Beta Ray Bill One – a cult favourite from the world of Thor returns in Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star by current fan-favourite and Eisner nominee Daniel Warren Johnson. Beta Ray Bill is tired of life in Thor’s shadow — and with Bill’s famous hammer, Stormbreaker, recently destroyed at the thunder god’s hands, Bill finds himself at a crossroads. The Korbinite must strike out in search of his destiny… assuming he can first defeat a Knullified Fin Fang Foom! Bill begins a hunt for Odin in hopes of resurrecting his golden weapon — but Stormbreaker is never coming back. Nonetheless, there is one place where Beta Ray Bill could restore his full powers. The All-Father of Nothing offers the Korbinite a path to immortality — but at a price not even a god can afford! Who will join him on a dangerous and deadly cosmic quest?
From both a writing and artistic standpoint, Johnson is one of the best talents working in comics today. His Eisner nominated series Extremity from Image was a big hit, and his recent Wonder Woman series for DC’s Black Label imprint was also very well received and won him several new fans. Now he has an opportunity to showcase his talents with Marvel, and Beta Ray Bill is the perfect character for him to delve into.
Despite being an alien wielding an Asgardian weapon, Bill has always had a level of relatability that many cosmic and Asgardian characters don’t have. Part of a dying race of aliens, he has often found himself in dire situations but nevertheless remained determined and strong willed. It was his honour and strength of character that led to Odin creating Stormbreaker for him to wield after he voluntarily gave up Mjolnir which he won from Thor. But Johnson presents a Bill whose confidence has been severely dented. His once firm friendship with Thor has been greatly strained following Thor’s time as a herald of Galactus (who was responsible for the destruction of Bill’s home world and many of his species), and their subsequent clash led to Thor destroying Stormbreaker.
Johnson uses this situation to take Bill on a spiritual journey of discovery and reaffirm his identity. In his new role as a Guardian of Asgard, much is expected of him. But without Stormbreaker, he is constantly questioning his worth and – given the importance of power in Asgard – whether he is worthy of his position. This is very much a rise from the ashes style of story which Johnson also uses to examine the pitfalls of pride and reliance on masculinity in a highly effective way. Bill’s journey through his past provides a terrific character study and growth as he discovers he is still worthy of his role despite not possessing all Thor’s attributes.
The art is also a big factor in this series’ appeal. Johnson’s art has always stood out from the crowd, but this series takes his style to another level. He excels in the action sequences, with a hint of manga influence shining through and every panel has an insane level of detail. There is a strong degree of pathos that runs through the comic and the art is key to how well it is conveyed.
This series is perfect for both Thor and Daniel Warren Johnson fans. Anyone looking for a strong character study in their superhero comics should also definitely give it a look.
Beta Ray Bill: Argent Star is out now from Marvel (9781302928124, p/b, £13.50)
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