One complication of the MCU formula of interconnected, shared universe stories has been the endless need to maintain forward momentum. Each franchise has to push forward into more movies, which, ideally, makes room for more character introductions who will in turn make more room for more movies and–well, you get the idea.
But what happens to that forward momentum when an installment of the MCU comes up against the literal end of the world and loses?
Thor: Ragnarok’s dire conclusion, in which all of Asgard is summarily and gleefully demolished by a towering fire demon, poses this question, leaving us with questions of our own–like where, exactly, can the Thor franchise go now that Asgard is no more and her residents are cosmic refugees?
Thankfully, Marvel’s extensive backlog of comic book continuity has some pretty strong suggestions for just where the God of Thunder’s cinematic doppelganger could end up next, and it just might be a little more mundane than you’d guess.
As Thor and the survivors of Asgard leave the ruins firmly in the rearview, he offhandedly commands the lifeboat make a course of Earth–and, well, let’s just say that crazy-sounding idea has some precedent in the comics.
In 2007, a creative team consisting of J. Michael Straczynski and Marko Djurdjevic set about the literal resurrection of Thor both as a character and as an ongoing comic. It was “literal” in the sense that several years prior, in 2004, Thor’s last ongoing had ended with–well, Ragnarok, the absolute and total destruction of Asgard at the hands of the demonic Surtur. The finale of Thor volume 2 is one of the most overt inspirations for the ending of Thor: Ragnarok, right down to Thor making the choice to just let the fire elemental destroy his homeworld for the greater good.
In the comics, things immediately got a little complicated. For one, rather than having the luxury of a lifeboat to flee the scene, everyone in Asgard–including Thor–was “killed.” Don’t worry, it sounds more bleak than it actually was–but the point is that the gods of Asgard were all decidedly off the table for a while.
“A while” in this case meant three years. That’s where Straczynski and Djurdjevic came in. They had to figure out a way to restore not just Asgard itself, but everyone in it–after its complete annihilation. Luckily for everyone involved, comics are practically synonymous with complicated resurrection logic, and with the help of some specific continuity deep cuts and loopholes, they were able to pull it off.
Asgard made its triumphant return from destruction, gloriously reconstructed–just outside a small town in rural Oklahoma.
The town of Broxton is actually a real place–you can find it on a map and take a road trip if you like–but for Marvel’s purposes it was the new home of Thor comics for the subsequent several years. It started when Donald Blake, the sometimes autonomous human alter ego of Thor (a relic from the age of Thor’s secret identity years), summoned Thor’s spirit from the “void of nonexistence,” or, whatever happens to immortals after they die. With Thor back on two feet and moving freely in Midgard, he set upon summoning his fellow Asgardians into mortal bodies with him.
Then came the big one: summoning Asgard itself. Thor rebuilt the city as, well, a floating castle amidst a bunch of cornfields, a couple of miles away of town. Don’t worry, he bought the land legally, using gold left over from the royal treasury. Squatting is unbefitting of the gods, obviously.
With Asgard reconfigured, the comics shifted focus from the grand scale cosmic drama of Thor’s bygone days and zeroed in on the personal drama of the daily life of heroes through the lens of small town Americana. The culture clash between warriors and farmers was played as both a running gag and a heartwarming parable–there were love stories, dangerous misunderstandings, political tensions, you name it, until the events of the crossover event Siege in in 2010 brought it to an end.
So what does any of this have to do with the MCU? Well, it’s unlikely we’ll see a shot-for-shot remake of the Asgard, Oklahoma run of Thor on the big screen any time soon, but as things stand right now? All signs point to Earth for the future of the franchise. Thor volume 3 weaves a story that blends superheroics with the everyday life of Midgardians in a way that could easily match the tone and levity put forth by the increasingly more “auteur” entries into the MCU’s lineup–and, uniquely enough, would actually require less focus on Thor himself.
Contract negotiations and tenures have been a hot topic among fans whenever the state of the MCU post-next summer’s Infinity War comes up in conversation. Many of the core cast of heroes have either stated outright or hinted at the fact that they’re due for contract re-negotiations and will likely be stepping down–or at least pulling back–from their roles in the future. This isn’t a huge problem for characters with long legacy statuses like Captain America or Iron Man, but it represents a challenge for Thor–a challenge that’s recently gotten even more tangled with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (the most recent bearer of Mjolnir in the comics) officially exiting the franchise.
A move to Asgard, Oklahoma would make way for an extended cast of Asgardian heroes with Thor himself playing a more supporting role. There would be space for Valkyrie, the return of Sif, and maybe even the introduction of the long absent Balder the Brave to take point for the future of the Thor franchise.
Although, admittedly, this is all assuming that there are any Asgardians left after the MCU’s looming encounter with Thanos. Here’s hoping.