Comic covers are a wondrous art. They most often serve two diverging roles. One type of cover seeks to encapsulate a book. Literalist covers highlight a distinct moment in the comic. Other similar covers aim to capture the spirit of their specific issue, extend the styling or themes within through representational or abstract means.
Then there are covers that are wildly tangential. These covers upend the content inside the actual comic. By going beyond the confines of an issue, this variety of cover amends the meaning of the single issue with it’s own unique images and ideas. This offbeat strand of cover is a surprisingly effective method of entry for Big Two superheroes—characters so reduced to essentials but ever open to reconsideration and reinterpretation.
This front for “Thor: For Asgard #1” is a weird amalgam of these two approaches to covers. Mjollnir, Thor’s hammer, dominates the image. The weapon defines the foreground, its edges sharply contrasted with Thor’s body. More than that, its upright handle appears exceptionally… ribbed? Do I really need to spell it out people? It’s emanating lighting for Odin’s sake– and do look where the lightning begins!
At first glance, the cover, by Simone Bianchi, seems wildly irreverent. It is a disruptive image so free and forceful that your eyes are bound to be drawn to it at your comic store. What separates this eye-grabbing Thor cover from others of its ilk is that it is wholly appropriate. “Thor: For Asgard” recounts a tale from the dark days of Asgard. Odin is gone and his son is acting as regent. Asgard is trapped in a perpetual winter that risks destroying the supply of golden apples that sustain the Norse gods and keep them immortal. The entire issue consists of Thor shoring up his masculinity in the face of his father’s absence and godly in fighting.
Writer Robert Rodi brings things to an all too appropriate end. Thor is stirred from his sleep by Lady Sif, who confronted him and Tyr earlier in the issue. She comforts him with pointed bedchamber philosophy:
“…such things are never to be discussed with heads on pillows. Here, there is no Tyr, no rebel nations, no endless winter, no Asgard. There is only we two… nameless and without history… a man and a woman…lost in love.”
Rawr. I do love me some pseudo-Norse pillow talk. What follows is a wordless three-page sequence. Thor wakes, roams the empty halls of his palace, and enters a room where Mjollnir stands fixed on a pedestal. He grabs hold of the hammer and in a classic sword in the stone styled moment, tries to raise the magic hammer from its place. Bianchi owns the scene, drawing Thor thick with shadows, his hair a billowing mass. Despite all his exertions, Thor cannot lift the hammer. So while Thor asserts himself among his fellow gods and even satisfies his sexual desires, he is unable to stake his rule through this figurative act. We are left with a failure of mythic manhood. The cover is both companion and witty counterpoint to this conclusion. It indulges in the resounding impotence felt in the ending with an image of hysterical virility. The cover’s magic hammer might be pulsating with electricity but it’s still sheathed in ice.
Tagged: cover art · Simone Bianchi · Thor
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