In the wake of a crushing defeat at Thanos' Infinity Stone-clad hands, the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will face their greatest challenge yet in Avengers: Endgame. But, who is the greatest hero in the MCU? Over the next couple weeks, SYFY WIRE will be debating who deserves the title of The Most Important Avenger. Our next contender is Thor, the God of Thunder who's made Midgard his second home.
The marketing for Avengers: Endgame has been hinting pretty hard over the last few weeks that Marvel Studios is setting this film up as a definite Last Ride for three of the original Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. These are the three men who led the MCU's original franchises, the three warriors who could not have been more different but grew into friends who shared a deep and often fraught bond. That makes sense for a film that's supposed to close out a decade-long era of storytelling, but if you'd said five or even three years ago that the most important man among that trinity would be Thor, few would have agreed with you.
And yet, that seems to be exactly what's happened in the few short years since Thor was forced to laugh at himself for being excluded from Civil War. Tony Stark may be the catalyst and the intellectual light of the Avengers, and Steve Rogers may be its steadfast moral center, but Thor — Odinson, God of Thunder, Strongest Avenger and rightful King of Asgard — is now the team's vital, irreplaceable heart.
For one thing, he's arguably the Avenger who's changed the most since his beginnings in the MCU, and that's saying something when he's fighting alongside Tony Stark. Thor first appeared in the MCU as the arrogant warrior prince, the Golden Boy who craved battle and smashed coffee mugs on the floor when he wanted another drink. The first Thor film is all about his journey to reckoning with that arrogance, but even as he may have been humbled among Asgardians, in The Avengers he clearly wasn't humbled among humanity. Yes, he learned to be part of a team, but he also couldn't escape the fish-out-of-water premise that got him into the MCU in the first place, and it was holding him back.
That all changed with Thor: Ragnarok, and an evolution of the Odinson that allowed him to keep much of his mythic bombast while shedding his stiff, standoffish behavior in the presence of his fellow heroes. Writer Steve Murray argued in 2014 that "Thor is the new Superman" thanks to his smiling, benevolent presence in Thor: The Dark World, but by Ragnarok something else had happened: Thor was the new Thor, a happy warrior who fought for others not just because he was expected to, but because he knew it was right and, what's more, it was fulfilling.
Even as he'd evolved into a better version of himself, Thor was also contending with a period of tremendous loss. By the end of Ragnarok he'd lost one of his eyes, his homeland (though not his people), his father, and his beloved hammer, then just when it seemed he was regaining a foothold on his place in the world, Thanos destroyed that as well in the opening moments of Infinity War. In a matter of minutes, he'd lost everything but his own life to the Mad Titan, and yet when the Guardians of the Galaxy pulled him out of space he immediately started preparing for another fight. When Rocket (“Sweet Rabbit") argued that he'd already fought Thanos and lost, Thor had a simple response.
"Well, he's never fought me twice."
Thor's journey to prove himself against Thanos makes up the spine of Infinity War and culminates in yet another failure at the actual moment of The Decimation. But still, Thor came closer than anyone else to actually ending everything, only to have it snatched away from him. That says something about his power set, of course — a 1,500-year-old God who can fly and summon lightning is bound to have a fighting chance — but it says more about his determination. You can practically hear him just days after his friends turned to dust around him muttering to himself: "Well, he's never fought me three times."
Thor's evolution, determination, and fighting spirit are all tremendous assets, but they're also all things his brothers in arms also have. Tony Stark overcame tremendous arrogance to be a hero, and no fighting spirit in the universe can match Steve "I Can Do This All Day" Rogers. What truly sets Thor apart, even among this band of extraordinary heroes, is his evolution into a hero who truly feels like a man of the universe, and not just an Asgardian.
It would be easy to keep Thor in the "he's from another realm, so he's weird" box, as so many comic book writers have, but this Thor is not content to stay there. Asgard is not a place, after all, and he is not confined to its customs or its rules anymore. He doesn't seem to see borders the way he used to, and that extends to the souls he encounters as well as the physical places.
Every decent being in the universe, from a fan who asks for a selfie to a talking tree, is a friend to Thor, because he needs all the friends he can get. Every encounter with a soul in need is an opportunity to help and to prove himself, even if he has to take the fire of a dying star to do it. Call it daddy issues if you like, but Thor will never stop trying to prove himself worthy of the love and the power he's been given, and that's why he will never stop fighting through the tears. That makes him the heart, and heart is the thing our heroes might need most in the wake of the Decimation.
That's why he's the most important Avenger, because he finally sees that his tremendous might has not been given to him so he can rule or conquer, but so he can protect, avenge, and his own way love, at all cost. Other heroes, other gods, might have given up long ago, but not Thor, for the reason he lays out in Infinity War:
"I'm only alive because fate wants me alive."
We don't know what fate wants for Thor in Avengers: Endgame. Perhaps fate has just one more fight planned for him, or perhaps he'll live long enough to reclaim his people and settle them into a new home. Whatever happens, the evolution of Thor has been one of the most beautiful and fulfilling parts of The Infinity Saga, and if this is indeed Thor's last ride, we only have one wish for him.
We hope that this time, he goes for the head.