4374407-thor2014005_dc11-0By Molly Jane Kremer. Now that the bombastic action of Thor’s first four issues has waned with the end of its storyline, we can look back and bask in the knowledge that the new Thor has been fully established as a righteous badass, and as a worthy and unique bearer of Mjolnir in her own right. As the beginning to a new storyline, this fifth issue feels like a quick but welcome breath between battles; Jason Aaron takes advantage of that extra room with strong character work, and to check in on the morose Odinson.

While this reader would have preferred seeing more of the new Thor (along the lines of that exhilarating second issue), we get a comic from Odinson’s point of view (“Odinson” being the name former-Thor now prefers to be called). While I understand it would have been extremely difficult to write a non-action-y, Thor-centric issue without revealing her identity (and I LOVE the suspense of not knowing who’s under that helmet, I really do), I just would rather have her comic – because this is her comic – revolve around her, and her experiences, a little more.

On the subject of Thor’s mystery identity, the first attempts to really suss out who exactly is under that new helmet occur in this comic. After much teasing and avoidance of the topic, two of the prime suspects (take a look at this cover to Thor #6 to see just how many ladies might be wielding Mjolnir) are ruled out, one by her own admission and the other by, well, standing next to the new Thor. (I’m glad to see that my personal guess still remains a possibility though…)

And speaking of ladies: though Thor didn’t get the central, major focus I so long for, all the chicas generally rule in this issue. (More superhero comics should put this much attention and care into keeping each and every female character interesting, multi-dimensional, and compelling.) The Lady Sif was certainly a welcome sight to see on these pages, as she really hasn’t appeared in much since her series Journey Into Mystery (excellently written and drawn by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti) was sadly cancelled. Thor #5 even passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors, with Thor and Freyja discussing how the hammer giveth and the hammer taketh away, and Thor and Titania talking about how it’s hard out there for a super-lady (before Thor knocks her out, because even girl power moments don’t excuse armed bank robbery, obvs).

thor__5_splash_page_by_zurdom-d8gs5rq - EditedEqually entertaining are Crusher Creel’s misogynistic comments to Thor a few pages previous, which read as though they were pulled straight from the darker comment threads of the internet (and who knows, maybe they were? Mr. Aaron seems to have that sort of wicked sense of humor): “Damn feminists are ruining everything!” and “Thor’s a dude. One of the last manly dudes still left. What’d you do, send him to sensitivity training so he’d stop calling earth girls ‘wenches’?” Which, of course, makes the inevitable crunch of Thor breaking his jaw with her bare hand that much more satisfying.

There’s little mention of the last storyline’s villains (which fits perfectly well in this issue’s “calm before the storm” feel), but we do see the return of one Cul Borson (remember, Odin’s brother, the God of Fear? The big bad from Fear Itself? Y’know, six – or was it seven? – crossover events ago? Oh, who can remember anymore). But if anyone can breath some life (or interest) into a throwaway, forgotten villain like Cul, it’s Aaron – so this reader isn’t worried.

Guest artist Jorge Molina has certainly taken a page or two from regular artist Russell Dauterman, and matches that style as closely as he can without losing his own. Molina’s particular style is gorgeous: His talent at composing an eye-catching cover is on display within these sequences, especially in that fight scene with Creel and Titania at the beginning of the issue. (That first double-page splash is so damn beautiful.) His structure, composition, and sense of movement are all top-notch, and his layouts impress throughout the entire issue.

THOR2014005-int2-2-9ce37 (1) - EditedMolina’s colors, too, are astounding. It’s surprising that an artist of this quality and calibre is also coloring his own art, and doing it this well. It has a very rendered and painterly look, reminiscent of animation cels, much like the fantastic coloring by Romain Gaschet currently found in the pages of DC’s Gotham Academy. His drawing technique matches the rest of his talents as well; Molina draws Thor with a lopsided, cocksure grin all too familiar from her male counterpart, and Freyja’s face is stern, austere and so very Nordic, befitting a Viking matriarch of her stature. And Molina seems to run with the Odinson’s new costume status quo as being… topless. (Plus the cape.) I never knew I’d enjoy seeing so much of Odinson’s hairy chest, but there you have it.

I can’t recall a recent superhero comic I’ve enjoyed this thoroughly and this consistently. So much energy and obvious love for each character moves within every page, and the engrossing mystery continues to simmer at its core, keeping the reader guessing at every turn. And while I can’t (yet) prove that it’s a certain S.H.I.E.L.D. agent underneath that helm (because it totally is), if Thor is this flawless while it has a “guest” artist, it certainly proves this comic is one of the very best currently on the stands.

Marvel Comics/$3.99

Written by Jason Aaron.

Art by Jorge Molina.

9 out of 10