Don’t let Torunn Grønbekk’s bright smile and joyful demeanor fool you. “I spend much of my time trying to figure out how to make Jane [Foster] uncomfortable,” the writer of the upcoming Jane Foster & The Mighty Thor tells us. “Just, ‘Oh, this is a thing that she would hate. I will do it.’”
Grønbekk’s new book, due out June 8, has a hell of a hook. “Someone is plotting in the shadows, somewhere Sif’s all-seeing sight doesn’t reach, bringing together the enemies of Asgard, promising that if they attack, Thor will be gone,” she tells us. “And when they attack, Thor is gone. The only trace of him is the bloody hammer smashing through Jane’s living room window.”
These villains, a who’s who of Asgardian baddies including Ulik the Troll, The Enchantress, and the goddess of death herself, Hela, are enough to get Jane to pick up the hammer that, once upon a time, led to her death.
And while this is Grønbekk’s first time getting to write Jane with the hammer, she’s a veteran with Jane Foster herself. Grønbekk’s first Marvel work was co-writing Valkyrie with recent Thor comics architect Jason Aaron, and she’s been Jane’s primary steward ever since. “I love Jane fans because they are truly the best people; they’re so excited,” she says. “When the trailer [for Thor: Love & Thunder] was released, it was just four days of happiness on my timelines.”
As Valkyrie, Jane was in a vastly different place than she was when she wielded Mjolnir. Mighty Thor Jane was dying of cancer without the hammer, undergoing chemotherapy and then undoing the chemo treatments every time she changed into Thor. She died saving Asgardia from the rampaging Mangog, chaining him to Mjolnir and hurling the beast into the sun, ultimately losing her powers. But she got her hands on the All-Weapon during War of the Realms, and that’s where Grønbekk picked her up.
“One of the fantastic things about writing Jane is all the Jane fans who love her so much, who will send me long emails and messages telling me just how Jane helped them through, especially if they have people around them who’ve been sick,” she says. “[Jane’s] kindness is the thing that I think people find in her, and then they take inspiration from this fictional character, which I think is a really beautiful thing.”
That kindness is central to Jane’s role as Valkyrie. When she’s not adventuring as a powerful superhero, she’s either barely hanging on to a normal life—demoted to mortuary assistant in a medical examiner’s office—or she’s guiding the souls of the honored dead to Valhalla. That takes a superhuman amount of empathy even before being forced to fight the spirit of a dead celestial in the void between realms.
“When she started out as Valkyrie, she was exploring her new role and dealing a lot with life and especially the death part of it, and trying to figure out how to find a way to live when you know so much about the afterlife,” Grønbekk says. “What we’re seeing [in Jane Foster & The Mighty Thor] is her doing much of the same, just with godly powers, trying to figure out how to solve godly problems in a profoundly human way.”
While Grønbekk has mostly worked in Asgard (with a brief but growing body of Warhammer comics work), she’s been able to write a fair amount of the Marvel universe as guest stars—Kraven the Hunter in The Mighty Valkyries and Spider-Man, Captain America, and Sentry (among others) in Return of the Valkyries. So far, she’s refusing to divulge the big non-Asgardian cameos in Jane Foster & The Mighty Thor on spoiler grounds, but she did confirm that Runa, co-star of Jane’s story, would work her way over. Runa was one of the original nine Valkyries who fell in love with a colleague named Alta, and when Runa was guiding Alta to Valhalla, the pair were trapped in the corpse of a dead Celestial by the King in Black himself and forger of the Necrosword, Knull.
“Jane is the nice one,” Grønbekk says. “Runa does all that I would like to do if I had Valkyrie powers… I find [Runa] one of the most interesting characters to write. I think she has so much potential, and she’s so much fun. I’m so cruel to her at the moment.”
Joining Grønbekk on Jane Foster & The Mighty Thor is artist Mike Dowling. Dowling’s work tends toward the realistic, but he has a vivid imagination and a gift for staging action that you can see in his most recent work as part of the Spider-Man: Beyond crew.
“The art is so fantastic, but I think the thing that just took our breath away was the first big Valkyrie closeup that he sent over,” she tells us. “I keep writing in things that you shouldn’t be able to draw, and then he keeps doing it.”
It is safe to assume, Grønbekk tells us, that Jane will be keeping her Valkyrie powers and the All-Weapon she’s been using while she gets to swing Mjolnir around one more time. That enhanced power set makes writing Jane more complicated, but it’s also kind of the point of the book.
“We need to make a challenge that’s big enough for Jane, but trying to find a Jane way to solve it,” she tells us. “That’s where the humanity always comes in. Because Jane, after her illness, after losing her son, after losing many of the people she’s loved, she is profoundly human and filled with heart and life.” A superhero full of heart and life who leads with kindness (and a giant space hammer) seems like just what we need in the world today.
Jane Foster & The Mighty Thor #1 from Grønbekk, Dowling, and colorist Marte Gracia is out June 8. Thor: Love and Thunder opens in theaters on July 8.