With Thor: The Dark World upon us, some of you out there might be thinking of going on Amazon or to your LCS and picking up some classic Thor collections to brush up on your pseudo Shakespearean-Asgardian speak. Well, looketh no moreth, as here are five essential Thor collections for your reading pleasure.
Walter Simonson’s Thor Omnibus by Walter Simonson and Sal Buscema
Collects The Mighty Thor (First Series) #337-355, #357-369, #371-382; Balder the Brave #1-4
At the end of the seventies and going into the eighties, Thor was a floundering title, and despite being one of the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby creations from the early Marvel Age, Marvel was considering cancelling the title. In came writer/artist Walter Simonson, who did for The Mighty Thor what Chris Claremont and John Byrne had done for The Uncanny X-Men a few years earlier.
During a three and half year run on the title, Simonson added characters such as Beta Ray Bill, a horse like alien who was powerful enough to wield Mjolnir, and the fire giant Surtur, and even once turned Thor into a frog, somehow still managing to make him a badass. So much of what Thor is today is founded upon these stories by Simonson, whose kinetic art and storytelling abilities raised the bar for what a Thor comic could be.
Unfortunately, the Omnibus is out of print, although you can still find it on eBay for several hundred dollars if you want it badly enough. Most of the Simonson run is also collected in various cheaper Thor: Visionaries trade paperbacks, all which might not break your wallet, or cause your back to go out. Seriously, those Omnibi are huge and heavy, and can even be used as lethal weapons.
Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus by J. Michael Straczynski & Olivier Coipel & Marko Djurdjevic
Collects Fantastic Four #536-537, Thor #1-12 and #600-603, Thor Giant-Size Finale
Maybe more than any other creator in the modern era, outside of Walter Simonson that is, writer J. Michael Stracynski’s reinvention of Thor from 2007 is easily the most celebrated and beloved by fans. And that’s saying quite a lot, as he only spent a little more than a year on the title all together. After the “death” of the Asgardians during Ragnarok in 2005 during Avengers Disassembled, Marvel let Thor stay dormant for a couple of years to build up a desire for his return among fans, although we did get the clone Thor named “Clor” during this time. Maybe the less said about that, the better.
JMS brought back Thor to the land of the living, once again to bond with the mortal Donald Blake, bringing back the original human identity from the Lee/Kirby days that Marvel had more or less abandoned. The really cool twist that JMS brought to this version of Thor was that Asgard was now floating directly above the very ordinary town of Broxton, Oklahoma. Tons of humor and great characterization were mined from the lofty Asgardians mingling with the ordinary townsfolk. And aside from JMS’ writing, this run on Thor showcased some truly beautiful art from Olivier Coipel. While this is also an Omnibus edition, it should be slightly cheaper and easier to find. But it’s still huge and maybe not the best for poolside reading.
The Essential Thor Vol. 1 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Collects Journey Into Mystery #83-112
When Stan Lee and Jack Kirby brought forth their version of Thor in 1962, he was introduced in what had, until that point, been a sci-fi anthology title called Journey into Mystery. From almost his first appearance, Thor was a hit, and Stan and Jack’s work world building on that title rivaled what they did together over a hundred issues in Fantastic Four. The Essential Thor collects the first thirty issues of his comic, and really, the only drawback is that they’re all reprinted in black and white on cheap newsprint. Some of those stories may seem corny to younger readers, But if you really want to get in on the original stories that helped make Thor a cornerstone of the Marvel Universe, there are far worse places to start. Also, it is way cheaper than that Thor Omnibus I just mentioned above. Just sayin’.
Thor: Tales of Asgard by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Collects Thor: Tales of Asgard #1-6 (originally as back-up stories in Thor #97-145)
Speaking of Lee and Kirby, even better than their stories about Thor fighting super villains were their back ups known as The Tales of Asgard. These little tales were used to fill in the back stories of the Asgardians like Odin, The Warriors Three, Heimdall, and Loki. These stories were a huge favorite of original Thor director Kenneth Branagh, and were what made him a fan of the character in the first place as a child. These stories were very much the foundation for what Walter Simonson and JMS would later do with the character, focusing more on ancient myth and less on modern day superheroics. Luckily, these are all collected in full color and for far cheaper a price than most of the collections on this list.
Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 The God Butcher & Vol.2 The Godbomb by Jason Aaron & Esad Ribic
Collects Thor: God of Thunder #1-5, 7-11
One of Marvel’s current writing superstars is Jason Aaron, who has reinvented the Odinson once again in the current Thor: God of Thunder monthly series. Aaron’s story takes the titular Thunder God in a story that crosses eons – past, present, and distant future. I’m cheating a bit by including this as one entry, as these are currently spread across two different collections- Thor: God of Thunder – Vol. 1: The God Butcher, Vol. 2: Godbomb, and Vol. 3: The Accursed, set to come out early next year. It’s not just Aaron’s writing that makes the current version of Thor especially great, but artist Esad Ribic’s stellar art, which evokes the Heavy Metal magazines of yore. This take on Thor is heavy on the fantasy, humor and big ideas, and already is another classic in the making.