Back in July, Marvel made waves by announcing—on The View, of all places—that their iconic character Thor was being replaced by a woman. Of course, people made a Big Deal out of this, because that’s what Marvel wanted. Marvel’s announcement was a deliberately provocative move meant to garner goodwill among those seeking better representation in comics, and incite heated debate among not so open-minded.
Of course, a whole mess of people who normally didn’t have much to say about comics suddenly had lots to say—like Tucker Carlson of Fox & Friends, who bemoaned that Thor was now “a chick.” But it’s a sentiment that was shared by a number of vocal comics fans who decried the decision as “political correctness run amok,” ruining the character for the sake of some sort of agenda.
Well, here’s a funny story: the Thor creative team has heard these criticisms, and has addressed them explicitly In this month’s Thor #5, where a villain (The Absorbing Man) finds out that the new Thor is a woman, and says that “feminists are ruining everything.” Then Thor breaks his jaw.
It’s a pretty great moment, one that’s cartoonishly on the nose when taken out of context, but hilarious when you’re aware of the criticism the Thor creative team has been getting over the story.
In the media circus that surrounded the new Thor, what was often lost in the discussion were the story reasons for the decision—whether or not you ascribe to the more cynical, mercenary view that dictates this was nothing but a shallow marketing ploy (which is silly, because comic books, like most commercial art forms, exist to make money)—that the new Thor’s origin was a direct extension of the epic story writer Jason Aaron had been telling in Thor: God of Thunder, for over two years.
The circumstances leading to new Thor spin out of Marvel’s big Original Sin crossover, in which many Marvel heroes came to learn dark buried secrets about their past. One of these was something whispered to Thor—something we still don’t know—that rendered him unworthy of Mjolnir, his enchanted hammer. Unable to lift it, Thor began calling himself by his family name, Odinson, and Mjolnir sat where he left it, on the moon—until a mysterious woman picked it up.
Throughout Jason Aaron’s Thor run, the writer has been fascinated by the idea of a superhero that’s also a deity, exploring Thor in his youth and old age, his place in the Nine Realms, his connection with Earth and its inhabitants.
With the new Thor (who is not even the first new Thor—a number of people have wielded the hammer, namely Storm of the X-Men and a horse-like alien named Beta Ray Bill), Aaron continues to examine the character he started writing over two years ago, but also revisits an old idea that Lee and Kirby had when they first introduced the character decades ago—that the role of “God(dess) of Thunder” is something separate from person who fulfills it.
The new Thor’s thought bubbles aren’t in that dignified fantasy-speak she (involuntarily) uses when she speaks as Thor, but in normal, conversational English. She doesn’t quite know why she’s Thor, but she knows what she should be as Thor. Comics love stories about legacy, and a legacy inherited by someone that others don’t deem worthy of it is a common trope in such stories. That some pundits and comic book fans take equal affront to this new Thor makes for a fascinating (albeit frustrating) layer of metacommentary that makes this run feel necessary and timely.
Of course, it would all be for naught if the comics weren’t any good. So five months into the new Thor, is it? Hell yes. Pardon me— I meant Hel yes (Asgard jokes). Aaron’s run on the character is one of the greats, and the artists he’s been working with—namely Esad Ribic and Russell Dauterman—have been producing absolutely stunning art that’s been a joy to pour over every month.
Really, there’s only one frustrating element to it—we still don’t know who the new Thor really is, and won’t find out until issue #8 in May. (However, it’s almost certainly Roz Solomon, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent that’s been featured heavily on Aaron’s run and conspicuously absent since new Thor took over).
If you haven’t been reading these comics, give them a shot. Go back to Thor: God of Thunder #1, see everything that Aaron and Ribic did with the character. Read about Gorr, the God Butcher. See Thor when he was young and brash and didn’t have a hammer, but a giant-ass ax. Check out how cool he looks at the end of time, as a lonely one-armed king standing against encroaching darkness.
Then see what happens when he loses his hammer, and it is picked up by another—because there must always be a Thor. Whoever this one is, she’s pretty great.