Act 2: The Mighty Thor
When Jane lost everything, it was just a part of being human. She lost her family, one by one. She had her life altered by the gods who did nothing to help her when she really needed it. Then, finally, she lost her health and with it, the ability to do the vocation she loved so much. Did that make her worthy? Or was she always worthy? I’d be interested to know, but it ultimately doesn’t matter, because the result was the same.
Who’s That Girl?
It’s important to remember, during the start of Jane’s run, we didn’t know who she was. The mystery kept going for almost a year—just long enough I feel. If it had been revealed sooner, it would’ve been pretty unsatisfying. Any longer, then people probably would’ve stopped caring. The mystery generated a lot of speculation, and at the time, it seemed pretty obvious it was Rosalind Solomon. This generated a lot of conflict in me. I wanted it to be Jane so badly. But speculation should be used sparingly. Too many mysteries without payoff is probably one of the most frustrating things to endure in a series.
Just ask Lost.
Plenty of people claimed that it was ‘obvious’ that Jane Foster was the new Thor. Looking back on it, maybe, but at the time, I think I was one of only a few people who were entertaining the idea that it was Jane.
The fact that it was Jane, a sickly mortal doctor, is what both drives the story and ties back into the larger theme of the run and War of the Realms.
The Ticking Clock
In Art of War of the Realms, Aaron said that he had no idea how long Jane would be Thor. This included the reveal in 2015. He didn’t know whether he had six months or six weeks, but it turned out to be four years.
He still managed to find ways to deliver great stories for her that fit in the overall theme. That was especially true in her penultimate moments as Thor Death of the Mighty Thor, at the end of WOTR, and in War of the Realms: Omega.
That allowance for flexibility. It meant that Jane was allowed to grow. Her story was able to be told and meant the audience got time to grow attached. It also meant that she could be in other stories—in Gwenpool, Totally Awesome Hulk, and as part of All New All Different Avengers.
You can tell Aaron really loved writing her too. In every interview about Jane, it is clear he very proud of his time writing her.
When it came time for WOTR, she was given a big part to play—still could’ve done more, since she was there at it’s beginning and was fighting it the whole time but… sigh, okay—and it will lead into her new solo series as Valkyrie. Hell, I’m pretty sure the only reason we have her Valkyrie solo is because she became so popular.
I still maintain no one really expected her to become so popular. I mean, I’m sure no one in Marvel was upset her comics were selling well, but it did mean that she would have to step aside for original dude flavoured Thor to return. This presented a dilemma, which they seemed to have solved with her new Valkyrie solo. They could’ve solved this by letting her be Thor or maybe even a new Thunderstrike alongside Thor Odinson (like they did in the Avengers Assemble cartoon). However, it’s hard to argue that the Valkyrie series looks amazing and I’m very excited for July 24th to roll around.
Since Aaron was given longer for Jane to be Thor, it meant the plan had to be stretched out a little. Maybe tweaked—but given the theme that was the core driving force behind the run’s arc—arguably Jane’s time as Thor didn’t mean that much had to be altered. She was leading by example, how to be the better Thor.
The Better Thor
Her whole life was a struggle—to be taken seriously, to live as a human against the backdrop of Gods and heroes, to endure multiple losses and, eventually, to survive one of the most feared diseases humans have.
Much like Gorr, she’s had the Gods interfere in her life when it suits them but never stepping in when it really mattered. Unlike Gorr, when the Gods need help, she doesn’t hesitate to offer it—even if she knows deep down that they probably don’t deserve it.
Her defining trait is to be selfless. To help whenever she can and to offer second chances. She knew, when she lost her mother to cancer, she never wanted to be helpless to save people ever again. Though she didn’t have powers, she decided to become a nurse instead, eventually working her way up to doctor.
That’s the driving force behind her worthiness, not wanting to take the easy way out (i.e. not using magic to cure her cancer), especially if it means someone else pays the price. Not having magic cure her cancer also means she gives up the guarantee that she’d get better. She’s willing to take that risk.
She picked up the hammer, which gave her power and strength that she needed, but it was also making her sicker. She was willing to pay that price- because it was just her paying it. The intervention from her friends, begging her to stop and heal, only worked because she realized she wanted to honour her friends’ wishes. When a larger threat looms, she’s not going to sit it out. That act seals her fate.
Jane then let it go even though she knew that act would kill her—without hesitation. She knew the process of weakness, loss, hurt and healing—that made her worthy. Hell, she’s a doctor. They know loss better than most.
Your average God can step back and watch everything burn if they really wanted. They could just ‘not interfere.’ Jane couldn’t, even though no one would blame her. She’s literally clinging to survival.
Most gods don’t know that struggle in the same way. They can’t. Although, interestingly, Jane does make the direct comparison between her life’s work and Thor’s experience of mortals in Thor: God of Thunder # 25. So, maybe Thor himself is closer to the answer at that point, in the immediate aftermath of defeating Gorr.
Moreover, whilst she hesitated to let go of the hammer whilst she thought there was still a fight, she didn’t think twice about letting go when she needed too.
Again, on a subconscious level, Thor knew it too, which is why his worthiness was always plagued with anxiety that Gorr exploited and Nick Fury whispered in his ear.
But he learned from his hurt, and he learned a lot of it from Jane Foster.
In a way, so did the other gods. Seeing Jane give her life is a huge watershed moment for the Asgardians. They lose Asgardia in the fight and have to literally start again on Earth in a not too dissimilar way to Thor. In fact, this is the second time this has happened to them. Maybe, much like Thor, they need to be taught this lesson again every so often. Maybe the lesson itself is the answer?
Everyone is recovering and trying to rebuild, whilst Jane takes time to get better.
Just in time for the war to reach Midgard.
Paradox of Comic Book Storytelling
The plan that Aaron had was clearly flexible enough to allow for Jane herself to grow as a character and slot more pieces into place for War of the Realms. Hell, she was there at its start; the kick off was Jane temporarily stopping Malaketh from obtaining Laufey’s skull. The first move he makes— murdering the Light Elves to resurrect Laufey—Jane bares witness to all of it.
This is the paradox of TV. You’d think that having a satisfying ending would require having a rock-solid plan to get to that ending. But the opposite is often true, because the more you know about how a story is going to play out in the macro, the more the micro just becomes a series of items checked off a list.– Game of Thrones and the danger of planned finales
‘But this is comics, not TV,’ you might be thinking, but they’re pretty similar in structure, planning, and execution. The same sort of risks are involved too; you might not have a guarantee of how long you have to tell a complete story.
Aaron had a macro plan that needed to be paid off but not a checklist or too much strict planning that would restrict, say, Jane’s story. The Mighty Thor gets to tangle with Roxxon, allowing us to see Dario Agger and Malaketh’s budding alliance and her trying to combat it. She also gets a confrontation with Loki, where we see how different her approach is to that of her predecessor.
The fight with the Shi’ar is also surprisingly vital to the overall theme of how Gods become arrogant and complacent—and why Jane is worthy. She doesn’t blithely accept the challenges; she goes in to help immediately. Her lack of respect for the Shi’ar gods ultimately seals her own death. In their arrogance, Sharra and K’ythri summon the Ultimate Judgement—the Mangog.
Some of these things ended up not being paid off at the end of War of the Realms. In fact, I saw a distinct lack of an end to Dario Agger’s story (hopefully we’ll see a payoff in Valkyrie?). That said, it’s pretty forgivable as far as I’m concerned, considering that the overall theme did get paid off; that’s arguably the most important thing.
It’s not about a checklist; it’s about providing a through line.
I’d argue, then, that Aaron also ends up heeding the other piece of advice in VanDerWerff’s article:
Yet you also have to plan some things, because audiences still want to feel like the destination they’ve reached is inevitable. Thus, the best endings are often ones where the writers have a very vague idea of what will probably happen and work toward that point, while also leaving themselves room to radically change everything until the last possible second.– Game of Thrones and the danger of planned finales
So Jane’s place in the theme of the need to struggle in order to be better? She is the platonic example of living by the need to constantly improve. The struggle is what makes you worthy. She’ll never give up struggling to be better and to help others, because it’s just who she is. Even if she wasn’t a god, she’d still be a doctor.
Now she’s a Valkyrie, but we’ll discuss that later.
Jane’s Got a Point
And y’know, it’s at this point that I could mention this is the classic theme behind most ‘hero’s journey’ stories—how the hero is changed by some devastating event and a long journey/struggle. The difference with War of the Realms is that Thor learns that the struggle doesn’t end; it’s part of what makes him better. He has to take it on as part of him—that’s what happens at the end of War of the Realms. Jane’s struggle is already part of her. It’s not just her cancer, but her profession and her very existence as a human on the front line of superhero/god battles.
Her fight with the Mangog is one where the Mangog is angry, full of hate—admittedly very justified hate. Like Gorr, he has a point, but Jane thinks the gods deserve a second chance to honour the mortals, the people that worship them… or at least believes that they do. That’s enough.
She only asks that they don’t squander that chance when she gives her life for them, and, so far, they seem to have honoured that. Gorr may have been right, but… maybe Jane’s got a point. They’re still people. They have so much potential to be better, so they deserve the second stage of the cycle—letting go, loss, struggle, resurrection and change.
A lot of people often judge how good a story is by how much a character has changed or grown. Thor has grown a great deal by the end of Jane’s story, having gone through Unworthy Thor and out the other side.
So, after Jane’s resurrection, has she changed? As a person?
Well… strangely enough? Arguably, she hasn’t changed at this point, mostly because this isn’t the end of her story. That’s why she’s brought back; the struggle isn’t over. She needs to recover and recuperate, in much the same way Thor did at the end of the God Butcher run. It’s the same issue where we first find out she has cancer.
If anything, she’s proven right. She’s the same person, only more so. It’s less a change, more a solidification. That’d be pretty unsatisfying in most circumstances, but for me? Nope. This is what I wanted, but I’m pretty biased obviously. Why would I want the optimist, the brave and worthy hero, to be wrong?
Her recovery is more hopeful, less bittersweet, because her fight ended on her terms, in triumph and affirmation. Whereas Thor’s first battle ended in a kind of muted guilt, because deep down he knew Gorr was right. Mostly.
Thing is, Gorr believed that none of the Gods deserve a second chance. That they could never be worthy because they’d never know struggle and loss the same way mortals do. Jane believes that’s not true, and ultimately, she’s proven right. Her faith in Thor, and his fellow Gods, wasn’t misplaced after all.
So you could say… she’s… the anti-Gorr? In the same way Killmonger definitely had a point, but Nakia had the same point—and went about it better.
And, by the end of War of the Realms, her lesson finally sinks in enough for Thor to become worthy. Once he realises Jane’s right, that she taught him a lesson in struggle, letting go, and redemption.
Thor is worthy again, and he gets a new hammer to prove it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.