Right in time for Thor: Love and Thunder is Jane Foster: The Saga of Valkyrie, a recounting of Jane Foster’s latest adventures. Over the course of its 376 pages, Jason Aaron’s epic end of Jane Foster Thor and new beginning as Valkyrie is collected here. It’s basically a means of showing Jane Foster’s transition from Thor to a new kind of hero as Marvel continues to invent Jane Foster as the ultimate hero.
Collected here is Mighty Thor (2015) #702-706, Valkyrie: Jane Foster (2019) #1-10, and material from Mighty Thor: At the Gates of Valhalla #1 and War of the Realms: Omega #1. The collection opens at a time when Aaron’s magnum opus with Thor was still raging. Paired with Russell Dauterman, the book not only looked as clean and detailed as any superhero comic on the shelf, but it had readers on the edges of their seats. This collection opens with Mighty Thor #702, where Jane is ignoring the fact that Thor is literally killing her human body. That’s because Jane Foster is dying from cancer and every time she changes into Thor the powers clean the life-saving medicine and chemotherapy from her body.
Titled “The Last Days of the Goddess of Thunder”, this opening issue features Jane arm wrestling with Hercules. Enter Thor, who is very concerned for his friend. Aaron writes a kind and conscientious Odinson here who seeks to commune with Thor and look out for her. He’s not drunk or angry; he just wants to do the right thing. The bottom line is he’s very much a good-spirited hero. You get the sense he’s learned something through his trials and you see it through his words and kindness here.
Meanwhile, Thor is very much raring to fight evil and take names. In a fun scene, she’s arm wrestling with Hercules so as to gain the aid of the Olympian gods in an upcoming battle. The purpose of this wrestle adds to the intro that details a very big battle looming over everyone’s heads. This leads to an uproarious screaming match later in the book that gets an old god woken and angry. When reading this issue I had thoughts of Jack Kirby’s Odin who was arrogant and all-knowing in the most ignorant of ways. Jane Foster and Odinson are fighting amongst Asgardians who think they know better. Pride is something Odinson seems to have shed, but Thor seems to still be dealing with it as she ignores the fact that her human form is slowly dying.
Dauterman draws a heck of an issue that’s great with the details and character acting. There’s a symmetry to Dauterman’s work that’s very pleasing, be it a spherical panel that is then flipped on the next page or the use of flipped panels to create an arrow above it. Matthew Wilson’s colors continue to give the colorful cosmic world a bit of mysterious flair too. A highlight is a scene cast in mostly purples of Volstagg after the beating he took in the last issue.
Eventually, Jane admits she can’t continue to be Thor all the time and she must fight cancer back on Earth. The timing couldn’t be worse for Asgard though, as the Mangog comes to kill everything. Aaron crafts an excellent crisis here as Jane must choose between becoming Thor one last time and dying, or letting everything she fought for as Thor die. It’s incredibly moving and one of the best story arcs in modern comics ever told.
Superheroes rarely die, of course, and it’s no spoiler to say the story continues on and Jane ends up taking on a new mantle. Joining Aaron on writing is Al Ewing, who has a particularly good handle on the death elements of Valkyrie. This new role at first is one Jane assumes will be like taking on the mantle of Thor, but we learn Valkyries have a responsibility to the dead of Asgard. Now a doctor, Jane must save lives in her day job, but also has ties to death creating an interesting dynamic.
CAFU draws the first story arc in the ten-issue run to perfection. It continues to show a realistic approach that’s dynamic and very pleasing to the eye. The fantastical ends up being all the more believable because of the level of detail and quality of the art. Fights are also well crafted and dynamic. This is a superhero book that’s in your face and doesn’t pull its punches.
When it comes to death, things get very interesting with Jane Foster: Valkryie #6-10. The first two issues in the collection are a two part story involving Marvel’s greatest medical team as they attempt to save Death itself. Written by Aaron and Ewing, the story is creative, mixing in ideas that add up to what is basically proof you could pull off a superhero doctor team. There are trials to undertake, like a sea of pus, and an interesting key scene that forces each hero to see something quite dark from their pasts. This leads to some discovery for some and it’s fun to see how Valkyrie comes out on top.
There are thought-provoking elements at work here too, like, “Why even bother saving Death?” What is life without death? Understandably, the point is made that if nobody dies, wouldn’t this just be a cancerverse? Something from Jane’s past I actually didn’t know is brought up, further showing Jane has endured more loss and death than most. It’s a powerful element exceptionally highlighted with an incredible last full-page spread. These ideas elevate the story beyond a fight comic with superheroes and supervillains.
Following this is a three-part story that seems to be about a threat like cancer, but soon we’re learning it’s a threat even Odin was wary of. Co-written by Torunn Grønbekk, the story uses the Avengers in the opener to help remind us Valkyrie is as powerful as they come and likely more powerful when it comes to healing. She is a doctor, after all. It’s also nice to see how her addiction to being a hero continues to develop here and it’s clear she’s made some progress since being Thor.
Jane’s attitude is infectious and fun, too. When she says, “I’m not a god, after all. I’m just the woman who sometimes saves them,” you will cheer. There’s also a nice reference or two to other characters in Jane’s life and a reminder she’s here to stay. She may be human, but gods who have lived for centuries know her power.
Aaron ended his Jane Foster Thor run with class, style, and emotion only to build the hero back up again with Al Ewing and Torunn Grønbekk. It’s a series about a character who took on the mantle of hero and showed a level of courage that is different in these modern times. Taking a legacy character like this and changing her so much in only a few short years, all of which are collected here, is an incredible feat.
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