Mighty Thor 706: Discussion

by Drew Baumgartner and Spencer Irwin

Mighty Thor 706

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.

Genesis 2:2

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.

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.

Heaven is a place on Midgard

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.

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?

6 comments on “Mighty Thor 706: Discussion

  1. If I hadn’t been with my wife at Ready Player One, I would have walked out of the theater during the race car scene. Not only was it a terrible scene as far as movies go (anonymous bad guys that were indistinguishable from one another, meaningless violence, no actual risk for anyone, no engagement in the audience because there was no context for the race), but terrible in that it removed the Tomb of Horrors from the movie, which could have been amazing.

    Instead, she shushed me while I was booing the movie.

    She shushed me last night while I was booing this comic. Seriously, Jane Foster was dead for like 12 panels. That’s it? I know comic characters never die, but this was the great sacrifice?

    “Oh no, Jane’s dead, it’s not fair, I’m going to rage and call the storm oh no it’s not enough, oh here’s my dad hey he’s going to help me what a surprise yay Jane’s alive”

    Fuck that.

    Other than a miserable teamup with the dwarf and giant and all that back before Jane Foster, this has been a magnificent run. Jane Foster as Thor has been a legendary run. This was not a very good ending. It sets Thor up for a great new beginning and I’m excited about the next comic (so that’s a good thing), but I didn’t find this a satisfactory resolution to the Jane story at all.

    • A friend dragged me along to Ready Player One and I hated I’d say about 85% of it, but I didn’t mind that much because 1. I got in for free (thanks Moviepass!) 2. There was almost nobody else in the theater so I was MST3K-ing the whole thing 3. My friend who dragged me there hated it far more than me and I got a really big kick out of his discomfort (don’t feel bad for him, he’s done it to me more times than I can count). But I can certainly understand the urge to walk out of that movie.

      I really didn’t wanna see Jane die and I feel like she still lost a lot (being Thor) while staying true to her heroism and getting a deserving ending, so I like this ending a lot, but I can see where you’re coming from at least. Any death “cop out” is sure to be divisive

      • Ready Player One was an interesting movie, as I think it is really clear that there was half the movie that Spielberg cared about, and half he didn’t. The stuff that he cared about did a great job at fixing the terrible book, but there were certain elements he just wasn’t willing to try fixing, largely because I don’t think he could.

        He cared about exploring the psychology of Halliday, and of VR. And I think there was a little bit of him that had fun with the idea of Company Towns. And it means that Halliday is a great character, and there are some great moments that focus on the VR elements specifically (notably, the club scene).

        But he doesn’t care about big battle scenes, he doesn’t care about the garbage characters and character arcs that he has been given in the source material (changing things only enough so that Wade is an empty slate instead of an intolerable) and he doesn’t care about the sort of geek culture Ready Player One is about. So he doesn’t try.

        Hell, as tone of the people responsible for building geek culture, I’m not sure he understands it. To him, Star Wars will never be trivia and fanboyism, it will be criticising his friend George’s terrible opening text and having his friend Brian fix it for George. To him, being a geek is more about being an artist working on creating speculative worlds, not any of the elements that Ready Player One champions. And he’s not interested in trying to fix Ready Player One’s terrible use of those elements by making them matter on a character levle, and so it almost feels that there is a good movie buried under the fact that it is Ready Player One. That if Spielberg was just allowed to make a VR movie instead of being forced to adapt a garbage book, we could have had a good movie.

        But unlike, say, Jaws or Jurassic Park, Ready Player One had issues in the book that were too central to what the book actually was for Spielberg to do what he did before and turn middling source material in movie magic

  2. I disagree with GE Scott greatly. This was a beautiful issue.

    It is amazing how elegant thestepping down of Jane and the elevation of Odinson to Thor actually is. Jane has fought until it was literally impossible to fight any longer. Not because she will die, but because there is no Mjolnir. And it makes sense for Odinson to take the lead again, because he still has some powers, especially after he crafts an arsenal of new magical weapons (I must say, I do love this idea of a Thor without Mjolnir, but with whatever specially crafted weapons he makes. Feels like an interesting twist).

    And I think the reason Jane’s survival works so well is because of Odin. GE Scott would be right, were it not for the fact that this is Odin’s story. It would have been cheap if Odinson just lightining struck her until she came back. But the fact that the Mother Storm was so powerful that he couldn’t is important. It is only with Odin that he could.

    And, of course, who would have thought Odin would end this story saving Jane’s life. Odin has learned his mistake, realised what a fool he has been and makes amends. Jane isn’t resurrected because she was struck by lightning. She was resurrected because she proved so successful that she forced Odin himself to recognise her. Everything she did in the series led to her resurrection, it was a hard won victory to resurrect Jane because it involved Jane doing everything she could to make even a stubborn fool like Odin realise. To me, that’s the true story of Jane. Jane’s goal was proving that gods could be good, and in the end, she was so successful she managed to even turn Odin good.

    Jane converting Odin from a bitter, entitled man to the person who saves her is exactly what picking up the hammer was supposed to be about. That’s the victory.

    And Drew, there is something about your idea of Valhalla and the idea of ‘godly’ perfection not being right for Jane that sits wrong for me. I think my problem is the idea that the problem with Valhalla is that it is an end to Jane’s story.That once she enters Valhalla, she’s stops fighting and becomes a passive person. Because ultimately (even though this is comics and things are a little more flexible), death is an ending, and when Jane finally reaches that death, she will stop fighting for what’s right. Ultimately, the final reward of Jane will be the end of her story, because that is the fate that of all people. Our stories end. Our eternal reward, whether it is Heaven, Valhalla or whatever else you can think of, will be an ending.

    I think a better interpretation for why she doesn’t enter Valhalla isn’t that paradise is the wrong reward for her, because something like that will be coming eventually. I think the better interpretation is that ultiamtely she’s alive. Jane, even in her last moments, never let death win. She never let her cancer dictate her life even as it killed her. Jane can’t go into Valallla because she refuses to give up life. Which gives Odinson and Odin the chance they need to save her.

    Ultimately, I think Valhalla is representative of her cancer. Valhalla would be the easy path, letting the cancer control her life and define her. Stop her from living and reduce her just to a patient. A seductive image when she has to deal with her illness at every step of the path. But Jane has never let her cancer define her, or let it stop her from living. The temptation is always there, but just like Valhalla, she always chooses to stay away, despite all the pain that the cancer causes when she tries to live her life her own way.
    I’m kind of reminded about things like the Fault in our Stars and other sicklit books, all about not letting illness and the fact that the characters will die young mean they don’t do everything they can to find love and have the lives that everyone else does.

    • I thought it was a great issue. The resolution was lame.

      For a long time, the mantra was, “Comics characters never die – they always come back.” There was a reason for that. For a long time, “Comics” was Marvel and DC.

      That changed. Today I bought 2 Marvel comics, 1 DC comic, a Dark Horse, a Boom, 2 Image, and an Avatar. I also read some Black Mask, Lion Forge, and Aftershock. “Comics” is finally diverse, and “Comics” characters can die now – look at today’s review of Saga.

      I forgot that I was still reading Marvel while reading Thor. The story has been so good, so fresh, so… Image, if you will, that I was mourning Jane Foster for literally YEARS. Seriously.

      Now – Death has been on my mind a lot lately. My senior dog is slowly dying of lymphoma and we can’t treat it, we just give him steroids to try to control the swelling (the cancer has won, the swelling is ugly) and pain meds to control the pain (the cancer hasn’t yet won, he still slowly moves through the day, not comfortable but not uncomfortable). But every day is stressful as every strange noise he makes, every time he doesn’t get up right away, we worry. We see his death every day. It sucks.

      Reading Thor for the last couple of years, I saw Jane Foster’s death every issue. And Marvel being Marvel, Marveled their way out of it. And I recognize everything Matt says and I think it was a great comic and I think the resolution fucking sucks and cheapened all of it. The sacrifice was…. a reset. Go back to chemo, get better, be an every day hero. Oh the humanity.

      • I believe Gillen said, when writing his Iron Man run, that he didn’t use the Mandarin because the Mandarin died in Fraction’s run, and as a rule, he only resurrects characters he kills. Which is to say, he only resurrects characters as a payoff of plans that he made when killing the character, instead of resurrecting characters because he wants to use them. Which, to me, felt like a good way to handle resurrections.

        Because Marvel and DC have been terrible with resurrections. Still are. Terribly handled deaths and unearned resurrections is a major problem. Which is why it is great that there are indie comics that are free from that trope where deaths can matter in a way that they can’t in superhero comics.

        However, resurrection is a perfectly legitimate trope to use, and great when handled correctly. Yeah, bad resurrections exist (look at the Hunt for Wolverine. Legacy suggested there would be some possibility out of Logan’s resurrection, then he gave Natasha the only interesting part of it and we now have a giant event built out of vagueness and lacking stakes because getting Logan back is more important than any actual story).

        But I think this one works. It isn’t a reset, because it is the payoff of Aaron’s work. Things don’t go back to the way they were. Because that ignores how Jane’s changed the gods of Asgard. How she’s changed Odin. Things haven’t gone backwards, because ultimately the ending of this issue is forward thinking.

        The use of resurrection is difficult with respect to a character like Jane because of cancer. The fact that that is such an important part of her. Which is why I hope she sticks around as a supporting character, and we continue to see her struggles with cancer.

        But I think that Jane’s resurrection, unlike so, so many others, actually is a payoff. Look at the Wolverine books to really see comic book death and resurrection handled awfully

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