Beta Ray Bill #1

by Nick Devonald on March 29, 2021

Writer: Daniel Warren Johnson
Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colours: Mike Spicer
Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino with Daniel Warren Johnson

This Beta Ray Bill mini-series really focuses on Bill’s character and getting to the bottom of what makes him tick. While he’s appeared frequently as a supporting character in recent years, especially in Donny Cates’ work, there hasn’t been too much time spent on actually understanding Bill or developing his character. Using recent events in Thor, where Stormbreaker was shattered, gives us a good starting point for understanding Bill. Similar to Thor and Mjolnir, a big part of Bill's mythos revolves around his legendary weapon Stormbreaker. Without Stormbreaker who is Beta Ray Bill? That’s what this mini-series aims to find out.

The first issue focuses on Bill rallying the forces of Asgard to repel an attack from Knull’s army, whilst also giving us flashbacks to Bill as a child when he was chosen to be transformed into the more familiar horse-like cyborg that fans know. It’s an interesting look back at his history and how he became the hero we know today. Daniel Warren Johnson understands that Bill has always existed in Thor’s shadow, and this issue really highlights that. It goes to great lengths to show us the impact that this has on Bill. He’s currently feeling lost, more aware than ever of his failures, and needs to find himself. That’s the premise for the series going forward and it’s quite an exciting one.

The art is also from Daniel Warren Johnson which gives us a story that is just one creative vision, rather than an interpretation or collaboration between an artist and a writer. What readers are seeing on the page is exactly what Johnson has visualised in his story. It's always a nice touch. The story is littered with comic sound effects, BOOMs, FOOMs and POOMs are used liberally throughout which goes a long way to helping the readers hear the battles in their minds. Where Johnson’s art really works well though is capturing the dejected look on Bills face throughout the story as he reels from failure to disappointment.

This first issue offers readers an intriguing premise, the opportunity to delve deep into one of Marvels more mysterious characters, the titular Beta Ray Bill, as he goes on a quest to find himself. Forever in Thor’s shadow, defined by his now destroyed weapon Stormbreaker, no longer able to transform back into humanoid form, what is next for our hero? That’s what the series aims to discover. By having the story written and drawn by Johnson means that readers are getting exactly the story that he’s visualised.

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