Not content with the three 2017 superhero blockbusters that are each building massive buzz, Marvel Studios has begun whetting our appetites for the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War by releasing a short behind-the-scenes featurette.
The footage already had fans ecstatic as it features Robert Downey Jr., Tom Holland and Chris Pratt standing together – Iron Man, Spider-Man and Star-Lord, all in one place. But the really juicy stuff was the interviews with the Russo brothers and Kevin Feige, who teased the size and scope of the movie. Their big confirmation was that Guardians of the Galaxy and the Avengers would indeed meet in Infinity War, a statement that was illustrated with a piece of concept art showing Rocket Raccoon and Thor in battle together (see above).
The art is itself very cool, but what's really interesting is Thor's weapon: it's very clearly not Mjolnir. It was revealed via a synopsis that Thor: Ragnarok would involve Thor being separated from his trusty hammer for a good chunk of the film, but this art seems to confirm that there will not be a reunion and Thor will carry on into Avengers: Infinity War with a different weapon.
Marvel being savvy editors, the art is displayed in such a way that the weapon is somewhat obscured. It has a long grip for both single and double-handed holding, and at least one end has either a hammer or a blade-head. Fan speculation is rampant with two possibilities: an alternate dimension Mjolnir, or Jarnbjorn.
A Mjolnir from another dimension seems unlikely from the sheer size of the object. No existing iteration of the Godly hammer is that big. However, with Doctor Strange's presence all but confirmed for Ragnarok as of his end-credits scene and Marvel Comics' recent Secret Wars storyline bringing the Ultimate universe into the regular one, the movies could start reflecting similar inter-dimensionality. Thor stealing another Mjolnir, or one somehow making its way to our universe would be an interesting way to begin opening up the MCU to some sort of massive inter-dimensional crossover, and further highlighting the importance of Doctor Strange's movies.
But the most likely candidate is Jarnbjorn, Thor's trusty axe pre-Mjolnir. Looking at the concept art, the gripping on the handle is a reverse of how Jarnbjorn's generally drawn in the comics, and the head looks flat like an axe-blade. The dwarven-forged blade was used by Thor for years before he could wield Mjolnir, and it's his go-to weapon when he can't use Mjolnir in the comics.
Thor: Ragnarok is expected to be a particularly cataclysmic chapter in the MCU - this phase's Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Parts of the story are taking inspiration from classic Hulk graphic novel Planet Hulk, with Thor finding Hulk in an intergalactic gladiator ring ran by the Grandmaster. Imprisoned and forced to compete, Thor is trying to return home and to his hammer to stop the end of Asgardian civilization at the hands of Hela. With such lofty stakes, it's altogether feasible that one of the great tragedies of Ragnarok is that, in trying to save his homeworld, Thor loses Mjolnir.
Due to the inscription on Mjolnir, Thor can only wield the hammer as long as he's worthy – once he's not, he can no longer lift the mythical weapon. There's some precedent for this in Thor's recent history, as it happened on the back of Marvel's Original Sin. Nick Fury told Thor something that made him unworthy, and Mjolnir then transferred to Jane Foster, causing her to take up the Thor mantle. That story is still ongoing, with Thor recently starting off on a galactic quest to find the Ultimate universe Mjolnir in Unworthy Thor.
Nick Fury being anywhere near Thor in Ragnarok is pretty much impossible, and the idea of another Mjolnir was discussed above. However, Thor learning something about Asgard or Odin or Loki or doing something that causes him to be unworthy is entirely possible. Loki is in charge of Asgard as of the end of Thor: The Dark World, so Thor will likely need to form another uneasy alliance with his adopted brother in order to succeed against Hela, creating some difficult decisions for Odinson
Throughout Thor's printed history there have been several other characters who have been granted ownership of Mjolnir without Thor explicitly being unable to do so. These have included Beta Ray Bill, a genetically modified alien, and Captain America himself. Odin has the power to demand Thor surrender the hammer to him, and in the case of Beta Ray Bill, made Thor and bill fight to decide who would be the hammer's true owner.
We've already seen that both the MCU's Steve Rogers and Vision can move Mjolnir, and with so many wild cards and characters expected in both Ragnarok and Infinity War, another potential user is not just possible but likely. Thor's overarching story has been about him learning about the universe and its struggles, becoming a better, more competent potential ruler. Him having to stomach someone else using Mjolnir in battle would be a good exercise in humility for the Asgardian prince, and open up neat opportunities for action scenes. It's unlikely to be someone we're already familiar with, unless it's someone unrelentingly noble like Black Panther or Groot, but the precedent and possibility both linger (and who wouldn't want to see Groot swing around a mythical hammer?).
Whatever Thor is holding in that scene with Rocket Raccoon, that art and that teaser has served as a reminder of how far these characters have come, and how far they still have to go. For Thor, that includes saving his homeworld from destruction and possibly redefining himself as a hero in the process.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018