Saturday, August 4, 2012

Goldilocks and the Dude

Goldilocks, in the swinging 60s parlance of early Marvel comics, of course means the Mighty Thor, God of Thunder. Extracted lovingly from Norse mythology by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, he's the superman you can drink with, and a staple of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, the Avengers.

The Dude, a living mortal whose mythos intertwines with that of his comic creation, Nexus, is artist Steve Rude. Throughout the 80s and 90s, he and writer Mike Baron enraptured readers with the hero's adventures on the pastel planet of Ylum. Known for exceptionally clean lines and masterful, detailed layouts, the Dude teamed with scribe Kurt Busiek (Marvels) in 2001 to forge the The Mighty Thor: Godstorm, an anthology of sorts, presented in three prestige-format issues (comics without ads).

Clean, masterful and detailed only begin describing this labor of love. Godstorm is meticulously styled after the Tales of Asgard backup stories that ran in Journey into Mystery during the 60s. Jack Kirby, an artist capable of dense, action-filled pages or spacious, four-panel layouts, used the latter here to emphasize the Asgardians' grandeur. Vince Colletta inked Kirby's pencils with his always fine lines, giving Tales the feel of an alien tapestry.

Busiek and Rude present Godstorm as tales told by an old Norseman to two young boys (who remind us of Thor and his half-brother Loki), giving the series a swashbuckling, anything-can-happen spice that made Marvel's first decade so enthralling. As the old man waxes dramatic on past events, he astounds the boys by rolling some runesticks and also describing Thor's future adventures with the Avengers in New York.

New York, that is, in the 1960s. This further layer to the homage is beautifully done, and that Busiek does it so readily is one of many reasons to revere him. To Thor, about to attack the villain, Janet says, "Strike away, Handsome! But leave something for the winsome Wasp to clean up." Iron Man replies, "Are we planning to talk him into unconsciousness, Avengers- or are we ready to take him?" Thor, Odin, and the rest of Asgard thankfully speak in light Shakespearean, which isn't done consistently (or very well) in current comics.

The Dude's art is stunning. He's one of the only draftsman who can include motion lines, following Captain America's shield for example, without them cheapening the action. All of his figures are lithesome (except Volstagg the Voluminous), and his Asgardian armor is all that Kirby intended: they look like Aztec space insects.

Thor: Godstorm exists as a hardcover graphic novel. For space reasons, I myself have a "no hardcovers" rule. Then again, for Busiek and Rude's belated kiss goodnight to an era, I'd probably make an exception.

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