Walt Simonson is no stranger to Norse mythology, having penned and illustrated one of the most cherished runs on Marvel’s Thor back in the 1980’s, and one which is still revered today. Indeed, Simonson, in his introduction to this collected mini-series from IDW is the first to point to his lifelong love of Norse mythology and what he has now started on–an epic story of a post-Ragnarök world and the return of the Messiah (of sorts)–a labour of love over 15 years in the making!
Simonson’s style of artwork is so recognisable that even though this is a world of Dark Elves, Trolls and Fire Demons, it is s a familiar one, albeit the characters not so. In raising Thor from a deep, coma-like slumber in an attempt to slay him, we are given a Thunder God unrecognisable by anyone’s standards, and a bait and switch too, having followed the Dark Elven assassin and mother, Brynja, only to find the story shift onto Thor, now known as The Stone God.
This ain’t your daddy’s Thor, that’s for sure, but a reanimated, decaying skeleton of a man with dead eyes to match, but with all the integrity of a deity and a hero. The world may well have changed and become a playground for the most corrupt and most despotic to take advantage of, and the World Tree, Yggdrasil, felled, but this zombie god has not lost his mortal purpose in wishing to save and protect the remaining humans wherever he comes upon them. Meanwhile, he begins a quest for vengeance that sees him cross this apocalyptic landscape and meet with an assortment of tests, allies and enemies. This is now an undead world and this Thor fits into it well.
Simonson’s artwork is a great fit for such an epic saga as this, and it is with genuine awe that I gaze on some of the huge, explosive, bombastic double-page spreads he litters this book with, to give it a scale worthy of a tale steeped in mythology, gods and monsters. Take, for example, the retelling of Ragnarök, in the book’s opening pages. Beautifully rendered in just pencils with the lightest of colours (skillfully, subtley added by Laura Martin) added to clearly define these moments (and there are more of them in this collection) as flashbacks, such as when the serpent, Jörmungandr, kills Thor.
The scale, the energy, and the magnificence is barely contained by the page and Martin’s colours only add to this cinematic effect. When she adds bright, explosive light, it almost blinds me off the printed page! Seriously! Add to this Simonson’s mastery of onomatopoeia, something he made a trademark of his many years ago, and you have a great addition to the patchy stories of the Vikings. A post-script if you like, but one informed so well by these pagan tales of a bygone culture that it could well be considered a fitting final act in this saga.
And the good news? This is but the first volume in the story. There’s more to come. I just hope I don’t have to wait until my own personal Ragnarök for the next series to appear.
Ragnarök, Vol. 1: The Last God Standing is out now from IDW Publishing $24.99 in print, or $9.99 digitally.