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Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson
Written and illustrated by Walter Simonson
Additional inks by Terry Austin and Bob Wiacek
Published by Marvel Comics

Along with DC's Manhunter and Orion, Thor certainly represents a highwater mark of Walter Simonson's career.

This volume reprints 12 issues of continuity (issues #337-348), starting with a bang right in chapter one. Re-reading these stories for the first time in many years really reminded me of what a thrill it was to pick this title up monthly back in the early 1980s.

The story begins with Nick Fury recruiting Thor to confront a cosmic menace fast approaching Earth. By the end of this chapter, which was Simonson's first issue, the hammer has been passed on to another (Beta Ray Bill), and Don Blake is left stranded on Midgard, crying to the heavens for Odin to fix this disastrous turn of events.

As a teenager, it was compelling, gripping storytelling. As an adult reader, I can't help but revel in the clear, joyous storytelling, as Simonson digs into a tale he'd been waiting years to unveil. And yeah, it's as compelling as ever.

Simonson integrates a bunch of elements here; Beta Ray Bill, Nick Fury, questions about Thor's secret identity (soon to be resolved with the groundbreaking elimination of Don Blake), and the fanboy-tickling question of "What if someone else was worthy enough to carry Thor's hammer?"

The great thing about this enormous volume is, this storyline is only one of the three represented here. Each is epic in scope, utterly entertaining, and a fine example of one of the most gifted storytellers in the history of the medium really stretching his writer/artist muscles in ways readers had never seem him do before.

Simonson has a deep interest in the real-world mythology that inspired Lee and Kirby's Thor, and that interest adds a depth and verisimilitude to these issues that is rare in superhero comics. It deepens the reading experience without sacrificing the entertainment value at all.

While I think Simonson is his own best inker, it must be said Austin and Wiacek are two of the few inkers capable of complementing his pencils, and luckily, they are both present here. Simonson inks most of the stories himself, though, it should be noted.

Never before, and never since, had Thor been as interesting a character, and as much fun to read, as he was under the stweardship of Walter Simonson. From the delightful storytelling to the outstanding art and craft on display here, there's something for just about any reader to appreciate. Grade: 5/5

-- Alan David Doane

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