Today, Taylor and Drew are discussing Thor 1, originally released October 1st, 2014.
Taylor: The internet is a powerful beast that once mobilized can bring on a sea-change in our society. Many of the recent and memorable movements in the world have been brought about in large part due to social media and other online resources. The likes of the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring are testaments to the power of the internet and at this point it is clear that any meaningful change in the world might just begin in front of a computer screen. In much the same way, women are using the internet to voice their opposition to the inequalities they face everywhere from the workplace to the glossy pages of comic books. Of the latter, while there is still much reform to be had, there are clear signs that things are getting better. There is perhaps no better example of this than the transformation of Thor into a female character, and as issue 1 of this series shows, perhaps we need ladies in comics more than we could have ever believed.
For mysterious reasons involving super-spies and whispers, Thor has lost the ability to wield Mjolnir. Thor pouts on the moon when Odin shows up and assumes his son is being a sissy and attempts to pick up the hammer himself. But guess what: no dice! Freyja, the All-Mother, however is more resolved than her counterpart. She gives Mjolnir a tug and it deems her worthy, thus she becomes the new Thor! Meanwhile, in the Norwegian Sea, Malekith the Accursed, King of the Dark Elves, has shown up with some ice giants in search of a mysterious object. Thor shows up to save the day but without his powers promptly has his arms ripped off. Things aren’t looking so good for our former titular hero. Good thing there’s a replacement.
This is an introductory issue through and through and while I normally hate the set up that is required when launching a new series, Thor 1 pleased me, verily. In large part this is due to the way writer Jason Aaron has justified the need for a female Thor. Look, I love the idea of a female Thor and am excited by its very premise, but I also realize that something like this could easily be nothing more than a gimmick to generate reader interest. Luckily that’s not the case here. Deftly, and with a sense of purpose, Aaron gives us great narrative reasons for Thor becoming a woman.
The first and perhaps most entertaining reason is that the men in this issue simply just don’t cut it. Thor, for whatever reason has lost his powers and without them he’s basically useless. Thor has never been one for brains and without might he has no recourse but to blunder into battle with borrowed weapons from the Asgard weapon vault. Needless to say, this isn’t all that useful. His father is equally unhelpful when it comes to protecting the realm of Asgard. He arrogantly blusters and pounds his way to Mjolnir thinking he’ll be able to pick up the very thing he enchanted.
Of course it’s a fool’s errand and he fails in almost comical fashion. The thing is, in this instance Odin is the embodiment of macho pride. He’s arrogant against his better judgment and he thinks that his problems can be solved by the use of simple force as opposed to a more nuanced approach. Additionally, he blatantly doesn’t listen to Freyja and fails and this lack of consideration causes him to lose ever more face. In both the case of Thor and Odin, Aaron makes a convincing case that traditional masculine methods of problem solving are out of date at best and harmful at worst. If that’s not a case for a female Thor than it’s hard to say what is.
Aaron’s other reason for a female Thor is of course Freyja herself, who in this issue proves to be both the voice of reason and prudence. When her son Thor is hurting and embarrassed from his loss of power, she comforts him. When Odin won’t listen to reason, it is she who corrects him. And most importantly, when no one else proves worthy of Mjolnir, she does.
Essentially, she’s the most well rounded and capable person in this entire issue, regardless of sex. However, it has to be noted that Aaron gives her a perfect balance of feminine equanimity and masculine resolve. These of course are generalizations and outdated stereotypes and there’s no reason a person, regardless of gender, can’t possess both. However, we live in an imperfect age where such thinking isn’t necessarily the norm and Aaron is making a statement by acknowledging that yes, people can possess these qualities regardless of their gender.
Drew, do you see this issue as having such a strong statement as I do? I guess we don’t know for sure who picks up Mjolnir. Could it be someone other than Freyja? Also, what’s going to happen to the armless torso we once called Thor?
Drew: You know, I was actually shocked when I read your assessment that it was Freyja that hoisted Mjolnir at the end of the issue. I mean, the Thor-ified woman at the end doesn’t look all that much like the aged All-Mother.
I thought Freyja could be an interesting twist, but we’re at the very least supposed to think it’s someone else…but then I realized how clever that reading is. On the surface, there’s a whole lot of circumstantial evidence — Frejya is left looking at Mjolnir as the rest of the Asgardians depart, and when we return to the moon, it’s a lone figure that is ultimately deemed worthy — but there’s also a lot of emotional evidence. Freyja has been acting as the unquestioned ruler of Asgardia, so it’s downright insulting when Odin returns and gives her zero authority as a matter of course. Her abilities and intelligence are not respected, so perhaps proving herself worthy — indeed, proving herself capable of something NONE of the men of Asgardia could do — is something she needs right now.
Ultimately, I think this volume might at least in part be designed to address the de facto misogyny that tends to exist in fantasy realms like Asgard. We accept that Odin is sexist because he’s super old and used to doing stuff the super old-fashioned way, but maybe it’s about time that feminism arrived in Asgardia. Maybe this arc can be about how Odin comes to value his wife’s contributions and opinions as equal, rather than worthless. It’s for that reason that my favorite image comes just after the sequence Taylor included, where the “he” on Mjolnir’s inscription finds itself with a brand new “s”:
Of course, that inscription also brings me to your joke about what we call Thor now that he can’t wield Mjolnir, and I think the answer is obvious: Thor. Unlike Batman, The Flash, Captain America, or Captain Marvel, which are titles that can (and have) been held by different characters, Thor is a name. He was Thor before he was worthy, and he’s still be Thor now that he’s no longer worthy. The inscription goes so far as to avoid saying that the wielder of Mjolnir becomes Thor, stating instead that they “shall possess the power of Thor”. I mean, Beta Ray Bill hoisted Mjolnir back in the day, but that didn’t make him Thor. That is to say, in spite of all of the press leading up to this issue, and in spite of that heartfelt letter at the end of the issue, we really shouldn’t be calling this new character “Thor”. You know, unless her name also happens to be Thor. I’m not trying to downplay this character — I’m super excited, and won’t deny that she’ll be equal to Thor’s old powers — just clarifying that Thor Odinson is the dude’s name, not a title that comes with Mjolnir.
Anyway, back to what makes this issue so great; it’s probably time that one of us mentioned Russell Dauterman’s art. Esad Ribic is a hard act to follow, and while I think his distinctive, otherworldly style was a great match for Thor: God of Thunder, I think Dauterman’s slightly more traditional (though still incredibly pretty) style is a perfect match for this series. I mean, we’re getting a straight-up superhero origin here, so more straightforward linework makes sense, right? Beyond the surface style elements, his storytelling is crystal clear. Dauterman has a way of mixing his layouts up to keep things from ever getting repetitive — I was particularly fond of his descending vertical panels as we learn the outcome of Thor’s battle with Malekith — and I’m impressed at how thoughtfully he uses the layouts to express story elements. My favorite has to be how effectively he uses crooked panels to convey the size and weight of the approaching Frost Giants.
I’m excited about Dauterman, I’m excited about Aaron, I’m excited to find out who’s holding Mjolnir, and I’m excited to see what happens to Thor. I suppose I’m just excited for this new chapter in Thor’s story. With Aaron in the writer’s chair, we know it’s going to be epic, and with Dauterman on art, it’s going to look great. We’re not worthy.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?