Thunder & Fury: The Best Thor & Hulk Comics To Read Before “Banner of War”

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Thor and Hulk will celebrate their 60th anniversaries this year (alongside fellow Marvel hero Spider-Man), and an upcoming storyline will pit the God of Thunder and the Green Goliath against each other. Banner of War is a five-part series written by Donny Cates (VenomCrossover), who is currently writing both heroes’ solo series; Martin Coccolo (Green Lantern, X-Force) will illustrate the epic smackdown. But before Hulk and Thor throw down, here is a collection of the best stories across their 60-year history.

The Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect

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Peter David’s run on Incredible Hulk remains a milestone: over the course of 12 years, he radically reinvented Bruce Banner, introducing concepts such as the mob enforcer “Joe Fixit” (in reality, the Hulk’s grey form) and the ultra-smart “Professor Hulk” (which inspired plot points in Avengers: Endgame). But perhaps the crowning achievement was Future Imperfect, which rivals X-Men’s “Days of Future Past” story as one of the greatest alt-future stories in Marvel history. The Hulk is teleported into the future to stop the Maestro – a future version of himself who rules over the radioactive ruins of Earth with an iron fist. David’s script, paired with the artwork of Dale Keown and comics legend George Perez, brings the Maestro’s nightmarish future to life and showcases why he is one of the most dangerous Hulks of all. David has returned to pen a series of comics that details the Maestro’s rise to power.

Thor: God of Thunder

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The trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder owns a great deal to Jason Aaron’s work, particularly since it will have Christian Bale playing the malevolent Gorr the God Butcher and Natalie Portman returning as Jane Foster – who has become Thor herself and wields a reforged version of his hammer Mjlonir. The plot points for these were laid during Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder title, specifically the first twelve issues. Within those issues, Thor confronted Gorr – and was backed up by two different versions of himself: a younger, more arrogant Thor and a future Thor who was the last living Asgardian. Aaron’s bombastic writing and Ribic’s stunning painted work combine to make a comic that truly feels like a modern myth.

Planet Hulk

The Hulk works best when he’s placed into different genres and Planet Hulk takes this to its logical extreme by stranding the Green Goliath on the planet Sakaar. Forced to fight with other alien gladiators, the Hulk eventually escapes with his “Warbound” – a group of gladiators he formed a pact with – and learns that he may be the center of an ancient Sakaarian prophecy. The storyline was written by another longtime Hulk writer, Greg Pak, and illustrated by Carlo Pagulayan & Aaron Loprestri; they infused the narrative with elements of John Carter and Gladiator, resulting in a pure Hulk epic. Elements of Planet Hulk inspired the plot of Thor: Ragnarok, particularly the gladiator battle between Hulk and Thor – which Banner of War looks to one-up.

Thor By Walter Simonson

There are certain creators who help a comic book transcend to another level, and Marvel’s history is full of them. Chris Claremont helped create characters and introduced elements which made the X-Men the hit franchise it is today. Brian Michael Bendis transformed the Avengers into Marvel’s top franchise with Avengers: Disassembled and New Avengers. And Walter Simonson wrote and illustrated a Thor epic that continues to resonate through Marvel history. While Simonson is responsible for crafting several Thor foes including Malekith the Accursed, his longest-lasting creation is Beta Ray Bill. The horselike Korbonite is one of the few beings who could wield Mjolnir, and was later given the Stormbreaker hammer by Odin; as many fans know, Thor eventually wields Stormbreaker in Avengers: Infinity War.

The Immortal Hulk

Prior to Cates and Ryan Ottley taking over the Hulk title Al Ewing and Joe Bennett crafted another character-defining run with Immortal Hulk. After seemingly being killed, Bruce Banner returned with a frightening new element to his powers: if he was ever killed during the day, he would rise at night – with his strength and regeneration abilities even greater than usual. Ewing dove deep into the psychological and horror elements of the Hulk mythos, exploring all of his different personalities and presenting new takes on foes including Abomination – which Bennett rendered in gruesome detail. The run suffered controversy when it was revealed that Bennett had snuck anti-Semitic imagery into an issue; Ewing, and later Marvel, cut all ties with Bennett.

Thor By J. Michael Straczynski 

J. Michael Straczynski began his run at Marvel by radically shaking up Spider-Man’s status quo; thus, when it came time to do the same for Thor, he and artist Olivier Coipiel made some bold moves. Gone was Thor’s classic costume, replaced by sleek Viking-esque armor. No longer would he talk in a faux Shakesperean accent, but a more modern dialect that still sounded like a God of Thunder. And in perhaps the boldest choice, Straczynski chose to place the kingdom of Asgard squarely in Oklahoma – meaning that Thor and his fellow Asgardians would truly walk among men. The title was a best seller when it launched, and Straczynski even contributed to the story for the first Thor film (and also cameoed as the first person to try and pick up Mjlonir when it landed in New Mexico.)

These stories are just a taste of the adventures that Thor and Hulk have had over the years. With 60 years of adventures under their belts, there’s no doubt that creators will add more tales to their ever-growing mythos.

Hulk VS Thor: Banner of War Alpha #1 goes on sale wherever comics are sold on May 11, 2022.