Thor, the Norse and Marvel God of Thunder, is kind of a big deal. He’s towering, strong, and talks kind of like a knock-off Shakespeare wrote his lines. He’s also been a big part of The Avengers from the very beginning. Since his debut in 1962 in Journey Into Mystery, he’s had success in many of his own titles, been a part of virtually every Avengers incarnation, fought giant, universe-ending threats, and played a major part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Jane Foster, Gwen Stacey, and Storm have taken up the mantle of Thor, and numerous other worthy characters have wielded Mjolnir. Plus there are other variations on the Thor theme like Beta Ray Bill, Throg, and an entire Norse pantheon with a Marvel twist.
Thor: Love and Thunder has been filling movie theaters for nearly a month now. Some love it, while others are raking it over the coals, which seems appropriate for a character with such a long publication history. There have been plenty of low points through the years, but also plenty of high points in the funny pages. Love or hate the movie, here are 12 of the absolute best Thor comics you can read right now.
Even for comics, this list is heavily white and entirely cis male. Yes, the character in question is a Norse god, but that’s no excuse. Comics are getting better, but they still have a long way to go in terms of diversity.
Ages of Thunder by Matt Fraction, Patrick Zircher, and Clay Mann
The pantheon of Marvel’s Norse gods certainly predates Thor’s introduction in 1962. This collection of short arcs focused on ancient times, long before Thor Odinson met the Avengers or Jane Foster. It also deepened the pantheon like never before.
The Ballad of Beta Ray Bill by Walt Simonson and George Roussos
Walt Simonson’s run on Thor comics is considered seminal. The beginning of this run heavily featured Beta Ray Bill, an alien who proved to be just a worthy as Odin’s favorite son. Though these two battled early, Beta Ray Bill eventually got his own weapon, Stormbreaker, and became a hero in his own right.
Everything Burns by Matt Fraction, Kieron Gillen, Alan Davis, and Carmine Di Giandomenico
Crossing over between The Mighty Thor and Journey Into Mystery, this story sees the coming of Ragnarok as Surtur burns the World Tree and the rest of the Nine Realms. As Asgardia and Vanaheim engage in battle, Thor puts his trust in Loki, with predictably terrible results.
God of Thunder by Jason Aaron, Esad Ribic, Butch Guice, Nic Klein, and Ron Garney
This story began Jason Aaron’s incredible run on Thor. Gorr the God Butcher takes center stage as the story jumps between past, present, and far-future versions of Thor. It will take the combined might off all three Odinsons to beat this horrifying enemy.
Goddess of Thunder by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Molina
Jane Foster, Goddess of Thunder. Don’t call her Lady Thor. Maybe Mighty Thor. This is where it begins, even though Jane’s identity is kept from readers and Odinson alike for a while. Jane’s take on the mantle is different and inspiring, setting the stage for Thor: Love and Thunder.
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers by Rob Rodi and Esad Ribic
Who is Thor without Loki? In this alternate timeline story, Loki finally defeats his brother and takes the throne of Asgard. How does the God of Mischief handle such responsibility, such power? How does Odinson react to defeat and imprisonment? This great story answers all of those questions.
Mangog by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Let’s go way, way back, shall we? Marvel’s Thor was created by the inimitable Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby. This is their most popular story, in which the God of Thunder faces off against a being manifested from the billions of fallen souls who hate Odin. It’s a doozy.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee
This short-lived series was a new take on Thor, reinventing Thor comics for a younger audience. Part origin story and part completely original take, it breathed new life into a character who has been gracing Marvel Comics for 80 years.
Thor (2008) by J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel
J. Michael Straczynski was given a difficult task, coming out of some very dark times in which Thor was gone. How did he respond? By giving Thor a home base in Oklahoma while he tried to rebuild the remnants of his life and the Avengers. This down-to-Earth angle was fresh and humbling for the God of Thunder.
The Surtur Saga by Walt Simonson, Sal Buscema, and Mark Gruenwald
You knew Walt Simonson was going to pop up on this list at least one more time. There are so many great moments from his run, and this was the biggest arc. Devoid of his human alter-ego, seduced by Enchantress, and betrayed by his brother, Thor is faced with overwhelming odds. Earth has been cast into an ice age and Surtur is looking on Earth for his eternal flame so he can annihilate the universe. Only Thor Odinson can stop him.
Thor: Disassembled by Andrea di Vito and Michael Oeming
In the aftermath of Avengers: Disassembled, Ragnarok is looming once again. The Avengers are already on their back foot, falling apart as a team and as friends. Thor finds himself short on allies as the prophesized Twilight of the Gods approaches. As his fellow gods are dying left and right, can Thor survive or even stop the coming apocalypse?
Whom the Gods Would Destroy by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
One more classic from Stan and Jack, particularly after that great mid-credits cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder. It’s Thor vs. Hercules. Norse vs. Greek. Oh, and Odin has sapped Thor’s strength, because those gods are petty and fling curses like mead. This arc is a slugfest of the highest order.
What do you think are the best Thor comics? How does Thor: Love and Thunder stack up to those great stories? Does anyone miss Ultimate Thor as much as I do?