THE MIGHTY THOR #704 / Writer: Jason Aaron / Artist: Russel Dauterman / Letterer : VC’s Joe Sabino / Publisher: Marvel Comics / February 21, 2018
Going into this review- you should know, I am the most obnoxious Jane Foster stan on the face of the planet. I don’t know if there’s much contest for that title, but even if there were; I’d effin crush it. Want to hear why you’re all wrong about Jane in the Thor movies? Just ply me with enough time and/or gin and you’ll get an hour and a half PowerPoint about how Jane Foster deserved better- in all her incarnations. There are a dozen Jane!Thor figures around my desk- the only reason I don’t have the SideShow statue is because it’s the same as a month’s rent and I cannot justify that expense. I have t-shirts, mugs and pretty much the only reason I subscribed to Gwenpool and Totally Awesome Hulk is because she appeared in them. Hell, I only subscribed to the new Thor in the first place because I held out some slim hope it might be Jane- though it seems obvious now, at the time there was plenty of doubt. I have the Marvel FactFile about her and I pretty much knew everything already. Let me tell you something; it says a lot that only now, in one of her penultimate issues, she finally gets fleshed out as a character, her own arc, her own voice. It has taken over fifty years. FIFTY. Let that sink in you guys.
And was it worth the wait? Well, naturally, yes, but I just wish we’d gotten something like this earlier. I’d wish she’d got to be more than a back ground after thought. I wish we’d known about her history, her perspective, before we now have to say goodbye. It isn’t fair.
Jason Aaron has been building up to this for years, whatever the outcome maybe (apparently it isn’t going the way we think) he has made this whole ride worthwhile, he has given Jane Foster a story of her own and it proved to be a worthy one. We see her as a passionate, kind, brave and selfless woman who, despite being helpless to stop the amount of loss she has suffered, it only made her braver. Only made her work harder and strive more. A mighty goddess in a tiny mortal frame. She has always used the only weapon at her disposal- science- until she was given the chance for her outward appearance to reflect something that was in her all along… at the cost of her life.
This issue sees us looking at Jane from saying goodbye to her mother, promising to find a god worthy of her. We see her lose her whole family, bit by bit, and left utterly alone. One scene is a stunning call back to a scene from The Dark World of all places that I doubt anyone saw coming- though I am glad it did (I have a huge soft spot for that movie okay?). All the while, she has seen the world of gods. She knows they are real, but just… not the sort you pray to. They are as flawed and helpless as we are. As we look back on Jane’s story, we can see Asgardia fall to the Mangog. There’s little for Odin and the Odinson to do but at least make a brave final stand. They are ultimately powerless, they can’t save themselves, let alone the mortals who pray to them.
And that is why, ultimately, Jane finds a god worthy of her- herself. The Mighty Thor.
Jason Aaron’s arc throughout his run on Thor has been ‘are the gods worthy of the people who worship them?’ and the answer has been consistently – ‘No. Not at all.’ This is what cost Thor Odinson his worthiness; when he came to realisation via Nick Fury’s whisper, but this is also what made Jane Foster worthy. She is not a god, but she is the best version of humanity. I will never get over how well he has handled everything. As sad and heartsick as I am that it is all coming to an end, it has been a run that will be remembered as one of the best Thor’s ever had- or even the best.
Aaron has juggled Midgard and Asgardia far better than most writers have done. Even more impressive considering the beginning of his run involved a vast battle across time, including Old Thor. I would posit that this is partly because of the heroine herself being of both worlds. Jane Foster is an inverse of Donald Blake- she is not a human shell for a god, she never had to learn humility. Her version Thor is a god-shell for Jane. She knew loss and mortality in a way Thor himself doesn’t learn until he is a bitter old man at the end of the universe. She was worthy already. There is so much to think about and unpack, so much to dwell on and that is the mark of a good series- comic book or otherwise. I don’t know how it will end for Jane exactly, but the fact I wish it wouldn’t, is probably a good sign.
Russel Dauterman’s art reflects both the rich textures of the divine- the whorls, the fluidity of hair and costumes- and the cold, but very real world of a cancer ward. Asgard’s destruction at the hands of the Mangog is a cascade of dark, bloody reds, fiery orange and black contrast to make everything look truly desolate. They make the stark whites of several hospitals- where Jane has her last moments with her mother, where she meets Donald Blake, where she loses what was left of her family- all the more powerful in their comparative smallness. It reminds you that Jane has spent a lot of time in hospitals, as a loved one, a nurse, a doctor and as a patient. It’s where she has lost and gained, professionally and personally.
The art work is what gave this series it’s edge, whilst it was a departure from Esad Ribić’s gloriously epic, kind of pulpy work on God of Thunder, Dauterman’s is far softer, more liquid- almost like Art Nouveau. Even just looking at the outfits and architecture of Asgardia, you can tell he has a background in costume design. I feel like he is influenced by illustrators like Aubrey Beardsley and Walter Crane- which is not always an economic or practical style so isn’t often employed for superhero comics, but it works here. Everything looks like it could move. Everything looks alive and thriving, even as it ends. Fantasy based works need art like this.
At this point, the whole thing is almost overwhelming. This whole issue packs so much into so little space, there’s so much more I want to talk about, but I feel like you need to read this. I haven’t discussed a tough, but cathartic moment between Freya and Loki or Jane talking to Roz Solomon, Sam Wilson, Dr Strange and a fellow cancer patient! Or Thori, that most faithful of murder hounds.
Even out of context, this little reflection on the life of Jane Foster is worth a read. If you never got on board with the character, I don’t know if this will change your mind, but I think it goes a long way to at least justify why Thor needs a human connection somewhere. I would urge you to go back over the rest of Jane’s story and see why she matters and why her Thor matters. It isn’t just that she’s a woman being Thor, though that is a factor- her representation of humanity, an actual human Thor, is why she makes this whole enterprise worth while. Without her story, it is just another gender-flip. I hope she still has some future in Thor, somewhere, but I suppose at least even if she doesn’t, her comic’s popularity and critical acclaim might mean that this won’t be the last we see of her. Or at least I hope so. I am not ready to see her go. Not even a little.
I have never dreaded, yet anticipated, the next issue of a comic more than I do now.
Verdict, shockingly: 5 out of 5
I’m a thirty something British nerd-mum and wannabe author, fueled by tea, poor decision making and a need to be distracted. Cursed to watch favourite characters die and ships sink.