The best comics to read right now: Thor edition
With Thor: Love and Thunder in theaters now, this month's EW comic column is appropriately dedicated to books about gods, myths, and female heroes. Check out our list of recommendations below.
Thor by Jason Aaron: The Complete Collections (Marvel)
Jason Aaron (writer), Esad Ribić (artist), Russell Dauterman (artist), Matthew Wilson (color artist), Ive Svorcina (color artist)
Few Marvel comics stories from the past decade are as beloved as writer Jason Aaron's seven-year run with the God of Thunder. This epic saga, originally spread out across successive comics with different titles but now conveniently collected in both softcover and hardback omnibus form, takes Thor through time, space, and many different incarnations: His younger, hard-drinking self from the golden age of vikings; his modern self, beset by anxieties about whether he's unworthy after all; his future self, a King of Asgard at the end of time who has become a bitter reflection of his own father Odin; and Jane Foster's female Thor.
The last one made it into Thor: Love and Thunder alongside Aaron's time-hopping villain Gorr the God Butcher, but since Aaron wrote more than 100 issues there are plenty of awesome story beats from his comics that didn't end up in Taika Waititi's film — including the rapacious industrialist Dario Agger, whose recognizable human brand of capitalist evil somehow seems even more repellent amidst all this mythological spectacle (well, he also turns into a minotaur).
Although Aaron was the writer and mastermind behind the years-long Thor saga (which makes a particularly satisfying read in collected form because you can see how story seeds planted early on pay off later), it wouldn't be as legendary as it was without the incredible art from a plethora of comics luminaries including Esad Ribić, Russell Dauterman (who has gone on to be a top-tier Marvel artist who illustrated all those high-fashion looks for the X-Men at the Hellfire Gala last year), Olivier Coipel (who previously made eye-popping art for the run of 2000s Thor comics written by J. Michael Straczynski), Mike Del Mundo, Christian Ward, and more.
"I knew, before I'd ever written a word of Thor, that Esad Ribić was going to draw it," Aaron recently told EW as part of a retrospective interview about his Thor comics. "So I knew I could swing for the fences in the biggest way possible because no matter how big and crazy it was, I knew that Esad could do it and give it weight and gravitas. The first two arcs of the book are very much a tour de force from him, very much nailing the cosmic, sci-fi, heavy metal-ness of Thor."
Aaron continues, "I think Esad left some really massive shoes to fill. Russell Dauterman was pretty new and hadn't really done that much stuff at Marvel. It was editor Wil Moss who found him and brought him in. We literally got to watch Russell become a superstar over the course of that run, and not only step into those shoes, but take things up a notch in terms of his ability to build all these different realms and these different characters."
Norse Mythology (Dark Horse)
Neil Gaiman (writer), P. Craig Russell (writer/artist), Lovern Kindzierski (colorist), Mike Mignola (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), Jerry Ordway (artist), Piotr Kowalski (artist), David Rubín (artist/colorist), Jill Thompson (artist/colorist)
Marvel's Thor comics and movies use a lot of characters and concepts from ancient Norse mythology, but it's safe to say that they play rather fast and loose with the text. Luckily, superstar author Neil Gaiman recently wrote a very useful English version of Norse Mythology that explains, among other things, exactly why the handle of Thor's hammer Mjolnir is so small and why the promised apocalypse Ragnarok is so scary. Plus, it shows how the two goats that pop up in both Thor: Love and Thunder and Jason Aaron's Thor comics are grounded in Norse myth.
But though Gaiman is an accomplished novelist, his first home was comics, and so it makes sense that his version of the Norse myths is great. It helps that P. Craig Russell (who has collaborated with Gaiman before, notably on one of the single best issues of The Sandman) led this comic adaptation, breaking the prose down into page layouts and providing much of the art himself. But other iconic comic creators provide art as well, including legendary Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and modern superstar David Rubin (whose previous work on Beowulf has already proven his ability to inject old myths with new flair). If you're still hungering for comics with Thor and Odin in them but want a little more historical accuracy in the stories, Norse Mythology is the way to go.
Starhenge Book One: The Dragon and the Boar (Image)
Liam Sharp (writer/artist)
Marvel's Thor stories combine old-fashioned mythology with futuristic pop art aesthetics. But why should the Norse legends be the only mythology to benefit from such a combination? Liam Sharp's new creator-owned project does something similar for King Arthur and Camelot. The first issue of Starhenge is a heady brew, taking readers between the ancient Celtic world of the Arthur myth, the present day, and a war-torn dystopian future. Since Sharp's art is such a perfect fit for epic fantasy (as seen in his previous work on Wonder Woman), it's a joy to see him add robots and spaceships into the mix as well.
Sharp previously worked with visionary comic writer Grant Morrison on The Green Lantern, and you can see Morrison's influence in the way Sharp describes the futuristic war taking place simultaneously in "the physical battlegrounds of the terraveldt," "the thought-vortices of the metaveldt," and "the hyperveldt, the numbered realms of solid-state intelligences." The heroes of this dark timeline have no choice but to send one of their own back to the days of Merlin. Future issues will reveal the full extent of Sharp's multi-faceted story, but we can rest assured that it will continue be a multi-genre feast for the eyes.
The Wicked + the Divine (Image)
Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matt Wilson (colorist)
Thor: Love and Thunder puts a lot of energy into making its ancient gods seem modern, including giving the thunder god's goats the voice of an old Taylor Swift meme. But The Wicked + The Divine is even more effective at blending classic legends into a modern story. Here, twelve gods reincarnate into humanity every century — and when deities like Odin, Persephone, the Morrigan, and more enter the 21st century, they basically become pop stars.
The 50-issue saga by longtime collaborators Kieron Gillen (Eternals, Immortal X-Men) and Jamie McKelvie (Captain Carter) is a full-color commentary on media, religion, worship, and everything in between.
Daredevil: Woman Without Fear (Marvel)
Chip Zdarsky (writer), Rafael de Latorre (artist)
Jane Foster may now be the most famous female Marvel character to take over the mantle of a male hero, but she was far from the last. Chip Zdarsky's recent run on Daredevil found Matt Murdock compelled to give up his mask after his archenemy Wilson Fisk becomes mayor of New York City. Who better to succeed Matt as Daredevil than his longtime lover and frenemy, Elektra? Even though this series is only part of Zdarsky's greater story, it's worth checking out in its own right just for Rafael De Latorre's incredible design for the female Daredevil, combining the classic billy clubs with her own ninja skills. The new collected edition also comes with Elektra #100, a special issue commemorating the whole long history of this beloved character.