Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, will be hitting (or should that be smashing? Or perhaps pummeling?) cinemas next month. But the Chris Hemsworth-y Thor hasn’t been worthy enough to wield the hammer for a while in the comic book universe.
With comics rebooting themselves all the damn time – just like your laptop still chugging along from 2006 – it’s easy to get a bit lost. So here’s a quick recap.
After the events of the Original Sin storyline, the God of Thunder, Thor, Odinson (he of almost as many titles as Daenerys of House Targaryen) found he was no longer worthy to wield Mjolnir, his magical hammer. Instead, the reader was introduced to a mysterious “female Thor”, who got her own series with Thor Vol. 1: Goddess of Thunder. The reader discovers the identity of the new Thor is none other than Dr Jane Foster, smart cookie and the one-time love interest of the one-time Thor.
Marvel then rebooted their stable of comics into the ‘All-New, All-Different’ series. Luckily for us, Marvel decided not to get too all-new and all-different with Thor, and kept Dr Jane Foster wielding the magical hammer with enough weight to smash the patriarchy. The key difference: The Mighty Thor started back with another first volume.
In The Mighty Thor Vol. 1: Thunder in her Veins the ruler of the Dark Elves, Malekith, is itching for a fight. And so he gathers his Dark Council, and kick starts a War of the Realms, as you do. Think along the lines of World War III, but it’s Nine Realms War III.
At the same time, discontent is brewing in Asgard, and the realm is on the verge of a civil war. Odin, the king, is mad. He has imprisoned his queen, lost the trust of the people, and grants his brother, Cul, the God of Fear, inordinate power.
Writer Jason Aaron is able to take the all-new Thor in all-different directions, and this first volume of The Mighty Thor feels fresh. With a new Thor to fight, Aaron also brings back Loki as a nemesis. This leads to a great confrontation between the two where Loki recounts the history of the Thor vs. Loki rivalry while magically personifying the different aspects of his personality in physical form.
There’s a lot that makes Jane Foster an interesting Thor, not least of all the fact that she’s a woman. It’s a fact that all the old men in Asgard seem to have trouble wrapping their heads around, if by ‘old men’ we mean ‘ageless gods’. Odin believes that the new Thor has gained the powers of the hammer through trickery, and calls the ‘False Thor’ an enemy of Asgard. Jane’s alter ego isn’t welcome in Asgard, but it’s not a picnic for her on her home planet either.
That’s because when not wielding the hammer, Jane is fighting a far more personal foe. Cancer.
Jane’s decision to take on the mantle of Thor is especially noble, because each time she wields the hammer, the magic kills the toxins in her bloodstream. That is, the chemotherapy she is undergoing in order to keep her mortal form alive.
The contrast between Jane Foster in her human form (who is slowly dying) and Jane Foster once she has transformed into Thor (a glowing amazon who could deadlift a planet), allows artist Russell Dauterman and colourist Matthew Wilson to compare the two versions of the same character in interesting ways.
The obvious physical differences of ‘Jane Foster’ and ‘female Thor’ aside, both have the same unyielding resolve in the set of their shoulders – whether those shoulders frail or hyper muscled. The fact that Thor now wears a mask in order to protect her identity means that we never get to see Thor’s face, until she transforms back into Jane Foster.
The Mighty Thor is a mighty good series and if you start now you’ll have three volumes to read before the fourth is released next year.
Hey, Taika Waititi, can we get you making a Thor film with this character next?
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