Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9

ff9First Published: August 2013

Contents: Fantastic Four #184 (July 1977) to #188 (November 1977) and #190 (January 1978) to #207 (June 1979); and Fantastic Four Annual #11 (1977) and #12 (1978)

Key Creator Credits: Len Wein, Marv Wolfman, Bill Mantlo, George Pérez, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Keith Pollard, Bob Hall, and others

Key First Appearances: Nicholas Scratch, Salem’s Seven (Bructacus, Gazelle, Hydron, Reptilla, Vakume, and Vertigo), Adora, Nova Prime

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8

Overview: This is it! The day we thought would never happen. The Fantastic Four have broken up. The Four is no more. Good thing this is the ninth and final volume of Essential Fantastic Four,.

When we left off with the last volume, the Fantastic Four was at a crossroads. Reed Richards is powerless. Now at other times when the team has been down one member, they simply recruit another member to fill the spot. Not this time. Nope, time to disband the team and go their separate ways. Let’s give up the lease on the Baxter Building and move on. Johnny tries driving race cars, Ben becomes a test pilot, Sue goes to Hollywood to star in a movie, and Reed joins a think tank. And everyone lived happily ever after, right?

As luck would have it, the individual stories eventually merge into one storyline, bringing the foursome back together. Seems like Reed has been working on a project for a mysterious benefactor that turns out to be none other than Doctor Doom. This leads to Reed being launched into space to be exposed to cosmic rays once again, leading to predictable results. Reed returns to Earth in his stretchable form and leads the team to stop Doom from taking over the world.

The volume comes to the conclusion with the start of the Skrull-Xandar war, which was also featured in the final issues of the Nova series. Unfortunately, neither Essential book contains the full storyline. You need to track down the Nova Classic Vol. 3 trade paperback to get the full story if you can’t find the individual issues.

What makes this Essential?: I admit I am very partial to this era, as I was reading the Fantastic Four on and off as these issues came out in the late 1970s. Honestly, this build-up to issue #200 is a good Doctor Doom story, a character that had not been used much in the pages of Fantastic Four for some time. Personally, I think that helped recapture some of the nostalgia of the Lee-Kirby era with this big storyline. Marv Wolfman really gets these characters and doesn’t get the credit he probably deserves for his work on Fantastic Four. This would be a near perfect collection if it didn’t force us to track down the finish to the Nova storyline.

Footnotes: Fantastic Four #189 is a reprint issue of Fantastic Four Annual #4, which was reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 3. The new cover to Fantastic Four #189 is included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: John Byrne’s legendary run from 1981 (Fantastic Four #232) to 1986 (Fantastic Four #295). Byrne did a stint as the artist on the book shortly after the end of this Essential volume, but those issues were still written by Marv Wolfman and Bill Mantlo. Byrne got a two-issue try out in #220 and #221 where he wrote and drew the issue. But beginning with issue #232, Byrne took over as the regular writer and artist on the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine”. The book was really revitalized under Byrne’s direction and reaches new creative levels not seen since the days of Jack and Stan. This run has been collected in two Omnibus editions and multiple Visionaries volumes. If you are a fan of the Fantastic Four, you should own a set of these issues in your collection.

Essential Thor Vol. 6

Essential Thor 6

First Published: October 2012

Contents: Thor #221 (March 1974) to #247 (May 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, Rich Buckler, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Joe Sinnott, and others

Key First Appearances: Firelord, Dweller-in-Darkness, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Seth, Mimir, Servitor

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 7

Overview: Given his success in the cinematic Marvel Universe, you can fully expect Marvel to keep cranking out Essentials of the Bronze Age adventures of our favorite Norse deity, Thor.

This volume could be divided up into two sections, with the first section of 18 issues featuring stories from Gerry Conway and John Buscema. With the first issue of this volume, #221, Thor is joined on a series of adventures with his old friend, Hercules, the Demi-God from the Greek pantheon. The title becomes a “buddy cop” team-up of sorts, as the two hang-out around New York City, stumbling from one misadventure to the next.

There are several key stories during this run of Thor & Hercules: Galactus returns to Earth once again, this time with his new herald, Firelord. But Galactus is not here for dinner; rather, he needs Thor’s help in dealing with Ego, the Living Planet. Upon resolving that conflict, Thor arranges a swap with Galactus, giving Firelord his freedom on Earth, and in exchange he gives Galactus the old guardian of Asgard, the Destroyer, to animate and use as his herald.

During another adventure, the long-lost love of Thor, Jane Foster, returns but she is on the brink of death. Thor does anything he can to help prolong her life, but nothing is helping. Finally, Lady Sif sacrifices her life, and merges her soul with that of Jane Foster, reviving the former nurse. From that point forward, Thor and Jane Foster are inseparable. However, Odin feels that Thor has once again disobeyed his orders, and banishes Thor from Asgard (again!). Foster still has some of the memories of Sif, and often picks up a sword and jumps into battle with Thor.

The second section would cover the final nine issues, where Roy Thomas and then Len Wein take over the scripting duties from Conway. In this section, we meet the Egyptian pantheon of gods, such as Horus, Isis, and Osiris, as a pyramid springs up in Southern California. Thor is forced to team-up with the Egyptians to save his amnesiac father, Odin. In other issues, Thor, Jane Foster, and the Warriors Three travel to the end of time to stop the Time-Twisters from destroying the universe. And we get one final match-up with Firelord, who has been mesmerized into helping rebels trying to overthrow a democratically elected government in South America.

What makes this Essential?: I honestly had no idea of the Thor & Hercules team-up adventures that dominate the majority of this book. For those issues alone, you should track down this Essential. These are solid stories from the mid-1970s that do not get revisited often enough. The art from Buscema and friends remains stellar. Buscema’s artwork is solid enough that it works just as well, if not better, in black & white as it does in color. With the developments between Thor, Jane Foster, and Lady Sif, this is a worthy read for the advancement of the characters. 

Footnotes: When Thor #231 was published, page 14 was printed out of order. For this Essential, the pages were placed in the correct reading order.

Also in issue #231, a reference is made to an adventure that Hercules had with Spider-Man in Marvel Team-Up #28. That issue can be found in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If Gerry Conway is writing a book in the 1970s, you can expect the title character to make a visit to see Tom Fagan, as Thor did once again in issue #232. For more information on Tom Fagan in Rutland, Vermont, see the review for Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Hercules: Prince of Power Premiere Edition from 2009. This collects the two Hercules miniseries from 1982 and 1984, both done by Bob Layton. The two series each took place roughly 500 years into the future, as Hercules is traveling the galaxy. Accompanied by a Recorder, he crosses paths with the Skrulls, Starfox, and even Galactus. This is Hercules at his bombastic peak, bold and brash and looking for fun. Set so far into the future, you do not need to be deeply versed in Hercules’ history in the Marvel Universe. Track this book down – you will thank me later!

Essential Monster of Frankenstein Vol. 1

monsteroffrankenstein1First Published: October 2004

Contents: The Monster of Frankenstein #1 (January 1973) to #5 (September 1973); The Frankenstein Monster #6 (October 1973) to #18 (September 1975); Giant-Size Werewolf #2 (October 1974); Monsters Unleashed #2 (October 1973) and #4 (February 1974) to #10 (February 1975); and Legion of Monsters #1 (September 1975)

Key Creator Credits: Gary Friedrich, Mike Ploog, Doug Moench, John Buscema, Val Mayerik, and others

Key First Appearances: Frankenstein’s Monster, Victor Frankenstein

Overview: Ripped from the pages of Mary Shelley’s classic novel, Frankenstein’s Monster comes to life in the Marvel Universe. This is Essential Monster of Frankenstein Vol. 1.

The book starts out by retelling Shelley’s story – how Dr. Frankenstein created new life from the remains of old bodies, but the new creature turned against his “father”. The Frankenstein Monster seeks out Victor Frankenstein, chasing him to the Arctic Circle. Following the death of Victor, and perhaps borrowing a page from Captain America’s story, the Frankenstein Monster falls into the freezing waters, and is encased in ice preserving his so-called life until he could be revived in the late twentieth century.

Joining the modern world, the Frankenstein Monster shuffles from story-to-story. Some deal with him seeking out other descendants of Victor Frankenstein. Other stories have him crossing paths with the other popular Marvel monsters, such as Dracula or Werewolf. Add in a handful of stories that involve the Frankenstein monster being used by others to further their desires.

What makes this Essential?: Marvel found a lot of success in the 1970s with the launch of the various Monster or Horror titles, such as Tomb of Dracula, Ghost Rider, or Werewolf By Night. I think Frankenstein must have been a moderate success, at least enough to warrant this Essential. But reading so many of these stories, particularly the ones from the Monsters Unleashed magazine, there is not much difference between reading these stories and many of the Rampaging Hulk stories from this era. Both were large guys with communication issues, looking to be left alone, and often finds himself in the middle of a situation he wants nothing to do with. I personally found the team-up issues, like the Legion of Monsters story, more interesting. Those stories do not rely on the Frankenstein monster to carry the story forward.

Footnotes: Frankenstein’s Monster #7  to #9 were also reprinted in Essential Tomb of Dracula Vol. 4.

Giant-Size Werewolf #2 was also reprinted in Essential Werewolf By Night Vol. 2.

Although not collected in this collection, Marvel Team-Up #36 and #37 featured Spider-Man meeting the Frankenstein Monster. Those issues were reprinted in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: the Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E. series from DC as part of the New 52 Universe. The series was written by Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt, with art by Alberto Ponticelli. In this take on the classic character, we see the version of Frankenstein’s monster that Grant Morrison developed in his Seven Soldiers series. Frankenstein and the other Creature Commandos work for a secret government agency known as S.H.A.D.E. (Super Human Advanced Defense Executive). S.H.A.D.E. is the first line for investigating and fighting supernatural threats. The series ran for seventeen issues, and it was reprinted in two trade paperbacks.

 

Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8

ff8First Published: May 2010

Contents: Fantastic Four #160 (July 1975) to #179 (February 1977) and #181 (April 1977) to #183 (June 1977); Fantastic Four Annual #11 (June 1976); Marvel Two-in-One #20 (October 1976); and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 (October 1976)

Key Creator Credits: Roy Thomas, John Buscema, George Pérez, Rich Buckler, Sal Buscema, Bill Mantlo, and others

Key First Appearances: Crusader, Frankie Raye, Captain Ultra, Texas Twister

Story Continues From: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 7

Story Continues In: Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 9

Overview: Pay attention people! There are a lot of moving parts in this book, and if you skip a page, you might be totally lost. We’ve got multiple Reed Richards and Johnny Storms and Things, but only one Sue Richards. And if you look closely, you will see some familiar faces in the Marvel Bullpen, with Stan, Jack, George, Roy and more. All of this and more in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 8.

The book starts out with a three-way war between different universes. One of those universes features a Fantastic Four where Reed Richards gained the powers (and rocky outlook) of the Thing when they were exposed to the cosmic rays. There’s another Johnny flying around too in this battle, so keep an eye out for him.

An eventful moment in the history of the team followed a unique team-up between the Thing and the Hulk. As the two were skipping around the midwest, the Hulk’s gamma-radiated body counter-acted the Thing’s cosmic-radiated body and turned him back into Ben Grimm. Faced with the requirement to maintain four powered members on the active roster, Reed recruits Luke Cage, the hero for hire, to serve as a member of the team. Luke’s stay with the team is short, thanks to the shenanigans of the Puppet Master, but it gave Reed enough time to finish an exoskeleton Thing suit for Ben to wear and regain his place in the team. However, we realize about this time that Ben is not the only one without a power loss, as Reed’s stretching ability is starting to weaken, causing him great pain when he uses his abilities.

Next, a time-travel story that teams the Fantastic Four with the Invaders and the Liberty Legion during the days of World War II. The team no sooner returns to 1976 before they find themselves caught up in a showdown between the High Evolutionary and Galactus. The world devourer is seeking to consume the High Evolutionary’s Counter-Earth, and the FF is sent out to seek out a suitable replacement world to sustain Galactus. One is found, but it comes with a cost – the return of the Impossible Man.

Upon their return to Earth and a wild romp through the Marvel Comics offices, the Fantastic Four must stop the latest recruitment drive for the Frightful Four being held at their own headquarters in the Baxter Building. Despite the aid of Tigra, Thundra, and the Impossible Man, the Frightful Four are able to best the team with their new recruit, the Brute, who is actually the Reed Richards from Counter-Earth. The Frightful Four are defeated, but the Counter-Earth Richards replaces his counterpart as leader of the Fantastic Four, banishing our Reed Richards to the Negative Zone. The team soon realizes that the Reed leading their team is not the Reed they know and love, and they go out in search of their missing friend, but not before they encounter Annihilus.

What makes this Essential?: Once again, I wrestled with how I wanted to review this book. The end of this book is the exact era when I started reading Fantastic Four issues off of the newsstands. So I am trying to not allow my childhood nostalgia of the title cloud my objective review of this collection. I like this better than the previous Essential volume, so that is a plus. I think Roy Thomas finally started to understand the possibilities of what he could do with the characters and began working on the characters and concepts that most interested him. The art is superb, whether it comes from either of the Buscemas, Perez, or the underrated Rich Buckler. But….. I still don’t think these stories live up to the moniker of “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” I would rather be reading the Lee-Kirby issues or skip ahead to the John Byrne run.

Footnotes: Fantastic Four Annual #11, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #1 and Marvel Two-in-One #20 are also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Fantastic Four #180 is a reprint issue of Fantastic Four #101, which was reprinted in Essential Fantastic Four Vol. 5. The new cover to Fantastic Four #180 is included in this Essential.

If you like this volume, try: the 2011 Impossible Man trade paperback, collecting many of the green hero’s more memorable appearances. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby back in Fantastic Four #11, the character was quickly forgotten about when the bad feedback came in from the readers. He sat dormant for nearly 15 years before writer Roy Thomas brought him back in Fantastic Four #176, making him a supporting character for the next few years in the FF title. In the 1980s, the Impossible Man started expanding into other parts of the Marvel Universe, crossing paths with the likes of Spider-Woman, the New Mutants, and the Silver Surfer. In many ways, you could consider the Impossible Man to be the Marvel equivalent to Bat-Mite or Mr. Mxyzptlk, as the annoying character that can do most anything to vex the star of the title. This trade paperback collects many of those fun appearances.

Essential Thor Vol. 5

Essential Thor Vol. 5

First Published: May 2011

Contents: Thor #196 (February 1972) to #220 (February 1974)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, John Buscema, and others

Key First Appearances: Silas Grant, Ego-Prime, Young Gods, Mercurio the 4-D Man, Ultimus, Krista

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 4

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 6

Overview: If you are worthy, it is time to hold up the hammer and possess the power of Thor. Welcome back to another Essential Thor volume.

In this volume, Thor battles new foes such as Ego-Prime and Mercurio, but must still deal with familiar villains such as Pluto, the Absorbing Man, and Loki. Of course, Thor’s ego gets the better of him once again in Asgard, and Odin banishes his son (and some of his friends) to Earth for some time. Which leads to some humorous moments as the Asgardians hanging out at Avengers Mansion with Jarvis, the butler.

A battle with Ulik forces Thor and his friends to return to Asgard, which they find empty of all people. That mystery leads them into space chasing intergalactic slavers. That, in turn, leads to another battle against Mercurio, whom we thought was destroyed six issues past. Finally, Thor defeats all enemies, and returns to Asgard with his friends and Odin, only to find Asgard ruled by another Thor and Odin. Confused yet? Trust me, go pick up this volume and see how this wraps up!

An interesting insert occurs with issue #200. I don’t know if this was planned from the start for the anniversary issue, or the need to meet a production deadline, but this appears to be a filler issue by Stan Lee and John Buscema (with a prolog and epilog by Gerry Conway and Buscema). It has nothing to do with issues #199 or #201, which makes me lean towards Marvel just trying to meet a deadline. Anyway, Lee gets the chance to tell his take on the Ragnarok story, which according to Norse legend is the end of the gods in a final battle. In Asgard, Odin has a prophetess share how the Ragnarok would play out: Loki triggers the start of Ragnarok, then does battle with Thor while the world around them falls. The Asgardians and the world dies and is reborn again. As the prophetess ends her tale, Odin cautions Loki that only those deemed worthy are reborn in the new world, and Loki slinks off wondering if he is part of that number.

What makes this Essential?: The stories in this volume are interesting. Not Gerry Conway’s best work ever, but by no means his worst work either. The stories split nearly evenly between those on Earth, those on Asgard, and those in space. The Earth and Asgard stories seem to be the more-complete stories, but the space stories feel like they are not fully complete. Almost like Conway wanted to do something a little more with them but held back, either by choice or editorial constraint. Buscema’s art once again shows the epic proportions of Thor and his entourage. These stories are an interesting read for a Thor fan, but I don’t know if I would say these are truly Essential. 

Footnotes: Thor makes his first visit to Rutland, Vermont, in Thor #206 and #207. For more information on Rutland, see Essential Avengers Vol. 4.

If you like this volume, try:  the Ragnarok story from 2004 from Michael Avon Oeming and Andrea DiVito. This wrapped up the 1998 Thor series, as all of the Avengers-related titles were disassembling around the characters (and the readers). The Thor story was the best ending of those titles, Once again, Loki has aspirations of taking over the throne of Asgard, and resurrects Surtur to begin the Ragnarok. Over the course of six issues, spanning many months, the various Norse gods meet their demise in battle. At the end, Thor beheads Loki, and places himself into hibernation, until it is time for Thor to return. This story has been collected in two editions – a 2009 Avengers Disassembled hardcover that collected the ends of the Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man titles; and a 2005 Thor: Disassembled trade paperback.

Essential Sub-Mariner Vol. 1

sub_mariner_1First Published: September 2009

Contents: Daredevil #7 (April 1965); Sub-Mariner stories from Tales to Astonish #70 (August 1965) to #101 (March 1968); Iron Man story from Tales of Suspense #80 (August 1966); Iron Man & Sub-Mariner #1 (April 1968); and The Sub-Mariner #1 (May 1968)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Bill Everett, and others

Key First Appearances: Vashti, Destiny, Walter Newell, Lord Seth

Overview: IMPERIOUS REX! Kneel before the prince of Atlantis, Namor the First, a.k.a. the Sub-Mariner! Having been a frequent foe in the pages of the Fantastic Four, Namor becomes the hero of his own feature in 1965.

The majority of this Essential collects the Sub-Mariner’s run of stories in the pages of Tales to Astonish, an anthology featuring two characters each month. So each story is roughly 10 pages, and Namor is featured on alternating covers. At this time, Namor has regained the throne of Atlantis, and must do everything in his power to protect his people from the likes of Krang, Attuma, and Byrrah, as well as the air-dwellers above the seas.

What makes this an interesting collection is we finally get to see him interacting with other heroes in the Marvel Universe. The first book in this collection, Daredevil #7, has Namor seeking counsel to represent him in a suit against mankind. Murdock & Nelson turn down the request, due to lack of evidence, and Daredevil is forced to stop the rampaging Namor. The art in this issue is done by the legendary Wally Wood.

During the TtA run, we get a team-up with Hank Pym and the Wasp, from the pages of the Avengers. A few issues later, we are treated to a team-up crossover with Iron Man, who was a co-feature in the Tales of Suspense book at that time.

Of course, when you are sharing a book with the Hulk, and both features are written by Stan Lee, it’s only natural that the two forces would cross paths multiple times. Who wins that battle? The readers of course. (It also serves as a pre-cursor for things to come, when the two become teammates in the non-team known as the Defenders.)

What makes this Essential?: Once again, this is a book that you pick up first for the art. Gene Colan’s art just leaps off the page. We get the noble Namor who is looking to protect Atlantis and the oceans from the surface-dwellers, which is just one of his many aspects. However, the stories just don’t stand out to me as memorable. Little bits of pieces of action strung together for ten pages, only to be continued in the next issue. It’s disappointing that the Essential line has ended, because I think a second volume of Sub-Mariner would have taken us into a more interesting era of the character, with a greater focus on the Atlanteans around him – not to mention the art by Buscema and Severin. Guess it’s time to hit the back issue bins!

In The Beginning….: While this collection focuses on Namor in the Silver Age of comics, the Sub-Mariner is one of the most important characters from the Golden Age of Marvel Comics. In fact, he made his first appearance in Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939). Then known as Timely Publications, the company that would someday become Marvel introduced in this first issue the original Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, the Vision, the Angel, Ka-Zar and more to an audience hungry for new characters and concepts. The initial press run of Marvel Comics #1 was 80,000 books, but the popularity of the book sent it back for a reprinting. That second print run was for 800,000 copies.

Footnotes: The Sub-Mariner replaced Giant-Man as the co-feature (along with the Hulk) in Tales to Astonish #70. Following issue #101, Tales to Astonish was given over to the Hulk, keeping the numbering but changing the name (The Incredible Hulk #102).

Daredevil #7 is also reprinted in Essential Daredevil Vol. 1.

Tales of Suspense #80, Tales to Astonish #82, and Iron Man & Sub-Mariner #1 are also reprinted in Essential Iron Man Vol. 2.

If you like this volume, try: the 1990s Namor series by John Byrne. Following numerous runs with many of Marvel’s top characters (X-Men, Fantastic Four, Alpha Flight), Byrne turned his attention to one of Marvel’s first characters. As with any new project, one gets the opportunity to re-invent the character to fit the story. (For example, just a few years ago, Namor was re-invented as “the first mutant”, giving him a good excuse to hang out with the X-Men.) In this situation, Namor becomes a shrewd businessman with his own corporation, going head-to-head with eco-terrorists and others looking to exploit the oceans. While generally depicted as the antihero in many comics, Namor is truly a hero in this title, albeit working towards his agenda, which is not necessarily the most right or fair course of action. With Byrne at the helm, you can expect lots of cameos from the Fantastic Four, Namorita, Captain America and others. The first 18 issues have been collected into two Marvel Visionaries trade paperbacks, which are still readily available.

Essential Thor Vol. 4

Essential Thor Vol. 4

First Published: June 2009

Contents: Thor #167 (August 1969) to #195 (January 1972)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, John Buscema, and Gerry Conway

Key First Appearances: Hildegarde

Story Continues From: Essential Thor Vol. 3

Story Continues In: Essential Thor Vol. 5

Overview: Welcome back to the world of Asgard, home of the Norse gods. Led by all-seeing Odin and served by his dutiful son, Thor, god of thunder and protector of Midgard (Earth).

These comics expand the adventures of the thunder god to cosmic proportions. Odin sends Thor on a journey into mystery to track down the world-devourer Galactus. Later on, Odin and the Silent One travel into the universe to face Infinity, and they must call on Thor to rescue them from oblivion. As always, we see the ambitious Loki looking to take the throne of Asgard for himself, leading multiple attacks by giants and trolls.

As cosmic as this volume gets, Thor remains true to Earth as well. Deadly encounters with the Wrecker and Doctor Doom challenge Thor to his very limits. Thankfully, with his loyal friends like Balder, the Warriors Three, the Lady Sif, and even the Silver Surfer, Thor finds himself to be worthy of any task or challenge laid before him.

What makes this Essential?: For the artwork alone, this volume should be in any collection. With art by Jack Kirby, Neal Adams, and John Buscema, there is not a badly drawn issue to be found in this book. You can see the majesty of Asgard jumping off of the page; the thunderous rage of Thor; the evil manipulations of Loki. This is just a beautifully drawn book. However, this is not Stan Lee’s best writing. For all of the talk about comics of today being written for the trade paperback, Stan Lee was doing it 40+ years ago. The stories in this volume stretch out across multiple issues; ten years earlier, Stan and Jack would have the stories done in one issue, or two tops. If you can find the book, pick it up for the art.

Footnotes: This is a hard Essential to track down. Marvel published this in June of 2009, but no re-issues or second editions have been released since then. Given the character’s popularity with the movie franchise, it’s surprising that this has not been kept in print, especially given the talents who worked on these issues. If this is not currently in your collection, you may need to turn to eBay in order to find this volume.

Kirby left Thor (and Marvel) in 1970 due to contract issues, and took his services over to DC Comics. One of Kirby’s first projects at DC is what would become to be known as the Fourth World saga, with the introduction of Darkseid and the New Gods. There is enough examples to note that the New Gods’ origins came with Kirby’s work on Thor over the previous eight years. Check out Comic Book Legends Revealed #444 over at Comic Book Resources for a complete recounting of how Kirby was building the New Gods concept.

If you like this volume, try:  the incredible run on Thor by Walt Simonson. This is the ultimate run by any single creator on this title, elevating Thor and Asgard to new heights. Simonson introduced Beta Ray Bill, an alien who was just as worthy as Thor to hold Mjolnir. We witnessed Ragnarok as the great winter storms took over the world. And the mischievousness of Loki reached new lows as he turned his step-brother into a frog. This has been collected numerous times, as trade paperbacks and most recently as an oversized omnibus. However you choose to read this, the Simonson Thor should be part of every comic library.