Mar 25, 2019

War of the Realms: The 10 Best Moments of Jason Aaron's Thor Run

Let's flash back to 2011 for a while. I didn't own a single Thor comic. Not one. I was interested in the character, but just never got around to reading his stuff, to the point where I wrote this. Eight years and three movies later, I can confidently say that Thor is very probably my third favorite superhero of all time, and certainly my favorite superhero of this decade of my life. I've amassed quite the collection — the entire Stan Lee/Jack Kirby run, Walt Simonson's exceptional run, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz's Kirby throwback run, Dan Jurgens and John Romita Jr.'s kinda shaky but still really fun Heroes Return run, Avengers Disassembled, Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato's Worldengine — and I can confidently say the following statement without nostalgia, since I've only been a Thor fan for eight years:
Jason Aaron's Thor run (with a variety of artists, most notably Esad Ribic and Russell Dauterman) is the third greatest Thor run of all time.
And the only reason it's third and not higher is because it's new and the first two (StanJack and Walt) are held in such high esteem and they created so much. Aaron's run has differed so much in tone from the first two. Kirby's and Simonson's runs were so well balanced tonally, a fast-paced epic adventure incorporating mythology, sci-fi, humor, and action, to the point where when I saw people complaining about Ragnarok being a comedy, I had to wonder if they'd ever actually read Thor comics. It seemed they wanted a Lord of the Rings type treatment, and the comic was never really like that for any extended period of time... until Jason Aaron took over (and even that didn't last long). Thor is just a franchise that is good for multiple tones. He's versatile. He's serious. He's funny. He's epic. He's human.

And now Jason Aaron is kicking off War of the Realms next Wednesday, a culmination of eight years of writing Thor and 80 issues, and he's looking to go out with a bang. And with that said, let's take a look at the ten best moments of Jason Aaron's Thor run. Thus far.

Honorable Mention: Thor Odinson is in charge of the League of Realms, jokingly called the Tolkien Avengers, featuring a representative from each of the Nine Realms, to take down Malekith the Accursed. It's hard getting them to work together, so what does Thor do? He sits them down for a drink. Obviously an allegory for diverse groups working together, it's revealed that Thor has a reason for all the merriment amidst the mission.

"Maybe, just maybe, there'd be far fewer wars if we'd all just learn to drink with one another now and then."
Thor, God of Thunder #15 , 2013. Art by Ron Garney.

Unfortunately, Malekith manages to outsmart all of them, realizing that Dark Elves only respect rulers they fear, and since he's the scariest Dark Elf there is, he's made their King, which kicks off this entire journey to the War of the Realms.

10. Hela marries Karnilla

Most recently, in another shift of power in the Ten Realms (a Tenth Realm, Heven, was added. This is where Thor and Loki's half-sister Angela is from. Angela, to 90s fans, is the angel who hunted Spawn. She is now owned by Marvel Comics and has spent some time with the Guardians of the Galaxy), Niffleheim, the Land of the Dead, saw a wedding take place.

Niffleheim, long ruled by Hela, Goddess of Death, has been vacated and ruled by the dead Balder the Brave (Thor's more noble, if insufferable, brother), who has just been reunited with Karnilla the Norn Queen (and Balder's true love). When it's attacked by Sindr, Malekith's ally and the daughter of Surtur of Muspelheim, Balder and Karnilla have a hard time uniting the army of the dead as some are still loyal to Hela.

Hela returns, and Balder is supposed to marry her to unite the army of the dead, when Sindr attacks and a fight breaks out. When Thor and friends are able to drive Sindr back, and the wedding about to be called off, Karnilla puts the ring on her finger, says "I do," and marries Hela, making them Queens of Hel.

Thor #4. Art by Mike Del Mundo.

The move is so out of left field but makes sense for Karnilla, who could not bear to see Balder tethering himself to Hela for fear of his safety. As an exchange for the marriage, Loki manages to bring Balder back to life, perfectly setting up Thor's more noble brother in a prime spot in the War of the Realms.

9. The origin of Gorr, the God Butcher.

Aaron's run started off with one of the most imaginative and serious Thor stories of all time, the introduction of Gorr, the God Butcher. Armed with the mighty Necrosword, also called the All-Black, Gorr finds out gods exist and holds them accountable for leaving mortals all over the universe to suffer. Like most great villains, Gorr isn't completely wrong so much as well-intentioned and extreme in his execution. Which is to say, yes, he's still a villain, but you get where he's coming from.

Thor, God of Thunder #6. 2013. Art by Butch Guice and Tom Palmer.

As a pretty cool aside, the All-Black has been revealed in writer Donny Cates' Venom run as a Klyntar, the first symbiote. This is the beauty of a shared universe, Cubers!

8. "There must always be a Thor."

In a forgettable big event from Marvel Comics, Nick Fury whispers three words to Thor: "Gorr was right." Aaron's entire run from the beginning had focused on the more human side of Thor, questioning his place as a god and wondering if he was worthy. With Mjolnir stuck on the moon, every single Asgardian tries to lift it, including Odin himself. When they finally give up, a shadowy figure steps up, says, "There must always be a Thor." The inscription on the hammer changes, and we get our first glimpse of the new Thor. And she instantly steals the show.

Thor #1, 2014. Art by Russell Dauterman.

7. The Mother Storm.

The new Thor is revealed to be Jane Foster, once Thor's nurse when Thor was a doctor in mortal form (don't ask), formerly Thor's girlfriend, and most importantly, doctor and current cancer patient. And she has an exceptional relationship with the hammer, one that the Odinson never had. She speaks to it like it's a friend.

The Mighty Thor #10, 2016. Art by Russell Dauterman

And it's because it is. It's revealed that who Mjolnir deems worth is a combination of two things: Odin's enchantment and the Mother Storm, a sentient prehistoric galactic storm that is encased within the hammer. And just like it chose Thor Odinson so many years ago, in this particular stretch of time, the Mother Storm deems that only Jane Foster can hold the hammer. Just in time for the War of Realms.

6. It's the Phoenix, bub.

One of the cool things about Aaron's run on Thor has been seeing him time jump in two very distinct directions. We've seen stories of young Thor, unworthy of Mjolnir, wielding an axe called Jarnbjorn, and meanwhile in the very, very far future. In that future, King Thor is the last living Asgardian, and has recreated the Earth (the first humans are named "Steve" and "Jane"). Unfortunately he can't sustain it. The Earth is dying again, and that's where he gets a visit from an old friend.

Yes, that is Logan, better known as Wolverine, wielding the Phoenix Force, and they have to team up to stop Dr. Doom, who has lived this long by becoming the Sorcerer Supreme, the Starbrand, and the Iron Fist.

It's just so much fun.

5. Loki poisons Freyja.

No list of Thor moments would be complete without Loki, the Odinson's half-brother who is just more cunning and smarter than everyone else. Fresh off his series, Agent of Asgard, Loki immediately plays both sides in the War of the Realms by cozying up to his biological father Laufey of the Frost Giants, while telling his adoptive mother Freyja that he's on their side. And during a major battle, Loki does this.

Mighty Thor #5, 2016. Art by Russell Dauterman.

It's a double-cross! Or is it? It does get Loki closer to the enemies, but it's revealed later on that Loki missed all of Freyja's vital organs entirely. Which means that Loki must be really, really bad at the art of poison and stabbing. Or really, really good.

And that's where Loki is to start War of the Realms.

4. "Today my hammer comes for your face!"

Jane Foster is dying of cancer, and being Thor isn't helping. You see, every time she turns into Thor, Mjolnir clears out anything in her system that isn't "natural," and, well, everything the chemotherapy does isn't natural. So each time she turns into the Goddess of Thunder, she takes one step closer to death. And it doesn't help that Allfather Odin is the embodiment of the sexist patriarchy that despises the fact that a woman is holding Mjolnir at all. So a fight is inevitable. And it starts off with the greatest, most inspired, most highbrow line in the history of literature.

Mighty Thor #4, 2016. Art by Russell Dauterman.

Later on, Jane has another line in her narration that I thought was apt:

"When you're a ninety-pound woman dying of cancer, it does feel pretty good to punch God in the face."

3. "Then struck Thor. With the fury of a billion storms."

In the course of the fight with Gorr the God Butcher, a battle that lasts millennia, Young Thor and King Thor team up with "our" Thor, Thor the Avenger. Only two of them hold Mjolnir, and one of them holds a hammer that wasn't Mjolnir (look at how he's jumping while the other two are flying). And then they attack Gorr in one of the most impressive, most epic double-page spreads I've ever seen, and this is the exact moment I knew this run was going to be amazing.

Thor, God of Thunder #9, 2013. Art by Esad Ribic.

2."My last Earth girlfriend... was breathtaking."

We're going to end this countdown with two moments that include both Thor Odinson and Jane Foster, because I found both moments heartbreaking and beautiful. After the God Butcher storyline, Aaron slowed things down with one issue, showing a regular day in the life of Thor. This includes visiting a criminal in prison, calling a storm in the desert, and meeting new character Rosalind Solomon, Agent of SHIELD. It's also where we first meet Jane Foster and learn she's dying of cancer. It's there that Thor takes her to the moon to talk to her, and, well... click the images to enlarge.

Thor: God of Thunder #12, 2013. Art by Nic Klein.

1. "Say goodbye."

Asgard is under attack by the Mangog, the manifested vengeance of a billion billion murdered souls. With the Rainbow Bridge destroyed and Asgardia torn apart, Odin, Freyja, and the Odinson are all powerless to stop him. They need Thor. The problem is, Jane is on her last stretch. If she turns into Thor one more time, the cancer will kill her... of course, she goes anyway, and confronts the Mangog, delivering this badass promo in the process...

Mighty Thor #705, 2018. Art by Russell Dauterman.

...and then hurtles him into the sun. This destroys both the Mangog and Mjolnir, and now Thor has no choice but to change back to Jane Foster. And the Odinson doesn't know what to say. So of course, she does.

Mighty Thor #705, 2018. Art by Russell Dauterman.


Soon after this, Thor Odinson became the God of Thunder again, not by wielding Mjolnir, but by wielding a bunch of hammers continually created for him by the Dwarves of Nidavellir, none of which are as strong as Mjolnir, but hey, they're trying! In last week's issue of Thor, he was seen searching the sun for any sign of Mjolnir.

It's not the end of Jane Foster though. Odin saw fit to give her a new lease on life, where she finished chemotherapy and went into remission. So she's still around, she's just not gonna be Thor anymore.

Or is she?

War of the Realms is out on April 3. In the meantime, you can read these stories here:

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