This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
Back, way way back in May, I reviewed Thor #8. This was the issue that finally, finally revealed the identity of the new Thor as Jane Foster, Odinson’s former lover who also happened to be dying of cancer when she wasn’t using the powers of a thunder god. At the time, I was intrigued and generally pleased with the issue, particularly because I found the choices Jane was making to be really fascinating — that she was choosing to be Thor despite the risks both selflessly (to help save people) and selfishly (to give herself more freedom than she’s ever had before at a point in her life when her body is failing). I was excited to see where creative team Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, and VC’s Joe Sabino.
And then I got burned out on Marvel. It wasn’t just Secret Wars burnout (although lordy loo, that event felt like it took a whole year), but mainly Marvel PR and EiC reactions to representation criticism. I have some friends who took Marvel off their pull list after the “no labels” comment about Angela and Sera, but others gave up earlier. Frankly, the $5 first issues of these post-Secret Wars series only gives me more reason to avoid buying Marvel stories. I’m down to a handful of books I’m buying myself and Thor wasn’t going to be on it, but when the advance review copy for The Mighty Thor #1 was offered to me … well, I found myself drawn once again to Jane’s story and wanted to see how it connected to Thor #8.
What matters most about The Mighty Thor #1 is that we finally have Jane Foster talking to us as Jane. While the mystery of “Who is Thor?” pulled people into the first arc, the problem those eight issues had was that the mystery made it hard to get to know and really connect with our heroine. But now we’re privy to her secret, which feels really like two secrets — she’s hiding Thor from those who know her as Jane and Jane from those who know her as Thor (and sometimes, those groups overlap). Just allowing Jane to be honest with the readers will leave the book open wide in a way we didn’t have before this issue. It suddenly becomes a very personal book.
What readers also learn about this issue right off the bat is Jane’s cancer, her chemo, and how the magic of Mjolnir works against her illness. The opening scene is her getting her chemo treatment and narrating what it’s like — the thing is, while it’s extremely effective as an opening to this arc, I’ve never had cancer and I don’t know if that’s what it’s like for real cancer patients on chemo (if any Panels readers have more insight into that experience and have read the issue, I’d love to hear what you thought of the scene).
I think #1 makes a good case for why she goes back and forth between her dying human form and Asgardian form; the stakes have been set high enough with the larger plot that you get why she feels like she must do what she can both as a space senator and as a superhero, even if the magical transition between the two is escalating her disease. The issue also doesn’t hide the fact that, like I mentioned in the Thor #8 review, Jane likes how being Thor feels. She can certainly have selfish reasons for doing something this dangerous while also doing it so she can help stop evil.
But this leads into the other concern about the story. Namely, how Jane’s situation and choices will be handled by the writing going forward. We know Odinson will be Thor again eventually — this Thor’s books have been selling very well so it could be a while before Odinson becomes worthy again, but this is comics and he’s sure to regain the title and powers down the line. And the question is, what will happen to Jane then? Will Marvel kill Jane Foster off to put Odinson back with his hammer? I hope not, but I get why fans are concerned about that endgame.
With Jane’s more personal story now being told, The Mighty Thor has all the potential in the world to be an iconic run. Like blind representation and Daredevil, Jane as Thor could be a great example of representation of cancer patients in comics that uses superpower tropes without completely undermining the representation. We have a smart, clever, but flawed heroine here who could be making big mistakes in her choices, but they’re still her choices. No matter where the creative team takes the story forward (for better or worse), if you liked Jane’s first arc, I do think The Mighty Thor #1 is worth your time.