The Mighty Thor #1
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson
Lettering by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
'Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Jane Foster has a lot on her plate. She's not just a doctor - she's also the superheroine known as The Mighty Thor, who has to juggle invasions from across the Ten Realms as well as the intrigue taking place in the royal court of Asgard.
But even dire than that is that Jane is also fighting cancer. And every time she transforms into the Goddess of Thunder, she puts her mortal self that much closer to death.
It's a smart conceit for the second volume of The Mighty Thor, as Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman set up Jane's hectic new world. Similar to some of Marvel's other offerings, Jane doesn't get a ton to do this issue, but not only does Russell Dauterman's artwork still dazzle, but the dynamics that Aaron sets up will yield major benefits down the road.
From the beginning, it's very clear how well Aaron and Dauterman get what it's like to battle late-stage cancer - Dauterman's second page, with Jane staring at us from underneath a pile of blankets, is about as chilling as it gets. And Aaron doesn't spare us from the details of chemotherapy, either, with Jane telling us graphically about alternating between freezing and vomiting up lava, "roasting inside and out." It's these grisly details that makes Jane's transformation into the Mighty Thor feel instantly cathartic - superheroes are often a means of escape for readers, but not since the days of SHAZAM have superpowers been so liberating for our heroes, as well. But as Jane has told us, with great power also comes great cost, as her transformation into Thor also undoes her debilitating treatments. It's bittersweet to say the least, and it's a twist that makes Jane's adventures seem even more heroic.
The other great thing that Aaron does with this issue is that he doubles down on the trope of the secret identity - not only does Jane have to maintain her secret identity to the humans around her, but also to all of the Asgardians who have taken her in. Besides Freyja the All-Mother, the Mighty Thor is truly alone, and that yields a lot of drama - while Jane is seen as a guest of honor to the Asgardians, her alter ego is a pariah, an actual enemy of the state in the eyes of Odin. Yet in the eyes of the other realms, Jane isn't just snubbed because she is a mortal, but because she's battling such an illness. There's a deeply feminist subtext here - would anyone have given the original Thor this kind of lip? - but no matter what kind of pressures she's under, it's a testament that we know Jane Foster will always come back swinging.
And speaking of heavy-hitters, Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson absolutely dominate with their intense and energetic artwork. Considering how clean and beautiful all of his characters look, it's shocking how good Dauterman is at drawing visceral and brutal pages, from the aforementioned scene of Jane doing chemotherapy to the unsettling sight of dozens of mutilated corpses. Just like Aaron's writing, it's all about the contrasts, and these depressing moments only make Jane's flight as Thor feel that much brighter and necessary. (It's like she says, "Who knew dying could be this much fun?") In particular, Dauterman's sense of motion is especially incredible - I love the way he has Thor catching a falling satellite, or even the way we see her mid-transformation. It's beautiful stuff.
But that said, this is a slightly slow first issue, largely in part because Jane's story had barely begun before Secret Wars. Aaron spends a ton of pages setting up enemies such as the dark elf sorcerer Malekith or the billionaire minotaur Dario Agger - but after awhile, all these Asgardian politics starts to wear a little thin, particularly when it comes at the expense of showing Jane in action. And that's a shame, because Aaron has a superb action hook at the beginning of this book, with a space abattoir bringing down a satellite on Washington, D.C., but it comes and goes so quickly that you barely feel any tension.
Still, as far as first issues go, this is a particularly powerful one, especially if you or anyone you know has ever battled cancer. It can be a debilitating condition, one that can suck all the air out of the room - and the fact that Aaron and Dauterman have created a book for this underserved community makes The Mighty Thor that much more important. While the exposition might have been a little heavy in this installment, now that the essentials are laid out, I foresee some wonderful adventures coming.