wall they decided to take control instead of remaining subservient and timid. They resolved that they were no longer going to lick the dirt from the boots of their oppressors but were going to control their own lives, their way.
If you’ve not yet begun reading this series, I highly recommend that you head to your local comic book shop and pick it up and see what kind of thinking it instigates in you. It’s given me a lot of thoughts on the concept on what an “anti-hero” is, and where we draw the line between vigilante justice and cold-blooded murder. Is it possible for vigilante justice to be a matter of perception? And does that still matter when it seems to go too far?
If you have been reading Thor: God of Thunder, what do think? Where did Gorr go wrong? Do you think he’s a genuine threat to Thor?
And if you haven’t read it, do you think a villain like Gorr has the potential to stick around? How many other comic book villains can you think of that bring to mind these same notions of vigilante hero or just plain criminal?
(Editor note: This article was written prior to the release of Thor: God of Thunder #14 on 08/14/2013)