Thor has done more for modern comics than I think anyone gives it credit for. I’m talking the first movie – the one I also very often see folks negatively (and unfairly, I think) comparing to other Marvel Cinematic Universe flicks. I’ve seen more people say that Thor has opened up the world of comics to them than even The Avengers. For me, the movie and the character capture everything that is great about how comics can be larger than life. Thor is a god to us, a powerful, adventure-hungry hunk of muscle and madness that can bring a Frost Giant down to size just in time to ride his rainbow bridge back to his sci-fi/fantasy mash-up homeland where he plans on making with the merry.
But somehow, Thor also captures the essence of humanity. In both the comics and the films, when he journeys to Earth, he is among us, but not us. He longs to connect with us, and is moved by the connections he makes and fascinated by what humanity can do. To us, he is huge, but to him, we are not small. It’s that beating heart, that realness, that makes him my favorite Avenger.
As we count down the days to the premier of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where we will see Thor again, let’s take a look at Marvel’s recent celebration of Thor in all of his – and her – forms. Thor: Annual #1, subtitled “Tales of Thunder,” includes three stories that take place during different parts of Thor’s legacy. We begin with…
(Jason Aaron – Timothy Truman – Frank Martin – Joe Sabino)
I regretfully admit that I didn’t follow Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder series. I always planned to go back and start from the beginning, and still do, but Aaron’s tale of King Thor – the ancient ruler that Thor will become in the distant future – was perfectly accessible as a standalone tale. It’s a perfectly told short story about Thor’s perennial love for humans and Earth, and also the daring, adventurous spirit of the Asgardians under Thor’s rule.
At its core, King Thor is a creation story about the worlds that Thor lost, and will make anew, with the help of his brilliant granddaughters Frigg, Atli, and Ellisiv. Though it’s a story about beings larger than life in a universe eons from anything we’d recognize as a familiar setting, Thor is as human as ever… and, really, in some way or another, all of the best Thor stories are, on some level, about us.
(Noelle Stevenson – Marguerite Sauvage – Joe Sabino)
I’m a huge fan of everything Noelle Stevenson. She’s the writer/artist behind Nimona, and one of the co-creators/writers/cover artists of perhaps my favorite ongoing series, Lumberjanes. Her work is perfectly complimented by Marguerite’s elegant linework and creamy colors. Teaming these two up is a stroke of genius, and their take on the confident and fun-loving modern Thor gives us an action-packed, sweet tale.
The Thor featured in this short is the eponymous character of the current Thor series (also by Jason Aaron). She’s a woman, and her origin is shrouded in mystery. Like some of the readers, the Warriors Three and the other Asgardians feel that this new Thor – who insists that she is Thor proper and shouldn’t be called “Lady Thor” by her skeptical peers – is unfit to wield Mjolnir. Thor, in pursuit of a night to remember rather than their approval, goes on a series of adventures, proving to the awed Warriors Three that she is, in fact, worthy – perhaps more so than even the Thor they knew.
A side note, if Thor: Ragnarok, the third installment of what is looking to be a trilogy of Thor movies ends with the demise of my favorite avenger… this Thor storyline would be a worthy successor to the first.
(CM Punk – Rob Guillory – Joe Sabino)
Rounding out the collection is a collaboration between wrestler-turned-writer CM Punk and Chew artist Rob Guillory. This is a funny, slap-sticky, kind of wonderfully gross story from a time before Thor was worthy to wield his hammer. He’s outdrank all of Asgard, the Vikings that have come to worship him, as well as a good amount of other species. In a fun twist, Mephisto comes from the future, when Thor is an active Avenger, to trick him into drinking something nasty. Hijinks follow, and the end has a clever little twist. It’s not as poignant as the previous two stories, but it also doesn’t try to be. The stellar art from Guillory, who for my money is one of the top talents in comics at the moment, made this short a memorable trip to a time when things were simpler for Thor.
The beauty of Thor is that, no matter the focus, the timing, or the tone, there is always something to explore in the characters. Something to be said about us through the characters. There’s a reason why Thor spoke to people who had yet to explore the comics industry, inviting new readers into a wonderful world of superheroes and villains and adventure and drama and art and words… and that’s because Thor, whether he is a man or she is a woman, whether they’re old or young, they represent the full scope of what we can be. Heroes, drunkards, screw-ups, hopeful youths, and old folks who miss how things were but look forward to the new world that we helped create.
PAT SHAND writes comics (Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten, GFT: Arcane Acre) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). He’s hoping to add novelist to that list, but currently he’s closer to becoming a serial tweeter.