Today’s Super Comic — Thor #337 (1983)

Writer/Artist Walt Simonson had a legendary run on Thor…and I confess I’ve read only a couple random issues of it. I know! Shame on me! And I call myself a Marvel fan!

To be honest, I’ve always liked Thor more as the Avengers’ tank than as a solo character, so I’m not well-versed in his series. But since I’ve been correcting some of my oversights lately, I figured I’d take a look at the first Simonson issue, Thor #337, in Marvel Unlimited.

And yeah, this is a strong start—definitely makes the case that I’ve been missing out.

The high concept is wonderful: What if someone else was worthy of wielding Thor’s hammer?

The cover gives it away. Yes, there is another. An alien, in fact. An alien named Bill—Beta Ray Bill, that is.

Simonson is just as strong on the art as he is on the story. He brings a dynamic style that’s in the vein of Thor’s original artist, the late great Jack Kirby, but there’s no mimicry here. Simonson achieves his own distinctive flair. (“Beta Ray Bill” is a pretty Kirby-esque name, too, come to think of it.)

The cliffhanger works great, too, leaving Thor in genuine peril, his fate uncertain. (Well, as uncertain as a title character’s fate can be, I suppose.)

I may have to check out some more.

Writer/Artist: Walter Simonson

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Thor by Walter Simonson Volume 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — X-Factor #13 (1986)

x-factor_vol_1_13Comics have been playing the nostalgia card for a long time. The first X-Men spinoff series to reunite the original five members was the original X-Factor in the mid-80s. It was fun from the start, as it’s always enjoyable to see these five X-Men together, but the initial premise had some major problems.

Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and the recently resurrected Jean Grey (then Marvel Girl for the last time) were posing as specially trained humans who hunted mutants. Their marketing was anti-mutant to the point of contributing to the public’s fears, but of course, instead of “capturing” their targets, they were actually saving and training them. Still, not the most well-thought-out plan.

And then there was the fact that at this time, Cyclops was creepily married to a woman who looked exactly like dead former lover, and he had a son with this woman, but when he learns his dead former lover is no longer dead, he skips out on his wife and kid to join a team with her. Scott has never been more of a jerk, and that’s saying something.

But soon, to save the book from itself, the wife-and-husband creative team of writer Louise Simonson and artist Walter Simonson took over the title, and they began to rectify these foundational problems. By issue #13, characters are already getting some comeuppance for their bad judgment.

Millionaire Warren Worthington III, who is publicly known to be the winged mutant Angel, has been outed as the financial benefactor of the mutant-hunting organization, which raises some questions. And Cyclops finally returns home to his wife and child…only to find them missing, with hardly a trace they ever even existed, while the evil giant robot Master Mold is on a warpath toward him. (Not really enough comeuppance for Cyclops.)

There’s also the whole Scott/Jean/Warren romantic triangle thing going on. You know it’s not the ‘60s anymore, because the triangle has an extramarital element this time around. (So maybe it’s a square?)

It’s the X-Men at their most ridiculously soap operatic, but damn if it isn’t fun.

Writer: Louise Simonson

Artist: Walter Simonson

Inker: Dan Green

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; included in Essential X-Factor vol. 1 (HC)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up