Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
(Warning: Mild spoilers for Jason Aaron’s Thor series included, but I do not reveal the identity of the new Thor)
Last September Marvel made headlines by announcing that in the new Thor series, Odinson would no longer be Thor. Rather, a woman would be wielding the hammer Mjolnir and headlining the comic. Even more important is that she wasn’t going to be called “She-Thor” or anything like that. What may seem like a simple name choice signals that the new Thor, though she is a different gender from the previous, was not going to be defined in relation to the old one. She isn’t some second, female version of Thor; she is Thor.. There was certainly a good measure of push back from dude-bro’s who couldn’t imagine a woman being Thor. Thankfully, the comic came out and after its initial eight-issue run I can say with full confidence that Thor is a woman, she is a feminist, and she is amazing.
The premise of Jason Aaron’s run, with art by Russell Dauterman, is that Odinson has become unworthy to wield Mjolnir. At the end of the first issue, a woman of unknown identity walks up to Mjolnir and picks it up, stating that “There must always be a Thor.”
And with that she is transformed into the Goddess of Thunder. In issue two, she really starts to kick some ass, but along with this immediate outward heroism, her inner thoughts give way to a more complex character, one with self-doubt and also a good sense of humor. She isn’t just your typical “strong female character.” At times of doubt, she is forced to push back – sometimes with a quip – to save the people she cares for.
One of my favorite moments is when Thor is battling a villain named Crusher Creel. “Damn feminists are ruining everything!” Creel says and then asks “What’d you do, send him [Odinson] to sensitivity training?” In many ways, his mocking resembles the responses of dude-bros over the new Thor.
During a battle scene Aaron is able to equate anti-feminists, such as those who were opposed to this new Thor, with blockheaded (literally) villains like Creel. Thor proceeds to punch Creel in the jaw, thinking to herself “That’s for saying ‘feminist’ like it’s a four-letter word, creep.” It’s absolutely wonderful.
Later, Creel’s partner Titania steps in, knocks him out, and surrenders. Titania shows sympathy for Thor when she says “Can’t have been easy for you. Hasn’t been for me either” referring to being a woman with powers. It’s a nice moment of solidarity between two women on opposite sides of good and evil.
However, this series isn’t just about Thor. At first, Odinson desperately wants Mjolnir back to the point of fighting Thor for it, but he quickly relents and acknowledges Thor’s worthiness with his blessing to use the name Thor. Odinson’s character development acts as a model for those who initially react negatively to change, especially one that leads to greater representation, and how they can reexamine themselves and the significance of that change.
Odinson then goes on to try and discover Thor’s true identity. Aaron’s inclusion of many significant female characters beyond Thor had me guessing right alongside Odinson.
The presence of characters such as Sif and SHIELD Agent Roz Solomon is a major reason why Thor is so good. When Thor’s identity is finally revealed, it gives even greater depth to her character.
Thor’s arrival and her unknown identity create family struggles between Odin, Odinson, and Freyja (Odin’s wife/Odinson’s mother) back on their homeworld of Asgard. Prior to the start of the series, Odin was in exile and Freyja took over Asgard. Upon returning, Odin and Freyja struggle over who should rule Asgard.
When his authority is questioned or he doesn’t get his way,Odin acts like a petulant child. In contrast, Freyja is calm, collected, and not fueled by her pride. In her eyes Odin is a despot. In striving towards what is best for Asgard she becomes a foil to her husband.
After a conversation where Odin tells Freyja she is not needed as the All-Mother she leaves and meets with Thor. They share a wonderful moment alone together in the face of such misogyny. With confidence in their own power and worth, they display an inspiration resolve against their adversaries. The mutual respect between Freyja and Thor is great to see.
Later, Freyja and Odinson lead a team of female super heroes from across Asgard and Earth to aid Thor. Freyja is an older woman, a diplomat, and a warrior, and might just be my favorite part of this series.
I cannot recommend Aaron’s eight-issue run on Thor enough. He is able to make a story about the Goddess of Thunder in a fictional world of superheroes and mythical Norse beings feel extremely relevant by weaving in these sexist reactions towards women in power, as well as showing these women’s empowering responses. It was recently announced that Thor’s story will continue in The Mighty Thor this November. I am excited to see where Aaron takes things. We need more comics like this, and the only way that’s going to happen is if people buy and read them when they do come around.
Photos Courtesy of Kyle McKenney