DC is adding two more thrilling stories to its lineup this fall with the introduction of two new miniseries— Joker: Killer Smilefrom writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino available October 30, followed by The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage by Lemire and artists Denys Cowan and Bill Sienkiewicz to be released November 20.
In Joker: Killer Smile Lemire and Sorrentino will share their own interpretation of one of the darkest characters of the Batman mythos—the Joker. For years, the Joker has terrorized Gotham, facing off with Batman time and time again. But now he’s found a new adversary, one that can deliver him from the purgatory of Arkham Asylum and set his madness free once more—the very doctor tasked with treating him. As he gets his hooks deeper and deeper into the mind of his prey, Joker sets off a chain reaction of mayhem that will threaten to tear down not only Gotham City but the soul of this idealistic man, and his young family, too.
Joker: Killer Smile is a three-part story that will debut October 30, 2019, releasing every other month following.
In The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage, Lemire, Cowan and Sienkiewicz launch a philosophical mystery starring Vic Sage—the Question. Building on the legacy of Dennis O’Neil and Cowan’s previous run, it begins in an early Hub City where an unsolved mystery has led to the demise of the Question—and history will soon repeat itself. Beginning in the Old West and continuing through the lawless 1930s, the answers needed to solve the problem are out of reach—and may doom the Question once again.
The faceless man who believes in absolutes will soon find himself in a world where it all blends together, and escaping this trap is the only way to set himself free.
The Question: The Deaths of Vic Sage is a four-part story that will debut November 20, 2019, releasing every other month following.
The buzz is strong for the upcoming Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium miniseries launching in September! DC has revealed new art from issue #1 by artist André Lima Araújo. Writer Brian Michael Bendis teams up with Araújo to introduce the still-mysterious central character to heroes from the future of the DC Universe, including her search for Tommy Tomorrow, OMAC, Booster Gold and others.
In addition to this great art, check out the cover to issue #2 of Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium by Ryan Sook, where a certain “super” hero gets his Legion flight ring (Like he needs it)! But wait, there’s more! With the debut of an all-new Legion of Super-Heroes ongoing series by Bendis and Sook in November, here’s a look at more of the Legion membership in the form of new character designs by Ryan Sook.
Between these designs and the cover to Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2, there’s plenty to talk about – not just new costumes, but new characters, too? Let the speculation begin…
Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Jim Lee, Andrea Sorrentino, André Lima Araújo, and Dustin Nguyen on-sale September 4, 2019. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2, written by Bendis with art by Nicola Scott, Jim Cheung, Jeff Dekal and Ryan Sook, on sale October 2.
With only a single issue left in the War of the Realms core series, the tie-in writers have fallen into the unenviable trap of wrapping up their story, connecting it to the event’s inevitable conclusion, and maybe leaving a loose thread or two when their comic returns to its normally scheduled programming.
Six comics came out this week, and one was heads and shoulders over the pack: War of the Realms Journey into Mystery #5. The McElroys, Andre Araujo, and Chris O’Halloran have finished crafting an ensemble cast that I want to read an ongoing series about, made Ares sympathetic, Laussa more than a MacGuffin, connect all the seemingly random plot threads of the series, and made me laugh out loud a couple times. No other book came close to this, but with snark, grit, and one hell of a Wasp cameo, Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli made up for last month’s disappointment and delivered a nifty science vs magic clash in Tony Stark, Iron Man #13. I enjoyed it and wish Simone had more time on the book.
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #3
War of the Realms’ anthology tie-in War Scrolls wraps up with its third issue. There is the conclusion to Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil serial as well as a Dr. Doom story from Christopher Cantwell,Cian Tormey, and Dan Brown and a She-Hulk one from Charlie Jane Anders, Simone D’Armini, and Federico Blee. Daredevil, God without Fear continues to be an accomplishment in panel layouts, fight scenes, and theodicies. This three part story is a turning point in Sorrentino’s career as an artist as he transitions from flowing tapestry layouts to strict grids that work like slow-mo while Daredevil fights Malekith with Bifrost shruikens. Aaron’s narration continues to show the perils of omniscience, and even if Daredevil can’t defeat Malekith, he can inspire his blind children hostage to escape and cut God a break along the way.
Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell tells the story of the Dark Elf invasion of Latveria from ordinary citizens’ POVs. Dr. Doom has a godlike status in this country, and even when he makes silly mistakes like wasting his troops on a Saving Private Ryan-esque rescue mission, they look to him to save them. The switching point of views can be disorienting, but Cian Tormey gives the story a documentary feel and builds to one badass crescendo where Doom is part-Superman, part-God of the Old Testament, and still authoritarian. It’s a tasting menu that really needs to be expanded to a full feast of the regular lives of Latverians.
War Scrolls #3 wraps up with a story of She-Hulk and Freyja fighting dragons and talking about relationships. Charlie Jane Anders’ writing sometimes feels like she’s making her characters have her interests like making Blade a Beyonce fan and Punisher a Joni Mitchell aficionado, but she nails the conversations between Jennifer and Freyja. She-Hulk talks about how she is dating Thor and not sure how serious it is, and Freyja understands how much She-Hulk cares for her son and that they are both insecure about their “worthiness” and status as heroes. The cherry on top of this pretty good story is D’Armini’s artwork that makes She-Hulk incredibly muscular and monstrous. For the most part, War Scrolls has been full of thought provoking character studies and memorable visuals, and issue three is no exception earning an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #5
Journey into Mystery #5 wraps up this god demon baby starring road trip saga into a neat little bow and uses continuity to enhance and deepen character development and humor instead of as a crutch. The McElroys seamlessly transition from podcasting to mainstream comics while Andre Araujo and Chris O’Halloran enhance their jokes and punch up the action scenes beginning with Wonder Man sweeping to save Laussa. They keep their character portrayals internally consistent like having Wonder Man continue to be a pacifist and having Sebastian Druid being uncertain about his powers, but reminding readers he had a relationship with Ares’ son back in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors.
This kibble of continuity isn’t just a piece of cute, fanboy trivia, but sets up Ares’ road for redemption. He isn’t a bad guy and doesn’t have a quarrel with this book’s cast; he just like to fight and wants to be reunited with son in the afterlife. Journey into Mystery #5 isn’t just a slugfest between the team and Ares, but is filled with twists and turns about Laussa that aren’t 100% deus ex machinas. The comic does have a pleasing plot, but its real magic are in the small moments like any time Miles Morales and Thori interact, or Laussa’s expressions with the world around him. And for this mastery of both the macro and micro aspects of comics, Journey into Mystery #5, and by extension, the whole miniseries earn an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3
Unless it’s for a storytelling purpose, having two or more artists on a comic usually means it was rushed to meet its deadline, and that seems to be the case with Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. Gone are Nico Leon’s slick cartooning and well-choreographed set pieces of the previous two issues, and writer Sean Ryan giving each League member a distinct personality beyond fantasy race action figure. This issue is mostly a slugfest against Malekith’s lieutenant, Kurse and peppered with awkward poses, constipated facial expressions, and basically, generic visuals from Leon and Marco Failla.
The angel Fernande goes a bit ballistic in the middle of the fight, and Spider-Man finds a shared connection because they have both lost loved ones. But this was already covered in the previous issue so it feels a lot like padding in Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. The main plot point of this issue (and a cool connection to War Scrolls #3) is that Kurse was once League member, Waziria, and for the first time in all of War of the Realms (Except the Cul Borson story in Thor.), the Dark Elves aren’t treated like evil cannon fodder. In the end, this comic was about saving people instead of punching evil, and that’s a good sentiment from Ryan and Leon. However, it ends on this week’s “standard” heroes pose together and jump into the final battle panel and earns an Overall Verdict of Pass because of art issues and the difficulty of writing a large cast.
Captain Marvel #7
Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3 wasn’t the worst “War of the Realms” comic this week. That honor goes to Captain Marvel #7, which wraps up the unbearably banal if well-colored by Tamra Bonvillain body swap story featuring Carol Danvers and Dr. Strange. This issue does have a few positives like Kelly Thompson’s gift for quick banter and cutting one-liners like Strange roasting Carol for only knowing magic from various pop culture things. However, it’s pretty shallow, Strange and Carol’s ineptitude with each other’s powers are quickly resolved, and afterwards, they and an underutilized Black Widow go separate ways.
One slight positive about Captain Marvel #7 is Annapaola Martello’s art. She’s equally good at drawing fun facial expressions/hints of flirting and things that go boom/pew pew. Even if the story is thin, it’s pure joy to see Dr. Strange in Carol’s body go Binary and kick undead ass and then steal a little moment at the end. And about the ending, it seems random and tacked on even if it’s our first glimpse of a post-War of the Realms world. Carol is hanging out in her apartment like everything is normal, and the last story had no effect on her. Honestly, this is for the better as Thompson no longer has to shoehorn a quick tie-in and can tell her full story. My Overall Verdict for Captain Marvel #7 is Pass, and it’s worth skipping for regular readers of her title and those just following “War of the Realms”.
If there’s any comic that Deadpool#14 shares DNA with, it’s Simon Bisley’s Lobo books of the 1990s with their combination of serious, detailed fantasy art and silly dialogue and situations. In this comic, Skottie Young and Nic Klein chronicle Deadpool’s defense of Australia from Ulik (Which is apparently a very common name for trolls.) and his minions with the help of a knock-off Captain Britain and Daredevil and then an assist from some real superheroes. Young continues to have fun breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at his own writing like ending the issue with a deus ex machina and commenting on the legality of including a figure that’s all but named Tasmanian Devil.
Nic Klein draws and colors his own work in Deadpool #14 and turns in some gorgeous splash pages of Deadpool, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and various Z-list Australian heroes beating the shit out of trolls. He can also do funny too like his depiction of the solution to Australia’s troll problem, which is feeding them and putting them to work at New Zealand’s copyright-friendly version of a Lord of the Rings set tour. The panel of trolls chasing tourists with selfie sticks around a “bobbit” hole is like something out of Mad magazine and a wonderful Deadpool-esque way to wrap up the plot. For its humor, skilled art, and ultraviolence,Deadpool #14 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy. (And, apparently, the next issue is the final one of the series.)
Tony Stark, Iron Man #13
Free of continuing subplot from previous issues (Except for the important Tony Stark relapsing in a VR environment one.), Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli are free to tell the story of the battle between Iron Man and the wyrm Sadurang, who wants to rob the New York Stock Exchange. They make fantastic parallels between traders and hoarding dragons, and starting off a conversation between Sadurang and a now homeless broker about how riches cloud one’s morals sets the tone for the issue. And what happens is a back to basics Iron Man story where Tony must destroy or deactivate all his magic infected armor and get back to the analog days to defeat this greedy dragon.
Edgar Delgado’s powerful colors match Villanelli’s art, which can be loose and scratchy when Tony is getting his ass kicked and trying to quip his way out of a bad situation or tighter and tougher when he’s in the Mark I armor doing his best St. George impression. Also, Simone brings in the very winsome Wasp as a guest star in this issue, and she brings Tony hope and her stings and fast flying gives him enough time to rally his counterattack. Then, they get to share a sweet moment after the fight is over, but Tony doesn’t tell her about the relapse and is interrupted by Malekith’s initial invasion of New York. This two steps forward, one step forward approach to Tony’s journey works for Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli and coupled with a satire of capitalism via knight/dragon metaphors, Tony Stark, Iron Man #13 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Even though it’s sad to see Captain Marvel’s portrayal stumble in yet another event, and some writers love doing the “heroes join the final battle” ending to their tie-ins, this wasn’t a bad “War of the Realms” week. Skottie Young and Nic Klein turned their Deadpool two-parter into an exercise in maximum absurdity and pulled off the first funny Lord of the Rings reference of the event while Gail Simone added Iron Man to characters she excels at writing. But the real highlight was Journey into Mystery, which is a redemptive road comedy starring a great mix of heroes, tons of quick jokes, and a coherent plot that zigged where others zag. I’m definitely looking forward to Clint McElroy’s upcoming work on Marvel Team-Up.
(W) Jason Aaron, Christopher Cantwell, Charlie Jane Anders (A) Andrea Sorrentino, More (CA) Alan Davis Rated T+ In Shops: Jun 19, 2019 SRP: $4.99
THE MUST-READ COMPANION TO THE WAR OF THE REALMS!
The Kingpin joins the battle for New York! And even with his new cosmic senses, the God Without Fear can’t touch the venerated Mayor…can he? Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino’s tale comes to a dramatic close! Plus, Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell and Nebula Award-winning novelist Charlie Jane Anders make their Marvel debuts with stories about Doctor Doom and She-Hulk!
DC Comics is heading back to the future courtesy of writer Brian Michael Bendis and artists Jim Lee, Jim Chueng, Nicola Scott, Ryan Sook, Dustin Nguyen and more. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium is a two-part monthly comic that will lead into a new ongoing Legion of Super-Heroes series.
The two-part series will examine other “future” characters like Kamandi, OMAC, and Booster Gold and how they fit into the broader world of the Legion. The goal is a more unified future DC universe. The series will connect the DC future timelines for the first time.
The first issue introduces a near-future version of Supergirl, drawn by Jim Lee; Batman Beyond, drawn by Dustin Nguyen; Kamandi, drawn by Andrea Sorrentino; and Tommy Tomorrow, drawn by André Lima Araújo. Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #2 will bring Booster Gold, drawn by Nicola Scott; OMAC, drawn by Jim Cheung; A DC “off-world” chapter, drawn by Jeff Dekal; and finally the Legion of Super-Heroes, drawn by Sook.
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This was a really enjoyable week in “War of the Realms” country with all kinds of heroic happenings going on from Spider-Man choosing to negotiate with and not fight both the Angels of Heven and the Nigerian army in League of the Realms #2 to Cul Borson finding redemption in Thor #13. This week also marks the return of anthology War Scrolls, which features one of Marvel’s best stories of 2019, namely, Wiccan going to drag brunch with Loki. Speaking of drag brunch, “War of the Realms” also got a head start on Pride Month by featuring LGBTQ characters in both League of the Realms #2 and War Scrolls even though the first one is a little more tragic as the angel Fernade mourns over her lost love, Anemone.
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #2
War Scrolls is really one of the “War of the Realms” tie-ins that I wish got more than three issues, especially when we’re blessed with a trio of stories that like we got in issue two. First up is the part two of Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil, God of Fear serial, which cosmic sizes a classic battle between Daredevil and the Kingpin. But, before things go from Netflix to Man of Steel, Aaron and Sorrentino do some chilling characterization in a Ben-Day dot flashback where Daredevil prays that he won’t beat a mass murderer to death. Wilson’ color palette switch from flat and old school to majestic fantasy mode helps the story keep its momentum, and although he’s a bad guy, it’s fun to see Wilson Fisk get one up on Malekith and the Dark Elves.
The second serial is a Doctor Strange one from Devin Grayson (Nice to see her getting work again), Paul Davidson, and Andres Mossa. It show the effect of teleporting all the civilians and heroes in New York to the North Pole on Strange and is also cute and charming along the way. The main plot involves Dr. Strange preventing Nightmare from attacking this plane of existence, and Davidson and Mossa channel their inner Ditko with psychedelic art that wouldn’t be out of place in a head shop circa 1968. Grayson writes Dr. Strange as a heroic figure a la the Doctor or even Morpheus from Sandman, who admits his mistake of teleporting the superheroes out of New York and shows Nightmare that fear can be fought and resisted to. And he does this all while taking a nap. (A cute kid even tucks him in and gives him a stuffed animal.)
War Scrolls definitely saved the best for last, and that is a drag brunch story by Anthony Oliveira, Nick Robles, and Cris Peter featuring Hulking, Wiccan, and Loki in a mini-Young Avengers reunion. It’s funny, sad, and Kid Loki turns Thor into a bear on the first page. Oliveira and Robles spin the tale of Loki’s relationship with Wiccan and the Young Avengers, and how even though he may have manipulated them and even cast his lot with Malekith the Accursed that they still care about and support him. The story is in direct conversation with Kieron Gillen’s Loki arc in both Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers and clears up loose ends while providing the reason for why Loki wears a horned helmets. Plus Jean Grey and Emma Frost drag queens get into a fight, and Oliveira, Robles, and Peter create a vision of the Marvel universe that is beautifully queer. This story alone (The Daredevil and Dr. Strange ones were great too.) earns War Scrolls #2 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #2
InSpider-Man & the League of Realms #2, Sean Ryan, Nico Leon, and Carlos Lopez basically have Spider-Man herding cats, er, trying to get people like Screwbeard and Ud the Troll, who are hardwired to fight, to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. However, they start with a tragic love story, and Lopez uses beautiful whites and reds to show the story of the Angels Fernande and Anemone, who was killed by Malekith because he just wanted to know what killing an angel felt like. Fernande was the enemy in the previous issue, but now she’s a staunch ally of Spider-Man and decides to help the resistance against the Angels of Heven in Nigeria.
But this issue isn’t all triumphant, and Leon gets the opportunity to show Screwbeard, Ud, and Ivory Honeyshot, whose realm was the first one conquered by Malekith, shooting and fighting their way through Rome. The measured conversation and protective spells of the first half of the issue are replaced with catchphrases, explosions, and a foe that might be beyond any of them. The blows that Malekith’s main lackey Kurse land are powerful reminders of the pointlessness of unceasing violence, and Spider-Man’s probably going to have clean up the mess in the next issue. Because of its mix of fine and cartoon-y art, still quirky ensemble cast, and story that shows the results of both war and diplomacy, League of Realms #2 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
In the Thor tie-in issues of “War of the Realms”, Jason Aaron and artist Mike Del Mundo have been doing a fantastic job of fleshing out the supporting Asgardian characters that have popped up throughout Aaron’s run. Cul Borson, the God of Fear and on a secret suicide mission from Odin, gets the treatment in Thor #13. Beginning in the present day with Cul surrounded by crying Dark Elf children, the comic is structured like a biography of the god with childhood flashbacks of him bullying Odin and eventually being banished to Midgard as the “Serpent”. As he fights through the mushroom mines of Svartalfheim, Cul is in conflict between wanting to be feared and loving and between caring for his little brother and wanting to usurp his throne.
Although the flashbacks include Cul overhearing arguments between Odin and Thor that made him wish he had a son and dark temptations from Malekith, Thor #13 is an action-oriented issue tempered by soul searching narration from Aaron. Del Mundo’s Cul cuts a dark figure in the sickly green of the swamps of Svartalfheim where Dark Elf children, who have been called unworthy, help build Malekith’s empire. He wants to leave them to die, but in a moment of supreme character development hacks off their chains. This leads to a resistance movement even if Cul never sees the fruits of his actions. He was a never a “good guy”, but in a tough moment, he did one heroic thing and can die without wasting his life. Cul’s last stand against the Dark Elves is pretty damn noble as Del Mundo fills his panels with bodies, and combined with Aaron’s insightful writing earns Thor #13 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
“War of the Realms”‘ most random tie-in continues in Giant-Man #2 where Leah Williams fits Scott Lang, Raz Malhotra, Atlas, and Tom Foster into a fantasy quest narrative, and Marco Castiello’s art is still so shadowy and less than detailed that it is still difficult at times to immediately know who’s talking. (Tom’s shirtlessness, Atlas’ septum ring, Scott’s Ant-Man helmet, and Raz’s Skyrim do help.) In Hero’s Journey and college movie tradition, they end up facing a threshold guardian, who needs them to pay a toll and drink way too much at a party.
Williams’ gift for humor shines through in Giant-Man #2 with Tom’s knack for karaoke coming in handy when faced by Frost Giant locals, and it’s nice to know that there are some Dolly Parton fans in Jotunheim. Castiello also turns the nine panel grid into a grid of debauchery as Atlas keeps downing pints while tired dad Scott Lang passes out early. Also, the drinking songs are cleverly weaved into the plot of the miniseries as the team literally learns how Frost Giants are made and end the penultimate issue with a shot of their final obstacle and a side of how utterly expendable they are. By leaning into fantasy genre trappings and its characters’ dysfunctional personalities, Leah Williams and Marco Castiello create a fun event tie-in that earns an Overall Verdict of Read.
Fantastic Four #10
One thing that I loved about Fantastic Four #10 is that write Dan Slott and artists Paco Medina and Kevin Libanda start out by telling the story of the Fantastic Four moving to Yancy Street and Franklin and Valeria Richards trying to fit in with “regular” kids after working with the Future Foundation out in the multiverse and don’t force a tie-in. Franklin is struggling with the dwindling nature of his powers and going through an emo phase, and there’s a block party. Then, Slott introduces all the baddies from “War of the Realms” and connect it to the strength and resolve of the people of Yancy Street as Franklin realizes that growing up in this neighborhood and learning to never give up made Ben Grimm a hero long before the Thing.
I love how Slott writes Franklin and Valeria as ungrateful adolescents and not just cute kids with big brains and godlike powers. Franklin’s almost limitless superpowers have gone to his head, and it’s nice to see some of the kids in the neighborhood cut him down to size when he brags about his abilities instead of helping with art classes at the Grimm Community Center. However, this story nails the awkwardness of moving to a new area when you’re a kid, getting used to new people, and ways of doing things. It also shows that New York didn’t roll over when Malekith invaded, and best of all, introduces a friendship/rivalry between Moon Girl and Valeria that I hope gets fleshed out in future issues. Most of “War of the Realms” has involved street level heroes fighting cosmic threats, but Slott, Medina, and Libanda turn the tables and have the Fantastic Four protecting their neighborhood. This earns Fantastic Four #10 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Although Marco Castiello’s giant blue Paul Rudd will haunt my dreams, this was probably one of the best weeks for “War of the Realms” with issues that focused on character and story and not making the millionth Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings reference. Even if Jason Aaron’s War of the Realms mini ends up being a bust, it won’t tarnish his classic Thor run, which has done a great job showing the journey of side characters during this event. Also, Anthony Oliveira needs to write a Young Avengers run ASAP, and Nick Robles has definitely entered the pantheon of sexy Loki artists after his work on War Scrolls #2 and even made the horned helmet cute.
(W) Jason Aaron, Devin Grayson, More (A) Andrea Sorrentino, More (CA) Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, Matt Hollingsworth Rated T+ In Shops: May 29, 2019 SRP: $4.99
THE MUST-READ COMPANION TO THE WAR OF THE REALMS!
From the Asgardian Bifrost, Daredevil watches Malekith and his forces lay waste to realms. Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino take Daredevil – the God Without Fear – to places he never believed he would see! Then, Devin Grayson spins a tale of magic and its consequences as Doctor Strange casts a spell that will cost him dearly – and devastate the Asgardian pantheon! All this and more straight from the battlefield of WAR OF THE REALMS!
If you’re a fan of the Eisner Award-winning series but have questions about the weird and wonderful world filled with Golden Age pulp heroes and alien warlords then you won’t want to miss this! Critically acclaimed writer and Black Hammer co-creator Jeff Lemire is teaming up with writer Tate Brombal to explore the colorful characters that populate the Black Hammer universe in a brand new one-shot, The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia!
This special one-shot offers a guide to the world of Black Hammer, presenting detailed biographies of Black Hammer’s heroes, villains, and supporting characters, illustrated by a wide assortment of superstar artists, including David Rubín (Ether), Wilfredo Torres (The Quantum Age), Tyler Crook (Harrow County), Christian Ward (Invisible Kingdom), and more! The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia features colors by Dave Stewart (Hellboy, Black Hammer) and a cover by Andrea Sorrentino!
The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia goes on sale July 3, 2019.
Wait, I thought this was an Asgard-centric event? Even though the bad guys are all elves, trolls, giants, and evil minotaur CEOs, the predominantly Big Apple-centric setting of War of the Realms#1 and #2 allows for some of Marvel’s street level vigilante to shine (Daredevil) or fall flat on their faces (Punisher). This week’s issue of War of the Realms and its tie-ins were the true definition of a mixed bag. War of the Realms #2 continued and wrapped up the big New York battle from the previous issue before spending a lot of its page count setting up various upcoming tie-ins in a pretty way from artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson. Plot-wise, there’s one small surprise, and we’re finally up to the events described in last week’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girltie-in. Speaking of tie-ins, they run the gamut from the instant classic that is Thor #12 to the should have been a one-shot and the first true stinker of “War of the Realms” that is War of the Realms: Punisher #1. In the middle is War of the Realms: War Scrolls #1, which tells some entertaining side-stories about Daredevil, the Warriors Three, and Wolverine (Confession: I don’t know how he’s back from the dead.) and squanders a cult book creator reunion.
War of the Realms#2
Feeling a little nostalgic for the 1980s, writer Jason Aaron titles this story “Midgard Massacre” in homage to the “Mutant Massacre” crossover where Morlocks were killed by Reavers, and characters like Daredevil, Thor, and the Power Pack showed up in X-books. A bunch of seemingly mismatched characters show up in War of the Realms #2, but Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson’s story lacks the emotional resonance of the previous Massacre until the final page. Plus Aaron and Dauterman wring out some great moments for Jane Foster and Freya beneath the fighting/strategic retreats. Jane gets to ride Valkyrie’s horse, Aragorn, fight with a sword, and is hinted to want to become Thor again even though it would mean the return of her cancer.
So, a big pitched battle in New York between superheroes and various fantasy creatures is an objectively cool idea and a reason why I decided to do this weekly column. However, it really starts to drag in War of the Realms #2 even with gorgeous Dauterman/Wilson tapestry pages to show the Valkyries entering the battle with a heavily wounded Odin to turn the tide Wagner style. Aaron tries to do the whole Battle of Hoth, “good guys get their butts kicked and retreat to another area” plot maneuver and succeeds in getting all the heroes from point A to point B, but stumbles in the execution. They don’t lose because they’re overwhelmed by sheer numbers, but because Dr. Strange’s teleport spell malfunctioned, which is a weak plot device featuring a tangential character. We don’t even see the costs of his spells like in Bendis and Hickman’s Avengers runs.
The big plot development other than a death for a character, who is already in a grey area between life and death and is about to be swapped out with her more popular movie version, is Malekith and his forces taking over Midgard. This is told to us with word balloons instead of on-panel, or in the tie-ins, which mainly take place in New York. There’s no heroic last stand, or emotional connection, but Aaron rushes off to characters setting up the next issue or tie-in’s plot in expository dialogue with the occasional fish out of water joke like Luke Cage’s eye roll when he talks about fighting trolls in Harlem. War of the Realms #2 feels like a giant action figure battle with a slight touch of emotional resonance every time Jane Foster brandishes her sword, or when Freyja decides to lead the rescue mission to get Thor in Jotunheim. It barely gets the overall verdict of Read because of a harrowing final page, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s art, and because it has the seeds of potential to be a great Freyja and/or superhero buddy team-up book.
For better or worse, the modern character of Loki will always be defined by the way Tom Hiddleston portrayed him in the MCU films and the way Kieron Gillen wrote him in Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers doing clever plotting, world-building, and crafting a character that desperately wants to change, but can’t. These stories were often in the middle of event tie-ins, and Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo join this tradition in Thor #12, which is Journey into Mystery meets A Christmas Carol. Loki is being eaten by his own father, Laufey the Frost Giant, and wants to just die when he’s visited by his past, present-ish (Kid Loki), and future self aka Loki the NecroGod. Aaron has established the past and future selves in various flashback and flashforward stories in Thor so he can get straight to the character study part.
Thor #12 is full of “a-ha” moments beginning when Loki realizes that he basically created the villain Malekith when he orchestrated a war between the Dark Elves and trolls, and young Malekith was subjected to the trauma of constantly burning the corpses of his people into a mass grave. He and his past sins are responsible for the War of the Realms, and Del Mundo nails this moment of recognition with great facial expression work for an artist who is mostly known for his layouts and Heavy Metal approach to superhero stories. He uses a varying color palette as Loki goes from the fires of Svartalfheim to the cold of Jotunheim and finally ooey gooey stained glass of the end of all things. This issue is easily my favorite work of his since Elektra.
But Thor #12 is more than great art. Jason Aaron offers a pinpoint look into how Loki is just a man who has been lying to himself all his life about who he is and the consequences of his actions beginning with one about how his magic tutor, Eldred, would have died in a dungeon any way. This lie led to others and became Loki’s character and story that he is fated to follow even though fate, er, the Norns are off the table in Aaron’s Thor run. This self-deception coupled with a death wish persists until the end of time, or currently, in some kind of hellscape caused by being eaten by his own father. Even if you’ve sworn off “War of the Realms”, Thor #12’s overall verdict is a Read because of Mike Del Mundo’s triple threat of art styles and Jason Aaron’s razor sharp characterization of Loki that is conversation with Gillen’s work while also breaking fantastic new ground.
War of the Realms: War Scrolls#1
One of my favorite pleasures from event comics are the anthology miniseries that tell either serial or one-shot stories about fan favorite D-list characters or give up and coming creators a chance to play in a shared universe sandbox. War of the Realms: War Scrolls #1 has a good amount of this with Josh Trujillo (Dodge City) and Ricardo Lopez-Ortiz (Kingpin) doing a combo Warriors Three and Cloak and Dagger story while Ram V (Paradiso) and Cafu (Imperium) tell the story of an Asian-American teenager’s experience with Wolverine. Chip Zdarsky, Joe Quinones, and Rico Renzi’s return to Howard the Duck is well-drawn, if underwhelming and sophomoric. This is made up for by an intelligent, wonderful Daredevil by Jason Aaron and drawn by Andrea Sorrentino in a looser style with colors by Matthew Wilson that should have gotten its own mini and is the multi part serial of the bunch.
Jason Aaron’s Thor: The God of Thunder (Especially the “God Butcher” arc.) was as much theodicy as Viking metal space opera, and his work on the various Asgardians have touched on big questions, like faith, belief, fate, and higher powers, from a predominantly skeptical point of view. So, it’s very intriguing to see him write Marvel’s man of faith, Daredevil, who is shocked when he meets Thor and his heartbeat is steady when talking about being a god.
Plus the flashback is a chance for Sorrentino to kick it Silver Age style, Ben-Day dots and all. The present narrative features Daredevil playing the role of street level hero, protecting his neighborhood from otherworldly threats, and then getting an Asgardian upgrade that will be described in an upcoming issue of War of the Realms. It’s nice to see one of Marvel’s consistently best written and drawn heroes play a key role in an event comic, and Kingpin’s role in the story makes my mouth water. There’s also the aforementioned Andrea Sorrentino style switch up that isn’t at the cost of making his work less iconic beginning with a little Frost Giant dismemberment.
Speaking of cartooning, Trujillo, Lopez-Ortiz, and colorist Felipe Sobreiro go for lower stakes, but don’t skimp on the fun in their Warriors Three story where Hogun, Fandral, and Hildegarde have to drag an indisposed Volstagg to the Sanctum Sanctorum. There’s action, derring do, Shakespearean English type banter, and slapstick humor with a side of horror as they meet up with Cloak and Dagger and protect the ordinary citizens of New York on the way to their destination. Ram V and Cafu’s Wolverine story is in a similar vein as teens named Jae and Chris rush through the streets of New York to make it to the Sanctum Sanctorum and watch Logan’s six along the way. Cafu’s renderings are a little stiff, but Ram V truly believes in the inspirational power of superheroes even ones that are rough around the edges. His banter between Wolverine and Punisher is also deadpan funny too, which makes it all the more sad that Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones return to Howard the Duck isn’t witty, satirical, and filled with sight gags, but one long pee joke. However, War Scrolls #1’s overall verdict is still Read, and I’m very excited to see what Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino do with Daredevil and Kingpin.
War of the Realms: Punisher #1
On the surface, I thought that War of the Realms: Punisher #1 and “War of the Realms” was just an excuse for Frank Castle to kill things with no moral dilemmas, and unfortunately, I was right. Writer Gerry Duggan, and capital “G” gritty artists Marcelo Ferreira and Roberto Poggi along with solid colorist Rachelle Rosenberg make the Punisher a heroic figure compared to the dark elves and fire trolls he fights and the prisoners he recruits as allies to escort patients from a hospital in Manhattan through the Lincoln Tunnel into New Jersey. Old Uncle Frank will ignore your weed stash in return for some piano wire, not take revenge on a Frost Giant to get a man out of a burning car, and even shoot a criminal in the head to show what happens if you don’t help him escort some “innocent” patients to Jersey.
The Punisher shooting elves and trolls while helping people get from New York to New Jersey with hardened criminals as allies would make a decent action-oriented one-shot. Like a high fantasy version of The Raid, but with a vigilante, not a cop. However, War of the Realms: The Punisher #1 spends almost its entire page time on Frank Castle hero worship and mowing down purely evil creatures and only sets up its premise at the very end saving the tunnel action bits for the upcoming two issues.
War of the Realms: The Punisher #1’s is drawn in a superhero house style with thicker and darker inks from Roberto Poggi and flashes of powerful colors from Rachelle Rosenberg like when a car becomes almost entirely flame. It’s the comic book equivalent of Eli Roth’s footloose and conscience free Death Wish remake with extra trolls, giants, and elves and no pesky moral grey areas. It’s no surprise that its overall verdict is Pass.
Two issues in, and Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson are still in pure action figure geek mode matching up a plethora of superheroes against fantasy races established in their work on Thor’s solo title. There are still compelling stories between the fights, obvious tie-in setups, and off panel plot developments like Aaron and Mike Del Mundo’s captivating standalone Loki story in Thor #12, Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino’s intriguing Daredevil/Kingpin serial, and Josh Trujillo and Ricardo Lopez-Ortiz’s Warriors Three short. But there are also stinkers like War of the Realms: Punisher, an ill-fated Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones Howard the Duck reunion, and hopefully not the core War of the Realms miniseries. But, hey, at least, we have a few more issues of Sorrentino drawing Daredevil.