I just finished reading issue #3 and it's another highly capable issue featuring Present-Day Thor's quest to find Gorr The God-Butcher. Here come the SPOILERS....
The issue opens with a gorgeous page showing Omnipotence City, basically a very magnificent clubhouse for all gods across the universe. No mortals could ever see this place, and it also is 12 billion years old, giving the impression that the Asgardian gods are quite young. Even though I saw this page in the previews, the sight was still quite stunning when I turned the first page. We then see Thor strolling through this massive complex speaking with the Librarian of Omnipotence City, searching for answers on a plethora of lost deities. The Librarian is quite crass with Thor but despite the sarcasm, takes him to a place called the "Hall of the Lost," which Thor has never seen before. Thor quickly starts rummaging through dusty old books and claims he wants to warn the Parliament of Pantheons across the cosmos about Gorr's vile trail of murders. The task is arduous, but Thor begins by opening books to find evidence as to what happened to these lost deities.
Thor traverses the universe and finds all types of gods in all sorts of settings left for dead. Two gods, a king and queen, were nailed to a tree in a lush forest in which they protected. He then discovers a rocky world where its immortal is face down in a pool of his own blood, with his unicorn/horse standing next to him. Thor visits all sorts of galactic locales--including beaches, caves, and frosty mountain ranges. Each setting features a deceased immortal who's been dead for more than 1,000 years. All with similar wounds and gruesomely, yet expertly, killed. There are two main themes to this trail of crime. Thor happens to find one of Gorr's sightless guard-dogs and kills each one, each time with more ferocity. The sight of deceased immortals is getting to him, with Thor's anger and sense of dread rising. The last scene where he finds a gargantuan being dead, and he finds a guard-dog on top, he destroys with particular rage, and we're treated to an ominous panel of Future King Thor in the midst of a bloody battle for survival with the endless horde of Gorr's hounds. The last guard dog seen killed by Thor, he decapitates it and starts yelling at its head, assuming it is an extension of Gorr himself. His rage has become great and the tension palpable as he screams Gorr's name, which is heard worlds away according to Thor's narration.
Then the story cuts to Young Cocky Thor who is startled out of recuperating slumber back in 9th Century Russia. His Norseman tells him he's been out for a week as his wounds were far more brutal than any mortal could withstand. Being the headstrong god he is, he quickly rises and demands some "meat, mead" and his axe, as he's itching for revenge. Thor gets dressed and walks into the freezing tundra of Russia alone for hours searching for Gorr, but he stumbles onto Hinkan, the Siberian god of the hunt. Hinkan is still alive despite being mutilated and warns Thor that Gorr is waiting for him in a cave and that Thor should not confront him alone. Thor shrugs off his advice but promises the Siberian god that he will butcher the God-Butcher for his honor. Before Thor leaves, Hinkan, I'm assuming, requests that Thor finish the job Gorr started so he may avoid any more suffering. Thor obliges.
We cut back to the present day, where Thor and Iron Man are flying near Lake Lodaga in Russia. Thor uses Tony's help in the form of his satellites to quickly locate the same cave that Young Thor ventured after two millenia prior. Tony asks Thor if he's sure that it's the right cave, and despite not being there for "1,000 years...give or take a few" Thor immediately knows it's the one based on the somewhat fearful look on his face. Thor wants to go in alone, but Tony notices the look of fear and asks him if he wants the Avengers' help. Thor says no but has Iron Man go to Olympus to warn the Olympian Gods of what Gorr is doing to immortals the universe over.
The next few panels show us both Present Day and Young Thor entering the cave. Young Thor enters seeking revenge and Present Day Thor enters cautiously into the dark, using a summoning stone to warn Freyja to put Asgard on high alert. Present Day Thor apparently thinks he slayed Gorr in this cave. The next page shows Young Thor's foray into the cave, bellowing out to Gorr that he wants to finish what they started. Gorr is happy to oblige as he uses his dark shadowy tentacles to ensnare Thor and drag him into the dark cave, both mad and vengeful that Thor actually hurt him. He promises Thor a slow, painful departure as Thor is struggling to get free. The scene cuts to Old King Thor fighting Gorr's army of guard dogs and suffering some wounds, but refusing to give in as the guard dogs begin to overwhelm him. It cuts back to Present Day Thor as he finds a being that looks like Gorr but in fact isn't. It's some type of god who is wounded and hiding in a place he figures Gorr would never look. This being also frightfully chastises Thor that Gorr is going on this murdeous rampage because of something Thor did in the past as a younger god.
The last two panels show Young Thor being dragged by Gorr, losing his axe in the process and yelling. Then we see Old King Thor's arm with Mjolnir limp, merely being held up by its strap on Thor's arm as the swath of guard dogs overwhelm him.
Gorr proclaims "All gods will scream by the time I am through (cut to Old King Thor). Down to the very last one."
Phew! This was a fantastic and beautifully illustrated issue. Esad Ribic shows us lush forests, beaches, mountain ranges, lakes, frozen tundras, caves and a billions-of-years-old universal palace of the gods. His attention to detail and his angles are a sight to behold. I'm also a huge fan of his storytelling with body language and facial expressions. Seeing as we're inside Thor's head as he's going through this, we're also seeing his reaction and motivation in every shot of him. Aaron's characterization of Thor is flat out perfect. I don't even think JMS, who's version of Thor I enjoyed, even approached this type of mature and complex take on Thor. I learn more and more about him in every issue that is released. What drives him, what angers him, what causes him fear and pain. Through Ribic's lush, majestic visuals and Aaron's superb storytelling and characterization, we're being treated to an epic story of fear and courage in the face of it. It's literally like watching a television mini-series and each page is a camera shot of what is happening. Ribic's pages are full of action and keep the eye busy, but are never cluttered. By telling this type of story, Aaron is expanding Thor's world with this cosmic crime story. Thor traveling through different areas of the universe is flat-out awesome and you can't help but take two or three extra looks at the previous page. This isn't about me being a Thor fanboy or homer or whatever, but this creative team and this story arc are both the cream of the crop of Marvel NOW! thus far. I cannot wait for the next issue, which I assume will focus on Old King Thor.