Thor Visionaries Walt Simonson Volume 3: written by Walt Simonson; illustrated by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema (1986; collected 2004): Walt Simonson’s great 1980’s run on The Mighty Thor continues here, with Simonson relinquishing the artistic reins to Marvel veteran Sal Buscema towards the end of this collection. Asgard’s succession crisis (Odin remains lost in battle with the Fire-Giant Surtur) supplies the overall arc here, as Loki schemes to become ruler of Asgard.

Simonson’s gift for light fantasy comes to the forefront in three issues about Thor’s transformation into, um, a frog. Loki’s magic, supercharged by Surtur’s abandoned sword, changes Thor into a frog to keep the Thunder God away from Asgard. But what a frog! The Thunderfrog has charming adventures with talking frogs, rats, and alligators in Central Park before we return to the crisis in Asgard.

Sal Buscema does a nice job of adapting his art to resemble Simonson’s without sacrificing his own strengths — he really was a solid pro. Thor mopes around a bit — this was the 1980’s, after all — but Simonson keeps moving the book away from angst into something much more Kirbyesque in its sometimes bizarre mix of myth and science fiction and superheroics.

At times, the dialogue seems like a prototype for how Joss Whedon would approach fantasy ten years later on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, an oddball mix of portent, contemporary idiom, bombast, and bombast-deflating insight. Recommended.

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