Thor is the least Marvel-like character of the entire Marvel Universe. That’s actually because, as we all know, he wasn’t created by Stan Lee but is part of Norse mythology. This makes him always feel a bit off-synch from the rest of the Marvel heroes. It’s like one of those issues where the avengers step into a portal bringing them to a magical land, and instead of just finishing their adventure; they brought the whole magical land into their universe. It also brings another mythology to the mix which makes writers sometimes try to explain how it works with a world where there are people who believe in one God and Jesus, resulting in some awkward moments.
Not only that, but because Thor is not from the same world as the rest of Marvel’s heroes, he is not grounded in any way and seems to have no weakness (kind of like how Superman originally was). The reason why you need to have all of Asgard and Norse mythology in the marvel universe, rather than just Thor, is so that Thor can confront opponents and situations on fair ground where both sides have the same invulnerability. Hence why the best Thor comics usually deal with problems from his realm and other Norse myths and villains, like his step brother Loki.
As Thor reminds me a lot of Superman, Loki reminds me a lot of Luthor. Like Luthor, Loki is always around in Thor’s world. He may not be the main antagonist of the issue or storyline, but the reader is usually made aware of what’s going on with him, building up his story too and keeping him within range of the hero, acting more like a supporting character than an outright villain until it is his time to shine. Because these two characters go hand in hand, I will now give you 5 runs and stories that you can find to get to know everyone’s favourite Norse god and his love-hate relationship with his brother Loki. Each are great starting points and do not need any previous knowledge of the characters.
Walt Simonson’ Thor run
Though it was Stan Lee who introduced Thor to the Marvel Universe, his run is not the one people deem most classic. The true go-to writer when it comes to Thor is Walt Simonson. He actually wrote AND drew Thor for many years in the 80s and it is his stories that get referred to most. It was these comics that Kenneth Branagh read when getting acquainted with the character when he was called upon to direct the first Thor film. Throughout this epic run, you get Beta Ray Bill, Frog Thor, Malaketh searching for his casket of ancient winters and the ultimate battle against the serpent of Asguard. And of course, Loki is there behind the scenes, like always. The whole run has been collected in one giant omnibus. Everyone says it’s worth it. I say check out the art first and read some dialogue to see if “classic” Thor is up your alley.
Though the author definitely has his off days (cough One More Day cough anything Superman related cough), he gets it right with this book. It is the easiest way to start reading Thor since it was a rebirth of Asguard and it brings Thor’s world to a new and interesting setting. The villain is Loki (who else could it be?) but the awesome battle in issue 600 is between Thor and Bor, his grandfather and the first Norse god. It’s easily the best battle in all of Thor’s history and I would say this run features the best art found in this whole list of books, which is no small feat when Brian Hitch, Esaad Ribic and Walt Simonson are on the list. The run is collected in a few trades.
Ultimates 1 and 2
Actually, I am really recommending Ultimates 2 here but because this is about getting into comics, it’s recommended you read Ultimates 1 before. 1 is fine, and Thor gets his moment, but Ultiamtes 2 is where the fun really is. The best line I read in a long time is in there (by Hawkeye no less), and it also has the best Quicksilver, Hulk and Iron Man moments I have ever read. BUT the real star is Thor and the real threat is Loki. I simply cannot say more in relation to the story. As for the comic, it is what the Avengers film wanted to be, only better and a little more crude, and with Captain America doing something. Mark Millar is the writer and though he is not subtle, or deep, or philosophical, he definitely uses the medium to stage events that would be far too expensive for a movie. This is dumb fun in the best way possible and it’s also a retelling of the very first Avengers story, which is what the film was also trying to be.
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers
Loki wins. It’s not a spoiler, it’s the very first panel and the whole book is about what exactly happens when Loki finally beats Thor and takes over Asguard. From what I know, this is cannon, and thus it means that unlike most villains, Loki actually accomplished his goal at least once (I feel he also wins in J Michael Strazynski’s run). If you are interested in the crazy fight he must have had with Thor to win, well its all given to you in the covers, which serve as splashes for the moment right before the book begins.
Loki: The trials of Loki
The origin story of Loki’s feud with his brother. It combines the mythological stories associated to the character and feels most removed from the Marvel universe. It is not a necessary read, unlike everything else on this list, but it gives a good perspective on the Thor and Loki relationship.