Thor’s come a long way, and I don’t just mean to Earth from Asgard, the realm of the Norse gods. When the God of Thunder made his big-screen debut in 2011, he was an arrogant jerk who loved war, too self-serious to be taken seriously at all. But as Thor made more movie appearances, and star Chris Hemsworth revealed serious comedy chops in movies like Ghostbusters, the once-stoic Asgardian grew increasingly silly.
With the release of Thor: Love and Thunder, returning director Taika Waititi, who helmed Thor: Ragnorok, continues this development, sending Thor on a cross-universe quest with not only his rocky pal Korg (voiced by Waititi), but also Tessa Thompson’s King Valkyrie and ex-girlfriend Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who now wields magic hammer Mjolnir as the Mighty Thor. The heroes must battle against Gorr the God Butcher, a warrior on a mission to enact trans-universal deicide, played by Christian Bale.
While Waititi and co-writer Jennifer Kaytin Robinson bring their own distinctive voices, the movie draws heavily from several comic book sources. And with sixty years’ worth of Thor stories in the comics, the creators had plenty to draw from. That’s even better news for those who love Thor: Love and Thunder and leave the movie hungry for more. If you can’t get enough of Marvel’s mighty Space Viking, here are ten comics to further explore the cosmic adventures of Thor.
The Saga of the God Butcher (Thor: God of Thunder #1 -11, 2013-2014)
In Love and Thunder, Thor and his friends find themselves under attack by a man called Gorr, the God Butcher. Unlike Loki and Malekith, Gorr does not have a long history in comics, appearing in only one story, not even ten years ago.
But what a story it is! Written with high-fantasy flair by Jason Aaron and drawn with moody, sullen art from Esad Ribic, combined with beautiful colors by Dean White and expressive letters from Joe Sabino, The Saga of the God Butcher spans centuries as an alien called Gorr, filled with fury at the gods who failed him, sets out to destroy all deities. Although it is decidedly more somber in tone than the movie it inspired, The Saga of the God Butcher tells a truly epic Thor story, one that spans centuries and explores the nature of godhood.
Goddess of Thunder (Thor #1-5, 2014)
“Whosoever hold this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of… Thor.” That inscription has been written on Mjolnir since the arrogant thunder God was kicked out of Asgard by Odin and merged with human Doctor Donald Blake. But what happens if Thor himself becomes unworthy? The answer to that question comes in this story from writer Jason Aaron, artist Russell Dauterman, colorist Matthew Wilson, and Joe Sabino, who give us Mjolnir in the hands of the Goddess of Thunder.
Although anyone familiar with the plot of Love and Thunder knows that this new thunder goddess is in-fact Thor’s one-time love interest Jane Foster, Aaron and his collaborators tell a surprisingly thoughtful story about the nature of power and mortality, all while adding a new chapter to the continuing story of Thor.
Beta Ray Bill (Thor #337-345, 1983-1984)-
Love and Thunder begins with Korg telling children the myth of the Space Viking. To be sure, the cosmic elements of Thor’s story have been present from the beginning, when artist Jack Kirby took his love of Norse mythology into the newly formed Marvel comic book universe. But no creator has so embraced the idea of Space Vikings like writer and artist Walter Simonson.
Working with colorist George Roussos and letterer John Workman, Simonson begins his run with a bang, introducing fan-favorite character Beta Ray Bill. A horse-faced alien worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, Beta Ray Bill encounters the Thunder God when Thor and Sif travel across the cosmos in a ship pulled by goats Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, both of whom make their (very loud) debuts in Love and Thunder. A perfect mixture of space-faring escapades and mythical action, the Beta Ray Bill arc starts the Simonson era with a bang.
“Into the Realm of Faerie!” (Thor #347-350)
As wide-ranging as Simonson’s Thor tales could be, they never forgot the hero’s roots in the worlds of myth and fantasy. So when he and his collaborators pitted Thor and the Warriors Three against Malekith the Dark Elf, the result is a perfect mix of high fantasy and space-faring action. Simonson’s Jack Kirby-inspired designs are in full effect in these stories, rendering the clash between Thor and the Dark Elves with kinetic energy.
As with the best of Simonson’s Thor tales, the Dark Elf arc shows the hero’s importance to not just Earth or Asgard, but the entire nine realms. The battle takes Thor to wonderous new worlds, where he and his allies fight mystical threats and discover magical weapons.
“Eternity, Eternity!” (Doctor Strange #180-183)
Even as he wields the deadly Necroblade, Gorr’s larger plan involves gaining mystical powers by finding the cosmic entity known only as Eternity. In the Marvel Universe, Eternity manifests in an anthropomorphic form to speak with those who would seek its counsel.
Although Thor has sometimes encountered Eternity—and, more frequently, Eternity’s guardian, the superhero Captain Universe—the entity most often interacts with Doctor Strange. Written by Roy Thomas and penciled by Gene Colan (with inks by Tom Palmer and letters by Sam Rosen), the Eternity arc is more superhero than classic Doctor Strange tales. But Thomas and Colan perfectly capture Eternity’s vastness, helping readers understand why Gorr would seek out the entity.
“Then It’s On Us” (Guardians of the Galaxy #1-6, 2020)
Continuing the story set-up by Avengers: Endgame, Thor: Love and Thunder begins with Thor as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy. While Thor has met the Guardians in the comics, he’s never been an official member. However, the comic book Guardians line-up has included a god, or a demigod at least. In 2020’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the team goes up against the gods of Olympus, led by Zeus. The conflict draws the attention of Zeus’s son, Hercules, the Prince of Power.
Hercules has been Thor’s rival since Journey Into Mystery Annual #1 (1965), and as many comic readers will note, Hemsworth’s portrayal of the God of Thunder matches much closer to that of the comic book Hercules. A jolly beefcake with a lust for adventure, Hercules meets every challenge with a hearty laugh, a thirst for battle, and a kiss for any man or woman he fancies. All of those qualities are present in the fantastic Guardians of the Galaxy run by writer Al Ewing, artist Juan Cabal, colorist Federico Blee, and letterer Cory Petit.
“Test of Time” (Exiles #1-6, 2018)
Speaking of deviations from the comics, Tessa Thompson’s King Valkyrie, first introduced as Scrapper 142 in Thor: Ragnorok, has little in common with the Asgardian Brunnhilde from Thor comic books. Where comic Valkyrie is most often a spirit that inhabits various host bodies to defend Earth’s warriors, the movie Valkyrie is a former shield maiden who fell into despair after her sisters were slaughtered by Odin’s first-born, Hela.
A variation of the MCU Valkyrie made it to comics on a dimension-hopping team known as the Exiles. Joined by heroes across the multiverse, including an older and embittered Kamala Khan from a war-torn future and a cute cartoon Wolverine, Valkyrie fights to protect the multiverse from an unimaginable threat. Writer Saladin Ahmed and penciler Javier Rodriguez, working with inker Álvaro López, colorist Jordie Bellaire, and letterer Joe Caramagna, perfectly capture the swagger Thompson brings to the character, making Valkyrie an exciting addition to the Marvel Comics Universe.
The Death of the Mighty Thor (Mighty Thor #700-706, 2018)
At first glance, Jane Foster’s Thor story seems like a classic power fantasy, one in which a regular person gets endowed with amazing abilities. But Jason Aaron adds a twist to this familiar trope by revealing that Jane gains Mjolnir after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. While her Mighty Thor form does not suffer from cancer, the transformation does purge her body of all toxins – including chemotherapy. In other words, turning into Mighty Thor does not just empower Jane; it also kills her.
In The Death of the Mighty Thor, cancer finally overtakes Jane and presents her with a terrible choice. She can either forgo transformations and live as long as possible or continue becoming the Mighty Thor at the cost of her life. The challenge comes as Asgard comes under threat from the Mangog, a beast made from all the hatred of the universe. Anyone familiar with superhero stories can probably guess the plot that follows. But few are prepared for the depth of feeling Aaron brings to a superhero adventure.
War of the Realms (War of the Realms #1-6, 2019)
For MCU fans, Malekith the Accursed is one of cinema’s lesser villains. The main antagonist of Thor: The Dark World, the evil Dark Elf left no impression on moviegoers, save the frustration over the franchise wasting great character actor Christopher Eccleston. But in the comics, Malekith is one of Thor’s greatest enemies, a maniacal enemy of Asgard.
Malekith undergoes his most ambitious plot in the crossover storyline War of the Realms, which sees the Dark Elves invading all nine realms and threatening nearly every hero in the Marvel Universe. The vast storyline is epic in scope, involving everyone from the Punisher to Ghost Rider to the X-Men. But at its heart, War of the Realms is a classic Thor story, one that reminds us again that battles in Asgard affect the entire cosmos.
The Devourer King (Thor #1-6, 2020)
By nearly every measure, Jason Aaron’s Thor run is one of the all-time best, standing proudly alongside the work of Walter Simonson and Jack Kirby. In other words, Donny Cates had an unenviable task when he took over from Aaron in 2020. But as The Devourer King demonstrates, he’s more than up to the task, especially when joined by artist Nic Klein, along with returning colorist Matthew Wilson and letterer Joe Sabino.
Set in the aftermath of the War of the Realms, The Devourer King finds Thor as the King of Asgard, presiding over peace in the nine realms. As he struggles to make sense of his new role, Thor learns that he’s prophesized to bring about the death of Galactus, devourer of worlds. By telling a properly cosmic story, Cates reminds readers that the MCU has only begun to scratch the surface of Thor’s world.
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