Rick Remender’s title of Ragnarok Now proves quite apropos in this particular issue. Though the participants may not be Fenris nor Nidhogg, we still do have a Thor and the fate of Earth hanging in the balance. Eimin blocks Thor’s use of Jarnbjorn, the axe that can kill even a Celestial just as readily as Grim Reaper blocks Wasp from destroying the Tachyon Dam and allowing Immortus’ Avengers a path to the past to assist. If this all sounds like a lot of garbled nonsense well...you probably should go back a few issues, because it actually all holds together remarkably well. Remender has contextualized and set up these strange, incredible concepts fastidiously over the last several issues, going all the way back to the end of the first arc. There is a brutal efficiency to how much of this story is told in this short amount of space and how quickly everything comes together and falls apart. This issue, though...this issue does something else. This issue makes it clear that this is a different KIND of book and that you should just forget whatever continuity you thought you knew. Will some of these events bleed into other stories? Yes, we’ve already seen evidence of that, but...the WHEN isn’t really important and getting hung up on that will rob you of one amazing read.
Steve McNiven is positively on fire. Often a hyper-detailed artist falters near the end of a run, and while not all the issues have been perfect, McNiven has pulled out all the stops on his pencils for this issue and the level of detail, as well as the number of extraordinary close-ups and some of the most fluid, kinetic action. McNiven’s greatest strength has always been his widescreen, bombastic action and this issue is no exception. Jay Leisten calcifies everything with his inks, bringing clarity and filling in even more of the details of McNiven’s pencils while Laura Martin’s colors absolutely shine, with help from Justin Ponsor, Matt Milla and Larry Molinar and, like the rest of the work, the colors are truly a sight to behold. Even the panels with minimal backgrounds have such incredible, tiny touches that make them absolutely gorgeous, but with an incredible continuity of tone and appearance despite the four colorists.
So...something incredible happens in this book. Something massive and significant and...incredible really is the word. I’m not going to mention it because it’s not bad on its face, and whether or not it’s here to stay is immaterial, but in the immediate aftermath of it is one glaring error: Thor meets directly with Odin and doesn’t bat an eye despite the fact that we’re still in the era of the All-Mother and Asgardia. It’s extremely jarring to see him and not even have Thor acknowledge that it’s odd.
Forget continuity, forget the whys and whens and just imagine what the NEXT issue of this title is going to be. I have scarcely been more excited for a mainstream superhero book because before I didn’t know what was going to happen next, but I was sure it would all work out. Now I just don’t know what’s going to happen next.