BTFT: Fun Times with Thor and the Bible

A column article, Bin There Found That by: Chris Wunderlich

This week, I’ll be reviewing trades. These might not always be easy to find cheap, but look in the right places and you can be surprised. Half price book stores, the forgotten corner of your local comic shop—even big chains can provide deals if you’re lucky.

Yes, most of my Chris Ware, Chester Brown and books from First Second have come from Canadian retail chains like Chapters or Indigo. Shocked? I know I was, but being in the right place at the right time makes all the difference. You never know what you’ll find or where you’ll find it.

The following trades were purchase for less than half of their cover price. No, this isn’t the dollar bin, but it’s cheaper than usual comics—and I’m all over that.

Marvel, Thor: The Mighty Avenger digests 1 & 2, written by Roger Langridge, drawn by Chris Samnee, 2010-2011

 

I love Roger Langridge. If you didn’t read his Muppets comics, you should; they’re brilliant. He’s the kind of writer/artist that you can rely on to bring the fun. When I heard he was writing a Thor comic, I flipped. And pairing Langridge’s words with Chris Samnee’s pictures? How perfect! Of course, I was also broke at the time and never got to support this short-lived, critically loved and criminally cancelled series.

When I finally found this series for cheap, I felt like I could finally exhale. Everyone told me this series was great and I could finally find out what all the hype was about. Good news everybody, this series exceeded my every expectation.

The story is simple enough. Jane, our POV everywoman goes about her relatively normal, career-focused, unlucky-in-love day-to-day routine until Thor comes crashing into her life. He’s been banished to Earth and he doesn’t know why. They fall in love. It’s accessible, requiring no previous knowledge of anything comic book and delightful on every level. This is the kind of “oh, you like superheroes?” book that could be given to anyone with at least a passing interest in reading.

Langridge also cleverly places young versions of Marvel’s classic roster in guest appearances. Namor is hot-headed and na├»ve, Ant-Man and Wasp are cute and in-love, and Iron Man is completely baggage-free. The villains are perfectly portrayed as well, balancing the outright evil of Mr. Hyde with the mystery of Mr. K.  Best in show has to go to The Warriors Three, though. When these guys show up, it’s touching, funny and pure comic magic.

I haven’t even mentioned the beauty of Chris Samnee’s art yet. I can’t picture a better artist for the job. Samnee is one of the best in the business (and the Eisner’s agree) and this is a perfect showcase for his work. It’s filled with emotion, expression, heart and action. It’s dynamic, moody, cartoonish yet detailed. It’s just … amazing really. Even in the digest size of these trades (boo!) Samnee’s art shines.

With classic action packed Marvel moments, Disney-esque romance, perfectly paced plot, a compelling mystery and well written dialogue, this series has it all—in spades! It’s the best Thor book I’ve ever read and the fact that we’ll never see new issues … it’s a crime.

Metron Press, Testament, written by Jim Krueger, drawn by Steve Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Bo Hampton, Kent Williams, Sergio Aragones, Rudy Nebres, Teddy Kristiansen, Vince Locke, John Van Fleet, Ray Lago, Scott Hampton, Phil Hester, Zach Howard, Bill Koeb, Greg Spalenka, Yvonne Gilbert, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jason Alexander, and Mark Texeira (hope I didn’t forget anyone), 2003

Go read that list of creators again. Right, that’s why I bought this book. I found it, standing all alone, bent and rough in shape at the back of a used book store in the “Arts” section, wedged between two “sad clown” photography books. At first, I figured this was a cheap bible comic I could easily ignore. It’s called Testament, I figured I knew what to expect. Then I saw the Steve Rude cover. Then I read the credits. Then I bought the book.

Religious comics are tricky for me. I read the bible, I’m a Christian, but I don’t care for most Christian media. Music? No way. Television? Noooo. Movies, apologetics and most other literature? Not my forte. I’m a Christian who doesn’t like things made for Christians. Therefore, when I find something Bible-based that’s actually really great (Kyle Baker’s King David for example) I get really excited. Not so much because this is something Christian I can show my secular friends, but because this is something from the world of comics I can show everyone!

Testament is one of those books. I know plenty of people who wouldn’t bat an eye at Spiderman, but will read anything that revolves around Christianity (I understand, yet pity these people). They don’t know what a Sienkiewicz is, or an Aragones.  They could care less about the names Tommy Lee Edwards and Teddy Kristiansen. Of course, after reading Testament, these are names they likely won’t forget.

And it isn’t just the art. Jim Krueger writes this book. Yes, Jim-EarthX-Krueger. This guy got me hooked on the Marvel Universe. After reading his Earth/Universe/Paradise X series, I went out and explored every corner of the Marvel U I could. Every character was suddenly important—every back issue suddenly had weight. This guy did wonders for my young, impressionable brain, so I was very happy to see him at the helm of this book.

What we get is a retelling of the Old Testament. All the famous stuff is in there. I’m okay with that, but it would have been neat to see some lesser known tales too. You get your beginning, your Adam and Eve, Moses, Samson, Jonah, Job, David and more, each being rendered by a different artist.

Bookended by scenes from a modern day bar, these stories are told from the perspective of a bartender—an everyman who tells them in relatable, not-so preachy ways. This set-up is interesting, often referring to God as “The Storyteller”. As a comic book aficionado, this approach really resonated with me. Looking at the creation of the world and the anecdotes from the Old Testament as chapters in a story that’s being written to this day—it’s interesting. I imagine there are Christian and Jewish readers who may take issue with the formula, but for a guy like me, it works.

And that’s just it. This isn’t a preachy book aimed at telling the world that Christianity or Judaism is right and everyone else is wrong. It’s about seeing how the issues in the Old Testament aren’t so different from the issues of today. It’s about human nature. It doesn’t say “God is real because …” it says “Look at it this way for a second”.  This isn’t worship material, it’s contemplation material. Or at least, that’s what I got out of it.

If you don’t buy into the Bible, I still suggest giving this book a read. Even if the stories are all fiction to you, there’s gorgeous art to be seen and some interesting words to read. Let’s just look at those credits again:

Jim Krueger, Steve Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt, Bo Hampton, Kent Williams, Sergio Aragones, Rudy Nebres, Teddy Kristiansen, Vince Locke, John Van Fleet, Ray Lago, Scott Hampton, Phil Hester, Zach Howard, Bill Koeb, Greg Spalenka, Yvonne Gilbert, Tommy Lee Edwards, Jason Alexander, and Mark Texeira.

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