Thor #26: Thor Smash! – Comic Watch

At his best, Donny Cates writes complex, compelling antagonists and twisting plots that will keep readers coming back for more. Thor #26 is not it. In some ways it’s a return to form: Cates’ first Thor the issues were fight after fight with a bit of connective narrative fabric to tie them together. In terms of dialogue and storytelling, this Thor question and the biggest “Banner of War” crossover event it’s part of the encore of a kid smashing action figures together in a sandbox until someone says it’s time to go home the House. With the exception of explanatory dialogue, screams, and Hulk language, the comic is largely wordless. Even the comic’s traditionally over-the-top omniscient narrator fades out after two pages.

Of course, comics like Hawk Eye (2012) #19 and Hedra have shown that silence in comics can speak volumes. But this comic isn’t very interested in exploring silence, anger, or the relationship between the two. Cates’ sparse dialogue and narration could provide a great opportunity to showcase the works of Martin Coccolo. However, a textually light or silent comic works best if the work itself is saying something. But Thor #26 is, as an action figure preserved in packaging, primarily of value to collectors. It is blank and plasticine with little under its surface.

None of this is to say that comic book combat is inherently bad. Which characters fight, how they fight, and how it’s framed can all reveal important things about the characters in a story. In Banner of War: AlphaCoccolo framed Thor and Hulk’s fight – which began in an arena – with the visual language of mortal combat and other fighting games. In a way, he was playfully inviting us to join the audience in the arena, to “choose your fighter”. But Thor #26’s Hulk vs. Hulked-Out Thor fight doesn’t retain that visual humor, nor does it share the norm Thor visceral brutality by artist Nic Klein. Coccolo’s compositions are mastered without experimentation. Any meaning that might be added via color symbolism by colorist Matt Wilson also remains unexplored. Instead, it’s a comic that takes ten minutes to read and visually polish without being memorable. Most of its significant plot is presented by Hulked-Out Thor destroying the Bifrost on the cover.

Daniel K. Denny