Thor: Tales of Asgard
Written by Stan Lee
Penciled by Jack Kirby
Inked by George Roussos, Don Heck, Paul Reinman, Chic Stone, Vince Colletta & Bill Everett
Colored by Matt Milla
Lettered by Artie Simek & Sam Rosen
Published by Marvel Comics
If there’s one good thing about the upcoming Thor film (there may be more than one, but this particular one is the highlight so far as I’m concerned), it is the existence of this book. You see, back in the 60s, when Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with Thor, they devoted five or so pages in the back of their comic to short stories that were inspired directly from classical mythology, rather than fitting everything into an urban, superhero context. Tales of Asgard started as short “origin”-type stories, but quickly evolved into a multi-part, epic/quest serial.
Tales of Asgard also stands out as perhaps the highest point of the classic Marvel Comics era.
Stan Lee clearly had some of the most fun of his writing career on these scripts. The flourishes in his Norse dialogue (“Silence!! Hold your tongue in the Imperial Presence, Deceitful One!!”) are a blast, whether you take it as serious adventure or campish lark. Lee provides plenty of whimsy and humor throughout, while dreaming up scenarios that feel plucked from timeless myths – such as the stoney Dragon’s Jaws, which no ship has ever passed safely between, or Mogul’s forty demon warriors. The brevity of each installment keeps the plotting tight, with breakneck cliffhangers hurtling at readers every fifth page.
Aided by a bevy of inkers, most effectively Vince Colletta, Jack Kirby’s artwork is superb. Kirby’s bombastic layouts and ability to depict large-scale conflicts and panoramas fits the mythological vistas of Asgard. The new coloring causes the images to pop off the page, and Matt Milla showed more restraint than found many new comics where the color overwhelms the line art.
Classic comics, with good reproduction in a sturdy hardcover package – it’s a hard package to beat. Even more difficult due to the exceptional quality of Lee and Kirby’s storytelling. Thor: Tales of Asgard stands out as a book that any fan of classic Marvel Comics, or classic comics in general, needs to read.