Marvel

The Thor Corps., a squad of Marvel heroes like Storm and Dazzler who all wielded different versions of Mjolnir, was one of the more novel ideas to come out of 2015's Secret Wars event. In this week’s The Mighty Thor, one of the Mjolnirs that went missing post-Secret Wars has suddenly shown up—with a brand new owner.

The original Thor (now going by Odinson) has been moping and drinking his way through the cosmos in a rage-filled depression ever since he realized his unworthiness and lost the ability to wield his Mjolnir (who’s since chosen Jane Foster as its new owner.) In those moments when Odinson hasn’t been mulling over the specifics of why he’s unworthy, he’s been trying to figure out a way to regain his abilities through other means—specifically: finding another Mjolnir.

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As luck would have it, the Ultimate Thor’s Mjolnir (the one with an axe blade on the back of it) somehow managed to survive the destruction of its home universe at the end of Secret Wars and find itself stuck in Marvel’s main continuity.

Initially, Odinson saw the Ultimate Mjolnir as his chance to become a proper Thor again and spent all of The Unworthy Thor fighting Thanos for control of it. By Unworthy’s end, though, Odinson chose to forsake the mysterious new hammer, but in the final issue’s last frames, a shadowed figure is seen picking it up and claiming the moniker of “War Thor.”

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The Mighty Thor #20 reveals that, of all people, it’s Volstagg—Thor’s Asgardian friend and part of the Warriors Three with Fandral and Hogun—who hefts the war hammer after seeing the horrors of an oncoming war firsthand while visiting the dwarves of Nidavellir on a diplomatic mission. Thousands of refugee light elves have fled to Nidavellir as the dark elves ravage their homeland and, put simply, the dwarves just don’t have the resources to feed and support them.

As Volstagg walks through the refugee camps, he meets a number of displaced families struggling to cope with being uprooted and starvation when the camp is suddenly attacked by a group of fire goblin kamikaze bombers. The light elf children Volstagg tries to protect are immediately incinerated; while Volstagg manages to walk away from the battle, he’s left traumatized and convinced that a true war is coming.

Despondent, Volstagg returns to Old Asgard where the Ultimate Mjolnir has been lodged in the ground, apparently calling to him ever since he witnessed the refugee children’s deaths. And then, as if it’s nothing, he does what Odinson could not and picks the hammer up.

The Mighty Thor doesn’t go all that deep into what Volstagg’s drive as War Thor will be, but given his origin story, it seems as if he’ll be somewhat unlike the Odinson, who once reveled in the glory of wars.

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Rather, War Thor’s less interested in fighting for sport as opposed to taking a moral stance against the impact that war has on people, an idea that maps onto Volstagg’s traditional characterization as the jovial comic relief. Though Volstagg’s a frequent companion of Odinson’s, he’s most often depicted as the least confrontational of the Warriors Three, preferring to diffuse situations with caskets of mead as opposed to fighting.

Image from Marvel Fanfare #34

His becoming the Thor of War is a massive shift away from who Volstagg’s been in the past, but, in a way, it’s a change meant to give gravity to the conflict that The Mighty Thor is laying the groundwork for.

There isn’t all that much plot to this issues of The Mighty Thor because, more than anything else, it’s interested in setting the stage for the aforementioned battle that’s to come. In the same issue, after months of hiding her secret from him, Jane Foster finally reveals to Odinson that she’s the new Thor and (shockingly) he doesn’t take it well.

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While Jane tries to explain how being Thor is both saving her life from the cancer ravaging her body and undoing the progress her chemotherapy is trying to accomplish, he’s too preoccupied theorizing whether Jane became Thor to get back at him for cheating on her while they were dating. Their exchange doesn’t quite do all that much towards moving the book’s plot along, but it highlights the ways in which Odinson’s been a dick to the people around him ever since he slipped into his depression.

Ever since Odinson lost his hammer and Jane became Thor, it’s been interesting to watch Marvel carefully lay out just what it has planned for the gods of thunder in its books. Initially, it was easy to be concerned that the new Thor might have just been a flash in the pan meant to move books and eventually re-center Odinson, but, if anything, The Mighty Thor is a testament to that fact that the change is Mjolnir’s ownership is a rather significant and long-lasting one.

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Try as he might to deny it, the Odinson is still, at his core, unworthy. In his absence, the universe is amassing a collection of Thors to do that which he simply can’t.