At last, the end is here. In the previous issue of The Mighty Thor — the penultimate chapter of Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman‘s three-year-long story arc — the mortal Jane Foster, in her role as Thor, accomplished what all the gods and goddesses of Asgard could not. She defeated the Golden Realm’s great enemy, the Mangog, by using her hammer Mjolnir to hurl him into the sun. But the sun has consumed Mjolnir as well as the Mangog, and without its power, Jane cannot survive. The mighty Thor is dead — and so, it appears, is Jane Foster.
“At the Gates of Valhalla” opens in the immediate aftermath of #705‘s act of sacrifice, where a number of the Asgardians refuse to accept Jane’s fate as final. Among them is Odinson, the God Formerly Known As Thor — but not his father, Odin. (That’s the All-Father saying “Hrrph”, and making his exit in a blaze of golden light, in the second panel of the double-page splash shown below.)
Odin has had a mad-on for the new, female Thor since she first turned up — believing that she “stole the hammer!” and robbed his son “of his birthright! His very name!” — as he puts it a couple of pages later, when he accosts Jane before the closed gates of Valhalla. Said animosity led to an actual throwdown in issue #5 (May, 2016), and my favorite line of the whole run, courtesy of Thor-Jane: “…when you’re a ninety-pound woman dying of cancer, it does feel pretty good to punch God in the face.”
But all that is behind them now. Odin acknowledges that Jane has done what no one else in Asgard could. “Everyone I know and love would be dead if it weren’t for you,” he tells her. “Jane Foster of Midgard, you have earned your place among the most venerated of fallen warriors.” It’s a moving moment, and a wonderful payoff to the fractious relationship Aaron has developed between the two characters. For those readers who are aware that Odin’s animosity towards Jane Foster goes all the way back to the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby era of the Sixties, when the All-Father’s disdain was based simply on her being Thor Odinson’s mortal girlfriend, this is likely to be an especially poignant scene.
And then, the gates of Valhalla open.
We’ve seen Valhalla numerous times over the history of the Thor series, but it’s doubtful that the Hall of the Slain has ever been rendered as appealingly as it is here by Dauterman and color artist Matthew Wilson, the value of whose contributions to this great run can hardly be overestimated.
But as beautiful as Valhalla might be, Jane Foster still hesitates to pass through the gates. She’s just not ready to go; and, back in the land of living, the Odinson is no more willing to let her go.
I won’t spoil the rest of the issue by describing what happens next, though it’s hardly a spoiler to note that, following its conclusion, Jane Foster will no longer be the mighty Thor. Marvel’s solicitations for the upcoming months have already revealed that the Odinson will be taking up his old role (and name) once again. Based on what I’ve read online, some fans appear to see this development as the departure of a pretender, and the return of the “real” Thor, but I’m not among them. To me, being Thor is as much about courage and nobility of spirit as it is about hitting things really hard with a hammer, and Jane Foster has delivered in all those areas (including the hammering). That said, I’ve always known that Thor Odinson would be returning as God of Thunder, and I’ll be happy to have him back.
Conversely, I’ve also seen comments in social media from fans who say that this is the last issue of Thor they intend to buy — they were only here for Jane Foster as Thor, and now that she’s gone, they will be too. I happen to think that’s fine, if they’ve read about Thor Odinson in the past and know that they just don’t like the character. However, if they’d never read an issue prior to Jane taking up the hammer, I’d encourage them to give the new series by Aaron and Mike Del Mundo a chance, at least. In my review of issue #703 a few months back, I called the Aaron/Dauterman/Wilson run one of the three greatest in Thor’s history, ranking it with those of Lee/Kirby and Walt Simonson. But the truth is, I could have said that about Jason Aaron’s entire run as writer on the series, beginning with Thor: God of Thunder #1 in 2013. Yes, Del Mundo will have a tough act to follow in succeeding Russell Dauterman; but Dauterman himself faced much the same situation in following Esad Ribic — and look how that turned out.
The Mighty Thor #706 is available from Marvel Comics.