Writer Jason Aaron's run on The Mighty Thor is pretty much redefining the whole franchise. He transformed Jane Foster into the new female Thor; he revealed the secret history of Mjolnir; and now he's taking another bold step. In this week's Mighty Thor #20, he's introduced us to a whole new hammer-wielder, who he's calling the War Thor. Better still, Aaron has introduced the new character in a breathtakingly organic way.
Note: This article contains heavy spoilers for The Mighty Thor #20.
A Dark Analogy
Right now, both Thor books — The Mighty Thor and The Unworthy Thor — are running through an arc called the 'War of Realms.' The Dark Elf Malekith is deliberately stirring up conflict between the Nine Realms, and Asgard is in chaos after Loki launched an assassination attempt on the All-Mother, Frigga. In this issue, a handful of diplomats head to the Realm of Nidavellir, the Realm of the Dwarves. One of these is Volstagg, Thor's companion and one of the Warriors Three, who plays a central role in the issue.
So far, Nidavellir has avoided the war — but that doesn't mean the land is untouched. The Dwarves' Realm is harsh and barren, and they always depended on trade for food; now, their most reliable trading partners have seen their crops burned. Worse still, given Nidavellir has been relatively untouched by conflict, refugees have flooded to the Realm. Volstagg and his allies have come to the refugee camp, and are horrified at the need they find there.
It's not hard to see the analogy, but the beauty of Jason Aaron's writing is that he doesn't draw it out. He leaves you to notice the parallels yourself, to remember that we're in the midst of the greatest refugee crisis in history. Comics have always had a rich history of social commentary, but this is social commentary at its best; done so subtly that it's only there if you look for it.
The Tragedy Of Volstagg
And that's when the war comes to Nidavellir. As happens so often in the real world, the refugee camps become an irresistible target. The issue focuses in on Volstagg's experience, as he survives the initial onslaught and rescues a group of orphans. It's a beautiful detail, rich in humor, full of emotional warmth. Until Jason Aaron pulls the rug out from under our feet, as even the children Volstagg is trying to protect are burned alive.
It's heart-wrenching. We feel the pain of Volstagg, so stunningly rendered by artists Valerio Schiti and Veronica Gandini. We're not used to scenes like this in a superhero comic. When the hero rescues children, they stay rescued. Except, of course, in the real world there are no superheroes, and children are more vulnerable than anybody else. Mighty Thor #20 is shocking, leaving us reeling; it's reminiscent of the classic moment when Spider-Man failed to save Gwen Stacy, as the comic seems invaded by the reality of life.
Jason Aaron's writing is beautiful and poignant, terrible and disturbing. In the aftermath of 2015's 'Secret Wars' event, Aaron introduced a whole new Mjolnir, a version of the hammer that survived the Ultimate Universe's destruction. Now, at last, we've found out who will claim that hammer: Volstagg himself. Shaken by the deaths of these innocents, he picks up that hammer, and becomes the War Thor.
What will this mean for the future of the Marvel Universe? How will another Thor play into the 'War of the Realms?' One thing's for sure; Jason Aaron is a tremendous writer, and he's playing the long game. I can't wait to see where this story goes next.
Are you planning on picking up 'The Mighty Thor' #20?
(Poll Image Credit: Marvel Comics)