For the third post in my ongoing series readings, I want to continue to look at the art of Russell Dauterman and coloring of Matthew Wilson. The aspect of the amazing art in the current Thor series that I want to discuss in particular is the way that it just completely disregards standard panel layout. Dauterman just plays by his own rules when it comes to page layout and the effects are pretty glorious. Again, this will be a pretty image-heavy post by necessity, but keep scrolling through!
In the image that focuses on Thor fighting frost giants, the central focus of the page is Thor herself in the bottom right. Her billowing cape breaks into the panel above her, and the panels form this amazing starburst effect that pushes the action through a collage into this final moment of her catching her breath and taunting the frost giants. In the oddly shaped panels, Thor is a tiny figure that may have gone unnoticed if not for her red cape, kicking the butts of giant creatures triple or more her size. The layout and slowly increasing zoom on Thor makes it feel almost like the panel is a spiral staircase, giving it something of an endless feel - perhaps tapping into the endless fight of Thor (in the sense of however holds Mjolnir rather than the specific character) versus frost giants. Additionally, it shows the near-futility of this tiny person battling literal giants, building up to this final, zoomed-in moment that shows how Thor also cuts an imposing figure in her own right, and maybe evens the odds a little.
The next panel I want to discuss features Odinson on the moon, with a floating Asgard in view in the background. Several things struck me out this page. First, the obvious cool town mutes even Odinson’s ragged red cape into a almost purple color and gives everything a cold, isolated feeling of “sameness” and futility. It fits nicely with the page-high image of Odinson contemplating the loss of his beloved Mjolnir in total isolation before being interrupted by Volstagg. The panels on the right side of the page conform to a more structure grid, but even they are not perfectly uniform. What I think is spectacular, though, is the gutters of these panels. Instead of blank white space, the starry background and distant Asgard are visible between the the panels.
Finally, in this panel Odinson tries to coerce Heimdall to reveal the identity of the new Thor. Again, the background image is visible between the two panels at the top and around the long panel at the bottom. Aside from this effect, the panel layout on this page is probably the most standard of the three I brought up in this post. This page is significant though because it really showcases Willson’s coloring. The middle section is zoomed on Heimdall’s face, but the shadows cast by his helmet have been replaced with swirling nebulas. Until this moment, I didn’t even know coloring in comics could be so intense and beautiful. And then he immediately tops it in the bottom panel with the most amazing image of the Bifröst that I can even imagine! The splashes of color are beyond description, but this page was so intense that I immediately reread the series with a closer regard to the coloring. Combined with the art, it lends this series a touch of intense magic and mystery that is a large part of why I intend to keep reading it as long as it is being published!
I’m six issues into the new Thor series, and I am really enjoying it so far.
One of the things that stands out as especially amazing is the art (artist Russell Dauterman, colorist Matthew Wilson) which is spectacular. I want to focus on two moments in these first comics where the traditional campy sound effects are incorporated into the art in ways that I have never seen before. Unfortunately, the pictures I’m including in this post were taken on my cell phone and don’t capture how truly amazing the art is, but they’ll have to do (if I can, I’ll properly scan and replace them in the future).
The art encompoasses the onomatopoeia “action” sounds that are really inherent to the comics genre, but it does something new with them. In the above image where Thor slams Odinson into a stone/concrete wall, the cracks spell out the “THOOM” sound effect. It is a very subtle, but very powerful image that incorporates the sound as an effect of the action. The lettering is part of the shattering wall and is easy to miss on a first read-through (or even a second or third) as compared to many other comics where the “POW” sound effects are a larger, more obvious part of the page. Here, the sound is present but not overwhelming.
In another instance, the sound becomes an inherent part of the action. In the panel below, the sounds create an action trailer of Thor and Mjolnir’s flight. The sound effects mark her incredibly complicated attack against them. The letters also cross between panels, with the final “M” wrapping around Thor as she crashes into her landing pose. The integration of the sound an action are incredibly dynamic and the bright orange letters stand out against the pale blue frost giants adding an extra vibrancy to Thor’s actions, while in the final panel on the page the frost giants fall crumble with a pale, sketchy white “KRASH” effect. The word is separated into two sections, breaking itself where it crashes into Thor who stands in the midst of the collapsing giants. It’s pretty awesome.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I haven't actually read any of the Asgardian books before this class so I picked up Angela and the new Thor books to broaden my horizons for my floppy eries. The series begins with the classical Thor (henceforth Odinson) having lost his ability to hold his hammer due to a secret that Nick Fury whispered to him while they were in battle on the Moon. I have not read the issue where this occurs, but my understanding is that nobody yet knows what the secret was. Issue one opens with all the Asgardians gathering around Odinson, admitting that nobody has been able to lift Mjolnir - even Odin and Freyja cannot lift it. Also revealed is that Odin has been away some time, and Freyja has been ruling in his stead semi-democratically. Now that he is back, he expects to take up position as the All-Father while Freyja wants to remain in control as the All-Mother. Everyone disperses, some return to Asgard with Odin, some go to Midgard to fight the frost giants. With the hammer unattended, a mysterious woman is able to lift it and gain its powers.
Something interesting we see almost immediately is that this new Thor is likely not an Asgardian. This is played up almost immediately upon her grasping Mjolnir by the difference in her dialog and thoughts - when she speaks, it is the runic font used by other Asgardians, with the archaic early modern English (“thee” and “thou” and altered sentence structures). In all the issues so far, she dialogs with herself. Her thinking voices is regular, colloquial English with standard slang like “cool!”, written in a pretty generic type face. She thinks commands to the hammer in plain English, and then when she speaks it is in the Asgardian script and she says things like “Nay. Midgard is in Peril”. The dichotomy between her thinking and speaking voice make its seem like the Asgardian Accent is actually part of Mjolnir’s power.
In some research I found an old comic where Janes foster wields Mjolnir (and takes on the incredibly ridiculous name Thordis). When she lifts the hammer her dark hair turns long and golden - so the blonde hair is also part of the super powers granted by the weapon apparently. This means we can’t assume that the lady beneath the mask is blonde - she could be anyone.
The Thor comics seem to fall closer to science fiction, if we imagine a spectrum of sci fi to detective comics. It parallels some of the alien origins we have seen in Superman, but this is a whole different creature than the early DC (or marvel) comics. This series is an attempt to right some of the wrongs done to women in a genre where they are generally underrepresented or represented poorly. For example, from a costume design perspect, Thor’s outfit is exactly the right level level of ridiculous.
She has the classic raised-shoulder, gravity defying cape, an armored chest piece, a sturdy belt and mask/helmet to hide her identity. Her loincloth is accented with a (for lack of a better word) butt-cape that adds a lot of dramatic motion, and her shoes are flat boots with fantasy armor that she would probably gouge her own calves with every time she moves. Overall, it’s surprisingly practical for a superhero/heroine costume - closer to what the men wear than the flashy star-spangled thongs and heels that women usually get. The only really ridiculous thing I can see is the weird peek-a-boo belly hole in her undershirt. I can’t decide if it’s a leather detail or a hole in the shirt to show off a sliver of abs, but it’s definitely strange. Still, strange is better than ankle-snapping stripper wear! Starting with the costume and moving into the content, this comic is very progressive. I’ll expand more on that in the next post!
I'm not saying that this class has encouraged poor financial responsibility, but I may have overspent a bit my trip to the comic shop to pick out some floppies to read. Most of these are trade collections and therefore not valid for the assignment, but I did pick up Thor and Angela so expect posts about those soon!