With the impending release of the eagerly-awaited The Avengers film directed by Joss Whedon arriving on May 4th, what better than to do a retrospective on some of the best collections for readers on some of the Marvel Super Heroes that make up the core of the Avengers team from the upcoming movie? First up is Thor, the God of Thunder and the series Thor: The Mighty Avenger.
Thor: The Mighty Avenger
Ages 10-16; Grades 4-10
Written by Roger Langridge
Illustrated by Chris Samnee
Marvel Comics, 2010-2011
Vol. 1 ISBN 978-0-7851-4121-1
Vol. 2 ISBN 978-0-7851-4122-8
Rated A for All Ages
Every once in awhile it’s always good to go back to the basics of what made a comic book series so great. Be it a flashback, retelling, etc – it’s a way for new readers to find a jumping-on point to get introduced to a character, but it also has to balance that fine line and not alienate longtime fans. We’re seeing that with DC Comics’ launch of their 52 line of comics and we’re seeing that with Marvel Comics’ line of “Season One” graphic novels that retell the origins of heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil and the Fantastic Four to name a few. Some of us even saw it back in 1980s with Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One and John Byrne’s Superman: the Man of Steel stories.
Thor, Marvel’s hero based on the god of thunder of Norse mythology, was given a feature length film in 2011 and enjoyed fantastic Box Office success in the hands of director Kenneth Branagh (Henry V) and actor Christopher Hemsworth, who portrayed the God of Thunder. Marvel Comics’ version of Thor, the Norse God of Thunder first debuted in the pages of Journey into Mystery #83 in 1962, and the hero has been a staple of Marvel Comics for an impressive 50 years.
In 2010, Marvel Comics took the bold initiative to launch a second monthly Thor title called Thor: The Mighty Avenger. Written by Roger Langridge (The Muppets) and illustrated by Chris Samnee, the series served as a ground zero launching point for new readers as well as longtime fans and reimagines the early days of Thor’s first appearance on Earth, his budding relationship with Jane Foster, and his various interactions with other characters from the Marvel Universe along the way. For fans who loved the Thor feature film, this comic book was meant for you—it’s accessible, it’s smartly written, beautifully illustrated, and mixes up a perfect balance of adventure with the right addition of a budding romance between a mortal and a god.
The series’ main changes are very minor, but they serve the plot well. Jane Foster is not a nurse but a curator at a museum of antiquities at the Bergen War Memorial Museum, where she is a specialist in Norse artifacts. After being promoted in her department, Jane discovers Thor attempting to break an urn in the Norse wing of the museum, and she mistakes him for a homeless man. Soon afterwards, she meets him again as he’s in the middle of a bar fight to protect the honor of a woman inside from the villainous Mr. Hyde. Within just a few pages, Langridge and Samnee create the perfect set-up with Jane as the focal point for the reader. We care about her, her background, the dead-end relationship she’s trying to end with her ex-boyfriend, and when she finally gets to meet Thor, he’s instantly likeable as an honorable goof who won’t back down from a fight even if he still hasn’t regained his God of Thunder powers yet. Soon though, Thor gains his mystical hammer Mjolnir, which was trapped in the urn at the museum. Unfortunately for Thor, he discovers that even with his powers back, he has been banished from his home in Asgard by his father Odin, and he has no place to call home. Jane realizes that she is with a truly godlike being, but one who is humble, kind, and feeling out of place in a world he doesn’t call home. It’s a really refreshing approach, creating Thor as a fish out of water with Jane as his focal point on Earth, and it’s easy to see how their romance blossoms and serves as the main focus throughout the short-lived series.
Soon other heroes and villains show up, most notably Thor’s half-brother Loki, who—no surprise at all—is as much a trickster as ever. We’re also reintroduced to Ant-Man, the Wasp, the Warriors Three, Captain Britain, Namor the Sub-Mariner, and Iron Man over the two volumes. The two collections also reprint some of the early Journey into Mystery stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Sadly, the series was cancelled by Marvel Comics after only eight issues. Such a shame, since the series was able to humanize a hero with the powers of a god and to also bring in a romantic angle that really works. Oh Marvel, you really dropped the ball cancelling this series!
Of note also is that this isn’t the complete collection of stories by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. One issue is remaining uncollected – the 2011 Free Comic Book Day Thor/Captain America issue in which Thor and a time-displaced Captain America first meet in Camelot of all places. It’s a fun story that hopefully will be collected by Marvel Comics in an omnibus format in the future.