Marvel caused quite a stir last year when they surprised fans with a female Thor, even though the woman, Jane Foster, has a long history with the character. She was Thor’s original and longtime love interest since his debut. Back then, Jane was a nurse, but now, she’s a medical doctor, who happens to be dying of cancer. In a new twist however, when she lifts the hammer Mjolnir and becomes worthy of the name and powers of Thor, she is restored to full health and then some.
Now the Jane Foster version of The Mighty Thor is back in an all-new series, just months after her last series debuted (all of Marvel’s line is being relaunched under the “All-New, All-Different Marvel” banner.) Jason Aaron, who is currently kicking all kinds of ass on Star Wars and Doctor Strange, returns as writer, this time joined by artist Russell Dauterman.
Aaron has been the best thing to happen to Thor since J. Michael Straczynski’s run, and he finds a way to ground the grandiose Norse spectacle into something human and relatable, especially with his main character Jane struggling with cancer. Dauterman, who is a relative newcomer to comics, outdoes his own work on the previous volume of Thor in this issue, giving equal attention to the mundane and painful details of Jane Foster’s existence as he does to all things cosmic.
The opening pages of the first issue are bleak for a comic based on Norse mythology, as Jane Foster is in the hospital receiving her regular chemo treatments. You can tell by the way Jason Aaron has written Jane’s descriptions of chemotherapy, that he’s probably had someone close to him go through the very same thing. If you’ve ever had a loved one go through chemo, they’ll describe it to you in the same terms that the character of Jane does–first comes the cold, then the burning, then the horrible fog that doesn’t lift for days. The feeling of being a stranger in your own body. The opening pages which detailed Jane Foster’s chemo treatments were spot on, and showed how brutal chemo is, and how Jane Foster is a hero with or without the hammer for enduring it all. These are all easily the best parts of the first issue, and instantly make you connect with Jane as more than just “the girlfriend” as she was before.
But this being a Thor comic, Jane has the magic hammer, Mjolnir, which is hers to command, and when she wields it, she is the new God of Thunder. But being Thor comes at a price. Her body becomes strong and healthy, instantly purging the chemotherapy’s poisons. What doesn’t go away is the cancer itself. When she turns into regular Jane Foster again, the cancer returns, and any good the chemo treatments did for her are removed, and she’s back at square one all over again.
In this first issue, Jane channels Thor when hundreds of dead elf bodies (good elves, as opposed to the dark ones ruled by Malekith) start falling from space, damaging a Roxxon Corporation space station and causing it to plummet toward Earth (right onto the Washington monument, because comics). The Avengers do their best to stop it, but this is mostly just a job for Thor. A nice touch, Thor does more than just kick ass, and also treats the wounded survivors of the space station, because she’s a medical doctor after all. Just one who now happens to speak in an Shakespearean dialect.
After saving the day, she and Vostagg of the Warriors Three (who, in a super sweet moment, was waiting patiently for her to finish her chemo treatments in the hospital lobby, or as he described it, “getting thy leeching”) head to Asgardia to confront the congress of the Ten Realms about the whole “it’s raining dead elves” thing on Earth. Thor suspects Malekith of the Dark Eleves is trying to start a war between the Realms, which he or course denies. The opinions of this new Thor aren’t exactly popular in the halls of Asgard–posters litter the walls of the realm feautring Jane’s face and the words “False Thor.”
The issue ends with a big reveal when it comes to the overarching villain plot, and if you’re a Thor fan in the slightest, you should not be surprised who is involved with all the evil goings on. Let’s just say it’s a villain that’s very popular and has been portrayed as a good guy for way too long lately, and it’s nice to see them back in the game.
But it’s not all the villainous plots and returning favorites that make this issue so readable, it’s Jane Foster’s very real and human struggle to beat cancer that gives this issue its heart. While I’m sure the Odinson will be back before too long, I hope it’s not that soon, because I am fully behind this version of Thor in a way I never was for the old one. Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are a dream team for this title, and I hope they plan on sticking around with Thor for the long haul. Even if you haven’t been a fan of the world of Thor before, you might be surprised at how much you like it.
RATING: 3.5 OUT OF 5 BURRITOS
IMAGES: Marvel Comics