Once upon a time, a woman could fly. And for nearly four years, she did.
Yes, it was in 2014 that Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman brought a long-imagined scenario to comic book reality in a brand-new Thor #1. Thor’s longtime love Jane Foster had now claimed the mantle of the God of Thunder, but with a heartbreaking twist: Jane was battling cancer in her mortal form. And while Thor was able to save nearly everyone else during that time, the one person she ultimately could not was herself. In Mighty Thor #706, Aaron and Dauterman formally, and emotionally, bring Jane’s tenure as the Goddess of Thunder to a heroic and fitting end.
Jane might have met her demise as Thor last issue while defeating Mangog, but Aaron reveals that her story isn’t over — nowhere near it, in fact. Jane has most assuredly earned a favored spot behind the gates of Valhalla, but even that can’t happen peacefully without some degree of conflict. Jane’s death parallels the same painful path that all of us endure with the passing of a loved one. While all who remain wish a peaceful journey to the great beyond for their friends and relations, those same mourners are also the ones who face the greatest difficulties in allowing that to happen.
Aaron and Dauterman beautifully capture that same conflict. Dauterman’s idyllic rendering of Valhalla’s domain is starkly and painfully contrasted with the ruins of Asgardia, and most especially Jane’s spent and withered form. In her spiritual incarnation, Jane is her more familiar and healthy self, and Dauterman even seems to evoke Natalie Portman’s portrayal of her character in certain panels. As he has throughout the run, though, he also heart-wrenchingly conveys her gaunt form, serving as a constant reminder, after the battle, of her heroism — even at the cost of her own life and well-being.
Aaron also nails the conflicted dichotomy between letting the departed go, and doing anything in our power to get them back. One poignant comment from the departed Jane — “I wasn’t ready to die” — serves as the impetus of the issue. Jane is seemingly gone, yes, but in a world of gods — and an entertainment medium where death never really seems to last — Aaron plays on the hopes of an imminent return.
It’s the kind of occurrence that sadly can’t happen in real life, but in comics, anything is possible. Aaron uses a fictional canvas to document Jane’s journey; whether it’s to the afterlife, or returning to this one. His story therefore becomes a kind of uplifting wish-fulfillment fantasy, one that works well within the framework of what he’s established thus far. The message he sends is that Jane’s battle is not over, and in doing so, he also conveys a message of inspiration to those fighting a battle for their own lives — not just to them, but also to those close to them.
The message makes for a wonderful farewell to Thor, while also allowing Jane Foster’s story to continue. Jane wasn’t the first to assume the role of Thor, but Aaron and Dauterman’s Mighty Thor #706 makes a convincing case that she just might very well be the most heroic — in both guises. The story continues in Mighty Thor: At the Gates of Valhalla #1, on sale May 16.