By Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson
Between the countless event comics, the constant starting and stopping that has come to afflict the various Marvel comics, increased Cinematic Universe branding within the comic continuity, and general increased soulless-ness of the Marvel Universe, it’s easy to get cynical and worn out on Marvel comics these days, but then there’s The Mighty Thor. If ever there was a comic that could wipe away all the event fatigue and exasperation of the All-New, All-Different Marvel, it’s The Mighty Thor. Part of that is just that The Mighty Thor maintains an actual sense of continuity, following the adventures of Jane Foster Thor through from her inception in 2014 rather than constantly trying to reinvent her stories or derail her overall narrative. The Mighty Thor’s adventures now have the same aesthetic, focus, and feeling of the ones she started with; there’s a status quo and pacing to her adventures that’s been in short supply lately. More than that, however, there’s a genuine pathos and emotion to her story that remains one of the most deeply moving elements of mainstream comics today.
The central hook of The Mighty Thor is one of the most ingenious extensions of the core Marvel philosophy to ever be invented. Jane Foster currently wields the hammer of Thor, but she’s also dying of cancer and any time she turns into Thor the transformation purges the chemotherapy drugs from her system, but not the tumor. This essentially means that going out and saving people and worlds and Gods as Thor is literally killing her. It’s a brilliant idea that fits perfectly into Marvel’s tradition of inverting classical superhero power fantasies by emphasizing the fact that all heroes must pay a price. Additionally, it helps to give Jane Foster more of a definitive character. She’s always been a blast as Thor, but that’s mainly because Jason Aaron, who’s stuck with her since the beginning, is really, really good at writing characters to be fun, engaging, and unique. Aaron’s work with characterization and dialogue has been a major boon to the series as it’s transitioned into what’s starting to feel like the end game. It helps that his vision of Jane Foster never felt too grounded in the quips and witticisms of some more snarky schools of character engagement. She was still funny and fun, but there was a greater sense of wanting to be her, to be a mere mortal experiencing the power of a God, than anything else, which set things up perfectly for this latest inversion.
The main plot of this issue sees Jane going up against Loki and it’s brilliant. Firstly, there’s some interesting stuff done with these two having a history that only Jane is aware of, but Loki is the one who really shines. His character is very meta, talking about forging a new narrative because the old stories of him lying and tricking through villainy are all tired and played out. If this was any other villain this kind of self-aware commentary on story, mythos, and character would feel pointless and maybe out of place, but for Loki it fits perfectly. That’s because something Aaron really gets about these characters is that they’re Gods, living myths unto themselves that have lived through numerous cycles so it makes sense they’d be aware of such things in a more meta context. There’s also a great sequence of Loki summoning up other versions of himself, even including a smack down between Jane Foster Thor and that time Loki stole Jane’s body.
The artwork remains, as ever, rock solid. Thor’s costume has never looked better and the creative team explore the full range of her powers incredibly well; the highlight of which is a really excellent ending sequence involving her wrangling a massive thunderstorm. The Lokis all look brilliant too, especially the group shots of multiple Lokis together and some of the weirder Lokis they come up with to fill the space. They do a weird job of making this Loki look like Tom Hiddleston from the films, but he’s very much his own unique character. Best of all have to be the action scenes, especially the high impact shots of Thor’s hammer. Whenever she smashes someone with it you really feel the impact right through the panel. The design of the Norse realms remains a little iffy, a bit too ethereal and sci-fi with not enough fantasy grounding, but that’s one of the only problems in the book. Their coloring is pretty good, using this very peculiar kind of salmon tone that’s striking and memorable.
As mentioned previously, the cancer set-up and the structure of this comic around a major Asgardian war involving all of Jane Foster Thor’s villains so far gives the comic the air of an ending in progress, but I really hope that’s not the case. The Mighty Thor feels like a visitor from another time and place, a comic grounded in telling long form stories informed by solid pacing, emotional impact, and crafting a unique and engaging mythos for a character that’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a comic with a sense of its own history as well as enough presence of mind to forge its own way forward and make something new. Bottom line: it’s an excellent comic made by people with vision and skill who really cared about making it.