The concept of who is truly worthy is Marvel’s ultimate philosophical McGuffin. It’s one of those ideas that can be endlessly debated, argued, twisted, and misconstrued in any number of ways. It’s also a major driving force for Thor in nearly every era. From Walter Simonson to Jason Aaron, his struggle to be worthy, stay worthy, and understand what makes him worthy is part of what makes Thor’s story compelling.
In terms of major turning points in that story, few are as pivotal as the events that played out in Original Sin. In that story, Thor becomes unworthy with just three words whispered by Nick Fury. This doesn’t just upend Thor’s idea of worthiness and the story around it — it opens the door for a new Thor with a new understanding of what it means to be worthy.
This is where Jane Foster’s story enters the picture and that story is built on a very different foundation. She is not a god, a demigod, or anyone who would ever be mistaken as one. She is a moral woman who also happens to be suffering from one of the most debilitating diseases any mortal can endure. Her ascension to the title of Thor is one of the most significant shifts in Thor’s story in decades. There are times when it breathes new life into the world of Thor. There are other times when it triggers incessant whining about identity politics. The fact that Jason Aaron manages to balance that narrative in any capacity is nothing short of astounding.
Now, through Generations: Unworthy Thor and The Mighty Thor #1, Aaron has a chance to build bridges between that vast philosophical gulf between one era of worthiness and another. It may not end the constant whining about female heroes taking on the mantle of male heroes, but it does flesh out the core elements of the Thor mythos that are as relevant today as they are in the ancient times before angry arguments on internet message boards.
Unlike some of the previous narratives in Marvel Generations, there are clearer connections between the events in Generations: Unworthy Thor and The Mighty Thor #1 and the conclusion of Secret Empire. Those connections are few and somewhat vague, but their presence helps create an important context between the past and present. Jane Foster isn’t so much the catalyst as she is the unexpected guest, who helps bring clarity to the hopelessly unclear concept of worthiness.
While her role in the story cannot change the path of Odinson, it can provide guidance. Granted, it’s a guidance he will undermine with his arrogance on many occasions in the future, but it still offers clarity to the narrative while giving Odinson fewer excuses. In a sense, what happens in the story gives the impression that he was destined to lose Mjolnir at some point, even without any devious whispers of Nick Fury. It’s just an inevitable consequence of the arrogance that comes with being Thor and with being a god, in general.
The substance of that story isn’t very novel in that it builds on a story that has been explored before in the pages of Uncanny Avengers. Once again, the son of Odin clashes with Apocalypse in an era before the Avengers can assemble and before the X-men can astonish. It’s basic and crude, but it provides the necessary setting for the arrogant young Asgardian to learn a lesson or two about divinity and mortality.
The fact he learns it from a mortal woman wielding the hammer he craves provides both personality and entertainment value. It’ll also provide more fodder for internet debates, but that doesn’t derail the main thrust of the story. It’s the setting that’s vital here in that it takes place in a time before Odinson first lifted Mjolnir or taken the title of Thor. In this time, he’s still the divine equivalent of a teenager who hasn’t gotten his driver’s license yet but still wants to take his father’s car out for a joyride.
While it annoys Odin to no end, it puts the future Thor in a position to ditch some boring formal gathering of gods to pick a fight on Midgard between Vikings and Apocalypse’s Clan Akkaba. Given that the formal gathering prohibits mead and mostly involves Odin bellowing orders, it’s hard to blame a juvenile Odinson for ditching it.
It’s only when he meets a time-displaced Jane Foster that his casual deviance becomes an important learning experience for both of them. The fact that experience also involves an elaborate, violent, lightning-filled battle against Apocalypse that brings out the best in Mahmud Asrar’s art is a nice bonus. It just isn’t a very memorable experience for any generation of Thor if there isn’t some epic battle to fight.
That fight, as entertaining as it is, remains secondary for the most part. The primary struggle still revolves around Odinson’s desire to be worthy and Jane Foster’s lingering uncertainty about her future. It’s a struggle that both characters have a stake in, but one that has limited influence on both characters. While Generations: Unworthy Thor and The Mighty Thor #1 makes the necessary effort to explore those classic themes of worthiness that is so critical to Thor’s mythos, the extent to which it impacts the characters involved is somewhat minor.
This is a matter that shows up in previous issues of Marvel Generations, but a limited impact doesn’t mean there can’t be heavy drama. The potential for that drama is there in Generations: Unworthy Thor and The Mighty Thor #1, but not much of it is realized. Jane Foster and the future Thor do get a moment to interact outside of a major battle, but little comes of it. Both still gain critical insight, though. Both are in a better position to make decisions about the course of their immortal and mortal lives alike. It’s not dramatic, but it does make the overall story feel complete.
That story even includes a few bonus parts that make Generations: Unworthy Thor and The Mighty Thor #1 a prelude to other critical events in the past and future. It offers intrigue beyond the basic lessons in worthiness, which is something that previous issues of Marvel Generations has not done. It adds value to a story that can only offer so much before it undermines the hopelessly convoluted, ever-evolving timeline that is the Marvel universe. That value may not make anyone inherently worthy of lifting Mjolnir, but it will put them on the right track.