Collects: Thor: Vikings #1-5
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: Glenn Fabry
By Michael David Sims
In my review of Punisher: The End I wrote: "Garth Ennis seemingly has two pens. One that allows him to author some of the best, thought-provoking fiction the genre has ever seen.... And another that churns out ultra violent, thoughtless schlock.... There's no middle ground." While there's no doubt that Thor: Vikings is absolutely ultra-violent, I would refrain from calling it thoughtless and schlock. By definition, schlock is something that is a waste, cheap and just all around crappy. But Thor: Vikings is far from that. Granted, it isn't as intelligent as some of Ennis' masterpieces, but it's definitely better than some of his stinkers.
The High Concept: After destroying a village on the west coast of Norway, a curse is placed on a gang of Vikings: "Though you sail for a thousand years o Norsemen — you shall not reach the land you seek!" Well, the millennium is up, and the Vikings have landed — on the shores of New York City. They're bodies are rotting, their spirits are ornery, and they long for women and mayhem.
The Story: Led by Harald Jaekelsson, the Vikings make quick work of the locals — including two unfortunate police officers who just so happened to stumble upon the scene. Heads roll — literally — and pyres are set, and no one can withstand their might as the Vikings make their way into the heart of the city. That is, until Thor descends from the heavens just in time to save a modern-day maiden from certain rape — repeated rape, and murder at that.
Thor strikes quickly, mincing few words with Jaekelsson. However, to much surprise, not a scratch lay upon Jaekelsson's hide, but both of Thor's wrists are shattered — broken and bent in ways nature never intended. The god is tossed aside like a ragged plaything, and the pillaging of New York City continues. (Did I forget to mention that the man who laid the curse upon the Vikings was a fool who, in his haste and subsequent death, caused the enchantment to make them stronger than gods? Hmmm... oh well.) Thousands upon thousands of heads dam the streets, forcing those who would attempt to flee the carnage to search for another route out of the city.
Jaekelsson, who is far from done with Thor, decides the God of Thunder is not worthy to die by his sword, and continues to kick the crap out of him — smashing Thor's head into pillars and slapping him like a wench. Despite all his might and ability to stand-up to even Superman, Thor is simply no match for the accursed Viking. Having tired of him, Jaekelsson lashes Mjolnir around the battered Thor's neck and tosses him off a pier. Both men know Thor won't drown, but the Viking assumes Thor will cower away, leaving Midgard — his new kingdom — forever behind.
But Jaekelsson knows not Thor — a warrior born — who will fight even the most futile of battles to the bitter end. However, this battle has not yet been won by the Viking — especially now that Doctor Strange has appeared to aide the wounded god.
More killing, raping and pillage. And Jaekelsson finds himself a castle in the form of the Empire State Building.
As all of Thor's wounds heal (save his pride), Strange uses his mastery of the Mystic Arts to look deep into the past, so as to uncover what's brought Vikings into modern days. Upon discovering the idiot who screwed up the curse, Strange concocts a plan to use descendants of the man to put an end to this scourge. Unfortunately, he's limited to three warriors: a female Viking who longs for battle, a zealous Crusader, and a Nazi fighter pilot — who hates being a Nazi
Blessed by Strange's spell, the heroes setout to wage war with the Vikings — destroying every last murderous bastard in sight. Despite the spell Doctor Strange cast upon our heroes, Thor still proves to be weaker of the two men and suffers a terrible fate. Impalement!
Don't fool yourself. That doesn't do Thor in — it serves to piss him off enough so he can finally gather the strength needed to pummel his foe and, as heroes do, save the day.
The Art: Ever since I first saw his work on the cover of Preacher #18, I've been a fan of Glenn Fabry's paintings. He's a master craftsman who deserves much credit for his covers — which surely drew fans into Hellblazer and Preacher. However, I must admit that I've never been too keen on his pen-and-ink work. That's not to say it's bad. It just wasn't my taste. Something about it just never clicked with me. Looking back, I'm thinking it was too realistic for this self-confessed superhero fanboy. I wanted muscles upon muscles and boobs out to here. (If you could see me, you'd see my hands held at least 18 inches beyond my chest.) Capes and tights, baby. That's where it was at. But then my eyes were opened by the beautiful, down-to-earth style of Steve Dillon (also of Preacher fame), who could make two lovers embracing more exciting and memorable than any fight scene drawn by anyone. So when I heard Glenn was going to illustrate Thor: Vikings, I felt it was time to give his pencils another chance — having unfairly brushed them aside years prior.
What Fabry gave forth was stunning, to say the least. From the many gruesome battle scenes to a quiet moment spent between father and daughter, Glenn does a wonderful job of conveying emotion with every stroke — be it primal terror, heroic endings, or longing for something more.
Another notch on Glenn's belt would have to be his attention to detail. Sigrid (the female Viking) does not wear panties — why would she? Erik (the Nazi pilot) recoils as arrows pierce his cockpit. Magnus' (the Crusader) arms are strong — as one who swings a broadsword and mace should be — but his stomach is paunch. It would have been easy for Fabry to overlook such minor details — and lesser artists would have — but he's no slouch.
The Writing: If every Thor story was written like this, the title wouldn't be on the brink of cancellation — or so the rumors (and Joe Quesada) say. With Thor: Vikings, which is a MAX comic, Ennis was given plenty of room to tell this story as it needed to be told. I've read some reviews that state he was given too much room and simply churned out five issues of bloody mayhem — which he did. But it's not necessarily a bad thing — not in this case.
Thor is a god — the God of Thunder — and he's a bad ass. Everyone knows it, but, the problem is, few readers take him seriously. Be it the way he speaks (which Ennis makes a crack about), the mythology behind the Odinson and all of the Norse Gods, or Marvel's reluctance to cut him loose (until now) I can't say. But it wouldn't take long for readers to jump onto his bandwagon if he was freely swinging Mjolnir into heads every issue — kicking ass the way a warrior god should.
Despite the breath of fresh air Thor: Vikings might breathe into Thor, there's not much substance behind it. That's not to say it's thoughtless, as there is a story here. It's a rather simple tale wrapped around evisceration and decapitation. Then again, do Vikings really need motivation when we already know they're bloody history? Does Thor need any more reason to kick their collective asses after they've killed countless New Yorkers? The answer to both is no. So, as I said, it being five issues of bloody mayhem isn't necessarily a bad thing.