Marvel, 32 pages, $ 3.99
The current Thor series by writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Olivier Coipel has been extremely successful since its launch in 2007, but also something less than monthly—in the last two years, only 15 issues have come out. To fill the resulting gaps in the schedule and make at least a little bit of money on the character’s newfound popularity when the regular series fails to show up, Marvel started to commission a slew of one-shots and miniseries last year. Most of them have been written by Matt Fraction, now it’s Peter Milligan’s turn.
The Trial of Thor, the first of two one-shots written by Mr. Milligan, starts out well. While Asgard is in a prolonged war with the Frost Giants (is it ever not?), with blood raining down on Earth and all that jazz, Thor is accused of walking around and killing and raping his own people, and generally behaving like he’s some sort of Viking prince. His father Odin and his friends, Balder the Brave and the Warriors Three, find this kind of behavior completely unacceptable, of course, and begin to investigate the allegations—which are delicate for a number of reasons, not least because Thor’s aid in the war is crucial.
And, as it turns out, there’s not the shadow of a doubt that Thor is, indeed, the perpetrator.
It’s a sound idea for a 32-page story, and the creators pull no punches in the way they set us up for the inevitable thunderstorm that is to follow, no doubt, when Thor stands trial for his crimes. Except it never comes. Remarkably, there is no trial of Thor in The Trial of Thor.
For 22 pages, Mr. Milligan slowly prepares the ground for an intriguing character study, and then it just falls apart completely. Thor, just like that, has a sudden “epiphany,” turns around, goes back home, uncovers the lame and contrived deception, and resolves the situation by beating the villains up with his hammer.
The story never makes good on the promise of the first few pages, there’s no dramatic turning point, and the conclusion is a rushed deus-ex-machina ploy that’s not even very clever. I’ve read better Peter Milligan stories.