Thor: Ragnarok is almost here, and there couldn't be much more excitement surrounding this film. Not only do the trailer's look great, but the early reviews suggest it will be one of Marvel Studios' best films to date. It's loaded with plenty of influences and references to its source material, with shots taken directly from Walter Simonson's Thor and designs from Jack Kirby's best issues. If you enjoy the movie, we highly checking out some of the comics.
But it's not easy to know where to start though, especially when many of the "best of" guides recommend the entire Simonson saga. That's not to say it's not a legendary run, but it's also dozens of comics, which means a lot of money and time. For those of you unfamiliar with Thor comics, we've composed a list of recommendations that won't require an entire weekend to read or a small loan from your local bank. Instead, we've gathered the five best single issues of Thor (or related series) so you can sample what makes the comics great.
These issues cover four decades and some of the greatest artists to ever work in the comics medium. So once you leave the theater, snag a few singles and see what Thor: Ragnarok was built upon.
The Midgard Serpent
Issue: Thor #380
Words and Art by Walter Simonson
Inks by Sal Buscema
Colors by Max Scheele
This issue perfectly encapsulates why Walter Simonson's run on Thor remains the gold standard for this character. It pits our hero against the enormous Midgard Serpent in a series of splash pages illustrated by the two most prominent artists of the run, Sal Buscema and Simonson, himself. These men are legends in the halls of Marvel Comics, and Thor #380 gives you everything you need to understand why.
Every page of the fight highlights explosive hit after explosive hit. When the Serpent chomps down on Thor, the God of Thunder shatters his teeth from inside his skull. Things only get worse from there too as Thor fulfills a daunting prophecy in this battle between unstoppable force and immovable object. This issue is a high point of superhero action and metal-styled fantasy, capable of rocking readers new and old.prevnext
Days of Wine and Dragons
Issue: Thor: God of Thunder #18
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Das Pastoras
This is the most modern story on our list, and it serves as an excellent entry point into the quickly concluding run of writer Jason Aaron. In only 20 pages this issue encapsulates three key elements of Aaron's massive story: history, failure, and incredible art. The first two pillars are found in a story of Thor before he was worthy of holding Mjolnir as he befriends a dragon. Both are put upon by overly harsh fathers, and it ultimately leads to a falling out. This ancient story of Thor establishes how he became the hero of modern Marvel Comics. It also shows how his failures helped to shape him. No spoilers on how this ends, but it goes from being a lot of fun to a bit of a tear jerker. There are no noble choices to be made when all is said and done, and the final pages are likely to haunt readers just as they haunt Thor.
This is also an incredibly good-looking comic book. The primary artist of Thor: God of Thunder, Esad Ribic, took a break and allowed Das Pastoras to draw this issue. Both artists are known for lush, painterly panels with fearsome depictions of battle and monsters. Pastoras provides personality and life to the dragon, making both the moments of partying and gore-filled action sing.prevnext
And Now... Galactus!
Issue: Thor #160
Plot and Art by Jack Kirby
Dialogue by Stan Lee
Inks by Vince Colletta
This issue does technically end on a cliffhanger, but the reason to read it is as a study of Jack Kirby at his absolute best. For anyone looking to understand why this man was called "The King", they need look no further than "And Now… Galactus!" The issue introduces the looming threat of the planet eater to Thor's story along with Ego the Living Planet. Even for Thor, it was a massive increase in scale and stakes, and Kirby's pages make the expansion feel as big as it ought to.
Whether you're looking at an immaculately conceived splash of Galactus' face or an experimental fumetti depiction of Ego, this comic feels properly cosmic. Even in the smaller panels of conversation, Kirby's sense of design is starting to show the aesthetic that would later define "The Fourth World Saga" at DC Comics. Every background and character is intricately detailed in a manner that is truly out of this world. This issue is as big and beautiful as any you will find in all of Marvel Comics' history.prevnext
Here Be Giants
Issue: Thor: The Mighty Avenger #3
Written by Roger Landgridge
Art by Chris Samnee
Colors by Matt Wilson
If you're looking for a Thor origin story, there's no better place to start than with Thor: The Mighty Avenger. It was a saddeningly short-lived series, but that makes collecting the entire thing an absolute steal. However, if you want to start with just one issue, then #3 is a great pick. It provides a quick refresher on the character before telling the tale of his very first crossover with other superheroes, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
This has all of the key elements of a great Thor story: Jane Foster talks sense, Loki plays tricks, Thor learns a lesson, and there's a big smackdown. It also features Chris Samnee who makes these characters every bit as charming as they ought to be. This series beautifully captures the sensibilities of Marvel Comics' Silver Age with a more streamlined, modern reading experience. Just like the rest of the series this issue is filled with joy and a lot of fun to read from start to finish.prevnext
Skurge's Last Stand
Issue: Thor #362
Words and Art by Walter Simonson
Colors by Max Scheele0comments
This isn't really a story about Thor so much as it's a story about the world of Thor and one minor character taking centerstage. Skurge the Executioner has been around since the earliest days of both Thor and The Avengers as a founding member of The Masters of Evil. It's at this moment in Walter Simonson's epic run that he provided one of the most impressive moments in Marvel Comics' ever. As Thor and his allies work to ferry souls safely out of Hel, it's Skurge who saves the day in an incredible last stand.
The power of the final pages in this issue cannot be overstated and have to be read to be fully appreciated. Simonson's prose is perfectly purple, evoking poetry in describing how one fearsome and fearless individual does the impossible. The panels are even more startling as the man known as The Executioner battles a never-ending horde with both axe and assault rifle. After this issue ends, both the demons of Hel and readers will never forget the man who stood alone at Gjallerbru.prev