When describing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, it is easy to get fixated on the soldier, the spy, the archer and especially the armored knight. But if there is one hero that truly deserves attention, it is the Odinson and God of Thunder himself: Thor. While his origin has been somewhat complicated when discussing Eric Olson or Donald Blake, there is no denying the power and charm of one of Asgard and Midgard’s greatest heroes. With the character’s recent cinematic debut back in 2011, more fans have become exposed to the Son of Odin as well as his allies Sif and the Warriors Three and his villainous brother Loki. The character was a founding member of the Avengers and has continued to serve on every version of the team since his debut in the 1960’s, leading to much material for new readers to sink their teeth into for both his solo adventures across the nine realms and the exploits with the team.
With the recent “Secret Wars” storyline giving us an entire army of Thors from across the multi-verse in the “Thors” tie-in series, I’ve been wondering which stories would make good introductions for Thor and his world. Obviously, I’d like to recommend “Secret Wars” and the “Thors” books as well as the recent series with Jane Foster as Thor due to both being incredibly well written and the art being fantastic. Seriously, PICK UP THOSE BOOKS as starters. But if you’d like something more classic but don’t know where to start, I’ve got you covered. This list will cover just a few titles that are great for new and old readers of the character alike and is going to focus on the classic version of Thor that most of us are familiar with. As always, these are just a FEW selections of stories I’ve found for those wanting to read more about Thor’s adventures. There are of course many many more, but these are just a few of my favorites.
“The God Butcher” and “Godbomb” (Thor: God of Thunder #1-11)
Launched as part of the Marvel NOW initiative back in 2012 following Avengers vs X-men, this story not only is a great murder mystery, but delivers on the action and shows what makes Thor such a great character. Time jumping across Thor’s life, we get to see three different versions of the Odinson: the young and cocky warrior who boasts about his power, the Avenger and the old king not unlike his father. Esad Ribic’s art is powerful and compelling, almost cinematic as Thor’s three selves find various gods slaughtered by an unknown enemy. Who this enemy is and why he is attacking the various gods of the universe is something I do not wish to spoil for you dear readers. If you’re looking for a good introduction that can sell you on the character, start here.
“Whom the Gods Would Destroy” (Thor #126-128)
For classic Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, this is one of the best storylines out there for new readers that focus on Thor’s relationship with his father Odin and the sometimes-turbulent bond they’ve had. Punishing Thor for revealing himself to Jane Foster and returning to Midgard without his permission, papa Odin decides to steal half of Thor’s power during a struggle with Hercules (yes, THE Hercules who also happens to exist in the comics). This is one of the first times that Thor and Hercules do battle and we’re introduced to the Greek pantheon of gods. Using some key elements and themes from the early age of Marvel, Lee and Kirby give us a story that focuses on fathers and sons and the drama among gods, both of which can also be traced back to classic mythology that spawned these versions.
“Ragnarok” (Thor Vol.2 #80-85)
Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods, in which the entire realm of Asgard would be wiped out and reborn in an endless cycle was something taken from traditional lore for the comics and teased since Thor’s introduction in the 1960’s. Proving that when it rains, it pours for superheroes, the end comes during the “Avengers: Disassembled” storyline. This wasn’t the first time the world ended for Asgard, and as we see Thor struggling with ending the cycle for good it reminds of us the importance of choice versus destiny and how those consequences our actions can impact a larger world. With this story, Thor and his roster of supporting characters would ultimately be laid to rest…for a few years or so at least.
“The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill” (Thor #337-340)
Before I describe what makes this story so great, let me just say that Walt Simonson’s ENTIRE run on Thor was incredible! Thankfully, there’s an entire omnibus or two out there for your reading pleasure. This was the introduction of Beta Ray Bill, a Korbinite that believed he was the last of his race after what he believed was destruction caused by Asgardians. He fights Thor as an equal and even proves worthy enough to lift Mjolner! As most of these stories go, Thor’s innocence is proven and a strong partnership is formed between the two heroes as Bill receives his own hammer, Stormbreaker. I hope we see this story in a future movie and Bill introduced, he’d be a hell of a supporting character.
Thor Vol. 3 #1-6
I don’t believe this storyline has a name or not, but it was the first story and first few issues of Thor’s book that I ever picked up back in high school and I wanted to recommend it. J. Michael Stracynski, who also had a fantastic run on Spider-Man that I recommend, had a run on this book that helped define Thor in the modern age. He even made a cameo in the first movie and was given story credit. Like Simonson before him, I’d recommend all of his run as it deals with some fantastic stuff like Thor battling Doctor Doom for control of Asgard. Dealing with the aftermath of “Ragnarok”, Thor is revived and re-bonded to Dr. Donald Blake following the “Civil War”. Realizing that his fellow Asgardians are lying dormant inside of mortals, he sets out to revive them all after bringing Asgard to Earth in the middle of a small Oklahoma town. If you’re a fan of the MCU version, then definitely check this story out! If you didn’t like Iron Man’s behavior during the “Civil War” storyline, then you’ll love the battle between him and Thor where he sets Stark straight.
“The Surtur Saga” (Thor #340-353)
I can’t sing Simonson’s praises enough and this story is proof of that! It’s a masterpiece that delivers on a slowly built up promise of the fiery evil known as Surtur. The lord of the realm Muspelheim, one of the nine realms, Surtur is a dangerous enemy that long ago battled Odin in an epic struggle before the Allfather sealed him away. Freed by Loki, Surtur sets out for revenge in what I can only describe as excellent storytelling that leads to many iconic moments culminating in Thor standing side-by-side with Odin and Loki against Surtur. The end is bittersweet as Odin dies in the battle, but like all comic characters he comes back years later. This story also paved the way for a new layer of Loki and Thor’s relationship as they battle for the throne of Asgard. I have a strong feeling that this may be the story used as inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok as that is where all signs are pointing, giving more of a reason to check this out. Just like the first two movies, I can imagine Odin narrating the opening flashback of him and Surtur clashing long ago before he sealed him away.
Those are what I’d recommend as starting points for the Mighty Thor, but you may have some different ideas. What collections or storylines would you recommend?
Featured Image: Furious Fanboys