thor-primer

Hey there, friends! People ask me all the time what they should read in the Marvel Universe. I figured this was a question a lot of new comic fans might have, so I’m gonna do my best to put together a little primer.

  • Book: Er, depends on the context. Can mean a single comic, can also mean the entirety of a title.
  • Trade: a collection of several comic books in one volume, like a graphic novel. Trades usually collect 6 books in a single volume, so Black Widow Volume 1: A Finely Tangled Web is Black Widow #1-6. They’re a way to read and own comics after the weekly (or biweekly or monthly or whatever) paper comics are unavailable.
  • Event: An event in comics is a major storyline that involves multiple, usually separate, titles. Events are big and have lasting repercussions on the entirety of a comic universe. Examples of events are Civil War and the upcoming Secret Wars/”Battleworld” books.
  • Crossover: A crossover in comics is just like a crossover in fanfic; it’s when two separate titles have the same storyline or appear in each other’s books.

Okay, got that down? Awesome! Here’s some suggestions on what you should read based on your favorite character. Well, er, the six main characters, because this got MAD LONG and I can’t even imagine doing everybody else who’s relevant in Ultron. Jesus.

ANYWAY. If your favorite character is…

  • and you also love Bucky: The Heroic Age will be fun for you, featuring Commander Rogers and Captain Barnes. Try the Avengers run from this era, written by Brian Michael Bendis. The Super Solider run is kinda weird but fun, too, like virtually everything Brubaker wrote. The art in Super Soldier and Secret Avengers during the Heroic Age is significantly better than the art in Brubaker’s previous runs imo.
  • and you want to know why people ship Steve/Tony: friend, read literally any Avengers run where Iron Man and Captain America are on the same team. But if you’re specifically wondering this, it’s time. It’s time for you to read Civil War and cry.
  • You can probably skip: I’m gonna get murdered for this, but Brubaker’s Captain America and Winter Soldier runs are fun to read for understanding the MCU and if you want a more comprehensive understanding of each character’s backstory, and some weird AF arcs like Bucky fighting a bear with pecs in a gulag while shirtless. BUT. The art is so aggressively Jean Claude Van Damme 90s it’s hard to look at (for me). If you hate that style, you’re probably fine Wiki-ing.
  • and you just want to read about Natasha: As much as I want Black Widow’s title to be written by a woman, honestly, her current run – written by Nathan Edmonson, with art by Phil Noto – is one of my favorites. The art is stunning and it’s chock full of fun cameos. Highly recommend. Two trades are available pretty much anywhere you can buy graphic novels, because she’s so popular.
  • and you want to understand why people ship Nat/Bucky: Welcome to the world of Ed Brubaker’s Winter Soldier, but be aware that the art is (sometimes) the kind of art where even if you can’t see Natasha’s face, you know exactly where both of her nipples are at all times. Also she spends a lot of this run being kind of a fighting fucktoy and advancing Bucky’s character development. Comics historically have not been written with ladies in mind, y’all. And yet there are a lot of good reasons to adore this comic, and there’s a reason it’s a classic.
  • You can probably skip: Literally anything Greg Rucka worked on. Ugh.
  • Update! Someone has informed me that Greg Rucka did not just work on this pornified nonsense (which admittedly is a different Black Widow, but new fans might not know that) but also worked on a title with Devin Grayson and J.G. Jones that I’ve never read that is apparently amazing. So now I’m gonna read it, and maybe you’d like to also. (Also, a bunch of you have asked why I don’t like Greg Rucka. I really like Greg Rucka! I just don’t like the shit in that first link.)
  • and you want to know what all the fuss is about because Renner’s Clint is kinda eh and you don’t really get why people are so into Clint: All the fuss is about Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye run with art by David Aja, which starts with a trade volume called My Life As A Weapon and also is an excellent introduction to Kate Bishop, who is also Hawkeye. People ADORE Clint largely because of Fraction’s run, honestly; there’s some other good Hawkeye stuff, but this one is the best.
  • and you want to see him make some use of himself as an Avenger: The Avengers West Coast run that started in the 80′s is pretty fun, tbh. There are two volumes of an omnibus of all West Coast Avengers stuff, and also some trade volumes. Plus you get a bunch of Wanda Maximoff!
  • Bonus: If you want something shorter and fun, try Widowmaker. It’s got Clint, Mockingbird, and Black Widow, and the art is pretty. (David Lopez, one of the pencillers, is currently working on Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel title.)
  • and you’re into something people have very divided opinions about: Planet Hulk is the kind of thing people love or hate, but it’s been rumored that the movies are going in this direction, so it might be worth checking out.
  • and you wanna see the Hulk destroy some stuff/are really into weird storylines: Yo, World War Hulk is a continuation of Planet Hulk and involves the Illuminati. It’s a crossover event as well, so there’s some fun extra X-Men stuff.
  • and you just want to get your Avengers fix: Avengers Assemble is great for anybody who wants the familiarity of the film characters, but in comic form. It’s funny, fun, and you get an intro to some other characters but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
  • and you suspect he has a drinking problem: You’re right, and the arc where he confronts it is pretty damn good. It’s called Demon in a Bottle and it ran in 1979.
  • and you want to know more about Good Guy Tony: I hate to break it to you, but as Tony is one of my fave characters I can tell you this for sure: Tony Stark is a complicated, fucked up, deeply flawed person; he’s an enormous asshole; he’s selfish and egocentric and narcissistic. But also he has a bunch of Good Guy Tony moments. They are most notable, imo, in the Heroic Age immediately following Civil War, when he beats himself up constantly for being a dick. The Stark Resilient arc, written by Matt Fraction, is super duper good, collected in Invincible Iron Man volumes 5 and 6.
  • and the thing he was trying to do with his suit in IM3 was interesting to you, like what even was that: Totally read Extremis. It’s the arc that establishes Iron Man’s modern image.
  • but you also would like to support a book about a female character: The current Thor title has lady Thor. Dude-Thor makes several appearances. Also, it’s super good.
  • and you want to read more about Thor’s face-off with Thanos: That you can find in Jurgens’ Thor run, starting in Volume 1 and ending just before the events of Civil War.
  • and you want to know how this character came to be: Read Journey Into Mystery, which started as a horror comic and is just as delightful and pulpy as could be expected.

BONUS!

  • and you’re even reading this section:  READ HOUSE OF M, IT WILL CHANGE YOU, feel free to Google for context everyone does it
  • and you want to see her as an Avenger: Wanda was part of the West Coast Avengers for most of her time as an Avenger; start there. If you’ve already got that down because I also suggested it under Hawkeye, please feel free to read Uncanny Avengers.
  • A-Force is an upcoming title that will be written by G. Willow Wilson and Maguerite Bennet with art by Jorge Molina, and will feature an all-female Avengers team.
  • Captain America and the Mighty Avengers is fun as HECK and has Sam Wilson as Captain America, so go revel in that.
  • Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue Deconnick; Carol Danvers is a BAMF and there’s a GOTG cameo; several trade volumes are available
  • Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson; yo I love this comic so much words can’t even do it justice; two trades are available with the third coming 6/23
  • Young Avengers by Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillan; this is for you if you’re constantly asking yourself who Kate Bishop is, or want more teen superheroes in your life; there’s an omnibus available and several trades
  • She-Hulk by Charles Soule; MY QUEEEEEEN; a few trade volumes are available, and to the best of my knowledge this arc is coming to a close very soon and will be available in total in trades

That’s it! That’s all I got! Remember that there is absolutely no shame in Googling the characters you like to figure out what you want to read, and wiki-ing the rest. Anybody who tells you that you can’t is a dick. Don’t listen to them!!

khaleesi

NORSE MYTHOLOGY A-Z (Or At Least Y Anyway)

Aesir: The primary race of Norse gods, the Aesir abide in the capital city of Asgard. For millennia, the Aesir fought a brutal and bloody war for no particular reason with another race of gods known as the Vanir. In the end, a truce was signed and the two tribes merged into one. Our favorite Hammer Swingin’ Hero Thor is a member of the Aesir.

Asgard: One of the Nine Worlds and nestled in the upper branches of the Yggdrasil, The World Tree, Asgard is the home of the Norse gods. Most traditional accounts describe it as a luscious countryside filled with loose maidens, fresh game, huge feasts, and golden apples that bestow immortality upon the gods. That’s right: sort of like your college dorm.

Baldr: Every metal act has to have its sensitive guy, and the Norse are no exception. Baldr is the god of light, and is considered the best looking of all the gods, including the women. He also had a sweet pad: a palace made of gold and light. Essentially he was the Norse version of the friend you use to reel women in at the bar. Unfortunately he was also something of a wuss. After having a nightmare of his own impending death, Frigg, his mother and the queen of the gods, went to every creature, stone, plant mortal, and god in the universe and made them swear they would never harm Baldr. The only plant she missed was the mistletoe, which was her stupid mistake because even though it’s tiny, the word “missile” is right in the name. Of course Loki (we’ll get to him later) heard this, fashioned an arrow from mistletoe and used it to assassinate Baldr while the rest of the gods were throwing weapons at him for fun (seriously). His death was one of the signs of Ragnarok, or the Apocalyptic Twilight of the Gods, but you can’t really blame Loki for being jealous.

Bilfrost: The rainbow bridge that connects Asgard, the home of the gods, to Midgard, or Earth. Also the potential name of the gay club I’m considering opening.

Fenrir: One of the three demonic children of Loki, Fenrir is a wolf that would continue to grow until it became unstoppable. Odin ordered it bound in Nifleheim, the deepest hell, in a forest of iron trees. The war god Tyr (but let’s face it, in Norse mythology they’re ALL war gods) lost a hand binding Fenrir to a tree. At Ragnarok, Fenrir gets loose, goes toe-to-toe with Odin and, oh yeah, swallows the sun.

Frigg: Wife of Odin, Queen of Asgard and mother to most of the other Norse gods, she’s essentially the coolest mom you never had. Oh, and if you think that the Norse were all misogynistic, please take note: Frigg was the only other god besides Odin who was permitted to sit in Hlidskjalf, the throne of the universe.

Freyr and Freyja: Brother and sister, and pretty much the only members of the tribe of gods called the Vanir who get any attention, Freyr and Freyja are both associated with beauty, fertility, growth, and farming, but don’t let that fool you: Freyr rode a giant boar into battle, owned a boat that could be folded up into your pocket, and wielded a magic sword that fought all on its own. Oh, and Freyja is no chaste Aphrodite figure. She welcomes half of the warriors who are killed in battle to her loving (and ample) bosom. The other half go to Valhalla to beat the living crap out of each other for eternity.

Heimdallr: Heimdallr is the god’s watchman, and possibly also the god’s pimp. After all, he has gold teeth. Heimdallr possesses the greatest eyesight and hearing of all the gods, as well as the power of foresight and foreknowledge. He guards the entrance to Asgard at the edge of Bilfrost and wields a giant horn that will signal when Ragnarok is nigh.

Hel: The original “Queen of the Damned,” Hel is one of Loki’s children and was deformed at birth, with half her body permanently cast in blackness. She became the ruler of Hel, one of the abodes of the dead in the pits of Nifleheim, the deepest hell for betrayers and cowards.

Jotenheimr: One of the Nine Worlds, Jotenheimr surrounds Midgard and Asgard, and is home to Frost Giant, Rock Giants, Trolls, Storm Gods, and basically anything big and monstrous that’s perfectly moral to pulverize and slaughter if you’re a god. Traditionally, Thor would go hunting in Jotenheimr and bring back the heads of the giants to mount on his wall.

Loki: A mythologically epic pain in the ass, Loki is like Ashton Kutcher onPunk’d, only on a cosmic scale. Loki is described by the official accounts as a frost giant who fell in which the gods and became Odin’s blood brother after Odin owed him a debt of gratitude, and thus gained the power of the Aesir. A shapeshifter and a trickster, Loki tends to screw up everything he touches. He cut the hair from Sif, Thor’s wife; killed Baldr; gave birth to a trio of demonic children; and generally makes life miserable for everyone. After he kills Baldr, the gods have finally had enough of his treachery and bind him by the entrails of one of his many illegitimate kids to a rock in Nifleheim, where a serpent spits poison onto his face as he lays there, helpless. When he is freed during Ragnarok, he goes mano-a-mano against Heimdallr, and they wind up killing each other. Loki is to the Aesir what the Joker is to Batman.

Midgard: Midgard is Earth, and the base of Yggdrasil, the world tree. It’s where all we poor human saps live, at the mercy of an entire race of omnipotent warriors who like to go to war with other cosmic beings for shits and giggles.

Midgard Serpent: Also known as Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent is the third of Loki’s demonic children. Upon birth, he was tossed into ocean, where he grew and grew until he was forced to swallow his own tail before he eclipsed the world. The Midgard Serpent is the enemy of Thor and when Ragnarok comes, he will spit out his tail and continue to grow until he poisons the sky itself. Thor will destroy him, but then walk nine paces and keel over dead from the serpent’s toxin. Or from the five-point palm exploding heart technique. I can’t remember which.

Mjolnir: The legendary hammer of Thor! Crafted by black elves at the request of Loki in exchange for his life, Mjolnir is one of the fiercest weapons in the Nine Worlds, capable of leveling mountains with a single blow. When thrown, the hammer always strikes its mark, and always returns to Thor’s hands. In fact, Mjolnir is so heavy that Thor himself can’t even lift it. He needs special iron gloves to contain the hammer’s heat, and a magical belt, Megingjörð, to double his strength before he can use it. Not exactly something you’d pick up at the Home Depot, though it makes an excellent pick-up line (Baby, wanna try and lift my hammer?)

Njoror: The Norse god of coastlines, the sea, seafaring, the winds, fishing, and wealth, who spends most of his time sitting on the dock of the bay, watching the tides roll away. He married the huntress goddess Skoai, who proceeded to make his life completely miserable by dragging him away from the water and into the mountains.

Odin: The All-Father, King of the Aesir, and the most powerful of the gods, Odin makes Thor look like a 8-year-old ballerina, and a bad 8-year-old ballerina at that. Also operating under the non de guerre Woden, chief badass is SO badass he put Thor over his knee and spanked him. Odin is associated with wisdom, war, prophecy, magic, and poetry. (What, poetry is wussy? You’ve never read Robert Bly or Charles Bukowski?)

Odin has one eye. That’s right. One eye. He’s the Snake Plissken of gods. And he tore that eye out and exchanged it with the Fates in order to drink from the well of wisdom. When was the last time your lost a body part to get an A on a physics test? On top of that, he’s armed with a spear that never misses its mark when thrown, two pet ravens named Huginn, or thought, and Muninn, or memory, and an eight legged horse named Sleipnir. Do you even have a four legged horse? I didn’t think so…

Ragnarok: The battle to end all battles, the war to end all wars, a battle scene that would make the Two Towers look a water-balloon fight. The Twilight of the Gods starts when Baldr bites it by the hand of Loki, the frost giants storm across the rainbow bridge, light dies forever, and pretty much everyone is hideously slaughtered. Except for mankind, who makes it through to live in perpetual misery and darkness.

Sif: Thor’s blonde wife, mother of his kids, and the only force in the universe capable of pussy-whipping the God of Thunder. Sif once had her hair cut while she slept by Loki as a ransom after he was captured by a frost giant. In her rage, she forced Thor to head into Jotenheimr, bash the giant’s skull in, and retrieve her hair. Sif is associated with wheat crops.

Skoai: One of the toughest goddesses in Norse mythology. Skoai is a huntress who spent her days in the mountains on skies, hunting with a bow and arrow. Associated with the mountains, the winter and the bow, Skoai was married to Njord, and stories of their arguments over where they were going the live, the coast or the mountains, was essentially the Viking version of a 90′s sitcom.

Thor: In this corner, here he is: The Hammer Hand, Lord Lightening, The Red-Headed Tyrant, The Mountain Mover, The God of the Rolling Thunder! Thor is the most popular figure in Norse mythology, even today. One of the three dozen Norse war gods, Thor is associated with thunder, lightening, storms, oak trees and was considered the protector of mankind. The strongest of the gods, Thor could juggle elephants with one hand while drinking a stein of mead with the other. Thor was not a blonde, despite how Marvel Comics draws him, but rather a red-head with a huge bushy beard and a fierce temper. On top of Mjolnir, his legendary hammer, did you know he has a chariot pulled by lightening-powered goatsTanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr? Or that Thursday was named after him? Or that Vikings used to have sex under images of his hammer to improve fertility? It’s all Thor, baby….

Thor was the Norse equivalent of Greek heroes like Achilles, Hercules or Theseus. His exploits of battling against the Midgard Serpent, the frost giants, and the devious Loki have associated Thor in the western world with masculinity, strength, heroics, and self-sacrifice.

Tyr: The god of single combat, the sword, and victory, Tyr is famous for losing his hand while he was binding the wolf Fenrir in the iron woods. Also famous for needing someone else to open his ketchup bottles.

Valhalla: The heavenly hall of warriors populated by those who died courageously in battle, Valhalla is a non-stop party for the most courageous of mortal warriors. In Valhalla, they drink from cups that never go empty, feast on wild boar, and spend their days competing against each other in single combat. Actually… THIS was more like your college dorm.

Valkyries: A host of female warriors and the heralds of Odin, the Valkyrie’s choose who will die in battle and escort them to the halls of Valhalla. That’s right: in Norse mythology when you die the first thing you see is a whole host of Xena: Warrior Princesses on flying horses.

Yggdrasil: The world tree, on which sits the Nine Worlds of Norse Mythology. There is a great eagle living in its upper branches and the Norns, or the Norse version of the Fates, nestled in its roots.

The Nine Worlds of Yggdrasil are as follows:

Vanaheim: Home of the tribe of gods known as the Vanir, little is known about Vanaheim, and it’s rarely mentioned.
Alfheim: The realm of the light elves, being of light and beauty, and allies of the Aesir.
Asgard: Home of the Aesir, the primary tribe of Norse gods.
Nidavellir: The land of the Dwarves: caverns and catacombs beneath the Earth.
Midgard: The realm of humanity, and the earth in which the World Tree is rooted.
Jotenheimr: The realm of frost, winds, and ice. Land of the giants.
Svartalfheim: The realm of the Dark Elves, a shadowy realm that exists on the borders of Midgard.
Nifleheim: The land of the dead, a world of mist and darkness.
Muspelheim: A burning world of chaos, and the land of the fire giants.