The Thor #700 began with a tonal shift that put Captain America squarely at the center of things. Instead of exploring the Six’s victory and the formation of the Avengers, from that point forward, the comic is anchored on how Captain America is under attack from within. This focus on Cap’s inner conflict certainly lent itself to one of the most moving sections of the book — which was capped off by him announcing that he was retiring — but it also created a problem for the long-running Thor series. As popular as Peter David’s stories with John Bennett have been in recent years, Mark Waid and Sean McKeever had a few too many stories that ignored the hero’s homeworld. Accordingly, he gets devoted pages in the epilogue, but not in the opening.
While the arc during which Bennett serves as the lone ranger between his team and this global war might lack the moral weight of the opening, it still manages to create a persuasive argument for the imperfect abilities of the group. When the Avengers level a city, the issue focuses on the frightened members of the public as they follow their leader and wonder how much danger they might be in. When they first come together to control the energy of Thunderbolts, their first act is to show off their motley array of toys. As David and Bennett amass that action, Waid and McKeever show that far from being a “freefall to the apocalypse,” a war with Galactus seems more likely to pique as much interest among the heroes as it does as a threat. While few will deny the power of its climax, the series still manages to feel incisive in the preceding segments.
This focus on characters outside of the established Avengers arc comes to another logical conclusion when, in conjunction with the story of the Six, it presents Kate Bishop as the new love interest of James “Thunderbolt” Ross. In the original Thor story, Fitz (who has taken his step back from the books in the present-day), had been introduced as an up-and-coming operative when the arc began. (He was then conveniently redeployed later in the run.) As readers found out in the “special” issues, Aaron apparently had a plan to take the character in another direction — one that saw him disassociate himself from his family in the name of his vocation. By introducing Kate Bishop as one of the most important heroes in her own right, which she is in the title and title alone, Aaron seems to be continuing that arc — the one that has seen the Thor leader learn about the pain of missing out on life, particularly that of his son.
While many fans of Star-Lord and Tom Williams remain unsatisfied with the Tom-Hunter saga — another direction the series led in — it too has lived up to its name. With the addition of Kate Bishop to the mix, Aaron is creating a second wife and more emotionally complex father figure for Thor, the kind of interesting role that would give a character like Star-Lord (and, for that matter, Thor) a chance to show even more of his capabilities on top of his already strong character. One can’t help but wonder if Aaron will take this opportunity to give the Hero’s Return more meaning: when, in the present day, Thor and his wife had an amorous relationship, was it because they had repaired their broken marriage, or was it that they had found a whole new life to build from that one failed romance?
Read the rest of my review of Thor: The Mighty Avenger here.
Photo: Courtesy Marvel Comics