Like many comics fans, all I know about Beta Ray Bill is that he’s a horse-faced alien with the powers of Thor, and that if that doesn’t sell you on the character, then you aren’t ready to read a comic where he’s the star.
burbs the free download Of course, the problem for those of us that ARE ready is that the character very rarely outdoes the promise of the one-line concept. Everyone likes it when he shows up to the party because, hey, the horse-faced Thor-alien is here! Let’s all have a good laugh! But the next morning, it’s a different story. The mute shame. The awkward glances. Bill, for his sins, slopes off back into obscurity, waiting to be wheeled out the next time someone wants to have The Surrogate Thor beaten up, or laughed at. He’s not the sort of character that sustains long-term interest.
And so it falls to Kieron Gillen to take Bill and tell a story that makes us buy him as an ongoing, solo concern. In this one-shot, he’s not a stand-in for an unavailable Thor. He’s not being asked to take a dive so we know that the villain-of-the-week is powerful threat to the REAL Thor. He’s not even being used purely for horse-faced Thor-alien wackiness. He’s actually starring. In his own comic. In a story about him.
Since Bill represents a bizarre melding of the theological and scientific, writer Kieron Gillen has turned in a story that does the same, placing scripture alongside space-opera as Bill fights a group of renegade Skrulls who have rejected their god in favour of following him. It does directly follow up plot threads from Secret Invasion (thus justifying the issue’s ludicrously long title) and at the same time, it manages to put Bill on his own path, suggesting a future direction for the character. Not too shabby for a 22-page story. Critics of decompression, take note: this is the sort of comic you’re looking for.
As good as Brereton’s artwork is, managing to flick effortlessly between depicting grandiose sci-fi one moment, and squeezing expression out of Bill’s static features the next, the issue’s true strength is in Gillen’s text. From the excerpts of scripture to the dialogue, about 90% of this book is best experienced when read aloud in a booming, ostentatious voice. You can tell it was fun to write, and that makes it fun to read. It’s a wordy comic, there’s no denying that, but not in a way that makes it feel slow-moving or over-expository. If anything, the density of ideas actually goes some way towards (yes, we’re going there
again) justifying the price tag, which is something that every $3.99 comic absolutely must strive to do.
Certainly, if you pick up Secret Invasion Aftermath: Beta Ray Bill: The Green of Eden
purely looking for some wacky horse-faced Thor-alien good times, you won’t be disappointed. All the elements that ever made the character funny are in there, even Skuttlebutt, a character that’s just begging to be killed if only so he can be renamed when he comes back to life. However, against expectations, you might also find yourself enjoying it more seriously. For a change, Bill is being allowed to grow as a character, and in this story he takes on an almost Silver Surfer-esque quality, particularly in the closing scenes. If, for that to work, we have to lose Bill’s status as the Wacky Thor, then the best thing I can say about this comic is that it makes me believe that the trade-off is actually worth it.