So, you, like a lot of people, spent most of your Saturday night this past weekend shrieking with reckless abandon at all of Marvel Studios’ Comic-Con reveals. The Eternals! Black Widow! Shang-Chi! Mahershala Ali as Blade! So much more! But then there was a hell of a shocker: Natalie Portman will return to play Jane Foster in Thor: Love and Thunder, but as... Thor!?
If you weren’t aware, this isn’t some flippant addition from returning Ragnarok director Taika Waititi, something you do when you somehow find yourself making a fourth Thor movie: Jane becoming Thor has comics history. In fact, it has very recent, very good comics history, which is why so many people were so excited at the thought of Portman holding Mjolnir aloft. If you want to be in on the thundering hype train, you need to pick yourself up some comics. But oh, reader, isn’t it always the question: Just where do you start?
Good news! This is actually pretty easy to answer for once thanks to the fact that, for the past seven years, the Thor comics have been shepherded under the auspices of a single writer: Jason Aaron. In modern superhero comics, it’s incredibly rare to see a writer be able to tell a consistent storyline across such a vast span of time: books get cancelled, lines get rebooted, new creative teams are brought in and out to tell new stories, a lot can happen that make even attempting to tell a story across 12 months challenging, let alone 84 of them!
But Aaron—partnered with a Valhalla-sized heavenly host of incredible artistic talent, including names like Esad Ribic, Olivier Coipel, Russell Dauterman, Matt Wilson, Ive Svorcina, Laura Martin, Ron Garney, Joe Sabino, Rachelle Rosenberg, and plenty more that it takes three consecutive runs of comics’ worth of credit lists to name them all—has done just that with not just the Odinson, but Jane Foster, who spent four of those years as the titular hero of his Thor runs. If you want to see how Jane rose from Staten Island citizen to almighty thunder goddess, here are three options for where to begin, ranging from short and sharp to an epic almost a decade in the making.
The Goddess of Thunder is born. Image: Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (Marvel Comics)
Get Started: Thor
Okay, so you’re interested, but you just want something to dip your toes into: an in-and-out sampler of comic book context. You can read both volumes of the 2014-2015 Thor run, released in trade paperback form as Goddess of Thunder and Who Holds the Hammer. These are the first issues with the mysterious and unidentified (at the time, at least) female Thor. They introduce the concept, deal with the world’s reaction to a new Thor, and eventually go on to reveal that not only is it Jane, but Jane’s time with the hammer is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.
This is basically an amuse-bouche for the main event—because eight issues into this run, Marvel basically put all of its comic books on hiatus for the super event Secret Wars, which exploded the entire Marvel Comics continuity and glued it back together again almost a year later as “All-New, All-Different” Marvel. If you want more than just the premise, you can start here to get the elevator pitch on Jane’s Thor, and then move onto...
Jane Foster flies high. Image: Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson (Marvel Comics)
The Very Easy and Convenient Answer: Just Read The Mighty Thor
This, honestly, is the true star of the show, and why sometimes you’ll see Jane referred to as the Mighty Thor instead of Jane Thor (never Lady Thor or Girl Thor, unless you wanna be a jerk about it). It was the name of her comic!
Now released in its entirety across five volumes of trade paperbacks—Thunder in Her Veins, Lords of Midgard, The Asgard/Shi’ar War, The War Thor, and The Death of The Mighty Thor—The Mighty Thor is the excellent, definitive saga for Jane’s time with Mjolnir. You see her get to deal with a whole bunch of things, from a conflict with the evil dark elf Malekith threatening to encompass every realm in existence, to the ire of Odin himself at his son being replaced by a mysterious woman, an interstellar war that counts the legendary Phoenix Force among its warriors, the arrival of an angry, violent new Thor wielding the hammer of a dead universe, and then Jane’s final battle defending all of Asgard from the Mangog, an alien being made of hate that exists to murder Asgardians.
Oh, and she has to deal with slowly dying of cancer throughout all of it. It is an excellent, powerful, beautiful run of comics, and if you pick it up, you’ll truly see why people are excited for this take on Thor to come to the MCU.
Go back to where Aaron’s run began. Image: Esad Ribic (Marvel Comics)
The Longer, More Rewarding Answer: Start With Thor: God of Thunder And Do Not Stop
Maybe you did Options One and Two already and crave more Thor. Maybe you want to see what happened to Jane after she escaped her seemingly certain fate. Maybe you just want more context. What was the Odinson up to while Jane was Thor? What’s Malekith’s endgame? Why couldn’t the old Thor even pick up Mjolnir any more in the first place?
This is basically the Asgardian equivalent of the nuclear option: Start where Aaron did, and just do not stop reading until you’ve chased through all of that, and then get into the recently-concluded event series War of the Realms, which is both a) a completely bonkers epic event of ridiculous, godlike proportions, and b) basically the momentary epilogue on everything Aaron has done so far with Thor, and a fitting culmination of Odinson and Jane’s arcs so far, as well as a tease of what’s yet to come for them both.
Having Aaron as the sole writer for so long means he’s been able to delicately lay the groundwork for character arcs and wider stories and events throughout this entire period, so you are rewarded greatly for starting where he did and taking it all in as it unfolded. Things that happen in God of Thunder don’t just matter by the time you’re getting to the very most recent Thor comics, but pay off immensely in War of the Realms. I could spend at least seven years myself telling you what happens in this massive collection of stories, but for now, here are the names of what you’d need to pick up.
- Thor: God of Thunder This is where it begins. Thor, having just gotten over being dead for a little while (ah, comics), encounters Gorr the God Butcher—who, as the name suggests, goes about killing the gods of various pantheons—and has to save Asgard, currently floating above Broxton, Oklahoma, from total destruction; fights Malekith again; and gets a metal left arm in the process. This book is collected in four volumes: The God Butcher, Godbomb, The Accursed, and The Last Days of Midgard.
- Original Sin This was actually a Marvel-wide event series, which saw the Avengers and Nick Fury investigate the murder of Uatu the Watcher, the omnipotent being with vast knowledge of past and future events that swore only to observe them, never to interfere (he interfered all the time though). While it has consequences for characters well beyond Thor’s realm, Thor himself plays a huge part in the series, and it’s here that he has a secret revealed to himself so profoundly shocking, it renders him unworthy and unable to wield Mjolnir. It’s collected in the hardback collection titled, you guessed it, Original Sin.
- Thor (2014) A mysterious woman picks up Mjolnir! Who is this Goddess of Thunder? It’s...we literally just went through this. It’s Jane Foster. Remember, the reason why you’re reading this entire blog in the first place? This is collected in Goddess of Thunder and Who Holds the Hammer.
- The Mighty Thor Jane Foster’s adventures continue, and come to an end. Or do they? As cancer and celestial beings of unfathomable power alike jostle to be the threat that ends her life, Jane flies high as the all-new, all-different Avenger, the Mighty Thor! This run is collected in five volumes: Thunder in Her Veins, Lords of Midgard, The Asgard/Shi’ar War, The War Thor, and The Death of The Mighty Thor.
- The Unworthy Thor A five-issue miniseries where the Odinson goes on a quest to recover the Mjolnir of the Ultimate Marvel Universe, which had survived the destruction of that alternate reality during Secret Wars, in the hopes that he could wield it. For the best effect, you want to read this between the Asgard/Shi’ar War and War Thor volumes of The Mighty Thor. It’s collected in the standalone volume The Unworthy Thor.
- Thor (2018) The Odinson is a Thor once more! Who says you need a hammer to be the god of thunder? With Jane retired from Asgardian superheroics, Odinson finds himself on a quest to regain his people’s trust...and save not just them, but Midgard and all the other realms of existence, as Malekith’s plan for a war to end all things begins to unfold. This series is still ongoing, and so far only one volume has been released so far, God of Thunder Reborn. If you want to read beyond that, including War of the Realms, you’ll have to pick up single issues, starting with Thor #7.