With Thor: Ragnarok having come out a little over a week ago, Infinity War on the horizon, and the promised return of the Mangog to Thor comics, this is a perfect volume to spotlight.
Thor vs. Thanos is a volume of the Thunder God's comic from 1999 and 2000 written by Dan Jurgens (Death of Superman and creator of Booster Gold, more recently Aquaman and the Others and Batman Beyond). Artists include the renowned John Romita Jr. and Jerry Ordway as well as Michael Ryan and Jose Ladronn.
While it features stories not including Thanos, namely a tale of deviant gods led by Brona which also features the Scarlet Witch as well as the Annual which is about Loki creating mischief for Thor's Earth persona, the majority of the collection is about Thanos and the Mangog on a warpath to Asgard in search for an item known as the Chalice of Ruins. Thanos and the Mangog wreak havoc in Asgard and beat back Thor a number of times before a final confrontation occurs. Firelord makes a guest appearance during this arc.
The Chalice of Ruins is yet another of those god-items that grant unimaginable power to those who wield it. Like the Infinity Gauntlet, it requires a bit of assembly on the user's end; Thanos must gather tears from the Designate (Thor Girl) to make it work.
This was my first experience with Mangog, and I suspect that was the case for many others. From what I can tell, this was a Lee and Kirby creation that was stored away, with the exception of a What If and a Fanfare appearance, until Jurgens decided to bring it back for this story arc. He appeared in a Thunderstrike story and was stored away again until Jason Aaron's current Thor run.
Mangog is such a quintessentially Kirby character, and I love it. He's a bizarrely-shaped monstrosity made up of a billion dead souls and hates Odin and Asgard for causing those deaths. He plays patsy to Thanos for most of the story, like Mister Sinister to Apocalypse or Desaad to Darkseid. Mangog is frighteningly powerful, but he still kneels to the Mad Titan.
To speak more to the quality of this trade, it is collected in the order that the issues were released. However, that may not necessarily be a good thing. You see the epic (initial release) cover and the title Thor vs. Thanos and you're hyped for a cosmic clash between the Thunder God and the Mad Titan. However, you have to wade through a tale with the aforementioned Brona and his Enchanters. Once you get through that, #20 begins to give you some of Mangog at the end, but then it's sidelined by the Annual, which, though it contains some plot points of the Thanos and Mangog story, is mostly about Loki.
I'm not going to complain about getting more material for your money, but it would have made more sense to pack the 18-20 and the Annual at the end and put out the Thanos and Mangog goodness at the front with some of the bits from those other comics relevant to the Thanos and Mangog plot at the beginning.
That sounds complicated in explanation, but it would allow for this trade to flow a lot better.
That's not to say the non-Thanos related storytelling is bad. Dan Jurgens has a very classic-comics writing style, and he grooves on the cosmic high fantasy of Thor with ease. He knows how play with the pseudo-Middle English dialogue well. The battle against the Enchanters is still cool, and Loki is good fun while he's about.
It did remind me that Scarlet Witch really never had a good costume until her joining Uncanny Avengers back during the first Marvel NOW! initiative. Yes, I'm saying her "classic" fishnet bodysuit, one-piece bathing suit, and cape was a bad costume. Fight me. The 1990's Force Works monstrosity is worse, mind you. But, her current costume and that Marvel NOW! costume are infinitely better. The movie uniforms are a lot better too.
The main event of Thor vs Thanos collection, the extended conflict between Thor and Thanos, is epic. It's a deific knockdown-dragout between the two powerhouses. Thor dueling Thanos is amazing, Thor dueling Mangog is awesome. The setups are cool, the payoffs are better. It's a thoroughly enjoyable tale.
John Romita Jr. was a perfect choice for this story. He's always had a fairly Kirby-esque style, and that works really well with these extra-bulky figures and the monstrous Mangog. Romita Jr. handles #18 and 21-25. As such, he handles the entirety of the Thanos and Mangog-centered issues. Ladronn handles a small segment at the end of the Annual which pertains to the story, and it has a surreal cosmic atmosphere to it which looks amazing.
#19-20 is handled by Michael Ryan, and it looks damn good too. Ordway took the majority of the Annual, and it's gorgeous.
The color artists Gregory Wright, Mark Bernardo, and Moose Baumann put in excellent color work to keep this thing visually astonishing. Shout out to inkers Dick Giordano and Klaus Janson too. Anyone who can ink the elaborate and line-heavy style of Romita Jr. deserves a lot of respect.
So, organizational issues aside, this is a great read and a cool chaser to Ragnarok, an appetizer for Infinity War, or a story to give you more backstory on the Mangog. It's a more recent Thor classic with one of Marvel's greatest rogues and fantastic artwork to boot. This ran me up $24.99 in paperback, but you can score it from Amazon right now for $17.99. I recommend you pick it up. It's a cosmic epic.