In honor of the release of Thor: The Dark World this week, we here at Geek Hard have compiled a list of our favourite Thor stories. While there have been many great tales of battle and triumph for the Thunder God since his first appearance on Midgard, there’s only a few that have truly shown the Son of Odin in all his glory. These are the stories that stand out in the minds of the Geek Hard staff as the greatest Thor Stories Ever Told. Some are classic tales. Others, hidden gems. All are MUST reading for any fan of the Mighty Thor. So take a look, dear readers. You just might learn something.
The Walt Simonson Run
(Thor Vol. 1 #337 – 355, 357 – 359, 371 – 382, Baldar the Brave 1 -4)
Writer: Walt Simonson
Artists: Walt Simonson, Sal Buscema
1983 – 1986
With all due respect to everyone who has ever written the character, much like Daredevil and Frank Miller, there is only one name that comes to mind when Thor is brought up: Walt Simonson. Walt took the past of the character and built on it with more Norse mythology and mythical tropes (the soap opera drama that gods always seem involved in) paired it with incredible action beats and mixed in some science fiction for good measure. And despite what sounds like a mishmash of genres, this run works from top to bottom due to Simonson’s skill as a writer. He manages to have serious battles with serious consequences ( a major character or two dies, Thor becomes scared, etc), introduces a space alien that looks like a horse (Beta Ray Bill) who ends up wielding Thor-like powers, even turns Thor into a frog and it all makes sense and fits perfectly together. This isn’t to diminish the art as Simonson was born to draw these characters and when he leaves the art chores of the book thirty issues in, Sal Buscema picks up the pencils and manages to fit perfectly while still retaining his own style. Both Thor films have mined this run for content and with good reason. Do yourself a favour and spend the $120 on the Simonson Thor Omnibus. It’s well worth the money. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have shlepped the seven pound book to Fan Expo to get it signed. (Brent Chittenden)
The Dark Gods
(Thor Vol. 2 #1 – 12)
Writer: Dan Jurgens
Artist: John Romita Jr.
If you’re looking for a classic Thor tale in a modern setting look no further than The Dark Gods Saga. Back in the late nineties, one of the last heroes to “Return” from the travesty that was the Heroes Reborn Imprint was the God of Thunder. And what an unhappy return for him it was. Thor finds Asgard in ruins and Odin and his people missing, he almost dies fighting The Destroyer in New York Harbor and he’s forced to take the persona of one Jake Olsen (an EMT that perished undeservedly in the battle) by a mysterious entity known only as Marnot. But things only get worse as Thor discovers who’s taken the Asgardians captive: a group known as the Dark Gods. Lead by a warrior named Perrikus, the Dark Gods are an ancient group who were bested by Odin and company when Thor was a young boy. In fact, Odin’s victory can be directly attributed to the Thunder God as he was the one who inspired his father to keep fighting. Now Thor must bring the battle to the Dark Gods himself. Aided by the most unlikely of allies, Thor takes the fight to them ontop of a desecrated Asgard. While the dialogue is a bit cheesecake at times, the plot is one that would be great for an episodic season of television. Looking back on the story, it’s now evident that Jurgens and JR Jr. were giving tribute to Jack Kirby with the story and designs of the Dark Gods who feel very much like a homage to the Darkseid and the New Gods. If you’re looking for a high octane adventure in the classic Marvel style, look no further than The Dark Gods! (Andrew Young)
Ages of Thunder
(Thor: Ages of Thunder #1)
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artists: Patrick Zircher, Clay Moore
If you’re like me and prefer your flaxen-haired Thunder Gods to be a bit less Kirby and lot more surly Viking then this collection from writer Matt Fraction and artists Patrick Zircher and Clay Mann should be just the thing to satisfy your grime-encrusted urges. Relaying several tales forming a single overarching narrative from a time when Thor spent his days alternating between being a giant asshole and learning how not to be a giant asshole, Ages of Thunder is classic fantasy high adventure with a Marvel Universe twist. Are you a fan of Jason Aaron’s most recent run on Thor: God Of Thunder? Dig all of that Young Viking Thor goodness? Then you owe it to yourself to pick up this out-of-print collection as many of the seeds of those most recent tales were sown right here. Straight up, Ages of Thunder is truly one of the greatest Thor stories of all time. I love it to such an absurd degree that I hound Matt Fraction and Marvel on Twitter to reprint the damn thing like once a month. They probably think I’m a crazy person at this point but I’m doing it for you, dammit! You guys deserve to hold a big, meaty tome in your hand and devour the excellence in physical form. Yes, I am nuts for this collection. Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, even. Hell, I devoted a whole column to it once. What a plug, am I right? (Kris Johnson)
Bill The Warrior
(Thor Vol. 3 #601-603, Thor Giant Sized Finale)
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: Marko Djurdjevic
My Absolute favourite Thor story doesn’t even star Thor. Yes, Thor is there and he’s got a lot to deal with – banishment, the meddling of his brother Loki, the near death of the Lady Sif and more. But that’s the B-Plot. The A-Plot of this story focuses on a regular Joe named Bill. Who’s Bill? I’m glad you asked. When J Michael Straczynski was tasked with bringing Thor and his people back after Ragnarok, he decided to do things a bit differently. Instead of putting Asgard in the nineth realm, far from the prying eyes of Midgard, he dropped it smack dab in the middle of Oklahoma. You know the place where the wind comes sweeping down the plain? You know. And instead of just staying in their kingdom like hermits, the Asgardians mingled with the townsfolk. Bill happens to be the local proprietor of a greasy spoon who finds himself in a very special relationship with one such Asgardian, Kelda Stormrider (a goddess with elemental powers). But after Loki convinces Balder (the king of Asgard at that time) to move the gang to the much snowier climate of Latvaria (home of DOOM!), it looks that this relationship will meet a swift end. That is until Bill decides to abandon his life of cooking omelets to head to Doom Country with his lady fair. One would hope that he could live happily ever after after that. That unfortunately is not the case. In an attempt to show King Balder that he is a true man of honor, Bill decides to get to the bottom of why Loki would take his fellow gods to the home of the most evil man in the Marvel Universe. Bill may be a mortal but he ain’t no dummy. You don’t place that kind of fire power within Doom’s grasp and not expect business to pick up sooner or later. So Bill puts his detective hat on and goes to work. The answers don’t come easy as he doesn’t only have Loki and cold weather to deal with. There’s also a band of junior-thug gods that are giving him a hard time on top of it all. In what can only be described as the closest a Thor comic will come to telling a Rocky story, Bill proves to be a great warrior worthy of Kelda’s love and the story serves as a great send off for the creative team of the time. Years from now, the children of honorable man and god alike will sing the praises of William (Bill) the Warrior! Oh, and there’s also a C-Plot about how Volstagg is well skilled at cooking eggs. (Andrew Young)
God-Butcher / Godbomb
(Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 #1-11)
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artists: Esad Ribic, Butch Guice
2012 – 2013
Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic have created a modern classic with the first eleven issues of THOR: GOD OF THUNDER. If you want your Thor stories filled with gods, combat, anger, grit, determination, murder, intelligence, destiny, righteous retribution, and lots and lots of hammers then Aaron and Ribic have pretty much crafted your favourite comic ever. In GOD-BUTCHER we’re told of the three times in Thor’s life in which he has encountered a creature known as Gorr, The Butcher of Gods. While Young Thor, Mighty Thor, and Old King Thor handle these moments in vastly different ways they all have equal bearing on what could amount to the destruction of everything that is… Gorr’s Endgame. The GodBomb. Esad Ribic’s artwork is magnificent and suitably epic while Jason Aaron somehow makes three distinct versions of Thor with their own unique personalities feel, astoundingly, like they’re all perfectly, correctly Thor. I almost think it would be worth it to lose my memory, if only for a day, so I could discover the awesome that is this story again for the first time. (Kris Johnson)
So that’s our list. Some of you might disagree with a few of the choices or omissions, but these are the Thor stories that stand out as the hallmark of quality when it comes to Asgard’s #1 Son. So check ‘em out and enjoy.
Thanks to Kris Johnson and Brent Chittenden for contributing some great picks.
And if you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!