Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is a comic book artifact made real. It’s the issue that the Minotaur gives Thor to read, an issue that—with the help of Enchantress and Skurge the Executioner—will rewrite Thor’s existence to better synergize with the Roxxon Corporation’s corporate goals. As part of Al Ewing‘s ongoing Immortal Thor story, Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is a crucial look at a core theme, what corporately-owned comics and other mass media could do—or is it, have done—to how we tell stories. And within these pages, Ewing makes the case for why that is a vitally important thing to consider.

To focus on the plot of Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is to miss the point. Like most of the rest of the issue, the narrative is artifice laying bare the basic structure of the superhero genre: the hero encounters a problem and seeks advice and aid from mentors and allies. Then, using the assistance and knowledge he has acquired, the hero quells the threat to the status quo. In this case, environmentalists prodded by Loki into challenging Roxxon’s disastrous environmental practices fill the role.

The issue leans into all comics’ most dated impulses. Ewing draws attention to the intrusiveness of location/dateline captions and asterisks pointing readers toward additional stories for further explanation by deliberately overusing them and often including redundant information or the words “location” and “dateline.” There’s overwrought dialog, product placement, and even ads for the Roxxon Corporation itself, with a hagiographic retelling of its corporate history, and Roxxon’s Microtransactions War video game, which speak to how these are not necessarily comics-specific issues that Ewing is harping on, but issues of mass media narratives.

Ewing lays it on thick, and Greg Land‘s artwork has never felt more appropriate to the tone of a comic book story. Land’s airbrushed, lad-mag-cover-model rendition of Amora and Thor’s empty-headed grin are right at home in this world where corporate homogenization has reached its end state.

What elevates Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 from mere parody to cogent criticism are moments like the sequence in the middle of the issue where Thor seeks advice from the Minotaur who, in this world, is about as handsome as one can imagine a bull-man to be and a far cry from the creature with a skull for a face that is Dario Agger in the actual Marvel Universe. In the scene, the Minotaur expresses a quality-over-quantity mentality to justify Roxxon’s policies of environmental destruction. “Call me a sentimental fool, thunder god – but darn it, I won’t give up on a better world… just because it’s a hotter one.”

What’s chilling about this scene is that the dialogue is only slightly heightened from a standard, emotionally loaded superhero call to action, and when put like this and in the mouth of characters that the narrative suggests are good-natured and heroic—even with all of the clear contrivances and satire surrounding it—it sounds not unreasonable when read uncritically. It makes one stop to wonder what other messages we may have been passively ingesting over the years.

A criticism that formed early in my mind of Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is that it makes no sense for Minotaur to include such blatantly satirical content in a comic that he’s showing to his enemy to ensorcle the God of Thunder. But then, in another chilling moment, the comic switches back to the narrative of Immortal Thor, where it left off. The Minotaur explains through his skull-laden facade facing toward the reader that this is all part of the plan. If Roxxon laughs at itself, it’s in on the joke, and whatever criticisms its opponents may throw at them are blunted. It’s just your corporate friend laughing with you. And don’t friends laugh together at their mistakes all of the time?

Stepping back here, it makes sense that there are some slight jabs in the direction of Marvel Studios and Disney’s corporate integration of Marvel Comics characters and their stories across media and merchandising opportunities mixed in with the swipes at Elon Musk’s Cybertruck and tech-bro culture in general. It’s almost funny enough to make you forget that Marvel Comics tried to publish Avengers: Start Your N.G.E.N.S!, a comic produced in partnership with arms manufacturer Northrop Grumman that would have introduced the heroic Northrop Grumman’s Elite Nexus team of super-scientists, an issue that—had Marvel not scrapped plans for the partnership following fan backlash—would almost certainly have been the sincere, straight-faced version of what Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is presenting here as absurdity.

I’m always skeptical of critical calls coming from inside the corporate house. How much of Roxxon Presents: Thor #1 is Ewing getting away with something, and how much of it is the Disney corporation laughing to take the edge off? It’s impossible to know, but when it’s this well-crafted, I’m willing to call even blurring the lines a victory.

Published by Marvel Comics

On April 17, 2024

Written by Al Ewing

Art by Greg Land and Jay Leisten

Colors by Frank D’Armata

Letters by Joe Sabino

Cover by Greg Land and Frank D’Armata

0comments Al Ewing teams with Greg Land to make an Immortal Thor artifact real.  Read More