I have followed the Thor series off and on since encountering it as a kid back in the late 60's, but I was quite stunned to see this shockingly offbeat, but utterly engrossing, take on the Thor universe from Marvel's "mature" imprint, Max. This series is as graphic in its depiction of violence as I've ever seen from a mainstream publisher and even underground grue legend S. Clay Wilson will feel like he's been outdone in some areas ! But no matter how over-the-top the violence is, it's integral to the storyline, in which a boatload of Undead vikings arrives in NYC to loot, rape, and murder to their heart's content. Thor's initial encounter with Jaeckelson, the viking leader, is memorable in its brutality and leaves the reader feeling like they've been punched in the stomach. The ensuing chapters detail Thor's collaboration with other Marvel universe heroes, and their efforts to defeat the onslaught. They also introduce some memorable new characters that I, for one, would like to see appearing in a sequel (?) at one time or another.
Glenn Fabry's artwork, while sometimes a bit awkward in rendering human forms in action, succeeds quite well in capturing the apocalyptic tone of the story. Whether focusing on up-close action involving hand-to-hand combat, or aerial battles that offer a relatively drastic change in perspective, the immediacy of the struggle between Thor and his adversaries is effectively communicated without being so cluttered or self-consciously "artistic" that the reader is left peering at the page and trying to puzzle out exactly what's happening. In light of how pervasive the cartoony, expressionistic style of comic art is nowadays, Fabry's straightforward, realistic draftsmanship is exactly what's required to give Ennis's plot the graphic intensity it needs.
Forget the overwrought, encrusted, heavy-handed melodrama so typical of much of Marvel's output over the past two decades. Thor: Vikings is an unadorned battle between good and evil and never shies from revealing how violent and cruel such a primeval conflict can be. The intensity of the conflict is relieved every now and then by some black humor, but upon finishing the book there was no avoiding the feeling that I'd just been treated to the Battle Royale of the Marvel universe.