Being Thor isn’t easy. But while there have been many to lift the hammer and wield the power of the thunder god—from men and women to frogs and horse-faced aliens named Bill—perhaps none of them have come to take up the burden of Mjolnir quite so tragically as the latest, a new Thor calling himself the War Thor, first hinted at months ago in the pages of Unworthy Thor, and now revealed in this week’s The Mighty Thor #20 by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Valerio Schiti. If you’re a Thor reader and don’t wish to get spoiled, turn back now, because I’m about let the spoiler hammer come down.
For those who are still with me, I’ll cut right to the chase and tell you who the Marvel Universe’s third and latest Thor is: none other the Voluminous Volstagg of the Warriors Three. It’s a twist that may seem out of the blue, but given the character’s recent arc, and especially the events of this issue, it makes sense that the normally jovial giant sought out the hammer. But let’s back up a bit and fill you in on the story from the beginning.
Well, not all the way to the beginning, but at least to the end of 2015’s Secret Wars event, when the hammer of the Ultimate Universe version of Thor landed on the main Marvel Universe's Old Asgard. Despite being fought over by Thor Odinson and the Collector, none have moved the hammer from that spot in the years since, until now.
As for Volstagg, he has been taking a more diplomatic approach than he’s used to. For the sake of his wife and children, he has been putting his Warriors Three days behind him and has become a senator in the Congress of Worlds, a sort of United Nations for the Nine Realms of the Thor cosmology. As war has broken out across the realms—thanks to the machinations of Roxxon CEO Dario Agger and the Dark Elf sorcerer Malekith—Volstagg has been one of the senators at the head of the push for peace and bringing aid to the afflicted. It is in this role that we find him in this week’s issue, as he visits Light Elf refugees who have fled their destroyed home of Alfheim to find sanctuary in Nidavellir, the mountain home of the dwarves.
Volstagg, never one to travel without a snack, takes to sharing his large bag of food with the starving elf children, and it is at that moment that Malekith’s forces attack. Most of the elves and dwarves around them are immediately killed, but Volstagg manages to save five of the children and carries them out of the fire and chaos in his arms and on his back, barely escaping the mountain. However, upon their exit he runs into a crashed Muspelheim firefly rider, one of the ones responsible for the bombing. Before he can stop the creature, it detonates its bombs, incinerating everything around them—including the children Volstagg had tried so hard to save.
Crushed, Volstagg returns to Old Asgard and does what anyone would do after that: He gets hammered. Wordlessly, Volstagg lifts the Ultimate Thor’s hammer, becoming what the narrator describes as “a new kind of Thor … rumbling like distant thunder. A Thor for the times.” A War Thor.
It’s an absolutely soul-crushing issue, full of the tragedy and power appropriate of the gods of Asgard. It’s also a welcome boost in prominence and power for Volstagg, one of the most beloved characters in the Thor mythos. But will the combined strength of three Thors be enough to stem the tide of all-consuming war? Or will their own war-like natures turn them against each other? Only time will tell, but like the rest of Aaron and Dauterman’s extraordinary run on this title, it’s sure to be a thunderous ride either way.