by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin
This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!
And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
Drew: Can gods be heroes? I might posit that immortality voids the noble qualities like courage and sacrifice that define heroism. To me, anyway, gods and heroes are mutually exclusive groups, which might well be the reason we created the concept of demigods — Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion is less impressive if he has infinite time and power at his disposal, and Jesus dying on the cross is literally meaningless if he can’t die. In this way, we understand that Jane Foster’s nobility comes not from her godliness, but from her humanity — from the sacrifice she can only make because she isn’t a god. But still, she was a god, at least briefly, which maybe entitles her to a bit of rest after all of that sacrifice.
I suppose she could have had that rest eternally in the fields of Valhalla, effectively granting her the immortal life of an idle god, but again, she’s defined by her humanity, which means she needs some suffering and sacrifice built into that rest. It may seem odd to credit Jane’s not dying as emblematic of her mortality, but artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson lean into the divinity of Valhalla.
Rolling hills, flowing robes, golden sunsets, even flying horses — these guys are ticking all the boxes of pastoral fantasy. And as Odin elaborates, Jane is on her way to eternal feasting and drinking and reverie with “the greatest warriors from throughout history.” That is, she’s headed somewhere free of the ugliness and struggle of mortal life.
But that’s not Jane. Valhalla is undoubtedly perfection as conceived by the gods, with plenty to consume and little to worry about, but for Jane, it means the end of her story. For someone so defined by courage and sacrifice, it’s hard to imagine a less satisfying reward than sending them somewhere where such feats are essentially meaningless. So she lingers on the threshold, not fully understanding what it is that is holding her back.
Odinson, meanwhile, has channelled the the god tempest in an attempt to divinely defibrillate Jane’s lifeless body. It’s not the most elegant plan (closer to that slapping and screaming revival scene in The Abyss than anything resembling a medical procedure), but Odin returns with his double healing multiplier and manages to pull Jane back from the brink. It’s a “have your cake and eat it too” bit of death-reversal that would feel cheap were it not for the fact that death would be such an unfitting end for Jane. She’s the one that refuses the life of leisure, always taking up the fight (even when she maybe shouldn’t), so condemning her to a life of eternal bliss would be unspeakably cruel. The only way to really reward her for her sacrifices would be to let her keep making them.
Dauterman’s layouts seem to reflect this reading, echoing the motif of that circular doorway into heaven on almost every page after Jane’s revival. Only now, the heaven is the life Jane is living.
I have to squint to justify that reading a bit — Dauterman has used circles as a motif in his layouts throughout his Thor run — but Wilson solidifies it a bit by wreathing these sequences in that same pale blue mist as the Valhalla scenes. Heck, maybe the fact that so much of this run has been circular just confirms the notion that Jane is already in her own personal Heaven.
Which I guess brings me to that “I’ll miss the flying, too” moment. She then looks at War Thor’s broken Mjolnir and adds “Though I suppose the skies aren’t going anywhere. And neither am I.” That’s more or less a promise that JaneThor will return — I suspect under Aaron’s pen, but maybe he’s just leaving some clear loopholes open for some future creative team. And again, that just seems fitting, given Jane’s commitment to heroism. You can take Jane out of the fight, but you can’t take the fight out of Jane.
Spencer, I won’t ask you to speculate on how and when JaneThor’s return might happen, but come on, that prospect has to have you at least a little excited, however satisfying this conclusion might be.
Spencer: Oh, of course, I’d be overjoyed to see Jane as any sort of Thor again, although I’ll admit that it wouldn’t be quite the same without Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson pulling her strings. Dauterman and Wilson’s art is such an intrinsic part of this character at this point that she just doesn’t feel the same without them, and their work is just so dang good that I have a hard time imagining any creative team approaching their level of quality any time soon.
Take the opening pages. Drew referenced the circular motif Dauterman uses in the issue’s final sequence as being reflective of Jane’s personal heaven, and I tend to agree; the layouts earlier in the issue, meanwhile, reflect a different part of Jane.
With her story coming to an end, Jane’s lifeless body and the traumatic events surrounding it are framed as if they’re the torn and tattered pages of a book, as if they’re future pages she’ll no longer get to write, being ripped from the storybook of her life because of her death. It’s such a smart way to emphasize what Jane says a few pages later about her story not feeling over yet. She’s got more pages yet to write, and here Dauterman means to make us feel the (potential) loss of those pages in the most visceral way possible. It works like gangbusters.
(Meanwhile, the only “normal” panels in the issue — plain ol’ rectangular ones — find Jane standing outside the doors of Valhalla, and Odinson trying to revive her. They’re reserved for what could be Jane’s new normal, and for Odinson trying to restore normalcy, but the fact that they’re not circular means that neither is quite heaven yet.)
Wilson’s colors always wow, but I’m most impressed by that first image Drew highlighted, the grand, golden hue of Valhalla. It truly looks like heaven, but as Drew pointed out, I don’t think Jane could truly find her heaven in its hallowed halls. She’s more than earned her spot in Valhalla, don’t get me wrong, but even ignoring the very true, very smart points Drew made about Jane requiring a life of sacrifice, she’s also never been the kind of god to rejoice in combat or revelry. So much of Jane’s tenure as the Mighty Thor has been about rejecting pomposity, toxic masculinity, and all the trappings that have made Asgard’s gods divine (but also insufferable/borderline dangerous). Entering into Valhalla would have been her embracing the very tenants of godhood that she rejected the entire time that she was a god.
This is perfectly reflected by her relationship with Odin.
I absolutely adore this page. Dauterman’s figures shine; Odin is such an overblown bully, and Jane isn’t the slightest bit fazed by him. It’s important to note that Odin never comes to understand Jane’s particular brand of heroism or what necessitated that she pick up Mjolnir, even now; he comes around to Jane on the next page, but only because she destroys the Mangog and dies in glorious battle. Odin can only accept Jane when she meets his particular definition of godhood, and while I’m sure Jane is grateful to not count Odin as an enemy anymore, it doesn’t feel genuine for Jane to accept death and everlasting rewards on his terms.
That’s why Jane had to live. Thankfully, this arc isn’t called “The Death of Jane Foster” — it’s “The Death of The Mighty Thor,” and the Mighty Thor is indeed dead, not just because Jane can no longer transform, but because Mjolnir has been destroyed, and the great storm within it has faded away, using the last of its power to revive Jane.
I don’t want to take anything away from Jane’s sacrifice, but it was expected — we all knew she would never hesitate to lay down her own life for others. Mjolnir, though, was the force constantly compelling Jane into action despite the toll it took on her health. It seemed incapable of even comprehending those tolls, only that there was work to be done, and that they were the only ones who could do it. “There must always be a Thor” was the mantra that brought Jane and Mjolnir together, and freed from its uru casing, the God Tempest could have decided that it had more work to do and gone looking for another host. Instead, though, it sacrificed itself to save Jane’s life. There’s a poignancy to that sacrifice that I appreciate — and there would be even if it wasn’t coming from a non-speaking, non-corporeal character, which just makes it all the more impressive — and it’s one that keeps the sacrifice at the heart of this finale live and well, despite Jane Foster’s survival.
Of course, comics must always move forward, so while this is a fitting, beautiful end for Jane Foster’s Thor, it’s also a wonderful new beginning for the Odinson. I never realized it, but the destruction of Mjolnir is an essential step in his development. Mjolnir was something Odinson always had to live up to, but by measuring up to its standards — Mjolnir and Jane always saw eye-to-eye, but it was like a parent to Odinson, the beloved-but-distant father Odinson was always living up to. With Mjolnir gone, Odinson is free to redefine his own name, and to discover for himself what it means to be a hero, what it takes to be worthy.
It allows Odinson to be a very different kind of hero, and thus a very different kind of Thor, than Jane was. Jane’s story was about sacrifice, about heroism in the face of almost certain death and defeat. Odinson’s upcoming story, though, seems like it will be about deciding to be a hero even when it’s not necessarily your nature, about building yourself back up from the ground-up even when you’ve lost your foundation. It allows Jane and The Mighty Thor to stand on their own as a self-contained chapter in the God of Thunder’s story, while still allowing their story to move forward with new, yet complementary themes. This kind of storytelling and mythology has been why Aaron’s long run with these characters has been so stellar. I’m so grateful that I got to follow Jane’s story from its very beginning, and I can’t wait to do the same for this new chapter in the adventures of Thor.
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