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“This... is why all gods must die,” intones Gorr the God Butcher, a sallow-skinned alien with tentacles coming from his head and an dark, amorphous cloak in King Thor #1 (2019).

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Thor: Love and Thunder barely cracked the best Thor villain of our age

Fortunately, you can still read his comic

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Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

I never expected Thor: Love and Thunder to do justice to Gorr the God Butcher. It’s nothing personal — Gorr simply isn’t your average supervillain. He’s not a guy who shows up to crow at Thor about how this time his evil plan is definitely going to work, unlike all the other times. There’s one definitive Gorr story, an 11-issue hammer-drop of an epic that might also be the best Thor story of the last decade.

So as Thor: Love and Thunder hits Disney Plus this weekend, go ahead and watch it if you want to — or don’t watch it if you don’t. But either way, treat yourself to the saga of Gorr the God Butcher.

“Now we let the hammers talk,” says Thor standing dramatically on a ship next to the older King Thor, and the younger Unworthy Thor, in Thor: God of Thunder #8 (2013).

If I’m being honest, I wholeheartedly recommend reading Jason Aaron’s entire Thor run. But this is not an effortless ask for anyone but those who are already unusually serious about comics. So I can’t ask you to get a Marvel Unlimited subscription. It would be unreasonable to me to suggest that you Google a reading order list. And I definitely can’t tell you to settle in for over a hundred issues of pulp action, high emotion, and absolutely gorgeous art from the likes of Esad Ribić and Russell Dauterman. That would be foolish.

But it’s fine, because most of the themes of Aaron’s — again, quintessential and very fun — seven-year run on Thor exist in microcosm in its very first, completely stand-alone story, drawn (mostly) by Esad Ribić and colored (mostly) by Ive Svorcina: the saga of Gorr the God Butcher.

His sword through a young Thor’s chest and his hand around his throat as they plummet through the sky, Gorr the God Butcher talks of all the gods he’s killed and what they were gods of. “Tell me now, prince of Asgard,” he gloats, “before all you’re able to do is whimper and scream... what was Thor the god of before he died?” in Thor: God of Thunder #2 (2012).

You don’t have to watch much of Thor: Love and Thunder to get Gorr’s basic deal: The guy thinks all gods should die, and he’s got a plan to make that happen. The question of worthiness and how to obtain it is the throughline of Aaron’s Thor run, which saw the God of Thunder unable to lift his hammer after losing his faith in gods, a moment underscored with the phrase “Gorr was right.” Then a mortal took up Mjolnir, proved worthier than any of the gods, and died defeating a monster made out of their transgressions against mortals.

The message of Aaron’s run isn’t that all gods must die, but that all gods must change. That worthiness isn’t something you are, but something you work to do every day, and is closely tied to an acceptance of mortality, whether your own or that of your loved ones. In the God Butcher saga, Thor only prevails after confronting not just his own unworthy past but the daunting gulf between him and his ultra-worthy future.

In heated and lushly drawn battle, Gorr sarcastically thanks Thor for what he did in their past encounter, referring to him as “the god who got away,” in Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 (2012).
One of Gorr’s pitch black servants thrusts its hand through a cat-god’s chest from behind. Its arm transforms into a black bird, which flies away with the god’s heart in its talons. “Rage at your dimming all you like, ye godlings,” Gorr calls as he seizes the heart, “at last begins the era of man.” in Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1 (2022).

Which is to say, he teams up with his past self and his future self to kick Gorr’s butt across the cosmos in a battle that shakes the foundations of existence at the end of time. I mean, yeah, it’s a story about Thor’s evolution as a person, but it’s also got a “godbomb” that will reach across time to kill every god who ever lived at every moment of their lives simultaneously — and tons and tons of Ribić’s gorgeous art.

Worthiness is the heart of why the Marvel Cinematic Universe was never going to do Gorr justice. That core element of Marvel Comics’ Thor stories hasn’t really been present in the MCU since the original Thor in 2011. Other strong themes took its place, like family ties and wrestling with the sins of your forefathers. Thor: Love and Thunder skimmed the top of Aaron’s Thor run for its coolest characters, Gorr and Jane Foster’s Mighty Thor, and spun a new story out of them.

But if you’re at all curious about the whole stein of ale, not just the foam, you owe it to yourself to read the best Gorr story: the first Gorr story.

Gorr the God Butcher, a sallow-skinned alien in a huge cloak, whose fist ends in a sword, battles Thor in midair on the cover of Thor: God of Thunder #11 (2013).

Thor: God of Thunder — God Butcher Omnibus

  • $25

Prices taken at time of publishing.

The gods are vanishing, leading Thor on a bloody trail that threatens to consume his past, present and future. To save these worlds, Thor must unravel the gruesome mystery of the God Butcher! Collecting the hit series by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic that brought Thor face-to face with his deadliest foe ever... Gorr, the God Butcher! Collecting: Thor: God of Thunder (2012) 1-11.


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