At long last, the death of Marvel’s THOR has finally come. Way back in 2014, writer Jason Aaron introduced a brand new Thor – making headlines at first for making Thor a woman this time. It was hardly the first time Mjolnir had been wielded by someone other than the Odinson, but Aaron spun a clever tale, carefully holding back on the female Thor’s true identity for almost a year. Finally, he revealed that the new Thor was none other than Jane Foster, the Odinson’s classic love interest.
That revelation always meant Thor’s story had a time-limit imposed on it, and Marvel made no secret of Jane’s impending death. Jane Foster’s “worthiness” took the form of becoming Thor before dying of terminal cancer, sacrifice herself because she knew the world needed a god of thunder. Tragically, every time she transformed, the hammer’s magic negated the effect of her chemotherapy. Being a hero was literally killing her, but she continued to choose that path.
Her fate has always been inevitable, and in Thor #705 Jane Foster’s story has finally come to an end.
THE DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR
It’s certainly fitting that while Jane’s identity is now known by Earth’s great and good, the Asgardians are ignorant of it. The scientists and sorcerers of Earth have examined Jane’s body, and came to a disturbing diagnosis: that she had to stop transforming into Thor before it killed her. Doctor Strange cautioned that her body couldn’t survive even one more transformation… and then the Mangog attacked Asgard, knocking the shining city out of orbit and sending it plummeting towards the Sun.
Although most of the Asgardians were evacuated, three stood battling against the ferocious beast; Odin, Lady Freyja, and Thor Odinson. And even the combined might of these three would not be enough. The Hammer came for Jane, and she sensed the need. She took up Mjolnir one last time.
Thor #705 is a fitting end to Jane Foster’s story. It’s not possible to out-fight the Mangog, who was created to wreak vengeance upon the gods. Instead, Jane chooses to restrain the creature in a chain, which she fastens to Mjolnir. Then, bringing a final fateful end to the battle, she flings Mjolnir into the heart of the Sun itself – dragging the Mangog with it.
Thor must watch in horror as his enchanted hammer is destroyed, before realizing the enormity of what Jane has done: without Mjolnir in her hand, the female Thor will revert to human form once again. To defeat the gods, Jane destroyed her only chance at life.
The death of Jane Foster is a beautiful and poignant sacrifice; it’s also, in thematic terms, a death that turns the typical story upside-down. The Judaeo-Christian tradition stresses the sacrificial nature of God and his Son, and the Thor franchise has often toyed with a similar concept of “worthiness,” even on the big screen. In both Thor and Thor: The Dark World, it is Thor’s willingness to sacrifice himself that makes him worthy.
This time round, though, the Messianic story has been neatly inverted. It is the human who must give her life to save the gods; it is the capricious gods who must go on to prove themselves worthy of Jane Foster‘s sacrifice.
WHAT JANE FOSTER’S SACRIFICE MEANS FOR THOR COMICS
The gods of Asgard have always been portrayed as mercurial and unpredictable, and Odin in particular has been characterized by wrath and pride. Aaron’s scripts have seen Jane Foster’s Thor confront Odin head-on, even battling him at times. With Asgard burning, Odin still finds time to snarl at Thor she is the “thief of hammers.” His fury, in truth, is based on one simple fact; Mjolnir considered this woman to be worthy, but would not allow the All-Father to lift it again.
It’s so very appropriate that the Mangog is the villain in this story. The creature is the physical manifestation of the rage and hatred of millions towards the gods; it is their frustration and disappointment given form, a being who exists purely to avenge itself upon the gods. Few humans have been wronged more by the gods than Jane Foster, who has found herself drawn into Asgardian affairs time and again. And yet she chooses to stand between the gods and their deserved judgment, insisting that they are worth saving. She even sacrifices herself on their behalf.
The Mangog, then, is an expression of human wrath towards the gods; Jane is a human who sacrifices herself to stay that wrath. It really is a perfect inversion of the Messianic tradition, right down to the fact that her sacrifice is not appreciated by those she is saving.
IT IS THE GODS WHO MUST BECOME WORTHY
But Aaron has done more than just invert the Messianic tradition; the death of Jane Foster also continues the themes he’s been developing through his entire run. Back in 2013, Aaron introduced the character of Gorr, the God-Butcher (Marvel Studios adapted elements of the character for Hela’s powerset in Thor: Ragnarok). As a youth, Gorr had been brought up to believe in the gods – but they had never answered his prayers. Furious, he had launched a crusade against the gods, slaughtering them with the Necrosword. Even Thor was tempted to believe Gorr was right; “That gods were cruel and jealous creatures. That it was time for their age to pass.”
In 2014, a single whispered sentence from Nick Fury – who possessed the all-seeing knowledge of the Watchers – was enough to render Thor unworthy. Finally, in The Unworthy Thor #5, Aaron revealed what that sentence was; “Gorr was right.” That whispered truth seared itself into Thor’s heart, as he realized the gods of Asgard are unworthy; indeed, all the gods are. Mjolnir, too, acknowledged the truth.
The gods are not worthy; and yet Jane Foster is still willing to die on their behalf. Jane’s last words to Odin and Freyja are powerful, and imbued with meaning:
“The world needs more than just Thor! We need gods we can believe in! Tell them that! Tell all of Asgard! Tell them it’s time to earn the gift they’ve all been given!”
Jane Foster’s sacrifice gives the gods a gift – a chance to reinvent themselves, to learn what it means to be “worthy” of godhood. Her death is the next step in Aaron’s ongoing arc, forcing the gods to confront the truth that Thor Odinson has already learned. It certainly seems appropriate that Thor #705 sees the destruction of Asgard, forcing the gods to once more return to Earth. As the War of Realms continues to rage, the Asgardians must learn what it is to be worthy of Jane Foster’s sacrifice.