This review of ‘The Mighty Thor: At the Gates of Valhalla’ contains spoilers.
By Brandy Dykhuizen. Jason Aaron created quite an act to follow for himself with that last emotional roller coaster we like to call “The Death of the Mighty Thor”. Still somewhat recovering from a few of the final scenes in The Mighty Thor #706, I was equal parts curious, excited and tentative to get my hands on the next installment. And I have to admit, it took a hot minute for me to get past the sudden (but wholly necessary) shift in tone. But once you are ready to trade in a dirge for a troll-smiting hop, At the Gates of Valhalla hits the right notes.
Aaron brings back Frigg, Ellisiv and Atli, Thor’s granddaughters, each with the appropriate level of arrogance and enthusiasm to shoulder this epilogue entry in the Goddess of Thunder legend. Headstrong as any good Asgardian, they break into a chest of time diamonds and embark on a thoroughly enjoyable jaunt through Thor’s timeline in search of the one particular version of the Thunder God that sends them into a fangirl swoon.
In the journey’s montage, they encounter a prehistoric Starbrand and Ghost Rider, various versions of Odin, Thor and Loki, and even Throg (!!!). It’s a cutesie, fan-pleasing few pages that brings back familiar faces and reestablishes the dynamic between these three sisters. It even culminates in a heart-warming moment with Jane Foster before things get dark. Real dark.
We should only expect the unspeakable from Malekith, and Aaron delivers. Much like the sisters ran into several heroes in the first half of the book, the latter half is chock-full of baddies as Aaron (with artist Ramón Pérez) takes us through a tour of the realms and all the new miseries therein. It is a stark, almost jolting contrast to the earlier pages, which had an ebullient life thanks to Jen Bartel’s efforts. While the first half appears to be fitting it all in for fun, the latter portion of the book sets the stage for the upcoming War of Realms. One wonders if a better balance could have been achieved between the seemingly superfluous and the imperatively expository.
The upside of this severe contrast is that we get to enjoy the art of two fantastic artists, well-paired with their respective stories. Bartel captures both the toughness, silliness and snarkiness of Thor’s granddaughters in a way that makes you want to fly through time with them, picking battles alongside a group of young women who are simultaneously no-nonsense and nothing but nonsense. Pérez taps into the unique grace Malekith upholds alongside unapologetic and unfettered evil.
One thing that’s clear in this Aaron/Bartel/Pérez group effort: Valhalla’s gates will swing open in a warm welcome for at least a few of Odin’s fiercest warriors. We can only hope that the War of Realms spares the three sisters long enough for them to conquer the foes from Svartalfheim and beyond, and for Jane Foster’s Thor not to have died in vain. Until then, ‘At the Gates of Valhalla’ is a lovely epilogue issue, one that lets us say goodbye to a hero while preparing us for the skirmish to come. Huzzah for Smiting!
Written by Jason Aaron.
Art by Jen Bartel and Ramón Pérez.
Colored by Matthew Wilson.
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino.
8 out of 10