The Unworthy Thor, the Odinson, is back at Jane Foster’s side. He fights to protect the realm but more so, he fights to protect his friend. He may not be a worthy god to the hammer but he hopes, he prays, that he is worthy to the one who wields it.
Welcome back friends to the hall that Gorr built. Welcome back to Worthy.
Back in November, I wrote a piece that charted Jason Aaron’s Thor run through its many incarnations. From “Thor: The God of Thunder” to “Thor” to “Thors” to “The Mighty Thor,” coinciding with Thor: Ragnarok and with the 700th issue of “The Mighty Thor.” It chronicled the theme of worthiness across arcs and across series. Now, all these months later, it is time to return and to see where Aaron has taken us. As this is a continuation, if you would like a refresher, or are simply new, click here. Be warned, it is as long as the halls of Valhalla but it is, in my completely unbiased opinion, entirely worth the read.
As was the case before, I will be delving into the whole of the arc. Take this as your spoiler warning.
“The Mighty Thor” Year 6
Act 5: ‘Death of the Mighty Thor’
You might notice a bit of backtracking at the start as we return to the landmark “The Mighty Thor” #700. There is a reason for this, one which will be elucidated soon, but suffice it to say that #700’s scope and scale was so large, not just one review could contain it.
Why, then, haven’t I cordoned it off into its own section? There is a valid argument to be made here- that issue #700 acts as an interlude issue between arcs, despite it featuring the banner ‘The Death of the Mighty Thor’ Part 1 – but it’s one, after having read the whole of the arc, I find doesn’t hold water.
Yes, it has all the hallmarks of an interlude, – guest artists, a story that expands the Thor mythos without being directly tied to the previous arc or directly setting up the next one – and the framing device, Odinson and the Norns fighting against Malaketh’s army, acts as one such interlude. There are many others in this issue as well. The story of Thor is one divorced from the greater narrative, with her fighting Jennifer Walters along with some help from Throg.
There is a tale of Young Odinson, a tale of Old Thor on New Midgard, and the set up for future Old Thor segments featuring our favorite weapon, All-black the Necrosword. There is also the glimpse into the adventures of Loki and Laufey as well as Thanos and Hela.
As befits a celebration, #700 is comprised of a lot of small, thematically connected but narratively distant stories. However, they are all bundled up and bound to the narratives that act as prologue to what comes next.
Volstagg once again becomes the War Thor, meeting the Mangog, this arc’s main antagonist. The War of the Realms has found its way to the world tree and the War of the Realms is always topical for this story. This, as mentioned above, is also the frame for the issue, with Dauterman’s always inspired paneling visualizing the Norn’s words: “If today we must bleed, then let us do so as Norns. Aye. And Norns…bleed stories.”
I include the frame as both interlude and main arc status because it facilitates the telling of these other tales and serves as a direct continuation of what came before while prepping Odinson for what comes next. His emotional journey is directly influenced by the death of the Norn Queen and the narrative is prepping us for the impending loss of the Mighty Thor and the return, in full, of the Odinson. It is also setting the darker, sadder, more desperate tone for what is to come.
I could dive even deeper into this one issue, connecting every disparate part to the larger themes and ideas that Aaron is laying out. I could talk about him teasing his Avengers series with the presence of the celestials and of him teasing Loki’s involvement in Duggan’s “Infinity Wars.” He does so much here but instead, I’ll give one final thought and move on. There are still six more issues to discuss after all.Continued below
Aaron uses issue #700 as a state of affairs, to not only tease the future but to establish the present. To reiterate why Jane is worthy and the Odinson believes he is not. It is the beginning of the end, in more ways than one, and the arc of the issue makes that clear. ‘The Death of the Mighty Thor’ is not just the end of a series or an arc, it’s the end of an era. It’s the slow unraveling of what came before and the reckoning that has been coming since Gorr’s fight with Thor. Not narratively coming since Gorr, just thematically.
Before I get into that, let’s quickly discuss what happens in this arc after issue #700. Well, as quickly as I can be.
The Mangog arrives, in full, to be the ultimate judgement of all the gods. He has returned to slaughter the entirety of Asgard and nothing will stop him. His first act of jobbing is to kill Toothgnasher and to do what not even a Thor and a god or the entire army of Muspelheim could do: crush the War Thor and crush his hammer, laying him so low that he is almost killed. It’s a fitting end for the War Thor is heartbreakingly rendered by James Harren.
James knows how to portray action and despair. His angular art style and heavy use of repetition and inking lines turns each panel into something operatic and intense. The violence of the Mangog is on full display with every punch, every action. His portrayal of rubble is gorgeous, blocky and visceral. Dave Stewart’s coloring is, well, Dave Stewart’s coloring. Pitch perfect. Dark but not too dark. Vibrant without feeling over saturated, a beautiful guest issue.
Malaketh reappears, having narrated that issue, and sends the Mangog off to Asgardia, continuing to work in the shadows but not before leaving a knife in Volstagg’s hand and leaving him to float away, into the darkness of space. Once there, the Mangog reigns hell upon the Asgardians, destroying Asgardia and nearly destroying Odin (in his first appearance since issue #9), Odinson, and Freyja. Were it not for the Mighty Thor, sacrificing herself and her hammer to throw the Mangog into the sun, all would have been lost.
Beyond this, the War of the Realms rages on and, like any war, it is long and oftentimes relegated to the background. A few glimpses into Roxxon’s battles, Jane fighting to get the Asgardians involved, and the Norn Queen in Hel with Baldr, is the most we get. Despite what #700 contained, the War of the Realms has no place here at the end of “The Mighty Thor.” That’s not what the long-arc of Jane’s tenure was.
The Mangog could not have come when the Odinson was Thor. It wouldn’t have worked. As Aaron has made clear, no god can be truly worthy. They have committed grievous sins while believing themselves above these sins.
The Mangog is the ultimate representation of the Odinson’s worst thoughts. Just as Gorr was right, so is the Mangog. We’ve seen Odin be uncaring, unfeeling and just the worst ever since Jane became Thor and since Loki stabbed Freyja. We know their callousness and, in issue #704, ‘The Gospel According to Jane,’ we see, once again, Gorr’s argument, through the eyes of the worthiest Thor. Through her grief and tears and anger.
It is this anger that makes Jane the only one who could take down the Mangog. She is Gorr’s opposite. She fights for the gods in spite of all they’ve done; in spite of the anger she’s felt; in spite of their failures. She holds them to task and inspires the gods to do better. She inspired the Odinson and lifted him up, showing him the way to worthiness. That is, for this series and this arc, what makes her worthy.Continued below
And thus, we come to the titular event. I’ve jumped around a bit, going from big theme to big theme, instead of focusing on events and character arcs. Part of that is because the arc is much longer than any of the others, with the addition of the 700th issue, and part of it is because this is an ending. So many threads and ideas wrap up here that to tackle it in event order would be difficult.
It was the end of the War Thor, the end of the Mangog, the end of Asgardia, the end of Odin’s exile & Cul’s rule and the end of Frejya’s absence. It was the end of Jane’s long fight against cancer and against the urge to be Thor despite the harm it was causing her. It was the end of Mjolnir, the god tempest, and the weight of that hammer upon Odinson’s consciousness.
I tried to address most of this above but ultimately, things were left by the wayside. Things like Loki’s reappearance for a few pages, the battle itself, and Odin’s own growth, however minuscule. Things such as the ‘Death of the Mighty Thor.’
There has always been an expiration date on Jane’s time as Thor. She has cancer, refuses magical treatment, and a hammer that beckons to her, a hammer that only makes the cancer worse. But this arc is not called the death of Jane Foster. It’s called the death of the Mighty Thor. It should be no surprise that Aaron brings Jane back from the gates of Valhalla just as it isn’t a surprise that Jane sent Mjolnir into the sun.
The Mighty Thor was part and parcel of the hammer and now, now that era is over. The Odinson may not be worthy of the hammer or that title but Thor was never just one person. Thor is an idea, a creed, an aspiration. Jane was Mighty. Jane was the worthiest of Thors. Now the Odinson has something to work towards. To reclaim the mantle of Thor in his own mind. To become worthy of the honor Jane has bestowed upon him.
“The Mighty Thor” Year 6
Interlude 3: ‘The Mighty Thor: At the Gates of Valhalla’
While #700 sat on the threshold between interlude and main arc member, this one-shot is firmly in the former category. It tells the tale of Odinson’s granddaughter’s time-travel escapades, meeting up with various versions of their grandfather as well as raising a question I had forgotten, how does Odinson become worthy of Mjolnir? When does such a mind-shift occur? When does he realize, and then forget, what made him worthy?
It also gives a nice coda to Jane’s time as Thor. Aaron’s Jane has been complicated and tragic, fearless and fearful, self-destructive to make sure others don’t. Here, she is all this but infinitely more vulnerable. Jen Bartel captures this in the pride of the granddaughters’ faces and Jane’s sickly yet confidant posing. While the Jane panels may be the weakest, compositionally – the rest of her art this issue being more vibrant and dynamic – it is evocative and reflective of Jane’s mental state, still falling from the high that was being the Mighty Thor and having to live with her “new” cancerous reality.
The second half of the interlude is all about Malaketh. It was smart to open on Malaketh being exactly the kind of ruler we thought he was instead of on more War of the Realms stuff as it’s been a while since Malaketh has actually done anything. He sent the Mangog on to Asgardia, sure, but actual ruling or war, on that he’s been very silent.Continued below
Ramón Pérez’s Malaketh is just so perfect. He’s smarmy but menacing. He has the appearance of a kindly Grandfather but then his smile morphs into a grin and he’s telling his starving villagers to eat their neighbors whose son die less heroically than the others. It’s twisted and Ramón plays it just reserved enough so as not to undercut the cruelty or the complexity of Malaketh. We also see the return of Kurse! It’s been a while.
Much of this section is reintroducing all the little facets of War of the Realms after being away for many months, which is very much needed. It seems that the War is going to be much more front and center in the coming issues, as things heat up, as Asgard finally joins the war, and as war comes to Midgard.
The Mighty Thor’s story may have gotten its coda in this interlude but Jane’s story is far from over. The Mighty Thor is dead. Long live Jane Foster.
One Final Ending
After 3 ½ years on “Thor” and “The Mighty Thor,” it is once again time to see off an art team. Russel Dauterman and Matt Wilson’s tenure on Thor will be missed. The vibrancy and the details and the unique treatment of the page brought a gravity to the mythos and made the stories larger than life. I include this section to say goodbye to these craftsmen but also to welcome those who come next. Mike Del Mundo and Christian Ward are two fine artists with wildly different but uniquely wonderous styles.
As with the transition between “Thor: the God of Thunder” and “Thor” (2014), this art shift comes at the right time. There is a new perspective to be given, that of the now-restored Odinson, who has been humbled since his last headlining story as Thor. Thus, Jane’s perspective on the universe, that of bright possibilities and the breaking down of barriers, is being replaced by the painterly cosmic and fantastical scope and scale of Del Mundo and Ward.
Thank you all for reading this far. I know it was long, and if you came over from my other article, even longer. This is not the end of Worthy. It will return in another few months, once the first arc of “Thor” (2018) wraps up. We’ll see what other prophecies from #700 will emerge and what new adventures and trials await Odinson, Jane, Roz, and others. And no, he won’t be Thor in these articles just yet.