Thursday, July 11, 2013

This Wasn't The Honeymoon I Had In Mind, Darling


We've spent some time recently on posts featuring Jane Foster during the period she was infused with the spirit of the goddess Sif--but there was a time when Jane came pretty close to being a goddess herself, back when Thor first petitioned Odin for her hand in marriage. Unfortunately, though Odin gave her the trappings of a goddess, Jane didn't quite make the cut. And that was fine by her:



Thor was understandably peeved--yet he knew deep down that life as an Asgardian goddess wasn't suitable for Jane. But Odin isn't called the All-Father for nothing, and so he was already working behind the scenes to ease the outcome for everyone involved. For Thor, he immediately sent him on a mission where, lo and behold, he just happens to run into the lady Sif, who's had a crush on Thor since, well, forever (which, in immortal years, may just be forever, I guess). And sparks fly faster than you can say, "Jane who?":



As for Jane, Odin sets her up in a new life on Earth, altering her memories so that she's not heartsick over losing Thor:



(Yeah, right back to being nurse to another Don Blake, it looks like. Jane obviously isn't the upwardly mobile type.)

But things turned out very differently for Jane and Thor in a What If? story from 1981, where Jane's banishment from Asgard didn't quite come off as planned:




Though in scanning the comics racks for this issue, we'd see that Marvel didn't have much faith in Jane Foster's market value on the cover title:



Wow, talk about stacking the deck. Thor? The Avengers? The gods? Wasn't this about Jane Foster? Why don't we throw in Galactus and the Hulk while we're at it?

Jane isn't seen anywhere on the cover (except where her name is dropped in a caption), but this story comes about because of her--specifically, picking up at the time where Odin is about to send her back to Earth. This time, though, Thor's anger has him putting himself between Odin and Jane at the moment when Odin acts--and Odin, reacting similarly in anger, ends up casting both of them out, though failing to tweak his original spell sufficiently to compensate.



I've mentioned before that, with all the ground they have to cover, What If? stories are apt to make leaps in logic in order to skip quickly through events and reach the story's ending. Yet the speed at which Thor associates Odin's spell with treachery, to demanding vengeance, to enlisting the Avengers made even my head spin.



You'll notice that Thor bends the truth a bit (twisting it like a pretzel is probably more accurate) when pitching this fight to the Avengers. And Jane, usually the voice of reason, hasn't said one word. Why would Jane be interested in vengeance? Why would she be comfortable with being the instigator of a major battle--wasn't her experience with Hercules lesson enough? And wouldn't Asgard be the last place she'd want to return to, as much as it traumatized her?

But, before you know it:



Yet the Avengers are going to be in for a lot more than they bargained for. As if the prospect of battling Odin wasn't bad enough, now it looks like Thor has landed them in the beginnings of an Asgardian civil war.



Gee, Jane, it looks like you're going get a lot more of that Asgardian madness than you had the last time. I guess all you needed was a little chivalry thrown your way, eh?



I hope she feels the same way when she meets her first Frost Giant.


In the meantime, in response to the forces lining up with Thor, Odin assembles his own forces, and he's not too concerned about what lines he crosses.




And after the Vizier amps up and arms the Avengers so that they can be Thor's vanguard, the battle is at last joined!




Which is, of course, a wonderful time for Jane to start having misgivings:



While, in the heat of battle, Iron Man begins to sense that Thor wasn't being entirely truthful with the Avengers, and that the Asgardians don't really have their hearts in fighting each other. So he decides to take his doubts straight to the source.



But for Odin to come to his senses is the last thing Loki wants, and so he intercepts Iron Man before he can deliver his message. Unfortunately, Iron Man's fate will have tragic consequences.



The fight then escalates, with Thor now a vision of hatred for his father--and Odin, seeing Thor's response to a proposal of truce which he believes was delivered, now returns that hatred in kind. And Loki isn't finished yet. Using a mystic glove, he secretly transfers Odin's "Odin-power" to himself, and takes Thor on in earnest.



Thor is saved by the Wasp, whose "sting" had been mystically amplified to be effective against immortals--and when she uses it at full power on Loki, she unintentionally kills him. But Thor uses Loki's death to lay more blame at Odin's feet, fueling his resolve to see his father pay for his anguish in full.



Thor is able to push through and lead his fellow Asgardians and the Avengers directly to the throne room. But Odin, now bereft of his power, has only one last, desperate card to play, one which Thor is astonishingly on board with:



Fortunately, there are cooler heads to prevail here, and they intercede to finally get Thor and Odin to air their differences, in a segment which would have had Oprah, Maury, and Dr. Phil fighting their own civil war to snag it for a ratings bonanza.




So things look like they might turn out pretty good here, all things considered. All Asgardians can raise their swords in unison once more; Thor and Odin seem to have come to a new understanding; Asgard never again has to worry about Loki's evil; Tony Stark won't be around to start his civil war; and Thor gets the girl, which is how this all started. But this is a What If? story, not an annual, so odds are this tale's ending is not going to be a happy one.



And to twist the knife, wait'll Jane hears about Ragnarok!

What If #25

Script: Peter Gillis
Pencils: Rich Buckler, Dave Simons, Al Milgrom, and Jon D'Agostino
Inks: Dave Simons, Al Milgrom, and Jon D'Agostino
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski

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