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Back Issues: The doctor is in – in the role of Thor

This image released by Marvel Studios shows Natalie Portman in a scene from “Thor: Love and Thunder.” (AP Photo)

Thor is back in theaters; the Guardians of the Galaxy are too (and Korg!). But the real headliner of the movie is … Thor. The new one.

You might remember her as Jane Foster, the astrophysicist studying the portals Thor and his Asgardian brethren traveled through in the first two “Thor” movies. Despite being the thunder god’s love interest in those films, she was absent from the third installment, “Thor: Ragnarok,” and presumed to be in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s rearview mirror, until an unexpected cameo in “Avengers: Endgame.”

No movie spoilers here, as any trailer for “Thor: Love and Thunder” will tell you she’s gone from supporting character to superhero. It adapts elements of comic stories in which Jane not only gained the powers of Thor but replaced the big guy for a while.

Jane debuted in the comics in 1962’s “Journey Into Mystery” #84, one issue after Thor himself. She was the nurse in the medical practice of Dr. Donald Blake, the thunder god’s human alter ego. They became the perennial will-they-or-won’t-they couple, with a bit of a love triangle developing between Blake, Foster and Thor.

Thor’s father, Odin, disapproved of his infatuation with a mortal and preferred for his son to wed fellow Asgardian Sif. At one point, Jane was magically bonded to Sif, but they were eventually separated and Jane married a fellow mortal.

They eventually had a son together, and Jane became a doctor. She would pop up from time to time in Marvel stories, working alongside Thor’s new human identity, a paramedic named Jake Olson, and even helping patch up Captain America’s underground Avengers squad during the superhero Civil War.

After another of Thor’s deaths and resurrections, Jane left her husband, lost custody of their child and attempted to reunite with her former flame, who was once again spending time as Blake.

They opened a medical practice together in Broxton, Oklahoma, a town above which the newly restored Asgard floated. But Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer and refused magical treatments, despite being actively involved in Asgard’s Congress of Worlds.

After the storyline “Original Sin” resulted in Thor being unable to wield his hammer, Mjolnir, because he was unworthy, a woman lifted it and took on the mantle and powers of Thor. When the original witnessed her using the hammer in ways he never had, he acknowledged her as its rightful bearer, despite not knowing it was Jane (readers were kept in the dark too for eight issues). He bestowed his own name on the newcomer and went by Odinson for a while.

Jane earned her place in the role and joined the Avengers, but it was revealed that each time she transformed, the magic expelled the chemotherapy from her body, deeming it a threat, and halted the progress of her treatments. Faced with standing down as Thor and living or giving her life to save multiple worlds, Jane took the hero’s path. Odin, who had opposed her stepping into the role, acknowledged her valor and helped Thor restore her to life.

Thor is Thor once again, as comics almost always revert to the status quo. But Jane has taken up a new superhero identity, protecting Earth and Asgard as the newest Valkyrie.

Evan Bevins can be reached at ebevins@newsandsentinel.com.

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Recommended Reading

* “Jane Foster: The Saga of the Mighty Thor” — The title renders the mystery of the first eight issues moot, but this trade goes beyond that as Foster makes the mantle of Thor her own, much to the chagrin of Odin.

* “The Death of the Mighty Thor” — Another title that seems to steal momentum from the story, this collection brings Jane’s tenure as Thor to a close.

* “Valkyrie: Jane Foster Vol. 1: The Sacred and the Profane” — No longer Thor, Jane takes up a new Asgardian role as Valkyrie, who delivers the dead to Valhalla and faces off against the Earthly assassin Bullseye.

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