Superheroes lose their powers all the time, that’s one of the hallmarks of comic book storytelling. But this week’s top spot goes to The Unworthy Thor, which shows everyone’s favorite Norse god as a down-and-out, hammerless, haphazard hero. The switch is great, completely refreshing, and shows Marvel’s willingness to make a left turn when the money says they should be barrelling straight ahead. Today’s roundup also sees the addition of a new weekly segment, the “Manga of the Week.” This column aims to take advantage of the fact that comic publishers are making it easier than ever to read new manga the same day (or, at least, same week) as it publishes in Japan—a far cry from the old days when readers would have to wait years for the comics to be bulk collected, translated, and published as expensive packages.
While the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Thor, portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, enjoys playing Avenger, smashing up his brother, and going on roadtrips with Hulk, the Thor of the comic world is in a sad, sorry state. He doesn’t get to have much fun these days, especially in a series with a title like The Unworthy Thor. Here’s how he landed in such a rut: the intergalactic Watcher whispered a secret in his ear (we don’t know yet what that secret actually was), and poof! He’s suddenly unworthy to wield his hammer, Mjolnir. This series sees him reeling from that loss (no more flying around, no more lightning), and this issue, specifically, sees the god of thunder confront a thief and begin to track down another hammer. While this series could be dour and mopey, writer Jason Aaron has given Thor a “grin and bear it” attitude. He drinks, he punches people, and he’s got a big, nasty axe that will just have to get the job done until he gets his hammer back. And in doing so, Aaron and artist Olivier Coipel (who illustrates Thor rugged, bearded, and sketchily drawn) have created a downtrodden hero that doesn’t leave the reader feeling trod upon.
Nightwing is Dick Grayson, who used to be a secret agent in the DC Universe, and before that nipped at Batman’s heel as Robin. Now he’s all grown up, dressed in sleek, black spandex, and hopping around the rooftops of Bludhaven, a gritty, seaside city south of Gotham. The city itself plays a huge role in this issue, as Nightwing finally returns after a long hiatus, and it reads a bit like Atlantic City c.1977. Writer Tim Seeley first made a splash in the comic world by co-creating Hack/Slash, a comic that revolutionized the horror genre. This new work, ideally, will open plenty of storytelling opportunities for him as Nightwing returns to Bludhaven as a stranger in a strange land. The art by Marcus To also seems to be revelling in Nightwing’s hardbody physique in a way that’s rare and refreshing in comics. Normally we get boxy superheroes who, sure, are muscle-bound, but To draws Nightwing like a young Greek god, and when he’s in his tights he oozes sex appeal, something DC usually tries to limit to their old-fashioned stable of objectified women villains a lá Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
Deadpool is the kind of hero one has to be in the mood for. On one hand, he and his foul-mouthed, meta, fourth-wall breaking hijinks can feel refreshingly counter to everything mainstream comics purports to be. On the other, sometimes reading a Deadpool comic (or watching the movie) can feel like hanging with a group of kids at a Spencer’s Gifts wearing shirts that read “I can’t hear you, the voices in my head are too loud.” If readers are feeling the former, then his ongoing series can make for a great read. This issue, for instance, sees Deadpool churning through baddies trying to find the cure for a disease, and his relationship with Agent Emily Preston is really charming as they hunt down a villain growing like a fungus out of some poor sap’s stomach.
Manga of the Week: Attack on Titan #88
Attack on Titan, and the massively popular anime it spawned, centers on a civilization besieged by giant “Titans.” These monsters mercilessly eat humans, but as the story develops their purpose, creation, and role in the world is muddier than mere monsters. This latest issue will leave those jumping right in scratching their heads, but it’s a masterclass in plotting dialogue. Hajime Isayama, creator of the series, unloads a lot of information in this issue, but the tension is high, the guilt-stricken characters (only two are really featured throughout the entire chapter) explode in anger, sink into a shellshocked state, and hit emotional highs and lows everywhere in between. If readers are trying to create their own comics and could use a primer on how to properly lay out panels without action, they should watch this video of Marvel creator Chris Samnee explaining his work, and read this issue of Attack on Titan.