See, I knew that Marvel was going to pull of something like this. I’ll admit I’m slightly annoyed. Death should never be used as a plot device unless you’re fully going to commit to the consequences both figuratively and practically within the realm of story and of emotional response from the reader. Not only do you risk losing the significance of said life ending, you also break the readers immersion into the fantasy the world that you’ve created. They will no longer fear the suffering or death of their favored characters if there are none.
On the other hand, I’m am so glad that Jane Foster is still with us. Only a writer like Jason Aaron could completely paralyze us with the fear of losing such an important and beloved hero and still fill us with a sense of satisfaction and pride when she returns.
So yes, after a long and enduring battle with the Mangog alongside her equally arduous struggle with cancer, Jane gave us a sacrifice that we would never forget. And she gave us a return that even though we should resent (because comics) it, we can’t help but shed tears of pure relief and joy that one of Marvel’s most well written characters will live on to fight another day…and fight she will.
With the series over and the future looking all the brighter for Jane, it’s important to remember our journey with her. We’ve seen her victorious and we’ve seen her defeated, yet never broken. The spirit she brought out in all of us is why her story will remain one of the timeless classics in comic book history. Yet thanks to these two final issues, we definitely know that this is not the last we’ve seen of Jane playing a hero. She may never be able to become Thor again, but we know thanks to the epilogue issue that things are far from over. The Mangog may be vanquished but threats are ever present.
At The Gates
Now we all knew that Jane’s death would be honored by Norse belief even though she herself wasn’t actually Asgardian. As such, the revered dead who died in battle go to Valhalla to live out the rest of their existence in glory. So it really wasn’t a surprise when she ended up before the gates. What was surprising however, was Odin’s appearance and subsequent reaction. Since the start of the series, Odin has been a constant thorn in Jane’s side. He was obviously not happy about his son’s birthright being taken by another and spent most of his time in the comic series foiling her every chance he got. They shouted and dueled at some point or another. Even when he was deep in mourning after Loki stabbed Freyja with a poisoned blade, Cul Borson did not make life any easier for her.
The true surprise was the fact that upon learning that Jane Foster had taken his son’s mantle, he showed nothing but respect and acceptance. Considering she had given her life so that his people and family could live, I would expect no less. Even from someone as thick headed as Odin. It’s a heart wrenching scene for sure, as we see Jane take in the finality of death. In the moment, she was ready to give her life to save others, but now that she really has a moment to look at it, she was not ready to die. Yet try as he might to convince her of her reward as an honored dead, she was not the only one who wasn’t ready to let go.
Back in the cosmos, Odinson and the rest of Asgard mourn Jane’s passing. Yet the anger, rage, and denial in Odinson only serves to pique the attraction of what lived inside Mjolnir. As you know, Mjolnir was destroyed along with the Mangog when they were thrown into the sun, leading to the ancient hammer releasing the mother storm. Odinson’s will alone is not enough to channel the mighty storm as is begins to break him down, even his mighty Uru arm melts at its power. I think it was safe to say we all cheered and cried when Odin shared the power of the storm, causing the great tempest to breathe life back into Jane.
The comic ends in such a promising way. Jane confirms that she will resume her treatment, as her rebirth has given her a new lease on life. Odinson also prepares himself for the challenges that will face him soon enough in order to reclaim his identity as worthy, as Thor. Our two Gods of Thunder depart as Odinson gives Jane a surviving piece of Mjolnir. Our spirits fly with hope as we get a deserved happy ending, and surely this hope will let Jane fly into our memories.
Jane The Remembered
Remember back in Mighty Thor 700 when he got a random glimpse of three very Thor like Asgardian women? Well, they get their own story in the first half of The Mighty Thor: Gates of Valhalla and it’s way more significant than we originally thought. They are the granddaughters of Thor Odinson some billion years after the present time. In this charming and beautiful story we see the three sisters—Frigg, Ellisiv, and Atli—battle across time to find the greatest Thor of all.
During their travels, we see a young Odinson struggle to lift Mjolnir for the first time. We also see all the silly variants of the God of Thunder over the years, yes, even the frog. The sisters also witness a fight between their grandfather and Loki far in the future, telling of possible stories to come. Yet, by the end, their search is complete and they come across Jane Foster, who in that time was struggling in fear to return to chemotherapy.
This right here was so important. Not only do we see a human Jane again, but we see the real fear that affects so many afflicted with this deadly illness each and every day. Not everyone wins the fight against cancer, but everyone who fights is a hero, just like Jane. The end of this made me feel a sense of peace and comfort knowing that even so far in the future Jane is remembered for the hero she was and that her story is not yet over. She will fly again and a war will wage, one that everyone seemed to forget about.
The War of the Realms is Coming to Midgard
One of the biggest plots of this comic series was not closed with the end of the series. The three sisters transition the tone of this comic from light hearted to dark as soon as they mention Jane’s role in the war of the realms. The last we saw of this war was during the War Thor arc, where Malekith had a firm grasp on many realms. In the second story of the issue we see him solidify his hold on nearly all of them. His alliance with Roxxon corp, a deal struck in the 2014 series, is virtually unopposed as the Asgardians regroup and resettle on old Asgard.
This story shows the malice and pure ruthlessness of his campaign against the entirety of all the realms within the world tree. Not only that, but he also emplores the angels of Heaven with news that their greatest enemy, Asgard, has fallen. Dark days are indeed coming as we are left with a vision of earth burning among the various armies under Malekiths influence.
I love this portion because it lets the reader know that this huge of a story wasn’t forgotten and eventually loose ends will be tied. I also love that it will be it’s own event, either within the main Thor series coming in June or as a standalone series. What I don’t like is that I have to wait until next year for it. Seriously, that’s way too long a wait. Yet, we can find solace that Jason Aaron will continue writing Thor in June and also his run on the Avengers, which is already promising, two issues in. I say all we can do is prepare ourselves for the eventuality that is the war of the realms and hope our favorite Goddess of Thunder will return in all her glory.
Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics
Saga: True Colours
It’s a fine line that which divides nature and a zone of comfort; so fine it’s sometimes too easy to confuse one with the other, or think them to be interchangeable terms. But the differences are there, however subtle. For one, a zone of comfort is often a treacherous foe against personal growth. It may even render you numb before coming adversities and leave you unprepared to resist them. Am I being obnoxiously specific yet? Well I can take it up a notch. A zone of comfort can also blind you, delude you into mistaking someone’s nature. Make you see a foe as a friend when the tide is calm.
But when the tide grows restless, leaving that zone of comfort is quite the rude awakening. Hope you like those, lovelies.
“Not when we were so close…”
The “Jetsam Holiday” arc has been a lovely time so far, comparatively speaking. For every dark development unfolding within or without Hazel’s immediate (and extended) family, there has been lots of sunshine and fucking. And of course, there has been plenty of wholesome entertainment for the whole family to enjoy also. If the image of Hazel waging sea war against Petrichor and Ghüs while atop Sir Robot’s shoulders isn’t heartwarming, her wishing Sir Robot didn’t have to leave absolutely is. And furthermore, Sir Robot even reciprocates it.
Old foes may turn dear friends in time – just like my dad used to say… not really, but let’s pretend he did.
In the meantime, Marko and Upsher have a thoughtful conversation while frying fishies. Beyond the perennial dynamic of the journey, one of Saga‘s thematic signatures is the encounter between worldviews. Sometimes this occurs through future Hazel’s introspection, and sometimes through calm moments like this. By learning of how Upsher and Doff learned about the fugitives and their daughter, Marko finally realises something we’d long known by now. There is no action that goes without consequence in this galaxy. Whether it’s some nameless mook who becomes a villain’s motive for revenge, or a grunt left behind who’s see too much.
Their conversation migrates then to the topic of accountability when it comes to one of the most traditional roles in war: killing. Having been a soldier, Marko has obviously taken on a very active role. But Upsher isn’t entirely clean either, despite never taking a life himself. Being a journalist, his business is all about information, but its reception always risks a response, which sometimes involves violence. This is, Marko argues, the reason he will be sticking to writing fiction. Nevertheless, Upsher’s response is a banquet for thought, and I’ll quote:
“Putting new ideas into another person’s head is an agggressive act, and aggressive acts have consequences. Face it, you can be a writer or a pacifist, but you can’t be both.” The written word, to communicate or to inspire, is necessarily a political act. We’ll take this morsel with us home to mull it over, as something else comes up, demanding all heads and hands. Alana enters the scene with the news: Squire is missing. The young Robot has followed through with his plan to leave.
Cut to Ianthe, wandering the wilderness of Jetsam, and adding a touch of danger to Squire’s stunt. Her concern over The Will, now free, angry and deadly, reaches a high point upon seeing a note pinned against a tree with a knife. Menacing even when written in cursive. The note proper says they’re even; him having killed her fiancé, and she having skinned his dog. I’d hardly call it even myself – Ianthe is still in debt, but I digress. We’d be delusional to think this warning would dissuade Ianthe – too proud a villain to heed common sense.
Meanwhile, the grownups at the beach camp find Squire’s farewell note, charmingly written in crayon. His message and how he addresses himself as Princeling make his intentions clear. Sir Robot’s son intends to return to the Robot Kingdom; maybe his ways of chivalry had an unexpected, unintended side effect on the kid. Overtaken by shame, Sir Robot insists on handling this himself, then declaring this to be his fault. He then reveals the ugly incident of hurting Squire last issue, earning Alana’s anger and Hazel’s disbelief. Before Alana can unleash a (well-deserved) fist upon Sir Robot’s face, Marko walks in full-clad in armour, bearing… mushrooms.
Ah, but these mushrooms are special mushrooms. They don’t grace soups with supreme delight or allow you to summon Frank Zappa in Bloodborne (which I’ve been playing a lot of lately). These mushrooms function as flares bright enough to see in daylight or when penetrating deep in the forest. Hazel demands to come with, but her mum won’t allow it for good reason. Upsher offers to stay with Hazel, as he’s also confident his partner Doff has already found Squire.
If only he knew…
The pinky oath between Alana and Hazel marks the beginning of the search.
The scene then changes to Squire/Princeling’s point of view. He has definitely taken a shine to Hazel’s Ponk Konk, who now accompanies him as a friend to “talk with”. And it’s just as well: Squire is terrified. He roams what appears to be an abandoned amusement park, which is a creepy setting in any galaxy. According to a conversation he overheard between the grownups, the magical ingredients for the “body swap” are transported through pipes that run through these unsettling parts. Therefore, his course to take appears obvious, quite unlike the strange creatures following his movements, concealed in the overgrowth.
The worm-like creatures lunge forward, ensnaring Squire to be devoured by a nightmarish mouth spreading wide across the grass. Amidst the horror of the moment, he drops Ponk Konk, possibly into the maws of this hideous creature. Someone makes the save in the nick of time with a few well-aimed shots, however. Thankful, Squire hugs his unlikely saviour: Ianthe. Could it be he has managed to survive one beast only to end up in the maws of another?
Elsewhere, Sir Robot spots a strange jellyfish-like ship while searching for his son. The Will gets the drop on the former Prince, skewering his arm-cannon with his spear. Sir Robot doesn’t quite recognise his attacker, but The Will him well enough; not as the disgraced noble, but as the killer of his former love, Spider woman extraordinaire, The Stalk. A vengeful intent is clearly approaching. And though Sir Robot frets over being interrupted from his search and disarmed, he keeps his cool to talk with the reinstated Freelancer.
The Will is back on the job to catch the fugitives, but not before killing Sir Robot. Knowing that an ordinary, desperate plea won’t do the job, Sir Robot presents another possibility as a bargaining chip to secure his and his son’s safety: to surrender Hazel to The Will.
Seems old foes turn into friends dear when the tide is calm… otherwise, they’re only placated foes, only for so long. Treacherous asshole.
Saga Issue #52 Credits
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
All images are courtesy of Image Comics
Batgirl is Getting a New Direction And a New Look
Can I say that I, for one, am glad that we’re finally getting a new author for Batgirl? Because I am. Now this is no disrespect to Hope Larson; she is a competent writer who has told some really good stories over the last two years, but for me she just wasn’t a good fit for one of my favorite DC superheroes. Now I’ll probably get backlash from the community of fans who like to criticize the whole DC darkness thing for this but you know what? Yes, it should be dark and gritty, that’s always been associated with the “bat” name. Should it try to be a little more light hearted? Sure, but it’s a balance. My issue with Hope Larson’s run was that it was way too “tweeny” considering the kind of comics we’ve seen in the past with Barbara, Cass, and Stephanie.
Now, I also get that heroes need to evolve in order to meet their targeted audience. Hope Larson in retrospect did something that I very much like. Like the political nature of Green Arrow, Hope managed to construct her stories centered around the criticisms of overuse of technology, freedom of the internet, and the use of personal data. These are topics that remains very relevant this year and will be for some time to come. The fact that she was able to use this to tell stories that no matter what I say, were still entertaining, is a testament to the fact that she was a very good writer.
However, it is still time for a change. Despite the great motivations behind her stories, they were still cringe-y sometimes. Seeing Barbara juggle her nightlife with her student life is a common theme among younger heroes, and her friends in the LGBTQ community offered real understanding for audiences, but it still felt like a teen drama.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love her supporting cast, especially Alyssa who was created by Gail Simone in her well loved Batgirl New 52 run. The author was very outspoken for gender identity and the over sexualization of females in comic books. To see Hope Larson treat characters created by Simone with love and care was really something. By now I probably sound like I loved Hope’s run on Batgirl. As I said before, it wasn’t a bad run and I enjoyed reading it for the most part but I need something a bit more than that.
Starting with issue 24, we’ll be getting a plethora of new authors for the next few issues. Like with Green Arrow, finding a new permanent author takes time but with the Benson sisters spearheading that comic, Mairghread Scott will be taking over exclusively come August and issue 26. Now, I haven’t read anything by her save the most recent Green Arrow title, which I liked hell of a lot more than the previous two. So, I’ll be seeing her writing without bias and without former convictions. I’m really excited to see where she leads Barbara in her new adventures, but hopefully she focuses more on Batgirl and Barbara rather than love interests and overly cringe worthy situations. I get Barbara is awkward but that was just painful.
According to previews, we will see the return of Barbara to Gotham and of another character, or rather villain, created by Gail Simone called Grotesque. In this version, he plays a murderous art thief who moves to create his own vile art gallery with the pieces of his victims. He ends up getting the jump on Babs and setting the device in her spine off, effectively taking away her ability to walk again.
It looks like we’re going to be seeing a lot more continuity from the Gail Simone days and either the nostalgia will hit long time fans or Scott will be taking us in a whole new direction. So many questions, the main one being: could this be the end for Barbara as Batgirl? As much as I love Babs, I am part of the group who feels she needs to pass on the cowl to someone new. But that’s a topic for another day.
Speaking of getting a new author, we also have a revamp of Batgirl’s look, which is also a huge plus for me. If you’ve read Batman: White Knight you’ll no doubt recognize this costume from it. Sean Murphy, the genius behind that story, must have allowed the costume to be used as main canon. I’m happy for this because I really, really like the new look. I was never a huge fan of the purple zip up jacket-like outfit she was sporting in “Burnside,” but that just comes down to aesthetics.
The new look is sleek and more “batty” adding more to her own persona. Batgirl and Nightwing were among the first to leave Bruce behind and create their own identity and damn if this is not screaming that she’s the best “bat” out there.
All Images Courtesy of DC Comics
DC Is Relaunching Vertigo, Doubling Down On Millennials
It’s been 25 years since DC Comics launched perhaps the most successful imprint in comics history: Vertigo. Since its foundation in 1993, some of the biggest graphic novels ever have come out under the Big V. Its initial run of titles made a splash on the shelves of comic stores and would cement their authors as comics royalty: Neil Gaiman, Garth Ennis, Brian K. Vaughn, Brian Azzarello. Old properties (The Sandman) and old legends (Alan Moore) found new life at Vertigo. These new comics were no longer the whiff! bam! pow! of the past, but they also largely avoided the hyper-violence and darkness of the 90s. They handled adult themes like alienation, religion, feminism, and, yes, violence. But they handled these themes with more nuance and variety than ever before. For the first time in the medium’s history, comics were becoming literature.
But all of the original titles have ended, with Hellblazer being the last of the old guard, closing in 2013. After a few years on the down low, DC is planning a massive relaunch of the classic brand for a new generation. With it comes a clear emphasis on the political power of comics. They aim not for the Gen-Xers who made Preacher, iZombie, and Fables bestsellers, but for millennials. Titles will deal with the topics its readers care about: immigration, white supremacy, sex work.
Just like in 1993, the creators taking part in the relaunch are a vibrant mix of rising stars and new faces in the comics world. Eric M. Esquivel (Roberto Roberto) will bring us a tale of demons run amok in a border town while Ben Blacker (The Thrilling Adventure Hour) will spin a tale of brainwashed witches reclaiming their power. Bryan Hill (Postal, Batman) will put a biracial cop in harm’s way as he investigates a white supremacist group. Frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator, Rob Sheridan, is sending a smuggler on an impossible quest, and Mark Russel (God Is Disappointed In You) pits Jesus against “Superman”.
The group of writers and artists are a nice mix of diverse voices, with two women serving as writers their own titles, both of which will no doubt invite controversy. The first, Goddess Mode, takes place in a cyberpunk VR hellscape where tech support involves a huge neon sword. Its author will be video game developer Zoe Quinn, perhaps most famous for being the internet’s biggest scapegoat and the original source of the “Gamergate” controversy. The second comic, Safe Sex, will be a dystopian book focusing on sex workers who dare to love in a world where all sex is under government control. Its author is sex-work advocate and LGBTQ+ journalist Tina Horn, who will no doubt bring an expert opinion to a topic that comics really, REALLY has never handled very well.
The new books start in September of this year, with Border Town, and the rest will follow month by month right through into the new year. They will join the pre-existing raft of Vertigo titles, as well as Neil Gaiman’s brand new Sandman Universe line.