In Fear Itself Matt Fraction has Thor admit that he could never defeat the Hulk. When asked in a recent interview whether this statement offered a resolution to the Hulk/Thor rivalry, a rivalry that has brought a considerable swathe of middle-aged western males to blows (albeit only on the internet, and anonymously), Fraction replied: "You tell me."
Asked to clarify a basic requirement of a coherent narrative (in this case, transparent character intention), Fraction instead demands that you, the reader, must instead tell him, the author, what he meant when he wrote what he did - a demand bravely obeyed by the aforementioned males: bedrooms and basements were locked, Thor costumes and Hulk hands were donned, little Mjolnirs were grasped tightly in sweaty hands, and battle was resumed against the old enemy. (Ok, so the field of battle was the internet, and the fight consisted of hurling anonymous insults at opposing fanboys. But let's not quibble).
Inspired by Fraction's brave rewriting of the laws of basic storytelling (if only earlier, lesser writers had displayed his genius, the history of western civilization might have taken a kinder, more nobler turn: Audience: "Hey Homer, why does Cassandra warn the citizens of Troy not to take in the wooden horse when she knows nobody believes a word she says?" Homer: "Hey, you tell me!"), inspired, I went out and bought issues 4 and 5 of Mighty Thor (yes, I paid the equivalent of a good novel for a ten minute read) in order to see what other insights into the craft of storytelling I might glean from this contemporary literary colossus.
Mighty Thor 4: Preamble. Mighty Thor 4 is the second worst comic book ever written. Its awfulness is so immense that, were it to manifest physically in our universe, it would collapse and create a black hole, destroying both ourselves and our quadrant of the Milky Way. But I digress.
Intro Page - "Yggdrasil - the World Tree - has been rendered in twain..." please note the usage of the word "twain", and not "two". By consciously using an archaic Middle English term, derived from the Old Saxon "twÄ“ne", itself derived from the Old High German "zwÄ“ne", which in turn can be linked to the Old Norse "tveir", the author clearly signals to us that he intends to use the tools of language to portray authentic, believable Norse characters. Bravo!
Our various protagonists then face off. Sif asks Thor why Odin and Galactus cannot simply destroy each other, so immense are they. Luckily Thor understands the difficulty of writing a coherent battle scene between two such powerful entities and cleverly informs the reader, whilst pretending to inform Sif, that "Omnipotence has its downside." What does this mean however? And how does this actually answer Sif's question? Hey, you tell me.
Thor then states "We are their cannon fodder, tis our job to distract Galactus..." (Note the "tis", the writer again using archaic syntax to illustrate Thor's noble, mythic character. A masterful, subtle brushstroke). Thor then ascertains that "cosmic demons summoned from the hands of Galactus will try to distract Odin." How does he know this? Where did he manage to decode the fighting methods of his 13 billion year old adversary? Hey, you tell me. Never mind, Thor is on the money, and performs his role of Plot Exposition perfectly.
Or it would be perfect if he didn't then go on to inform Sif that she should not be speculating about the intentions of Odin and Galactus in the upcoming battle because "tis not for the likes of you and I to comprehend." Not even a second "tis" can console me here. It's ok for Thor to magically ascertain that cosmic demons, bent on distraction, are racing from Galactus' hands, but Sif can damn well shut her mouth and cease her speculation because there is serious shit going down - shit that is clearly beyond her (immortal) purview.
By this stage of course we, the readers, are dying to know what these dastardly demons will do. Thor and Sif have kindly spent two pages on Plot Exposition and Building Tension. Thor bravely takes on the dual roles of knowing exactly what the demons will do and also of denying that he has the capacity to conceive of their intentions. He even uses "tis" three times to invest the scene with the necessary gravitas.
But back to the battle. What happens? Well, Odin and Galactus indulge in some telepathic mind games. Yes, these two omnipotent titans decide to engage battle using tactics that Professor X mastered when he was a teenager. I can just imagine Charles back at the mansion: â€œUnnerving your opponent using telepathic attacks, but that is soâ€¦. 1980sâ€.
After some to and fro, Odin screams in agony from Galactusâ€™ attack: â€œNO!! Bastard. Iâ€™ll kill you for that.â€ Clearly Odin didnâ€™t get the memo about â€œtwainâ€. And clearly despite Thorâ€™s thrice uttered â€œtisâ€, Odin doesnâ€™t wish to walk the heavy weighted path of gravitas, but instead wishes to look like a 10-year old schoolboy who has suddenly opened his lunchbox to find that his friends have placed a big, hairy spider inside. Is he meant to look so childish? Hey, you tell me.
Whilst this titanic anti-climax plays out, Surfer, ever one for philosophical speculation, not unreasonably asks why the Asgardians do not give up the World Seed, since it would sate Galactusâ€™ hunger and save the lives of trillions of people. Now Thor is a hero. In fact he is a Hero. The man is as selfless and as brave and as noble and as courageous as any character in the Marvel pantheon. He is a man who would sacrifice himself without compunction were it to save the life of one innocent person. His reply to this incisive, pithy moral dilemma posed to him? â€œOh shut upâ€. Clearly ethics was not a popular subject on the Norse curriculum, being better left to those pesky Greeks.
We thenâ€¦.noâ€¦waitâ€¦ I canâ€™t go onâ€¦ itâ€™s too painfulâ€¦ I havenâ€™t got to issue 5. Issue 5, whose prologue tells us that the mind games between Odin and Galactus last issue were â€œbeyond the comprehension of mortalsâ€. Note to author: â€œbeyond comprehensionâ€ does not mean â€œincomprehensibleâ€. I havenâ€™t even discussed the Head Butt of Doom that split the internet in two (or should that be â€œtwainâ€?). Will issue 6 sink to even lower levels? You tell me. For my part I. Have. Had. Enough.