Thor, Goddess of Thunder
I may have mentioned a few times that other than antiheroes, many of my favorite characters are strong women. I find that as a woman reading comics, I actively look for female characters that are badass but not defined by their gender. This used to be a lot harder than it is now. Thankfully it seems like creators are paying attention to the fact that women are a significant portion of their readership and although it’s possibly selfish, we rather like reading about characters that we can imagine ourselves as being. You don’t have to be a kid to want to be a superhero(ine). The Marvel NOW line has done a lot to help in this arena, first with the wonderful Ms. Marvel series and now with the new Thor series. In honor of International Women’s Day, which was this week, I thought it’d be fun to highlight one of the better female heroines within the last few years: Thor. This was a Marvel NOW series written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Russell Dauterman and takes place after the events of Jason Aaron’s previous Thor run. The run with female Thor (thankfully known just as Thor) is just two volumes but packs a serious punch.
The story opens with a rather intriguing dilemma: the loss of Odinson, the Thor that everyone knows and loves. This Thor has lost the ability to wield his powerful hammer Mjolnir and insists on being called Odinson because he no longer deserves to use the name Thor. After having been told a secret by Nick Fury at the end of the previous run, Odinson spends all of his time on the moon with Mjolnir, trying in vain to become worthy to wield it. His desperation and humiliation are a major concern for his father Odin who has just returned to Asgard after having been gone and left the care of the realm to his wife Freyja, who has been acting as All-Mother. This presents an interesting dynamic in which Freyja is used to handling power in Asgard and is loath to let her husband just dictate his way through everything as had been his previous habit. While Freyja and Odin clash over how to properly rule Asgard, frost giants invade Earth and the realm of Midgard is left without its protector. This is a situation which Mjolnir cannot let stand and a new Thor is chosen. Who is this new Thor and can she both save the realm of Midgard and defend herself against those who accuse her of stealing the hammer?
One of the reasons that I enjoyed Thor so much was because while it has fun with the idea of everyone being completely taken aback by a female Thor, it rarely makes her gender the sole defining feature of this new Thor. Aaron doesn’t reveal the identity of the new Thor until the end of the second volume and I was very pleased with the mystery. I was so certain I was right throughout the first volume, only to have everything shaken up by the second. I also loved that the new Thor not only struggled with understanding her role and her new powers but that taking up the hammer physically changed her into this goddess of thunder with knowledge beyond that of her previous role. There were a number of humorous scenes where Thor beats the hell out of people for doubting her ability just because she was a woman but I think Aaron does an excellent job making Thor a real person with the kind of grit and determination that I love to see in any hero character. She’s smart, she’s trying so hard to live up to the name of Thor and to prove herself worthy of the honor of wielding Mjolnir that it’s impossible not to respect and love her for it. There is one pretty silly scene where the “I am woman, hear me roar!” theme gets a little over the top. For the most part however, it’s brilliantly feminist without that message detracting from the story (a fault that Bitch Planet, also marked as a feminist story, seemed to struggle with).
One of the problems with bringing diverse characters into stories that is you can get so busy defending it from those who just want the status quo that you forget that you have to actually make them characters in their own right and not just a woman or a minority. Jason Aaron does an admirable job in making lady Thor unforgettable. At no point is she perfect and for most of the run she really struggles to figure out her powers and her role in worlds that aren’t prepared to accept her as she is. Lady Thor isn’t just a cardboard cutout of a woman, she’s the goddess of thunder and both a badass goddess and a conflicted person. I was impressed with the final reveal of her identity and would highly recommend reading the series! I’d also recommend catching Aaron’s previous Thor run (starting with The God Butcher) if you haven’t already as it ties directly to this series and is also well worth your time.