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This is part 4 in my continuing insane effort to try to read EVERY MARVEL COMIC EVER PUBLISHED. You can see previous posts using the tag "complete-marvel-run". We are tackling the older/longer series first, and going in "MCU Order".
(Note: All volume nos. are based on the Wikipedia listings)
Thor v1 (1966-1996)
Volume length: 377 issues
(Click photos to view full-size)
This volume starts from #126, continuing the numbering from the original series Journey into Mystery The early parts of this run were challenging to get through because it was so heavy on the "Shakespare in the park" type of speech. The early issues had a lot of gorgeous colorful spreads set on Asgard (mostly fantastic Jack Kirby art) which I liked a lot, with elaborate detail in the buildings and the armor and such. (There is a particular panel of Odin and his court I had in mind as I describe this, but I am sadly unable to remember which issue it was from so I was not able to attach it here.)
The most interesting thing about the entire Thor run is how early on, Odin is really portrayed as an omnipotent and all-knowing god who created humanity. (As opposed to the MCU implementation of "we are just fancy magic space aliens who your ancestors happened to worship".) This started to change in the 70s with the expansion of the Marvel cosmology, starting with the introduction of the Eternals and the arrival of the Fourth Host of Celestials to pass judgment upon the earth. It is later revealed that Odin and the other Skyfather deities of Earth had earlier encountered and made a secret pact with the Celestials' Third Host many ages ago. Odin looks less and less omnipotent as the decades pass.
Even Thor had so many weird powers during the early years; it often felt like the writers could justify him having any sort of power, sort of like pre-crisis Superman. The biggest example is that Mjolnir used to give Thor the power to travel through time, though I think Thor only ever used it 2-3 times. (This power was later taken away during an encounter with Immortus, no continuity reboot needed.)
I believe that during the 70s and 80s, the Thor book was the primary vehicle for expanding Marvel cosmology (or maybe secondary, since the Fantastic Four were already around), introducing such races, characters and phenomenon such as the Rigellian Colonizers, the Black Galaxy, and Ego the Living Planet and even confronting the threat of Galactus himself. And of course he regularly has trouble with Asgardian villains like Loki, Hela and the Enchantress.
The weakest part of the run for me are when Thor is trapped in his human persona as Donald Blake and has to deal with human problems. The Donald Blake identity was finally removed and for a while Thor kept a human identity as wandering human construction worker "Sigurd Jarlson", who never formed too many attachments. Later on in the 90s the comic would introduce a new supporting character, an architect named Eric Masterson, who would for some time become the host of Thor as well, similar to Donald Blake, and after they are eventually separated, he would go on to be his own hero, Thunderstrike. The times when Thor has to worry about human problems - like Blake losing his patients because he's on Asgard all the time or Masterson losing custody of his son because Thor problems keep cropping up - I always feel like these are a waste of potential stories to be told about a character like Thor and are better fare for street-level heroes like Spider-Man or Daredevil.
In the MCU, Thor's perennial love interest is of course astrophysicist Jane Foster. In the comics she is actually Donald Blake's nurse, and she is never actually a love interest for very long. Odin doesn't like Thor and Jane's relationship, and eventually she marries a normal human doctor. For much of the run, Thor's love interest is actually Sif from Asgard, though they never spend that much time together because Thor is always hanging out on earth.
The highlight of the run is definitely Walt Simonson's run in the 80s which takes Thor on new cosmic and Asgardian directions. Simonson introduces the iconic character Beta Ray Bill, adding a second Mjolnir-wielder to the Marvel Universe for the first time. He also introduces the villains Malekith and Surtur in an epic ragnarok storyline.
The 90s were a weird time where they kept trying to change Thor's costume to be edgier or something? He had a battle armor version of his costume and a shredded 90s look with the sides of his shirt torn off, and towards the end of the run just seemed to give up and had Thor be shirtless all the time.
Overall, happy to have read this run. I've read a fair amount of modern Thor and going through this volume gave me a deeper appreciation of it and gave me a better understanding of the universe's foundations. I also appreciate most of Thor's Asgardian supporting characters, especially the Warriors Three. (Enough that it made rewatch the 2011 movie so I could remember how they looked like in the MCU. Too bad they were killed off in Ragnarok D:) I think this is now my favorite volume among the four foundational Avengers volumes I have read for this series so far.
Some other volumes I read over this period.
Secret Warriors (2009)
Volume length: 28 issues
Secret Warriors are a team of super-powered SHIELD agents brought together by Nick Fury during the Secret Invasion storyline of 2008, and this book covers their activities in the aftermath of that event. I was most interested in this because I believe this was a major basis for what would later become the Marvel's Agents of SHIELD tv series. The storylines aren't very similar, but share a number of elements. Notably Daisy Johnson and Yo-yo Rodriguez were both introduced as part of this team and later play big parts in the TV series.
Non-Stop Spider-Man (2021)
Volume length: 5 issues
Savage Spider-Man (2021)
Volume length: 5 issues
These are 2 limited series by writer Joe Kelly. I have no idea why they are separate series and not just one series (Non-Stop leads into Savage), although Spider-Man does only become savage by the end of Non-Stop, so maybe they thought it would sell more this way? Anyway, the two together are a standalone Spider-Man adventure vs Baron Zemo where he somehow manages to save the world. A fun romp, but not super consequential to continuity.
Deadly Neighborhood Spider-Man (2022)
Volume length: 5 issues
Another standalone adventure, this one sees Peter Parker in Los Angeles encountering some dark and supernatural mysteries. Not much continuity here either.
Volume length: 5 issues
A Jessica Jones-focused limited series by writer Gail Simone where Jessica encounters alternate variants of hers across the universe. Gail kind of had fun with the character here, and the artowkr by Phil Noto is great as usual.
Dark Web (2023)
Dark Web, Dark Web X-Men #1-#3, Dark Web Ms Marvel #1-#2, Dark Web Finale
Total: 7 issues (Dark Web titles only)
For crossover events, I decided to list only those titles that exist only for the event; tie-in issues that happen in their own independent series will count under those volumes.
Dark Web is an event that acts as sort of a spiritual sequel to the old Inferno crossover from 1989 that saw the demonic forces of Limbo invade New York City. It brings together Madelyne Pryor (erstwhile Jean Grey clone and perpetrator of the aforementioned Inferno) and Ben Reilly (fresh from becoming an insane villain after the events of the Beyond storyline from Amazing Spider-Man v5) as they plot their vengeance against those they believe have stolen memories from them. It actually ends with a change in the status quo of Limbo, with Madelyne still as ruler of Limbo but this time with an embassy in New York.
if this sounds like the sort of crossover that is mostly targeted towards established fans, that is absolutely correct. I am unsure why Ms Marvel got her own tie-in series here, it's not like she was an important part of the story!
Sins of Sinister (2023)
Sins of Sinister #1, Storm & The Brotherhood of Mutants #1-#3, Nightcrawlers #1-#3, Immoral X-Men #1-#3, Sins of Sinister: Dominion #1
Total: 11 issues (Sins of Sinister titles only)
This X-Men event which I believe leads into Fall of X later this year covers the events of the villainous Mr Sinister finally achieving domination over mutantkind after some clever manipulation of the Krakoan regeneration process. The three associated limited series lead us down an alternate timeline that chronicles the 1000-year reign of the Sinisters in their quest for universal dominion. This is basically Sinister's Age of Apocalypse and it is pretty spectacular. The only downside is that there are so few issues covering a thousand year timeline so we are given glimpses of characters and events that seem epic and awesome but are never really fleshed out. Same as AoA, the timeline is eventually restored, though consequences remain for Krakoa's quiet council.
Total length: 443 issues
Total issues covered so far: 410+541+488+438 = 1,882
Current total (released) according to the reference reading order: 33,566
I am almost a year into this "complete marvel run" effort, so that progress % doesn't bode well and indicates that this may be a 10-year effort or so! I'm not sure I have the discipline to last that long! Of course, this percentage only covers those volumes that I have covered in the past year or so.
There should be a decent amount of volumes and issues that I have already read since I started reading comics in the 80s that need to be counted as well. It is difficult to estimate, but off the top of my head I have read all of Amazing Spider-Man (almost a thousand issues), most of Uncanny X-Men and related X-Books since the 90s, and most of the Avengers family of books since the mid-2000s. So it's a lot. I would guess right now I am already at 20-30% of all Marvel comics read, but I can't know for sure.
To help the progress along, in addition to these big drops every 3 months or so that cover one of the longer classic volumes, I'm going to do more frequent (maybe once or twice a month?) smaller posts covering more modern volumes, most of which I have already read, to start closing the gap. The posts will require some refreshers, but hopefully not as much as full re-reads of the aforementioned volumes. It's also going to help to cover the titles in more thematically aligned groups, unlike this one where I put listed Spider-Man and X-Men events and limited series and such. This should also help keep the post lengths down a bit maybe?
Note: The linked reading order above might not be the best reference, since it seems to count some of the earlier issues as multiple A/B/C/etc stories, and I am not sure if it has the same criteria for "complete marvel run" as me (and I have not defined that scope myself). But it should serve as a reasonable estimate for now of how far away I am from the target, until I find a better one.
Going in MCU order, the next long volume to cover should be Avengers vol 1, covering 402 issues. That will take me a few months to get through, and I am also considering including Annuals and other related issues as well (something which maybe I should have done for the first few volumes!)
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