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9 Beyond-Epic Thor Comics to Read After Watching Ragnarok

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9 Beyond-Epic <i>Thor</i> Comics to Read After Watching <i>Ragnarok</i>

The third Thor film debuts nationwide today, and as Paste’s film editor Michael Burgin notes in his review, it’s pretty damn great Director Taika Waititi offers a galactic roadtrip through the Marvel Universe’s less-troden paths, and that startling sense of discovery fuels the best entry in the trilogy. But for those viewers who want to know more about Hela, the family tree of Odin or simply want to see Hulk beat the shit out of aliens in an intergalactic colosseum, do we have news for you. This film sits atop dozens of comics that pack the same hammer-steel punch as their cinematic offspring, and they are absolutely worth devouring after your trip to the local cinema. Check out our picks below and let us know yours on our Twitter page.
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Fearless Defenders
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Will Sliney
Before Marvel and Netflix aligned on their definition of “Defender,” the House of Ideas gave then-rising writer Cullen Bunn and popular artist Will Sliney a chance to redefine the team as a coalition of powerful women heroes. The Valkyrie on the cover of this volume may not look overly familiar to moviegoers, but actress Tessa Thompson has been vocal about the inspiration she took from the character’s depiction in this series, which gave Valkyrie a fleshed-out personality, a nuanced romantic life and a body-swapping dynamic with a human host. Thompson also confirmed that her portrayal is bisexual like the Fearless Defender—although it has come to light that Marvel Studios regrettably cut a scene that would have clarified that in Thor: Ragnarok, which would have broken ground as the MCU’s first canonically queer character. Good job, Marvel Studios. Bonus: the other primary Defender in this run is Misty Knight, who received her own standout live-action portrayal in the Netflix shows. Crossover!!! Steve Foxe
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Infinity
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artists: Jerome Opeña, Jim Cheung
We can’t lie—Infinity is occasionally overstuffed and will probably be a lot to take in if you’re a more casual Marvel reader, but its intergalactic scope and standout hammer-throwing badassery moment may help this one appeal to Ragnarok viewers. (Stunning art from Jerome Opeña and Jim Cheung certainly doesn’t hurt, either.) The actual plot serves as a midway point for writer Jonathan Hickman’s long Marvel epic, with Infinity existing to wrap up a narrative thread about strange and threatening aliens called The Builders. Bonus: the six-issue event also introduces Thanos’ Black Order, who will hit the screen—and many of our favorite heroes—in Avengers: Infinity War Part 1. Steve Foxe
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Loki: Agent of Asgard
Writer: Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Al Ewing and Lee Garbett picked up the Loki baton from Kieron Gillen and his capable crew of artists, with the unenviable task of following up Gillen’s emotional farewell to the character’s child incarnation in the pages of Young Avengers. Rather than play a subpar cover song, Ewing and Garbett embraced the fresh start by aging Loki into a puckish young man (who bears a not-coincidental resemblance to actor Tom Hiddleston) and set about placing their Loki on his own doomed trajectory raging against his baser nature. This 17-issue run kicks off with Loki in the employ of Asgard as a secret agent of sorts, and ends with a tie-in to mega event Secret Wars, but worry not: Ewing and Garbett use the opportunity to conclude Loki’s story in melancholy, meta style. If you’re a fan of the character’s more roguishly romantic film portrayal, this is the run for you. Steve Foxe
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The Mighty Thor
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
We’ve made no secret of our love for writer Jason Aaron’s work on Thor, lauding it with a barrel of mead alongside runs from Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Walt Simonson. Recent runs have tossed Thor’s realms—planted in the World Tree Yggdrasil of Norse mythology—into a malicious war. Aaaron and artists Russell Dauterman and Valerio Schiti have unfurled a grand tapestry of fantasy races and geographies, including a population of feral fire people and elegant fate weavers. It’s a heady, hyper-creative descent into epic. But if you appreciated the sci-fi grandiosity of Ragnarok, “The Asgard/Shi’ar War” arc should give you another dose of cosmic opera fisticuffs. Running through issues 15-19, the storyline pits two gods into an Olympian battle against the Mighty Thor, showcasing primal, galaxy-shifting feats of destruction and salvation. Comics don’t get much bigger than these five issues, and they’ll keep your cinematic high going after Ragnarok’s credits role. Sean Edgar
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Planet Hulk
Writer: Greg Pak
Artist: Gary Frank, Aaron Lopresti, Carlo Pagulayan
Beleaguered Hulk fans have long requested a Planet Hulk solo film for Mark Ruffalo’s Jade Giant, and now they’re getting it…as a subplot in a Thor movie. Gladiator Hulk hails from Greg Pak and crew’s fan-favorite story arc in which Bruce Banner, jettisoned from Earth by his former friends due to his destructive capabilities, proves his mettle in an alien arena and leads a motley crew of resistance fighters to overthrow a despot. While Silver Surfer legally couldn’t appear in Thor: Ragnarak, Planet Hulk’s Korg, voiced by Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, is an early contender for Marvel’s next breakout CGI character. This Gamma-powered saga won’t scratch your Asgardian itch (there’s a powder for that), but it is a satisfying standalone with an impressive mix of characters rendered by veteran superhero artists and a typically Earthbound hero flexing his intergalactic muscles. Steve Foxe
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Thor by Walter Simonson
Writer/Artist: Walter Simonson
We tried to narrow this one down, but Thor: Ragnarok’s take on Asgard and its endtimes owes more to Walter Simonson’s defining run on the character than anyone else’s time with Thor, even Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s foundational work decades previous. The film may strive to incorporate Kirby’s iconic visuals, but its depiction of Surtur, Skurge and other elements are pure Simonson—all of which do better by Simonson than Thor: Dark World did in realizing Simonson’s villainous creation, Malekith. This genuine classic is worth reading in full, as much for Simonson’s godly art skills as for his Norse-epic-worthy storytelling. As Mark Peters wrote for us in an essay appreciating another Thor scribe on this list, Simonson “brought a cosmic scale and sense of humor back to the title, along with his gorgeous, dynamic art.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Steve Foxe
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Thor: The God Butcher
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Easily the darkest entry on this list, and a sharp contrast to the charming humor of Thor: Ragnarok, Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic’s opening salvo is a grim twilight of the gods writ on a cosmic scale that spans eons. If the sharp tonal shift doesn’t turn you off, Aaron and Ribic’s collaboration is like a heavy-metal van painting come to life. While Ragnarok’s inspiration comes from Norse mythology and an already fated endtime, God Butcher’s is the story of a powerful being with an unending vendetta against the gods—literally all of the gods. Aaron’s run following this, with artists like Ron Garney and Das Patoras, maintains the stunning scale and guitar-riff tone of God Butcher, and every single page is worthwhile for the discerning Thor fan. Steve Foxe
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Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers
Writer: Rob Rodi
Artist: Esad Ribic
Rob Rodi and Esad Ribic’s Loki mini-series, retitled Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers for the trade, was for years the best characterization Thor’s adopted brother ever received (arguably usurped now by Gillen’s rehabilitation of the trickster), and stands out for Ribic’s painted figure work and Rodi’s deft look at the contradictions at the heart of Loki. The series takes a look at how Loki might act to achieve his supposed goal of taking over Asgard (spoiler alert: not as cruelly as you might suspect.) Ribic’s depiction of Hela, played in Thor: Ragnarok with gothic drag queen flair by Cate Blanchett, should also please fans of the underworld goddess with the crown of antlers, as she dons a stately air in her defiance of Loki. Steve Foxe
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Thor: The Mighty Avenger
Writer: Roger Langridge
Artist: Chris Samnee
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Thor has evolved from the one-note Shakespearean thunder-viking of his early days to a more nuanced character in the modern age of comics. This is no doubt due in part to Chris Hemsworth’s affable screen portrayal and Jason Aaron’s exemplary work in the pages of his myriad Thor comics. But months before Hemsworth entered the picture and years before Aaron came to town, depth and humanity were the main drivers of Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee’s approach in Thor: The Mighty Avenger. For the first time in decades, we became witness to a Thunder God with less than heavenly human concerns. A man humbled by his experience walking amongst mere mortals. A man emboldened by his affection for Jane Foster, who was not so much a love interest, but more of a fully-realized character of equal import (apologies to Natalie Portman). We witnessed the young god defeated, we witnessed his trials and tribulations, and for the first time—perhaps ever—we identified with him. All this in a silly kid’s comic! Jakob Free

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