I don't think it takes the place of story pages.
Well, there are 21 pages of art, so it's a page down from the usual. Nevertheless, there is the unremarkable double page spread in addition to the wordless four page battle scenes.
For Ultimate Thor, I would have preferred a continuation of the "Hippy" version which Mark Millar introduced in the original Ultimates volumes. One of the attractions of THAT version was that no one was ever sure whether he was the actual God Of Thunder or merely a very powerful individual who thought he was!
Having Frost Giants, Nazis and Asgard, just makes it seem a cash-in on the forthcoming film.