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Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Salt Mines of Valhalla

I lost my old picture again
It's Thorsday, and you know what that means!

I've written previously about the female Thor situation, in less than complimentary terms. I've outlined valid reasons for not liking this change that extend much further than certain sources who'd have you believe those complaints are simply 'hur durr woman bad bring back manly man.' Today, I'd bring you an example of just how effective it is to make a change like that, and what happens when you release one, just one, issue that doesn't fall into line with what the people who laud you for your poor decision.

Behold, The Mary Sue (archived for your protection): Crusaders of truly the highest calibre, and an honourable website to boot. They obviously genuinely care about the stories and not the naughty bits of the characters in the story.
Tying in with the Secret Wars event, series writer Jason Aaron returns with Thor #1 – a story meant to continue the threads of new!Thor’s heroic journey, but one that fails to be remotely as empowering as her solo series.
Because obviously, stories are only meant to empower characters, not to test them, not to challenge them, or not to *gasp* tell stories about them? 
So let’s just address the most pressing concern of that recap: Jason Aaron decided to follow up the empowering story of Jane Foster becoming Thor and finding her place in both Asgardian and human society with a story that features her being murdered – repeatedly.
No, I think you missed something, TMS. The Jane Foster that because Thor isn't in this story. It doesn't feature her being murdered. You said not a paragraph earlier that it was multiple reality versions of her. 
At no point in this issue do we learn anything about any of these women as characters, about their lived experiences or their perspectives on these brutal crimes. Our empathy is never encouraged by the narrative to align with them.
I remember in Edge of Spider-Verse where all the Spidermen of multiple realities were being brutally slaughtered -- on-panel, mind you -- by a multiversal fox-hunting party of ancient immortals. I'm so glad we got to learn about the hopes, the dreams, the very essence of those Spider-men. No? Oh, and all the Spider-women: Mayday Parker, Ultimate's Jessica Drew, Gwen Stacy, Silk, and (inexplicably, as she's not even a proper Spiderverse character) 616 Spider-woman all suffered losses on their side of the gender divide too, right? No? Oh..
Instead, the focus surrounds the Ultimate-Thor, Thorlief (a coconut for anyone who can crack the naming conventions going on here), and his determination to solve this crime for pretty self-involved/white knight reasoning.
I've been told only misogynists use the term white-knight. You're not a misogynist, TMS, are you?
At this stage of cultural saturation they’re just normalized, and so audiences have grown numbs to the shock of gratuitous female mutilation and excessive male violence dressed up as redemptive justice.
Yeah, it's a good thing men are never blown up, shot, stabbed, mutilated, or otherwise brutally murdered in comics.
Aaron’s use of this particular trope in such an unimaginative and predictable fashion is precisely what makes it so damaging: stripping Jane Foster of her legacy as a brave and meaningful character
...who is letting cancer kill her because she thinks Asgardian science is too magicky.
Imagine if it was Jane Foster having to investigate a series of her own murders? Not only would that reassert her agency, but it would also offer opportunities for a more interesting detective-victim connection because, hey, they’re all the same person.
That actually would be a better story. Too bad she's off doing something *awesome* like fighting in the Secret War thingie that's going on. We could have had her in a b-list miniseries instead of Ultimate Thor, who no one's cared about since like 2004.
There were other ways to tell this story without taking feminism out into the woods and cracking it over the head with a shovel.
Readers, I was torn between "[EXISTENTIAL SIGH]" and "Actually, it's about ethics in shovel-wielding" here, so have both.
Not only does [Storm] suffer verbal abuse from an older Thor (‘drunken and grizzled detective who doesn’t play by the rules!’) who argues she should be facially branded to remind everyone she’s a mutant, but also has to put up with Thorlief hitting on her while at work?
Hey, at least he's not selling her to rub his hammer because it'll grow like the Thor of myth and legend would. Progress!
She’s also dressed in a shoe-string swimming costume outfit with a headdress that looks like a Thanksgiving turkey at Coachella, it’s all very bad.
Which managed to a) still cover more than her most popular recent outfit and b) look like an homage to old-school Jack Kirby Thor comics. Also, you dropped this - she's wearing practically the same headgear as everyone else.
I think she looks kind of awesome. Also, really no love for Mjolnir-wielding Storm? Really? 
Just imagine discovering and loving an empowering, resilient determined hero like Jane Foster as Thor, only to then see her be brutally murdered and replaced with (for all intents and purposes to new readers) the ‘original’ Thor again. While the Jane Foster that readers have followed in Thor is alive in Secret Wars (following the events of the main series), how on earth are people that only want to read her adventures supposed to know that?
She hasn't been replaced. This isn't even the same book. She's off fighting in the Secret Wars (which is a *main* titles, and this is a mini-series. And they could probably find out by looking at the cover. Which, given that comic shops usually sort titles by publisher and title name alphabetically, would probably be at most 2 slots over on the shelf.
We’ve got our safe spaces, Marvel; but why is the rest of your world still so dangerous?

But seriously, though. This is an even clearer example of why you never apologize than when I discussed Shut Up Wesley Wheaton. You can create the most perfect example of something that they'll rally behind, but make one single issue that isn't in lockstep and you'll be dragged under like a pack of hungry wolves are at your heels. Make something, write something, film something, code something... but stop trying to please people that will turn on you the moment they smell blood. 

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