Fur-Thor Reading: Six Great ‘Thor’ Comics To Read After You’ve Seen the Movie
As you may have heard, there’s a movie out in theaters now based on Marvel Comics’ Mighty Thor. We may have mentioned it once or twice.
As one of the founding Avengers and the star of one of the greatest runs in comics history, Thor has always been one of Marvel’s most powerful and prominent characters, but there are plenty of people out there that just haven’t been interested in him until now. So if you came out of the movie with a hunger for more Asgardian adventure — or if you just want to see what the big deal is with this guy — your friends at ComicsAlliance are here to help with a list of Six Great Thor Comics you can jump on now!
I’ve talked about the greatness of Walter Simonson’s five-year run on Thor quite a bit, and it goes without saying that his character-defining take on the comic was a huge influence on the movie. Specifically, there’s a good bit of the plot that revolves around an artifact he introduced to Marvel mythology: The Casket of Ancient Winters.
The stories in Simonson’s run are all expertly weaved together, but the Casket begins to take center stage in Thor #344 — reprinted along with the rest of the saga in Thor Visionaries: Walter Simonson v.1 and the recent, massive Omnibus edition — which is easily one of his best single issues. It’s a relic that was trusted to the mortals of Midgard (which, as the footnotes will remind you, is Earth) for centuries before being targeted by Malekith, a “dark elf” who in a lot of ways is a less redeemable, more unambiguously evil extension of Loki.
He actually gets his hands on it, too, and unleashes the cold of winter across the Marvel Universe, which actually results in a pretty cool example of the kind of storytelling you can do in the world of super-hero comics. There weren’t any actual crossovers, but in every Marvel book that month, it it was snowing thanks to the Casket’s influence.
Of course, unleashing the power of the Casket of Ancient Winters was just one step in Surtur the Fire Giant’s plan to attack Asgard and destroy the Earth, which of course led to Thor’s descent into Hel, which then led to his battle against the Midgard Serpent, and — you know what? Just go read the whole Simonson run. It’s worth it.
Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger was one of the best-reviewed comics in recent memory, and a perfect companion piece to the movie. It was done as an all-ages book that’s actually a great example of how to make a comic that works for both kids and adults, focusing on — and stop me if you’ve heard this one — Thor being exiled to Earth by Odin, where he is taken in by (and falls in love with) Jane Foster.
Unfortunately, The Mighty Avenger only ran eight issues — nine if you count the Free Comic Book Day issue where Thor traveled through time with a World War II-era Captain America to team up with King Arthur and stop Loki from stealing the Holy Grail. Even with that brief run and the fact that it’s ostensibly an origin story, though, Langridge and Samnee waste absolutely no time.
The series is jam-packed with familiar faces like Iron Man, Namor and Captain Britain, with incredible action, fantastic comedy…
…and one of the best romances a super-hero has ever had:
In other words, it’s everything you could want from an adventure story, and it’s well worth picking up in the two trade paperbacks that were released this year.
Between the movie and the comics, there are an awful lot of stories that tell how things got started, but there aren’t that many that show you how things end. Which is exactly what Michael Oeming and Andrea DiVito did with “Ragnarok.”
Released as a tie-in to “Avengers Disassembled,” this was a story that was meant to get Thor out of the way for the next few years, and it did so by delivering exactly what it said on the cover: the violent, world-shaking death of the Norse gods. But while it’s easy to write it off as part of the trend to make comics darker, there’s actually a lot more going on with this one.
Yes, it’s a story where almost everyone in the cast of Thor is slaughtered wholesale through warfare, but at the same time, the original mythology of Thor & Co. had a pronounced fatalism to it, with the end of all things explicitly foretold. Plus, Oeming and DiVito are able to throw in a surprising amount of grim humor and some truly awesome action.
By the end of it, though, the story slowly transitions into a surprisingly insightful examination about the cyclical nature of storytelling in myths and modern comics, and how these characters and stories never really end, all told with a healthy amount of hammering.
Given that it features virtually every character — hero and villain — in Marvel’s version of the Thor mythos, it’s easily the most difficult story on this list for new readers to jump on, but for anyone who wants to see those characters meeting their glorious end in battle, it’s in Thor (v.3) #81-85, collected in the out-of-print (but not hard to find) Thor: Disassembled paperback.
Speaking of comics where the good guys lose, we have Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic’s Loki. Released in 2004 as a four-issue mini-series, it became a massive sleeper hit by skipping over the familiar fights and showing what happens when Thor’s eternal enemy finally succeeds and takes over as the ruler of Asgard.
With his enemies in chains and absolute control over his kingdom, Rodi’s script examines Loki’s history and his role as a villain, both in the Marvel comics and the original myths that inspired them, presenting an interesting look at a character trapped in his role by his own nature.
Of course, it’s easy to say that Ribic steals the show with painted art that does an amazing job with rendering the larger-than-life gods of Asgard, but the real magic here is how well they work together. Ribic’s expressive faces get every bit of pain, doubt and rage that Rodi put into his script, and the moody way he sets things up makes it an absolute joy to read.
The whole thing builds to a moment that defines the relationship between Thor and his brother, and illuminates soemthing that’s become a key aspect of Loki in the years since: His war against his own destiny and the tricks he’s willing to go through to become the master of everything around him — including himself.
My major problem with the Thor movie is the same problem I have with almost every comic book I read: there just isn’t enough of the Warriors Three. Thor: Blood Oath, however, has just the right amount.
Written by the aforementioned Oeming with art by Scott Kolins, Blood Oath is pure adventure. It focuses on Thor helping the Warriors Three make reparations to one of the giants of Jotunheim after they “accidentally” kill his son on a fishing trip — Asgardian fishing trips being slightly more intense than the ones we know here on Earth — by agreeing to do any task he sets before them. Turns out, all the giant wants are three apples, the skin of a pig, a spear, a sword and three shouts from a hilltop, but of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Thus, Fandral, Hogun, Volstagg and Thor are sent on a grand tour of the world of mythology, crossing paths and doing battle with Hercules, Cú Chulainn, and an entire army of ghostly samurai. It’s basically a thrilling, action-packed modern fairy tale, and if the humor Oeming brought to “Ragnarok” was grim, his jokes here are straight up lighthearted fun.
It’s truly excellent work from both creators, and while it was reprinted as both a hardcover and a paperback, all six issues are also available digitally through Comixology for less than two bucks each, and worth every penny.
One of the most distinctive aspects of Marvel’s version of Thor is that he was exiled to Earth by Odin for his arrogance, which raises the question of just how arrogant do you have to be for your own father to kick you out of heaven and cripple you in the process. That’s the question that current Mighty Thor writer Matt Fraction, along with artists Patrick Zircher and Khari Evans, addressed in his first shot at the character, a series of three bone-crushing one-shots.
Given that the stories are called “Ages of Thunder,” “Reign of Blood” and “Man of War,” they’re probably best described as being the most metal Thor comics of all time, and considering that every Thor comic is about the God of Thunder who beats giants to death with a hammer, that’s a pretty high bar to clear.
It’s true, though. Fraction draws on elements of the original myths — the story of the mason who repairs the wall of Asgard after it was broken was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, and it’s the premise of the first issue — but he adds his own spin on things that takes them to a truly mythical level. These aren’t just stories where Thor fights an enemy, they’re stories where Thor has to fight everyone on Earth who has ever died, which he can only do by taking control of the monstrous Blood Colossus.
Like I said: metal.
But it also doesn’t lose its sense of humor in the process, either. Odin, for instance, is the angrier versino of the myths, who’s often driven by Loki’s trickery to throttle him like a one-eyed, all-powerful Homer Simpson:
But as the stories go on, Thor gets more and more sullen and arrogant, things build until there’s finally a confrontation with Odin himself, wearing the armor of the Destroyer, a battle I’m pretty sure anyone who saw the movie would be keenly interested in checking out, especially with how well it’s pulled off.
They’re thoroughly brutal, and rank among the best work of Fraction’s career so far, but be warned: Reading these comics will make you want to listen to Slayer. Make sure you’ve got a few albums handy.