Today, Taylor and Patrick are discussing The Mighty Thor 8, originally released June 22nd, 2016.
Taylor: What exactly makes someone heroic? I know, I know – that’s a trite question when talking about a genre that asks some version of that question virtually every day. Still, I think it’s important. By confronting this question we consider what society counts as good and honorable and whether or not we live our lives according to those standards. This question is thrown around often enough that we tend to take these standards at face value and don’t consider their deeper implications. For example, if you take a stand for something you believe in, most would say that’s heroic. However, if the stand you’re taking is for something reprehensible, is the deed still heroic? The Mighty Thor 8 has your answer.
With peace holding for the time being in the Ten Realms, things have returned to semi-normal on Earth. Thor is out helping people the best she can and Dario Agger is screwing over the world with corporate greed. For both, things start to go wrong when they have to take a stand for something they believe in. Dario has to stand up to other evil corporate entities who want to encroach on his enterprise, and Jane has to stand up to S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect her identity. While each takes a principled stand, there’s only one person doing what could be considered “the right thing.”
Let’s start with Dario’s stand. In a secret vault in the Swiss Alps, all of the evil corporate CEOs are meeting to discuss Dario’s recent acquisitions from Alfheim. Long story short: they want in on Dario’s action and won’t have it any other way. Dario obviously has qualms about this and refuses to let others take what he believes rightfully belongs to him. There is something a bit heroic about Dario’s stand here, even if the man himself is pretty much the scum of the Earth. He’s saying no to corporate powers who do nothing but take and take and take. He’s taking a stand against these certifiably evil entities and telling them enough is enough. In a way, that’s heroic, and I find myself rooting for Dario in the moment. But then I remember who I’m rooting for and suddenly things seem less rosy. After all, Dario is the one who helped Maliketh take over the Alfheim and kill hundreds of innocent people and unicorns and who owns the evil Roxxon Corporation.
I love what Jason Aaron is doing here. By juxtaposing Dario with other people just like him, I’m almost tempted to take his side simply because he’s the character I know the best. This Nabokovian trick is great and it works because of who we’re comparing Dario too.
All of these evil CEOs are just as bad, if not worse, than Dario and their collusion to take his fortune makes me side with Dario. However, if the situation were reversed Dario would almost do the exact same thing. In this way, Aaron has thrown the idea of heroically taking a stand for what you believe in and turned it on its head in way that almost has me siding with someone who is undoubtedly evil. This, in turn, raises the question about what it means to be heroic. The type of narrative gymnastics that make this happen are so much fun because as I read, I have to constantly stop, think, and check my emotions and ask myself who and what it is I’m actually rooting for.
On the flip side, I don’t have to think too hard about who I’m rooting for when Jane is involved. As she’s going in for her weekly chemo treatment, Jane is abducted by two S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who want to get the bottom of Thor’s secret identity. They take her to an interrogation room and make the mistake of trying to extract information from her.
As the two agents threaten her, Jane takes her own stand against their bullying with a mighty laugh. It’s such a beautiful moment and it gets to heart of what makes Jane such an amazing hero. She never backs down from anyone or anything, whether she’s Thored-Up or not. Her stand against the agents isn’t about her own personal interests, it’s about keeping the world safe. She knows that if she tells her secret things will only get more complicated for her and she’ll lose her autonomy. By taking this stand she essentially is doing what she thinks in the long run will help the most people.
The way she handles this whole situation is great and the art of Russell Dauterman emphasizes the power of Jane in this scene. Part of what makes this scene powerful is that Jane appears so frail and weak – no one would blame her for giving in. Dauterman adds to this effect by drawing Jane slumped over in a chair with nowhere to go, literally boxed in by the agents in the panel. Then she delivers her defiant laugh to their ultimatum. As Dauterman draws it, the laugh literally repulses the agents backward, almost as if Jane has struck them. Part of the power of this fourth “laugh” panel is created by the almost identical three panels that proceed it. In their uniformity things seem hopeless for Jane. By the time my eye gets to the fourth panel, I’m surprised by Jane’s outburst and it makes her stand all the more triumphant and heroic.
Patrick, Jane just might be my favorite superhero these days. In terms of embodying what it means to truly be a hero, I think there’s no one better. What do you think? And what do you make of Dario’s stand and his predicament with his fellow CEOs? Lastly, are you as thrilled to see Jane and Roz team up as I am?
Patrick: Oh yeah, man – Roz is the shit. For as much as the reveal that Thor was Jane Foster was impeccably plotted and perfectly executed, I was momentarily bummed out that Roz wasn’t the lady under the helmet. She’s just so fucking cool, and Dauterman draws the character with such an interesting mix of poise and humanity that it’s a small thrill any time she’s on the page. For his part, Aaron is doing a bang-up job of writing an interesting relationship for Roz and Jane, leaning on both the inherent awkwardness of Thor’s two exes hanging out, while embracing the fact that they’re both mature enough — and self-possessed enough — that it’s no big deal. They have a weirdly-shared history, and that makes them friends. Couldn’t really ask for more than that!
Taylor, I wanna talk a little bit about those things that both Jane and Dario are fighting for in this issue. You mention that Jane’s fighting for her anonymity and Dario is fighting for exclusive access to the other realms, but I think there’s another commonality there. They’re both fighting to not be a part of a larger group. The S.H.I.E.L.D. bros would try to recruit Thor and make her fight for their various causes, and the nameless council of evil CEOs would incorporate Dario’s individual accomplishments into their collective. The unity of these groups (S.H.I.E.L.D. and the CEOs) are represented in this issue by circles, both diagetically and non-diagetically.
The evil circle is the most obvious – it’s the table around which Dario et al. meet. But if you look, circles are everywhere; the vault door is a circle, for example. But Dauterman isn’t content to let in-universe round objects sell this idea on their own: most of the panel layouts for the scenes around this table are dictated by circular panels.
I think it’s important to note that none of these pages have individual panels that are circular – it takes a couple panels working together to make up any given circle. We can even see this sort of visual concept in macro with the first two pages adding up to one giant circle when laid side-by-side.
This is an odd case where I feel like I’m at a bit of an analytical disadvantage by not having a paper version of this book. If there’s a page turn between these pages, the circular shape is obscured, but if this is one visually unified spread, then Dauterman is broadcasting the motif a little bit more obviously. Obvious or no, it’s startling to me how powerful Matthew Wilson’s color choices are for that wispy rainbow ring. They’re otherworldly, bright and vibrant in a way that demands the readers’ attention.
(Also, as long as we’re admiring these pages, I wanted to mention how much I like the storytelling within. We praised Thor: God of Thunder 12 for just letting us spend a meaningful day on Earth with Thor, and these two pages do such a wonderful impression of that issue – even down to the scene of picketers carrying signs and Thor spending time with people who are dying. It’s all incredibly meaningful, and these two pages do a great job of evoking the magic that Aaron already worked on this character three series ago. Incidentally, that was also the first time we saw Jane in Aaron’s run on the series, and when Odinson discovers that she’s dying, so there’s a sense of referring back to the “beginning” of this era of the characters of both Jane Foster and Thor. I don’t know if we’re heading into a conclusion, but looking back certainly makes me more excited to move forward.)
Anyway: circles! If circles represent conformity, then the only way to assert one’s individuality is to bust up those circles, right? Dario manages to do it both in-universe and on the page at the same time.
That’s Dario’s fist, simultaneous CRACKing the round table and knocking his quadrant of the circle out of place. After this moment, circles are still present, but they’re not nearly as prominent. They’re relegated to S.H.I.E.L.D. logos sitting impotently on the walls and resting on Roz’ shoulders.
Plus, hey, if circles don’t get you excited, there’s also the promise that Exterminatrix will go head-to-head with Thor and Roz. I don’t know if I’d call Thor my favorite superhero, but damn it if Mighty Thor wouldn’t be a candidate for my favorite superhero comic.
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?