This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on September 9, 2016.
This week sees the release of the first collection of Jason Aaron and Russel Dauterman’s The Mighty Thor. The widely acclaimed series is the continuation of their previous work together on Thor and Aaron’s collaboration with Esad Ribic and others on Thor: God of Thunder. Together these works form a mighty epic tracing Thor’s fall from grace and the rise of Jane Foster as a new God of Thunder. It’s an impressive collection of stories and one that still seems far from over. However it turns out though, it’s bound to go down in the pantheon of Marvel Comics as one of the finest runs on the character ever.
While Aaron and his collaborators forge ahead with their own tales, we’re taking a look at them and all of the Thor stories that have come before to see how they rank against one another. When discussing the absolute best of what this character has to offer, the newest series faces some stiff competition. We’ve compiled a list of the six greatest Thor runs of all time ranked from first to sixth. There were some tough choices involved, because all of these stories deserve to be called “legendary”.
Take a look at our top picks, along with recommended starting points, and consider checking out some of these tales between new issues of The Mighty Thor.
Recommended Starting Point: Thor #337-340
There’s no debating the top slot on this list. From Thor #337 to Thor #382, Walt Simonson brought unseen levels of artistic imagination and power to the The Mighty Avenger. The most difficult part of discussing Simonson’s run is picking a favorite moment. From the very start of his time on the series, Simonson began to add to the mythos with the creation of fan-favorite Beta Ray Bill accompanied by the early overtures of The Surtur Saga. From Bill’s iconic face to the incredible lettering over the universal pounding of “DOOM”, this run declared itself as something special from the very start.
Simonson would go on to tell a list of tales so impressive that it’s hard for just about any superhero comic to compete. From the beloved wackiness of Frog Thor to operatic effects of “Skurge’s Last Stand”, this run on Thor is filled with gems from start to finish. Simonson helped to bring about a greater respect at Marvel for artists as all-around storytellers too, writing all of it in addition to drawing most issues. He dreamed up ideas that only his pencils could properly communicate in a run that isn’t just the best of Thor, but one of the best ever published by Marvel Comics.
Jack Kirby & Stan Lee
Recommended Starting Point: Thor #168-170
That Simonson’s run tops that of this classic Marvel duo speaks volumes to its quality. That doesn’t mean Kirby and Lee’s work on Thor is anything to scoff at; it’s probably their most underrated collaboration together. With an expansive set of issues almost as impressive as their run on Fantastic Four, Kirby and Lee defined the cosmic scope and stories that could be told with Thor. They grew the pantheon of Norse gods to include the like of Sif and The Warriors Three, while also including new creations like Mangog and Kirby’s take on God in Galactus.
Kirby may be best known for his cosmic machinery and psychedelic imagery at DC Comics in his Fourth World Saga, but you can see the origins for much of that work here. Thor flies through space encountering distant races and impossible mechanisms. Photography is used to experiment with in backgrounds to surprising effect. The scale of scope of Kirby and Lee’s work together on Thor is massive, but even more impressive is Kirby’s growth as an artist on almost every page.
Recommended Starting Point: Thor: God of Thunder #18
Aaron’s story is far from done, but his place in the canon of Thor is secure. His epic has ranged across three volumes of the series. It has told the lives of three different Thors, charted the original God of Thunder’s fall, and the rise of a new hero thus far. If you want a perfect example of why Aaron ranks so high, look no further than Thor: God of Thunder #18. It is packed with pathos and mirth, small moments of friendship and legendary figures. This one issue perfectly distills everything Thor can be.
The multiple volumes of this series has seen Aaron paired with some of today’s best artists as well. Esad Ribic brought a Heavy Metal style to the series that fit the old Norse style of “God of Thunder” exceedingly well. Now Russell Dauterman is using cleaner line work to create a refined and highly detailed tale of the Nine Realms, beautifully colored by Matt Wilson. Together this team is telling one of the grandest tales in superhero comics today.
Chris Samnee & Roger Langridge
Recommended Starting Point: Thor: The Mighty Avenger #1-2
This run of Thor comics is the definition of short and sweet. While Thor: The Mighty Avenger may have only lasted for 8 issues total, it has only become more highly regarded in the years since its cancellation. The story focuses on Thor’s earliest adventures on Earth introducing him to allies like Jane Foster and foes like Mr. Hyde. It’s an innocent take on the character in a fish-out-of-water type story where Thor is focused on being the best version of himself.
They are also significant for providing Chris Samnee with something of a coming out party at Marvel Comics. His work here preceded widely acclaimed runs on both Daredevil and Black Widow. Samnee’s talents are just as well displayed here with plenty of exciting action and some truly endearing moments. While there are only 8 issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, each one excellent. These are treasures to be cherished, even if we may want to wonder what more could have been.
Recommended Starting Point: Thor (vol. 2) #6-7
Dan Jurgens wrote almost 80 issues of Thor, covering an expanse between two events that would forever change how Marvel Comics was perceived. Starting with “Heroes Reborn” and ending with “Avengers Disassembled”, Jurgens maintained Thor as a rock solid narrative during the most tumultuous time of the 1990s and leading to the climactic events of “Ragnarok”.
Jurgens wasn’t just maintaining Thor though, he was ambitious in adding new elements to this already massive mythos. He transformed the God of Thunder into the All-Father himself, and included lots of crossovers with other Marvel greats like Spider-Man, Namor, and Hercules. Jurgens’ time on the title is an excellent example of how to weave a character’s story into shared continuity uniting the legends of Asgard with those of Marvel Comics.
Straczynski & Coipel
Recommended Starting Point: Thor (vol. 3) #3
After “Avengers Disassembled” and “Ragnarok” Thor took his longest hiatus to date from Marvel Comics, even if you count his current status as being out of commission. When it finally came time for The Mighty Avenger to return, Marvel provided him with an all-star crew. Writer J. Michael Straczynski merged much of canon into a comprehensive look forward, while also changing the setting of Asgard to a small town in Oklahoma.
This is the run that also made a lot of current readers into lifelong fans of Oliver Coipel’s art. Coipel delivered fresh designs for all of Thor’s most familiar cast members and a new armored look for the Avenger himself. The story went many unexpected places, but it all looked great. It’s also the run that would set the stage for Jason Aaron’s current take on the character, and that’s nothing to scoff at.
What are your favorite Thor comics to date? Where do you think Aaron’s current run will land in these rankings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.