A second greatest hits collection for the Mighty Thor

(Panini Books)

If anyone told you a couple of years back that one of the biggest action films of the year would star a long-haired Viking god with a big hammer, you’d be justified in dismissing the possibility hands down.

Yet it is tantamount to the efforts of Marvel Studios that not only has Thor become a household name thanks to his appearances in solo films and alongside The Avengers, but that his comics popularity has never been stronger.

Released to tie-in with the second Thor movie, this is a collection of strips featuring the thunder god which play on the themes and characters seen in the film, including work by some of the industry’s greats.

The origin of Marvel’s costumed version of Thor showed no suggestion of how the character would develop over time, reflecting the legacy of 1950s alien invasion comics rather than the fusion of myth and sci-fi the series would become.

Subsequent instalments of the series introduced Thor’s fellow Asgardians, including All-Father Odin and the evil Loki, and creator Stan Lee would go on to shape an entire world around the concepts of Norse mythology, with Thor and his peers fighting the likes of frost giants, trolls and the mistress of death Hela over the course of their adventures. He also brought in heroes from other pantheons, including Hercules, and made Thor a founder member of superhero team the Avengers.

This volume is a rich celebration of all that makes Thor special, and is a perfect introduction to the character’s comics history for anyone drawn in by the movie.

We have an early clash between Thor and the Hulk, a story which effectively wrote out Jane Foster for years - culminating a long-running romantic storyline about whether Thor could ever devote himself to a mortal lover - plus issues which were the basis of the second movie and introduced the Dark Elf Malekith (as played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston on screen).

An attempt by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio to reconcile the comics Thor with the red-headed warrior of Norse legend is perhaps the least successful instalment included here, coming as it does slap-bang in the middle of a wider saga featuring the world-shaping Celestials and the hidden race of Eternals, but it has its own charm regardless.

There are also some more recent stories focusing on Loki’s origins and latest treachery, a plot which resulted in the death of Odin’s father and Thor’s subsequent exile from Asgard. The creative talent assembled for this collection is a veritable who’s who of comics legends, including Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Walt Simonson and J Michael Straczynski, plus Keith Pollard, Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic.

A worthy sequel to the original Definitive Thor volume, which further showcases the rich storytelling potential of the hammer-tossing thunder god.