50-Page Milestone Issue 'The Mighty Thor #700', Goes for Broke
Jason Aaron often walks a fine line with Thor, one side being controversy and the other being contrivances.
Whenever a comic reaches a major milestone, it seems obligated to do something big, flashy, and groundbreaking. More often than not, that can be more obstacle than opportunity. Obligation or not, these kinds of upheavals in a story cannot and should not be forced. That doesn't stop some from trying, but doing so ensures that the results will be mixed. That's exactly what makes The Mighty Thor #700 one of the most intriguing milestone issues of the past decade.
There's no need to force anything here. Jason Aaron has all the necessary pieces in place. What began several years ago in the final issue of Original Sin is set to culminate in The Mighty Thor #700. The concept of worthiness is now far beyond tired arguments of whether the Hulk, Superman, or Squirrel Girl can lift Mjolnir. It isn't just some mystical McGuffin meant to frustrate Thor, Odin, and all of Asgard, although it can come off as such.
Aaron often walks a fine line with Thor, one side being controversy and the other being contrivances. Jane Foster being Thor and wielding Mjolnir blurs that line to an extent that still bothers a certain segment of fans. However, even those fans can't deny the dramatic overtones that The Mighty Thor has conjured since Original Sin. It isn't just about a god struggling with unworthiness. It's about a dying mortal woman wielding the power of a god, knowing she's got little time left.
That time is exceedingly limited and The Mighty Thor #700 adds even more urgency for Jane Foster to make every swing of Mjolnir count. She's not the only one, either. For a 50-page milestone issue, Aaron goes for broke by getting every corner of Thor's world involved and does so with an all-star cast of artists that includes the likes of Russell Dauterman, Walter Simonson, Oliver Copiel, and more. That includes the past, present, and potential future of Asgard, Midgard, and everything in between. It's ambitious, but a worthy ambition befitting of any magic hammer.
There's a glut of material that touches on nearly every major player in Thor's world, from another major clash with Malekith to a destructive fight with She-Hulk to a brief interlude with Frog Thor. All cards, including a few that haven't been played in a while, are on the table. They're all part of the same gamble to link every part of Thor's world into a singular conflict. That gamble doesn't necessarily hit the jackpot, but it does pay out in a lot of ways.
Despite all the many elements that find their way into The Mighty Thor #700, there are a few major connections to tie them together, some more so than others. Aaron digs deeper into the mythological foundations of Norse Mythology, literally to some extent, by setting the stage in Nornkeep. It gets even more literal as actual threads of fate start weaving various Thor-centered stories across the realms and across time.
These broad, diverse stories give a chance for every artist employed in this milestone issue to maximize their talent. Some utilize different themes, touching on the future of Thor and what lays in store for all those whose lives revolve around magic hammers. Others unfold in the present, which build on threads from previous issues leading up to The Mighty Thor #700. Some are colorful asides that don't add much to the overall plot but belabor all things Thor in a way that feels necessary in an oversized issue.
This is where some of the ambition ends up overplaying the plot. Even though the connection of each plot has ties to the events in Nornkeep, those connections aren't always clear or concise. Some are so loose that it's hard to make sense of the role they play in the larger narrative. Also, the scale of that narrative covers so many times, places, and hammer-centered battles that some end up feeling rushed. Even Jane Foster's battle against She-Hulk doesn't get the kind of elaborate smashing that most battles involving Hulk and Thor require.
Even with connections that are weak and rushed, at times, the direction of the story never gets derailed. Even after Frog Thor provides a little comic relief, the destination of each plot becomes clear. The conflict that begins in Nornkeep is set to spread through every realm, involving the likes of Maliketh, Loki, War Thor, and any number of divine forces that have been hit by Mjolnir one time too many. In that sense, the ambition serves to make The Mighty Thor #700 feel as epic as it needs to.
The worth of any milestone issue is measured in its ability to encompass the past, present, and future of a story. Given the size and scope of the story Aaron tells, The Mighty Thor #700 checks all the necessary boxes. There's a general sense, as well as a major teaser at one point, that the future of Thor is poised for upheaval. Jane Foster's battle with Hulks, gods, monsters, and cancer is about to culminate. Odinson is about to confront his agonizing unworthiness. Frog Thor is going to wade through some puddles. Everyone in Thor's world is poised to have their moment.
Ultimately, that's the most important aspect of any milestone issue. It should act as a catalyst and not an endpoint. It doesn't have to be a full-blown movie trailer, complete with heavy voice-overs and messy editing. It just has to make the journey thus far feel meaningful while making the journey ahead that much more appealing.
It may not have the loud explosions, coupled with heavy metal music, but The Mighty Thor #700 is plenty appealing in all the right ways. Worthiness may still be a hopelessly esoteric concept that fans will be arguing over on message boards for another 700 issues, but this one proves its worth, as only a Thor comic can.