SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "The Unworthy Thor" #5, in stores now.
In Marvel Comics’ “Unworthy Thor” #5, Jason Aaron, Olivier Coipel, Kim Jacinto, and Pascal Alixe had heroes and villains alike attempting to lift the Ultimate Universe’s Mjolnir. While the former thunder god Odinson declined the opportunity to be the hammer’s new master, one of the villains in search of it was the Mad Titan Thanos. He sent his Black Order – Proxima Midnight, Black Swan, and a mysterious hooded woman – to fetch it for him, but they returned unsuccessful. As they were begging for forgiveness, the hooded woman made her play, attacking her teammates and leaving Proxima Midnight a bloody corpse on the floor.
The woman revealed herself to be Asgardian goddess Hela, queen of Niffleheim, better known as the realm of the dead. In exchange for his help in reclaiming her kingdom, Hela offered Thanos the one thing he desires more than all else in the heavens: death. Their union was sealed with a kiss, which can only mean horrible things for our heroes in future stories.
While this certainly signals a seismic shift in the Marvel Universe's balance of power, we wonder if there could be more to this unholy alliance? If “it’s all connected,” as Marvel likes to claim, it’s possible the comics are setting up Thanos and Hela for an eventual partnership in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It's All Connected
Hela is set to make her big screen debut as the villain in Marvel Studios’ “Thor: Ragnarok,” while Thanos will finally face off against Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in “Avengers: Infinity War.” With “Ragnarok” being in the title, it makes sense that a confrontation between the Asgardian goddess of death and the Odinson will take place, and the “end of all things” will most certainly involve a trip to the Asgardian underworld.
Marvel Comics' “Infinity Gauntlet” storyline saw Thanos assemble all six of the Infinity gems to woo the affection of Death, an actual character rather than simply a state of being. If “Infinity War” is even loosely based on the six-issue miniseries, then Thanos’ pursuit of the Infinity stones in the MCU may be for the same purpose of winning the hand of lady Death, a role likely to be filled by "Ragnarok's" Hela.
Larger Role For Hela In the MCU
Cate Blanchett is an Academy Award-winning actress, so having her sign on for a Marvel Studios film is a huge win for the studio as it brings more name recognition and (hopefully) more ticket buyers to theaters. While details of her contract aren't public, Marvel would be smart to have negotiated a similar deal for Blanchett as it has for many other actors taking on main characters. Hela making reoccurring appearances, similar to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, throughout future films would be a win-win for both the studio and Blanchett. Just imagine either the mid or after-credits scene of “Infinity War” circling back to Thanos making an offering to someone off-screen, only for the camera to pan to Hela accepting the Infinity Stones.
Marvel movies are lighter affairs, and while characters have been ushered of this mortal plain, so far the films haven’t spent much time dealing with Death, the character. It would be difficult to have Thanos pining for a CG caricature of Death and not startle the little kids, or perhaps amuse the adults. Pairing Thanos with a physical person in the form of Hela allows for the villain to play off of someone more relatable, while maintaining a car aspect of what has made the character tick in the comics. Audiences can begin to learn what motivates Thanos, which would obviously be death and destruction.
What The Relationship Means For Marvel Comics
As we get closer and closer to “Infinity War” and its untitled sequel, Marvel Comics will no doubt look to align their publishing with events unfolding in Marvel Studios' projects. We’ve seen it before with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch being retconned out of being mutants and Magneto’s children to the renewed and persistent focus on the Inhumans. There’s nothing wrong with cherrypicking aspects of the films to run with in the comics, hopefully enticing moviegoers to test drive the comics the cinematic adventures are based on.
When readers last saw Hela, she was being overthrown from her kingdom by Thor’s sister in the pages of "Angela: Queen of Hel.” Thanos is already starring in his own ongoing series, will pop up for Brian Michael Bendis’ final act of “Guardians of the Guardians,” and is now playing a role in “Unworthy Thor.” Marvel is clearly gearing up for “Infinity War,” and Hela’s inclusion in the Thor miniseries is likely not a one-off occurrence. This new power couple should be a major factor as they come into conflict with Marvel’s collection of heroes, and I can't wait to see it unfold, both in the comics and on the big screen.