Life questions with Thor

There’s no punching today.  Instead, we’re going to discuss a single inquiry asked of our god of thunder. Enjoy a beautifully done, well-crafted moment, and understand any answers I attempt to give will in no way be properly articulated.  But that shouldn’t stop us from trying.  In the mini-series Thor: Heaven & Earth, wonderfully written by Paul Jenkins and drawn by Pascual Alixe, Thor and gang go on little missions filled with just as much violence as intellectualism.  In issue #3, we’re faced with this heartbreaking situation:

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Before you get suspicious, that’s not exactly Thor’s buddy from World War II or whatever conflict he hammered bad guys in the past.  When you’re thousands of years old and live in a magical dimension, it’s easy to teleport down to any big deal from history.  Nope, this old man did the impossible: he stumped a god.

Everything starts after a big brawl in New York.

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Thor walks triumphantly back to his flamboyant bridge home.

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What a fantastic concept!  Superheroes are from all sorts of insane origins, but we accept that they live in a world very much like ours.  It shouldn’t surprise us that the there’s organized religion or that Christianity still plays a major role in the lives of many New York citizens.  Yet they all just witnessed this very non-Catholic deity smash monsters with a hammer.  How could a priest explain this to his congregation while still holding steadfast in his own religious beliefs?

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Look, no one’s claiming Thor’s a genius.  The guy’s gallant, heroic, and chivalrous — but no spelling bee championships will be coming his way.  And thus, his thought process remains honest and simple at its core:

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But a shrug and tough-luck pat on the shoulder won’t work.  As this priest lies on his deathbed four years after this initial meeting, Thor can only come to one conclusion.

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Sometimes it’s hard for readers to sympathize or relate to Thor.  The guy’s practically invincible and if he does die, he’ll be resurrected almost immediately.  Plus, he has Hulk-level strength without the moral responsibility that makes other characters like Superman so beloved.  So while I can’t possibly explain in the detail or manner I wish, I do believe Thor’s answer explains better than anything else about why this god of thunder truly defines a superhero.

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As cliched as it sounds, it’s the flaws that define our heroes, not the triumphs.  In this single moment, Thor has shown his humanity that we may not have seen much of in the past.  The personal struggles are what creates three-dimensional characters we can root for and grow alongside with.  Remember Iron Man’s alcoholism?  Captain America’s man out of time?  Hulk’s lack of control?  When we add Thor’s questions of identity and purpose, he is objectively a better character.

And I do mean objectively.  Plus, he has that cool hammer.


11 Comments on “Life questions with Thor”

  1. Cewsh says:

    This is the best blog on the internet as far as I’m concerned. Tremendous stuff here and all through the archives. Thanks for bringing comics to life so vividly by focusing on the details.

  2. Mir says:

    Thank you very much, for this wonderful entrey

  3. DreJr says:

    This was a really good post. Thumbs up!

  4. lolroflmaodq says:

    definitely a rare look at thor awesome article

  5. furyoffirestorm78 says:

    Thor’s just returning the favor. Back during the Kang Dynasty War, Thor was having doubts about his role on Earth and among humans. The one person who helped the Odinson re-find his purpose was Firebird, a fellow Avenger and a devout Catholic.

    Even though I’m an Atheist, Firebird has been one of my favorite characters since her stint in the early days of the West Coast Avengers. Here you have a character that is a woman, Hispanic, and religious, yet she was not written as a joke, a stereotype or a token to fill a PC quota – in fact, her Mexican and Catholic heritage were pivotal to helping the WCA get back to the modern time during the Cross Time Caper (In WCA 17-24 – go read them NOW!).

    Since you’ve focused on other characters of faith, (like The Thing) or those with lack of faith (like Henry Pym), maybe you should do an article about the early years of the WCA, since Pym, Thing and Bonita all figure into the first 2 years of the book’s run. Or talk about Beyond!, which gave us more Pym and Firebird action. Pretty please?

    • Jason Levine says:

      You have my attention! I’m going to totally check those issues out, especially since I haven’t heard about Firebird until right now. You’re one of my favorite people!

      • Just returning the favor. I recently stumbled upon awesome site, and and it helped me rediscovered why I loved comics books so much. Keep up the great work!

  6. asdfgh says:

    heh, try to figure it out the next day… what an answer. and Hulk’s lack of control is very relative to me by the way. sometimes i feel like i’m out of control. but then there’s this guy, thor. the guy who makes me stop to ask myself: why?

    • Jason Levine says:

      I agree, it’s so important for the reader to relate to the characters — like Spider-Man’s money problems or Captain America’s feeling of not belonging — that Thor being the gorgeous, immortal, crazy powerful god makes him hard to relate to. You bring up a good point that even if Thor remains difficult to empathize, he’s still a fantastic character if he makes us at least question.


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