The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get super rad. At Saturday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige announced plans for Phase 4 of the MCU, including a slew of Disney+ streaming series and a few new big screen titles. One of those is the Taika Waititi-directed Thor 4, which got its full title at the panel: Thor: Love and Thunder. Actors Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson joined Waititi on stage, and helped introduce another surprise: that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster will return to the MCU, this time as a female version of Thor.
This was shocking news after Portman’s seeming lack of interest in the MCU movies post Thor: The Dark World. Rumors abound as to why she stepped away from the character, although they’re likely tied to her dissatisfaction with the firing of director Patty Jenkins. But something lured her back into the fray. If we had to guess, we’d say it’s a combination of Waititi and Annihilation co-star and good friend Thompson, coupled with the opportunity to play a female superhero.
Whatever the case may be, we’re thrilled Portman has returned to the role. If you’re not sure how Jane Foster fits into the world of Thor post-Endgame, here’s a rundown of the character’s association with the Thor title in the comics and some speculation about what her involvement might look like in Phase 4 of the MCU.
Who is Jane Foster?
Jane Foster made her first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #84 back in 1962, where she initially had the last name “Nelson.” She was created as a love interest for Dr. Donald Blake, the secret human identity of Norse god Thor. After meeting Thor in his god form, she entered into a love triangle with the men before Thor revealed they were the same person. In admitting his true form to Jane, Thor was punished by Odin. Thor later brought Jane to Asgard, where Odin briefly granted her immortality and the power of the gods, though these were later taken back when she showed fear in the face of danger. After stripping her of her powers, Odin returned Jane to Earth with no memory of Thor or her time on Asgard.
Her comic history gets a little complicated from there on. She was exiled to a pocket dimension at one point; upon returning, she became a physician, reunited with Blake in Oklahoma, and later developed breast cancer. But there is one constant: She has always remained an important figure in Thor’s life and one of his great loves.
In the MCU, Portman’s depiction of Foster varies quite a bit from her comic version. She’s portrayed as an astrophysicist who falls for Thor when he is exiled to Earth. At first merely curious of his strange properties, she eventually falls for him. They’re separated at the end of Thor, but reunited in Thor: The Dark World, after Foster is infected with the Aether, a powerful weapon unleashed by the Dark Elf Malekith. Jane travels to Asgard, Malekith is defeated, and she returns to Earth and reunites with Thor in the film’s post-credits scene. But, as we later learn, the two break up and part ways. Though we see a brief glimpse of Jane when Thor travels back in time in Endgame, she’s been largely absent from the MCU since The Dark World.
How did she become Thor?
In a comic crossover storyline known as Original Sin, Thor lost the ability to wield his hammer Mjölnir after Nick Fury whispered something mysterious in his ear. His unworthiness paved the way for another to take control of the weapon: a woman who becomes the Goddess of Thunder. Though her identity was a mystery for some time, the new Thor was eventually revealed as Jane Foster, and her storyline explored in writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman’s The Mighty Thor run.
Before he learned of her identity, Thor—who took the name Odinson in the absence of Mjölnir—had a rough go of it, feeling the vastness of his “unworthy” life. He eventually witnessed female Thor in action during a battle with Malekith and the Frost Giants, and learns that she had more than earned the title. Meanwhile, Odin and his brother Cul sent a character named the Destroyer after the new Goddess of Thunder to retrieve the hammer, but Odinson assembled an army of female superheroes to protect her.
Though the new Thor, Jane held onto her own hardships. Every time she transformed into the Goddess of Thunder, she was ridding herself of the chemotherapy that was treating her breast cancer, which she was still infected with. At first undeterred, Jane joined the Avengers and fought many battles, but she came to realize that transforming into Thor was slowly killing her. Soon after, she died in battle while protecting Asgard, but was revived by Odin. Still infected with cancer, she relinquished the Thor mantle to focus on her health, and Odinson once again took control of Mjölnir. Jane’s cancer later went into remission, and she eventually became a Valkyrie.
How will she fit into Thor: Love and Thunder?
Waititi said at Comic-Con that Love and Thunder was inspired by The Mighty Thor, and that Portman’s version of Foster would take up that title. But how will the film remix the concepts from that comic run? It’s too early to say, and a lot of what the film will become hinges on just how deep they’re going with Jane assuming the title.
In the comics, losing Mjölnir sent Thor into a depressive state, but the films have already covered this, so it seems unlikely Odinson will once again struggle with his unworthiness. Perhaps he willingly cedes the title to a sickly Jane; he was, after all, happy to share the hammer with Steve Rogers in Endgame. It’s possible that the Thor who learned self-worth in that film won’t be so obsessed with totems going forward.
We have no idea how this will all unfold, but we can’t wait to see Jane Foster pick up Mjölnir and fight alongside Thor and Valkyrie when Thor: Love and Thunder arrives in theaters on November 5, 2021.
Images: Russell Dauterman/Marvel Entertainment, Disney