A Beginner’s Guide to: Thor
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has an enormous fanbase, both comics fans and folks who prefer their superheroes on screen. I’m sure some of our readers are like me; before 2011 I’d never really picked up a comic. It’s intimidating to jump into a whole new medium, especially one known for sprawling, ever-changing timelines. I’m going to use this column to help ease folks into the world of comics by recommending good places to start for big characters as well as more accessible, self-contained series.
It was Thor that made me want to jump into comics, and given that Thor 2: The Dark World will be released in a few months, now is a great time to get some reading done.
Norse god Thor first appeared in Journey into Mystery #83, written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber with art by Jack Kirby. Until that point, Journey into Mystery had been an anthology comic, but it became Thor’s series until Thor Volume 1 began with issue 126.
Thor, the golden prince of Asgard, is banished to Earth for being too headstrong and cocky. His father Odin (king of the Norse gods) forces him to share a body with crippled doctor Donald Blake, only becoming Thor by striking his cane (which becomes Thor’s Uru hammer, Mjolnir) against the ground. Alongside Iron Man, Ant Man & Wasp, the Hulk, and soon Captain America, Thor was on the original roster of the Avengers, and has been a relatively steady member ever since. As an Avenger and on his own, Thor has battled his own brother, Loki, and all kinds of threats from Earth, Asgard, and beyond.
Self-Contained Series: Thor: The Mighty Avenger
Written by Roger Landgridge with art by Chris Samnee, this series is a delightful way to experience Thor comics for the first time. Landgridge’s script is sweet and funny, painting Thor very much as the affable puppy dog we met in the first movie, and Samnee’s art is adorable and highly accessible. This series exists in its own world, which means you don’t have to have 50+ years of Marvel history under your belt to read it. Each issue is more or less self-contained, and they often feature the cute adventures of Thor and Jane Foster, who in this version works in a museum. This series will feature familiar faces for movie fans, like the Warriors Three (sans Sif unfortunately), Heimdall, and Tony Stark, but you’ll also meet some new Marvel characters such as Ant-Man (who has been graced with an upcoming movie), the Wasp, and Namor the Sub-Mariner. The series was tragically cancelled after 8 issues, but that makes it a quick and easy read.
Main Marvel Continuity: Thor (2008)
If you’d prefer a series that is more plugged into the rest of the Marvel Universe, you should check out J Michael Straczynski’s run on the series, beginning in 2008. All of the gods had died in Ragnarok a few years before the series started, which allows Straczynski to reintroduce the characters and their world. You’ll probably need to do a bit of Wikipedia’ing sometimes, but the series is pretty easy to read, and with Olivier Coipel’s incredible art, it’s fun to read. This series is a great way to ease into the rest of Marvel and to get a feeling for the supporting cast and mythology of Marvel’s Asgard, which is richer and more populated than the film version. It’s worth reading at least the first 4 trade paperbacks, about 16 issues, but the writers who follow Straczynski vary in quality.
Marvel recently rebooted the comics with Thor: God of Thunder which has stunning artwork by Esad Ribic, but I found the story lacklustre, and it certainly doesn’t feel anything like the films, if they’re your starting point.
If when you say you want Thor comics you in fact want Loki comics, you could try either of his solo series, which have been collected as The Trials of Loki by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Sebastian Fiumara, and Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic. They’re both good, self-contained stories with gorgeous art, and tell stories from Loki’s (not entirely reliable) perspective. Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery (beginning with issue 622) focused on a child version of Loki, resurrected by Thor after his death in Marvel’s Siege event. It’s an excellent series, for the most part, but it’s not the Loki of older comics, and it sometimes gets very involved with Marvel events in a way that could feel overwhelming for new readers.
Preparing for the Sequel
Thor 2 will introduce long-time Thor villain Malekith the Accursed. If you want to be very familiar with the character before you see the film, you should check out Simonson’s run on Thor from the ’80s; Malekith first appears in issues 344-347. An easier place to start might be the recently cancelled cartoon, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Episode 20 of the first season featured Malekith, but the whole series is a great introduction to Marvel, and you’ll get to see the Avengers from the films alongside many characters who have yet to receive filmic treatment.
With any Marvel comics, the easiest thing to do is head to Wikipedia, or to just buy comics and start reading them. There are plenty of resources online on comics if you start to feel overwhelmed or confused. Hopefully some of these suggestions will be useful, whether you’re new to comics or just to Thor.