One of the most exciting new comics out there isn’t exactly “new,” historically speaking, and it isn’t being brought to you by a brash upstart enamored with the freedoms of the modern comics industry. And if you haven’t added it to your “pull list” yet, may I suggest that you include Water Simonson’s Ragnarok from IDW very, very soon.
The story so far: a great evil has taken over the world. It is the age past myth. Both the good and not so good have been put into compromised positions and, in one moment, both find themselves in a great chamber with a mission. However, in the act of committing the deed they’ve been either coerced or enticed into, they have woken the undead figure in the middle of what is a giant tomb. All of them die, but only one is found to be noble in her plight, and with her last dying breath she pleads that the figure before her protect her child from that all-consuming evil. He grants her request because he recognizes her bravery, and the thunder god Thor keeps his word.
Yet Thor doesn’t know just how corrupt and defiled the world has become — not yet, anyway — and he is beset upon, and quickly dispatches, any who get in his way. In lesser hands, the story would degrade into panel after panel of carnage without a destination or a plot from there. It has happened a lot in the past ten years, as certain narrative freedoms in comics have frequently given way to purges from the id, rather than something one reads for pleasure.
But Walter Simonson, both the writer and artist of the series, is from that old school from the ’70s and ’80s where you needed something more to hang your hat on. Among his many storied credits, he single-handedly revived Marvel’s Thor back to certain mythological roots, away from some of the sillier aspects of the book’s fish out of water, exile making the best of it angle. Plus, his art style has always been distinctive. You could see it on the spinner rack from the other side of the convenience store, and that draftsmanship and dynamism is all intact.
Lay on the stylish lettering of Simonson’s longtime collaborator John Workman, and this new tale of another Thor is nearly perfect. Nearly because the team has added one more figure to the mix, and I dare say that with her the book takes that leap from very good to great. Laura Martin is considered one of the best (digital) colorists in comics because her work never feels like digital coloring. Yes, she has all the Photoshop tools at her disposal for gradation, blending, and shading, but the sensitivity to Simonson’s line means she’s making the work pop, not throwing a multicolored shroud over it. Even at its “ugliest,” Ragnarok is a beautiful looking book.
But this cannot be stressed enough, that without a compelling story, all the pretty pictures in the world means little. Ragnarok is on its way to being its own mythic legend because it is a story worth telling. We’re very lucky that it is this particular crew doing that.