The current Thor series by writer Donny Cates, artist Nic Klein, and color artist Matt Wilson has done a lot of examination into duality, a theme that continues in this week's Thor #9 (opens in new tab). As seen on the cover art by Olivier Coipel and Laura Martin, Thor #9 features the return of Thor's alter-ego, Donald Blake. But what does Donald Blake's return mean for Thor, who has been troubled by apocalyptic villains and a hammer that grows increasingly heavy?
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Nic Klein and Matt Wilson
Letters by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Cates and Klein do a terrific job portraying this information in a tight space. Many comic book readers know that at one point Thor could change into an unassuming doctor, but I think it's fair to say that most of the world knows Dr. Donald Blake as a name on a shirt that they'd like to see Chris Hemsworth take off. This reintroduction is then juxtaposed with a very interesting question – where does Donald Blake go when Thor is present? It's this question that sits at the heart of Thor #9.
These pages start off with Klein portraying Dr. Blake walking through a suburban neighborhood, waving to his neighbors, the only sense of trouble being the story arc's title, 'Prey,' on the sidewalk. Color artist Matt Wilson further hints at something less than perfect by giving these panels a golden wash that tilts ever slightly orange.
Writer Donny Cates uses purposefully flowery descriptions to build suspense in the reader. As Donald Blake strolls through his perfect suburbia, Cates' language matches the image, and you can't help but expect the rug to be pulled out from under you as you read it. The big reveal here is that Donald Blake resides in an artificial town at the heart of the World Tree, created and protected by Odin's magic. By tying in Odin's magic, Cates continues to build on the idea of the Asgardian throne as a heavy legacy for Thor who is new to his kingship, and when we catch up with Thor, we see him cracking under the pressure. Klein's character work shines here as Thor's wide-eyed expression really sells how fatigued he is When Thor struggles to lift Mjolnir, Loki notes the new king's fatigue. The use of Mjolnir's heaviness as a physical representation of the metaphorical weight of Thor's crown has been cleverly used throughout the series, but it takes on a more significant role here as Thor visits the realm where Donald Blake has been stored away.
When Thor visits Donald Blake's world, Nic Klein presents the panels in the same fashion as he does at the beginning of the issue. Only this time, something has gone terribly wrong. The amber coloring Matt Wilson provided to the earlier pages is now a burning crimson like the smoky haze of a wildfire. The second half of the comic reveals just what has happened, setting the board for upcoming issues.
By building on past themes and introducing a new challenge for its titular hero, Thor #9 arrives as one of the strongest issues in the series thus far. Donny Cates, Nic Klein, and Matt Wilson continue to explore Thor's history, both in-universe and on a meta-level, and they successfully bring Dr. Donald Blake back into the story without it feeling gimmicky.
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