After a two-issue interlude where Loki regaled Dario Agger with a tale from the past, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman return to the present for "The Mighty Thor" #8. The issue kicks off the "Lords of Midgard" story arc, a poignant look at Jane Foster's interpretation of what it means to be Thor, which includes a fascinating cabal of bad guys requiring her attention.
The central question of worthiness has surrounded Jane Foster's run as Thor, and issue #8 should assuage any lingering doubts about her ability to wield Mjolnir. The book begins with a week in the life of Thor as told by Jane, and Aaron includes heartfelt moments that remind us she is a woman determined "to live like she was dying" (to paraphrase Tim McGraw) -- because she is: "Thursday, I made falling stars. Friday, I went fishing with a friend. Sunday, I made sure it didn't rain on her funeral."
What does it mean to be Thor? Jane Foster regularly skips her cancer treatments to give the universe the best Thor she can, and Aaron's thoughtful humanizing of this god resonates through every panel. Through her encounter with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Aaron vividly illustrates that -- in her pluck and will power -- Jane Foster is a force to be reckoned with all on her own, and that is perhaps the best indication of her worthiness. (Undoubtedly, she would also make a fantastic Green Lantern, but I digress.)
Aaron also establishes this arc's central conundrum with a meeting of international industry giants who secretly control the ebb and flow of business on Earth. Dario Agger once again figures prominently in Thor's future, and Aaron gives the goddess of thunder a whole gang of talented potential opponents.
Russell Dauterman's graceful artwork is a fitting complement to Aaron's fluid script. Subtle details shine through the panels to convey everything the crisp dialogue can't; from the tag-teaming S.H.I.E.L.D. agents' attempt at imposing body language to the growing fury of Dario Agger's sunglasses-shielded eyes, Dauterman's panels build welcome tension as the action unfolds. Dauterman's attentive backgrounds are well-executed, adding depth to the panels without distracting from the characters in the foreground, and their consistent application throughout issue #8 anchors the story across its different locations.
Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson are a solid artistic team. Thin line work emphasizes Jane Foster's gaunt features, the pastel colors in Thor's panels provide a sense of hope and the thick, dark lines and bold colors in the meeting scenes offer a stark contrast to the rest of the issue, which enhances their menace. In particular, Matthew Wilson's vibrant, deliberate colors contribute to the contrast between good guys and bad guys; with characters like Silver Samurai Jr. and Oubliette Midas in the mix, Wilson knows when to turn up the dial from subtle to stunning.
Aaron and Dauterman's new arc is a fine bit of storytelling that neatly balances its action with its humanity as Jane Foster/Thor faces off against S.H.I.E.L.D., the cabal, Thor's criminal status on Asgard and -- of course -- her cancer. While we have certainly seen Thor up against bad guys and tremendous odds before, we have never seen a Thor who faced such personal challenges and used them to redefine what it means to be the God of Thunder.