by Taylor Anderson and Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
Taylor: One of the hardest lessons to learn growing up is that everything has a cost. This is a particularly difficult lesson to learn because when we’re young, things tend to not really cost all that much, if anything at all. It’s only once we become adults and begin to age that literally everything has some cost associated with it. Want to go out and drink all night? The cost is a hangover. Want to get a master’s degree? The cost is crippling student debt. Heck, even want to find love? The cost is putting in the time and effort to cultivate a meaningful relationship with someone. This isn’t to say that things aren’t worth their cost – love is a good example of something that more than pays for itself. However, the cost of things always has to be collected, as Jane and her friends learn in Mighty Thor 703.
The Mangog has arrived in Asgardia and with it arrives death and destruction for all the gods of the Nine Realms. The Mangog begins his onslaught by destroying the Bifrost and blinding Heimdoll who fruitlessly tries to stop the beast. It’s during this battle that Heimdoll says the Mangog will be stopped to which he replies:
Yes, the Mangog is on a god-killing rampage, seemingly to atone for the sins committed by the gods. While it’s tempting to think that this statement is just a bunch of hot-air, one has only to look at Odin and the other gods not named Thor to realize that what the Mangog says is true. The gods have been cruel and they have been arrogant for ages upon ages. Now the Mangog has returned and the gods must pay the cost for the way they have acted. In this way the Mangog’s assault almost seems like a good thing – he is the cost that keeps the gods in check from being unspeakably cruel forever. While that’s a tempting way to view things, the Mangog seems so full of rage that it seems unlikely he will stop at the gods. Essentially the question now is, what will the cost be to get the Mangog in check? We can hope it’s the gods lives, but that seems unlikely.
And these gods that the Mangog are after aren’t exactly new to the concept of the idea of cost. Jason Aaron has interwoven this theme seamlessly into the fabric of this issue as we see when Freyja does her best to protect the Realms by powering up the Destroyer. Before she’s able to do this though, she sees what the cost is of keeping such a powerful weapon under control.
Cul has essentially been feeding the Destroyer the souls of unfortunate Asgardians which leads Freyja to admit that the Mangog is right – the gods are cruel and arrogant. What is learned here is that Cul, and by extension Odin, have been keeping the power of the Destroyer in their control at the cost of innocent people dying. It’s a stark reminder that not only is the Mangog correct in his assessment of the gods, but a reminder that even the gods remain at the top of the proverbial food chain at a cost. In this case, they stay in power at the cost of the very people whom worship them and they have sworn to protect.
All this talk of cost brings the story back to Jane Foster, who more than any character in this series understands just how much power can cost. She is unable to confront the Mangog because her superhero friends – Doctor Strange, the Falcon, the Odinson, and Roz Solomon- have instigated an intervention to try and convince her to put Thor on hold for awhile so her cancer can be healed. As Stephen details to Jane after examining her with magic, turning into Thor is literally costing her her life.
That doing anything magical comes with a cost is nothing new to those who read Doctor Strange and it seems fitting that he’s the one to deliver this new to Jane. But this isn’t news to Jane – she’s known ever since she first picked up Mjolnir just what the cost of becoming Thor would be. As I’ve said before, this is one of the primary things that makes Jane a hero. She knows the cost of becoming Thor, but she’s willing to sacrifice herself in order to protect others. What’s interesting about this issue is that for the first time in this series, she decides that the cost of becoming Thor is too great, because that will spell her doom. For once, she contemplated a cost benefit analysis and realized that it’s better to remain Jane, even if it means letting Asgardia burn.
Spencer, do you think Jane has properly calculated the cost of her actions in this issue? Do you think the gods knew the cost of their actions would be the Mangog when they were being jerks to just about every living thing? Also, Russell Dauterman’s artwork was flawless as usual in this issue. Did you see anything that stood out to you especially so this go around? Oh, and if being Thor meant giving up pizza, as Roz says in the beginning of the issue, would you pay that cost to be able to fly and control lighting?
Spencer: I’d like to say that I would. For my health alone it’d probably be a smart trade, but man oh man, do I love pizza. It’d have to still be a sometime treat I think, like Jane and Roz returning to the beauty of New York City every once in a while.
Anyway Taylor, I’ll take any opportunity to praise Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson, who are positively electric throughout this entire issue. Both are at the top of their game throughout the Mangog half of the issue, creating battlegrounds that are bright, gorgeous, and gory, chaotic with both color and action yet never hard to follow. These two work together in perfect harmony to bring the utter raw power of the Mangog to life in all its horror.
There’s so much I love about this page. Wilson’s rainbow bridge is as stunning as ever, which makes seeing such a beloved, iconic landmark destroyed all the more heartbreaking. Dauterman leaves no doubt that it’s gone, literally shattering not just the bridge, but the very fabric holding it together (the panels on the page themselves). On the next page we see shards of the bridge fall from the sky — they look like confetti, yet they’re actually menacing portents of doom. It’s important for the creative team to remind readers of the cost of the Mangog’s attack, which in this case means making sure Asgardia is at its most beautiful even as it’s ripped to shreds.
As good as Dauterman and Wilson’s work is throughout Mangog’s assault, though, I’d say they accomplish even more in the scenes set in Jane’s hospital room, despite having far less bombastic material to work with. I’m enamored with the way they (and Aaron) depict Mjolnir’s arrival — Odinson shouts at it and even punches the dang thing, but it’s immovable, absolutely implacable.
In fact, the way Dauterman layers Mjolnir behind other panels implies that it’s always there in the background, that Mjolnir is always on Jane’s mind even when it’s not physically there. This is such a subtle and clever way for the art to reinforce the theme: becoming the Mighty Thor is Jane’s preoccupation, and there will always be another threat waiting in the wings, another excuse for Jane to become Thor, to run away from her cancer treatments and all other elements of her human life. She can’t just hope for crime to clear up long enough for her to get better — Jane has to make an active decision to set set aside time to get better.
That’s an idea that should resonate with a lot of people, from creators or simply stressed workers who have to force themselves to practice self-care to addicts trying to give up habits that they love, but which are destroying their lives. It’s worth doing — most people know the risks and benefits of their behavior, even if they don’t want to admit it — but even if you’ve got a whole squad of well-meaning friends cheering you on, nobody can make that choice but you.
It’s empowering, but also terrifying. Every decision has some sort of cost — and we can bet there will be some sort of consequence for Thor not showing up to face the Mangog — but sometimes we just have to face those costs anyway, for our own good and perhaps even the good of others. The price of losing Jane Foster would no doubt be worse than whatever consequence she now faces — not just for Jane/Thor herself, but for the entire world. Jane has proven that her humanity is a vitally important facet of Thor’s power, and given everything we’ve learned about the gods this issue, it may be more important now than ever. Jane has so much to offer, and I don’t think any of us are ready to lose her yet. You hear that, Aaron?
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