Last year Marvel made some headlines with the announcements that two of their franchise characters were going to undergo some big changes. Steve Rogers would no longer be Captain America, with Sam Wilson stepping into the role. The new Thor’s identity was kept a mystery, but was decidedly different; it was a woman. Though this is not the first time we have had a female Thor, it did cause quite a lot of debate with fans. Some saw it in a positive way with Marvel trying to diversify and appeal to more readers, while others thought it was a bad thing for a multitude of reasons.
My solution was to take the “wait and see” approach. The comic never seemed to get particularly good reviews and it seemed to me that they were dragging out the mystery Thor’s identity for a bit too long, but now the cat is out of the bag.
The latest and final issue of the series has revealed that Jane Foster is the new Thor. The long time love interest of Thor has been in and out of Thor comics, although she was important enough that they brought her along for the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. With a pretty big name actress in the role, no less. But the fact that they changed Jane Foster from a nurse to an astrophysicist and only a few people complained reveals a pretty big truth; Jane Foster is not an engaging love interest and she isn’t all that important to Thor’s story.
Now she is an important part of the story, and while I haven’t read the comics to comment on how she is written as a character, I have to say the reveal feels… underwhelming. Not horrible, just… safe. A little too predictable.
When Marvel made the announcement that Thor was going to be a woman, I knew that it would only be a temporary thing. Something new to shake up the book and generate interest. And as a fan of strong heroines and a proponent of them getting a chance to headline comics, I was perfectly okay with the idea. My hope was that Marvel would be able to craft a new character that would be able to gain her own cult following, and that she could continue to be a big part of the Marvel universe going forward. And that does seem to be Marvel’s plan going forward, as Thor is about to be replaced with “Thors“, a book featuring both the original character and Jane Foster’s version.
I just don’t think it’s going to work. I think Marvel dragged the mystery on for too long and that Jane’s reveal is too much of an anti-climax. I think readers are just going to view this as a disappointment. Ten years from now it will just be viewed as another silly experiment that didn’t pan out, and discuss how Thor is best when they keep the comics in relative status quo. Which is a shame for something that should have been a really big deal and a chance for Marvel to make another star.
I think the key thing to learn here for writers is that if you are intent on giving the readers a mystery, it is important to have a satisfying conclusion at the end of it. Readers should be going “wow”, not “Well, called that a few months ago” when you do the big reveal. I would also argue that the monthly comic book release schedule isn’t exactly the best format for this, since fans have weeks to pour over each chapter and figure out the answer instead of being dragged along on a roller coaster ride.
But I also hope that we don’t look back on this and say “Well a female Thor was never going to work”, because that’s a shame. The idea is okay, I just think the execution leaves a lot to be desired. I think Marvel saw this only as a gimmick and not as an opportunity, and that’s why it falls flat. There’s not enough creativity behind the idea to make it work. But poor planning and underwhelming writing should not be used as an excuse to keep women out of important roles in the future.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m assuming too much, and in a decade Jane Foster will have a massive cult following. Maybe she’ll even replace the original Thor. Perhaps the fourth MCU Thor film will feature Natalie Portman smashing fire giants with Mjolnir.
But I doubt it.