A recent review of Ragnarok claims that Walt Simonson, renowned for the most legendary run of Marvel's Thor, is riding the "nostalgia train to the bank." This seems like a harsh assessment, since any cursory glance of interviews with Simonson over the years would show that it's a love of Norse myths that made him bring Marvel's Thor to new heights, and that love existed well before he even discovered Marvel's Thor.
It's pretty evident in the second issue of Ragnarok, where Brynja Duskwalker and her band of Black Elf Assassins find a dead god who isn't really dead. Their mission — to kill him — goes horribly awry when he wakes up, prompting them all to attack. The entire issue is this dead god fighting these assassins.
I'm kind of in awe of Simonson here, as he effectively introduces a group of bit characters, but each one has a little bit of time devoted to him, at least visually, to show that Simonson didn't just make these things up on the fly. Every character, regardless of the size of the role, was considered and designed carefully. It's pretty amazing how much I as a reader got attached to some of them, and it's only been two issues in.
Still a master of visual storytelling, I'd argue that Simonson is better than ever. Storytelling to a creator is like a basketball player's jump shot — it's the last thing that goes away, even when things like draftsmanship, anatomy, and detail start to slip. But Simonson has somehow defied Father Time, since I really do think this Ragnarok has some of the best figure work and rendering he's ever done. How much of that is due to the fact that he's taking his time with the series (technically speaking, the issue is two weeks late), we can't really say, but quality is more important than timeliness, especially in this day and age where everything is collected and will be preserved for years.
Really complementing Simonson's artwork is Laura Martin's coloring. Using a limited palette of gold and blue, Martin evokes mood and knows when to make things pop out.
What's more, the characterization of the dead god (whose identity should be evident from the cover alone) shows just how different Ragnarok is from anything Simonson did at Marvel. More violent, more exacting, and more deliberate in his blows, the not-dead god who's definitely going to be our main character should show that Simonson is riding no such "nostalgia train."
I'm not saying the increased interest in Thor and all things Norse hasn't helped this series (or any others — there are Thor-related products popping up all over the place, including a Loki series from Boom!), or that Simonson being on Norse mythology isn't a draw, because of course it is. But that's as far as it goes. It's a draw, and no one is going to stay on this book because of nostalgia or an attachment to Simonson's Marvel work. Everyone reading this book will stay on it because of its quality, its engaging characters, and its masterful storytelling.
Thankfully, Ragnarok delivers.