In 2018, Marvel Comics published “Death of the Mighty Thor,” a seven-issue arc that brought an end to Jane Foster’s tenure as the Goddess of Thunder — though not, happily, to her life. No, Jane stuck around, and that was a good thing because Thor needed all the allies he could get for what happened next: a cosmos-spanning conflict known as the War of the Realms, during which Jane was one of oven Thors it took to put down Malekith the Accursed and his troll, elf, angel, and fire elemental armies.
What could this mean for the future of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Let’s review.
[Ed. note: This piece contains major spoilers for Thor: Love and Thunder, naturally.]
In 2018, Jane Foster died. In mighty thor #705, she saved the Norse pantheon from a foe no other god could defeat, and sacrificed her life in doing so, succumbing to the cancer ravaging her body. If you’ve seen Thor: Love and Thunderyou’ll know that that’s pretty much what happens in the movie as well.
But in the comics, one month later, in mighty thor #706, Jane Foster rose again.
How did Jane Foster die in Marvel Comics?
Jane’s powers in the comics were quite similar to the movie — Mjolnir gave her the power of a god, but exacerbated her cancer. Love and Thunder is a bit vague on why, but the comics are specific: Every time Jane let go of Mjolnir, she was restored to her human self as-is. And “as-is” meant without chemotherapy drugs, but with her cancer, which, after all, was simply an outgrowth of her own biology. With every transformation, she was erasing any progress made by her treatments.
In “Death of the Mighty Thor,” Jane’s friends finally held an intervention and got her to agree to go through with her doctor’s advice and stop being a superhero so that she wouldn’t die. Unfortunately, this is exactly when one of Asgard’s most powerful foes made his return. The Mangog (created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, so you are not allowed to make fun of his name) was a personification of the hatred of “a billion, billion beings” killed by the hand of All-Father Odin and a recurring Thor villain.
The unleashed creature tore through gods like paper until there was only one hope left: Thor, the Goddess of Thunder. The battle was the culmination of Jane’s thematic role, as a mortal who sought to demonstrate how gods could be worthy clashed with divine unworthiness made flesh. Ultimately Jane bound the Mangog in the legendary chains of Fenris, tied Mjolnir to one of the links, and hurled the hammer into the core of the sun, trapping the Mangog in its fires.
But without Mjolnir in her hand, Jane returned to her mortal form and expired in Thor’s arms.
How did Jane come back to life?
By the grace of our Lord All-Father Odin. Jane’s victorious sacrifice over a foe created by his worst negligence won her the respect of Odin, who up until this point had viewed her as a thief, wielding the hammer he’d given to his son. Combining his powers with Thor’s, the two harnessed the energies of the untamable God Tempest to resurrect Jane as she stood hesitant at the very gates of Valhalla.
And so, Jane was alive again, and with Mjolnir’s destruction, she could no longer become Thor and arrest the progress of her cancer. She eventually made a full recovery, just in time to pick up the hammer of a Thor from another universe (don’t worry about it) and battle Malekith in the climax of the War of the Realms. War of the Realms was the last Jane Foster story in writer Jason Aaron’s long tenure with the Thor mythos, and he left Jane with a parting gift: A new piece of gear, the magically transforming godly artifact Undrjarn the All-Weapon, and a new superhero role.
Jane Foster is the Valkyrie of Marvel Comics
A note on the MCU’s Valkyrie: She’s very nearly an original character! A valkyrie inspired by Tessa Thompson’s turn in Thor: Ragnarok has only recently started appearing in Marvel Comics (she’s even got a first name, Rūna). Jane became tea Valkyrie after all of Asgard’s valkyries had perished in a massacre during the War of the Realms. Now in Marvel Comics, she spends her days working in a New York City morgue and her downtime guiding the dead to their proper rest, saving the world with the Avengers, and flying around on her vociferously pro-labor pegasus, Mr. Horse.
What does this mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s future?
At the end of Thor: Love and Thunder, the screen promises, as all Marvel movies do, that its hero will return. And if he does in a fifth solo movie, it’ll be unprecedented in the franchise, where superheroes are generally phased out once they hit trilogy length. There’s nothing we know for certain about how Thor might return, including whether director-writer Taika Waititi will come back to direct. But the War of the Realms, new valkyries, and resurrection of Jane Foster would be a natural continuation of Waititi’s interest in the Thor stories of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Esad Ribić.
In the meantime, there are plenty of ways to catch up on the original story of Gorr the God Butcher, how Thor became worthy, how Jane became Thor, and how together they won the War of the Realms.