Spotlight Sunday 2.25.18
The best part about the death of the Weigh In is that I’m free to write about any comic I choose.
The worst part about the death of the Weigh In is that I’m free to write about any comic I choose.
This wasn’t a great week for freedom, as there were a lot of strong contenders.
I mean, I could write about Sex Criminals for the first time ever, given that none of you ever had the good sense to vote for one of the best comics out there, but while the issue was good, of course, it wasn’t really a great jumping-on point, so there would be way too much backstory to have to delve into to make my ramblings about it at all understandable.
President Luthor presents the opportunity to get in lots of digs at our actual cartoonishly evil president who is more cartoonishly evil than a president who is a cartoon.
I would have been sure to note that President Luthor:
- Actually is a genius.
- Is as rich as he claims to be.
- Is evil, sure, but is at least competently evil.
- Has the dignity to embrace his baldness.
- Properly divested himself from the company that bears his name when assuming the presidency.
I don’t really like putting multi-issue collections in the Spotlight, though, so that one got ruled out.
I considered Superman, as, for what was essentially a filler story as we close in on Action #1000 and the changes that will follow, it was a decent – if not exactly action-packed – issue that shows that, in stark contrast to his work on the comic that appeared in the Spotlight last week, James Robinson can tell a compelling story, at least if it’s not about Wonder Woman.
Speaking of, Wonder Woman, a kind of “Wonder Woman Fatigue” kept me from selecting The Brave and the Bold, even though it was a promising start to the mini-series, and Sharp’s artwork was a treat (he’s a better artist than he is a writer, but that’s not really a ding on his writing ability, given what a great artist he is).
Beyond that, the finale of Wonder Woman/Conan shows up in the Bonus section below, so the Amazing Amazon will make her presence known no matter what.
In the end, I decided that I’d just do the most sensible thing and write about the best new comic I read this week, which means that there are spoilers ahead for…
The Mighty Thor #704
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Cover: Russell Dauterman
Prayers, both unanswered and unasked, figure prominently in this issue, as we visit key moments in Jane Foster’s past, and in the present as we witness the battle between Odin and son against Mangog. In the past, we see Jane’s inability – or unwillingness – to rely on prayer, and in the present, we see unanswered prayers made manifest demanding an answer.
Mangog was born from the souls of billions, a race destroyed eons ago by Odin. It has been defeated and returned multiple times – even after Odin restored the lives of the beings whose deaths created it – and it has returned again to put an end to the unworthy gods who so blithely ignore the prayers of their worshippers.
Jane, on the other hand, was born, as most of us are, of a woman, a mother who was taken from Jane when she was a child by the same deadly disease – cancer – that seeks to claim Jane’s life now, as she rests in her hospital bed, reflecting on her mother’s last words.
“Find a god to believe in, Jane. Find one who’s worthy of you, my beautiful daughter.”
Jane never managed that, but, in taking on the name and role of Thor, she strove instead to be a worthy god.
But for all that she accomplished in her role as the Goddess of Thunder, her efforts ultimately brought her here, to this hospital bed, fighting for her life. Whenever she picked up Mjolnir and transformed, her divine form drove out the poison introduced into her system by chemotherapy, but the cancer remained, so when she resumed her mortal form it was as if she had never gotten the chemotherapy at all.
Jane decided it was worth the cost, given the need for a Thor – there’s a reason Mjolnir deemed her worthy, after all – but ultimately, she agreed that the cost was too high, and was convinced that the world needs Jane Foster just as much as it needs Thor. With the knowledge that her next transformation into Thor would be her last, she sets Mjolnir aside and focuses on a much more personal battle than the War of the Realms.
As Odin and Odinson battle against Mangog, the Lady Freyja watches helplessly, desperate for some way to defeat the monster, but is informed by Loki that Asgardia will fall. She’s not exactly thrilled to see Loki, given that she just recently awoke from a coma that Loki put her in. Granted, he claims he did it to protect her, as Malekith needed her out of the way so that she would not intervene in his war – he knew that Odin would choose isolation over intervention – and the only way to keep Malekith from killing her was to almost kill her himself.
In the battle, Mangog destroys the controls that keep Asgardia in orbit around Saturn, which sends it hurtling towards the sun.
On Earth, we see some pivotal moments in Jane’s life, as she recalls receiving the news of her father’s passing from Dr. Donald Blake, and the angry confrontation with the Odinson (when he was still Thor) after the death of her husband and son.
“’Find a god to believe in.’” I tried, mother. I did. But I don’t think they believe in us. And I don’t blame them.”
When he left to defend Asgardia, the Odinson left behind his companion, the Hel Hound Thori, to ensure that no pesky hammer finds its way into Jane’s room.
After Jane visits – and prays with – another patient, she overhears Roz Solomon, former Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jane’s successor as Senator in the Congress of Worlds, on the phone with someone from Alpha Flight, checking on the status of Asgardia, as the Odinson’s sudden departure, and her inability to summon the Bifrost, have her concerned. She becomes even more concerned when she learns that satellite imagery shows Asgardia whizzing past Mars.
Jane returns to her room, to see Thori chasing after a hapless hammer-wielding maintenance worker.
She picks up her chart and reads it closely.
“I would’ve beaten you, you little cancerous sons of bitches.”
She looks out her window, where Mjolnir awaits.
This issue exemplifies one of the many reasons I’ve enjoyed Aaron’s work on Thor over the years. He doesn’t shy away from examining the theological ramifications of a world in which the existence of gods is a matter of fact rather than of faith.
What does it mean to pray when you know, you absolutely know without question, that there are beings out there who have the power to answer your prayers, while also knowing that most of the time they not only won’t answer them, they aren’t even bothering to listen?
Where do you place your faith? What does it mean to have faith?
As Jane asked of Thor in her memory of the death of her family, “Where were you, Thor? Where was Odin or Sif or Hercules?”
And finally, she asks, “Where…where was I?”
It’s that question that drives Jane, when the time comes, to be the kind of god she needed, to have faith in something other than the faithless, disinterested gods, to teach the gods themselves how to be gods.
It’s a very different take on the Marvel Universe version of mythology, but one that stays true to the cosmic adventure and science fiction elements that have been the hallmark of Thor since the original Lee and Kirby run, building on the “back to the original myths” approach that Walt Simonson took during his legendary run, and exploring the facets of human nature that drive us to create those myths and seek to understand the nature of the divine.
There’s also the simple fact that he just plain tells a great story.
And this was a great story, but this was a brutal issue. Not just because of the brutality of the beating Mangog delivered to Odin and Odinson, or even the subject matter, with the exploration of the losses Jane suffered in her life, but because of how deftly Dautterman’s art shows the gravity of Jane’s condition.
The art conveys a palpable sense of her weariness with her pale skin and sunken eyes, yet in those eyes we see an undeniably steely resolve.
It’s made all the more powerful by the fact that we know how this going to end – the arc is called “The Death of the Mighty Thor,” after all – and that we know there’s only one way it can end, even as we pray, despite seeing how often prayers go unanswered, or answered in some way other than what we might think we wish.
We know it can only end one way, because we know who and what Jane is.
She is worthy.
I’ll be wrapping up the leftover Bonus content – I think that all that’s left is Deadman – but with no voting, there will be no new Bonus features. (See what happens when you don’t make it economically feasible for me to continue not having a regular job? This is the price you have to pay for, er, not paying.)
With the finale of Wonder Woman/Conan, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see this pairing again, as Marvel has reclaimed the rights to Conan from Dark Horse, and Marvel is not particularly amenable to engaging in crossovers with their Dynamic Competition these days.
As the final issue opens, we find Diana, back in her own time getting a stern talking to from her mother about leaving the lasso behind. While Diana wants to return to the past to help defeat the Corvidae and defend the city they intend to slaughter, Hippolyta explains that the past is the past, and they have to worry about the Corvidae in the here and now, and she makes Diana promise not to attempt to return to the Hyborian Age.
Meanwhile, in that aforementioned age, Conan has been engaging in a ruthless, one-man guerrilla campaign against the army of the Corvidae as it prepares its siege on the city. Inside, the “welcher” who set so much of this in motion leads a revolt against the slaver who’s working with the Corvidae.
On Themyscira, Diana’s brooding is interrupted by Artemis, who says she has a way past the security protecting the Silver Mirror that would allow them to return to the past, though there is the small matter of Diana having promised that she wouldn’t return. Diana notes that she wasn’t holding the lasso when she made that promise.
Conan, realizing the futility of his harrying of the forces outside the city, openly challenges the Corvidae, vowing to battle a champion of their choosing for the safety of the city, and for the safe return of Yanna.
With the help of the lasso, Conan defeats the champion, but the Corvidae regard that as cheating. Luckily, the Amazons have arrived, and with their aid, the people rise up and defeat the army, as Conan and Diana defeat the Corvidae, and the Yanna, who has haunted Conan’s memory since childhood is returned to him.
It turns out, however, that she’s happily married and has kids that she wants to return to. Still, Conan’s not even mad; he’s just glad she didn’t die all those years ago and has found happiness, if not the life of adventure she had dreamed of as a child.
Conan muses about how convinced he had been that Diana and Yanna were one and the same, but before telling him of her current life, Yanna reminds him of a time when she speculated that, just as their voices echoed in the chasm they were exploring as children, perhaps there are “echoes” of people in other places and times.
With her bracelet and lasso restored to her, Diana bids farewell to Conan, and returns to her own time.
We end with Diana, in civilian garb, sitting in a coffeeshop writing about her experience, and thinking about Yanna’s “echo” theory as a tall man with long dark hair asks if he can borrow her honey. His resemblance to a certain sullen-eyed, iron-thewed Cimmerian is uncanny, and, deciding that whether it is an “echo” or a mere coincidence, it’s worth asking him if he’d like to have lunch with her.
That does it for the first Jon-selected Spotlight Sunday. I hope that you’re not too disappointed in the results.
While you often had terrible taste, I do miss you input…kind of. A little.
Be sure to come back for the next Showcase Saturday, in which you can at least pretend to vote. So that’s…something.
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