Tag Archives: asgardians of the galaxy

Messages from Midgard Finale: The Good and Bad of War of the Realms

Just when you thought you’d seen the last of me, here’s another installment of “Messages from Midgard“. This isn’t a column length analysis of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #46, which was the final “War of the Realms” tie-in to come out although I will mention Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi‘s hilarious and clever work with Doreen Green and the Norse squirrel god of chaos Ratatoskr later. No, I have come to survey the wreckage of “War of the Realms” and sift out what worked and what didn’t as well as the memorable moments and the comics that will gather dust in the quarter/dollar/whatever currency inflates to bin at the comic cons and stores of the future.

Without further ado, here’s “War of the Realms: The Good and the Bad“.


The Good

1. Thor’s Character Arc

The core War of the Realms series was at its finest when Jason Aaron remembers that he and Thor have been on a seven year journey together, and this event is the climax. Sure, the montages of Fire Goblin and Frost Giant destruction, superheroes making inane Tolkien and DnD quips, and Punisher shooting Elves are fun. However, the series clicks when it focuses on Thor feeling guilt for the death of the Valkyries and Loki, going on a berserker rage, returning with one arm, and then making sacrifices to not just become a hero, but the All-Father of Asgard. Tom Taylor does a good job enhancing this main narrative in his Land of the Giants tie-in where Wolverine tells his teammates to let Thor let his berserker rage burn out and kill Giants before he is ready begin the next step of his journey.

Despite the continent and realm spanning tie-ins and some issues in the middle, which feel like trailers for more interesting comics with cool battles, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman craft a robust arc for Thor. They also make a great one for Jane Foster too as she evacuates New York, takes on the role of All-Mother in Freyja’s absence, wields War Thor’s helmet, and finally becomes the new Valkyrie. Superhero comics are all about the illusion of change, but it’s cool to look back and see a damsel-in-distress nurse battle cancer, become the goddess of Thunder, revoke that mantle, and find new ways to be heroic in War of the Realms. Basically, people who started reading comics in the 2010s will only see Jane Foster as a hero thanks to the work of Aaron, Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson.


Image result for russell dauterman war of the realms

2. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s Visuals

All my high-falutin’ words about responsibility, heroic journeys, and mythology aside, at its core, War of the Realms is a no holds barred good guys vs bad guys superhero throwdown except with fantasy baddies instead of the usual costumed villains. And this is all thanks to the art of Russell Dauterman and the colors of Matthew Wilson. Dauterman is like a modern day Art Adams (Who did the covers for War of the Realms) or George Perez and possesses a singular gift for splash pages with multiple characters and making them compositions that tell a story instead of glorified pinups. He excels at both layouts and character designs using the newly omniscient Daredevil as the reader’s POV on the action of the War of the Realms while coming up with cool riffs on characters like Odin’s Iron Man armor, Malekith becoming engorged by the Venom symbiote, or Freyja going full Vanir witch on Malekith and his minions.

Matthew Wilson really is the secret weapon throughout the “War of the Realms” event with his work on the core miniseries as well as issues of Thor and the Daredevil serial in War Scrolls. His colors are the ingredient that put the Frost in Frost Giants, the Fire in Fire Goblins, and the effects he uses in War of the Realms #6 make the storm caused by the four Thors truly cataclysmic. But his work isn’t all chaos and Kirby krackle, and there’s delightful minimalism to the big scenes like the reforging of Mjolnir or Daredevil gazing from above that cause one’s eye to linger on the panel and reread the issues that he has colored and that Russell Dauterman has drawn again.


3. Humor-Driven Tie-Ins

The “War of the Realms” tie-ins aren’t at their best when they’re trying to make serious points about the effects of war, like Dennis Hallum and Kim Jacinto did in War of the Realms Strikeforce: The War Avengers. They do work when they lean into the fun and lore of superhero comics and events. For example, in Superior Spider-Man, Gwenpool comments on the well-worn structure of event comics and how a B-Lister like Doc Ock doesn’t get to strike the final blow against Malekith, and in Skottie Young and Nic Klein’s Deadpool, the titular character fights trolls with the help of Australian stereotypes and the event’s single funny Lord of the Rings joke. There is also a great short story in War Scrolls #2 by Anthony Oliveira and Nick Robles where Loki (in disguise as Kate Bishop) and Wiccan go to drag brunch.

However, the two tie-ins that take the cake in the comedy department and are also fun road stories are The McElroys and Andre Araujo‘s Journey into Mystery and the aforementioned Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Most of the humor in Journey into Mystery comes from character idiosyncrasies, like Miles Morales not knowing what to do in a casino because he’s never left Brooklyn or Death Locket’s obsession with Westerns because those were the only movies her Life Model Decoy “uncle” had programmed. The jokes also come out of the wacky situations that the ensemble cast finds them in from a Skrull trailer park to a literal Western ghost town and a henchman convention.

In Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi send the titular character on a mission from Loki to take out the Frost Giants’ secret base in Canada. On the way, she gets a cute new costume from her mom, sees two Frost Giants make out, reads Robert Frost poetry on her own, and builds an unlikely friendship and alliance with Ratatoskr, a Norse squirrel deity that is tricksy even for Loki. North’s script continues to be joke-dense and full of fun facts about science and the world around us while insightfully showing Squirrel Girl at her conflict-avoiding and problem-solving finest. Her actions even have an effect on the larger event, and Derek Charm’s art continues to be heckin’ cute.


4. Standalone Character Studies

Jason Aaron plays some good 3D chess by using War of the Realms to tell the big, loud story of Malekith’s invasion and Thor finding confidence in himself again and his other titles Thor and Avengers to tell quieter (Sometimes) character studies and hint at big plans after the War. So, we get stories like Loki being visited by his past and future selves while being digested in his father’s stomach, a tale of Gorilla-Man’s day to day role at the Avengers HQ during a crisis situation, and She-Hulk dealing with people’s (and by extension readers’) perceptions of her and how she really wants to be. They provide a fresh outlook on the events of the War of the Realms that isn’t just omniscient narration or Thor’s quest.

Avengers #18-#20 end up pulling double duty by introducing the Squadron Supreme of America as well as fleshing out the aforementioned Gorilla-Man and She-Hulk and setting up future plans for Aaron’s works in the Marvel Universe. The Squadron is a great satire of nationalism with a bit of trolling towards the DC Universe, and Aaron wisely puts them in an ancillary book to not detract from “War of the Realms”. The same goes with Gorilla-Man, who is in cahoots with the imprisoned Dracula meaning that the King of the Damned still has a role to play in this book’s events. And none of this is mentioned in the core War of the Realms mini, who only spends a solitary panel setting up Marvel’s next event “Absolute Carnage” as Venom slithers away from Malekith’s Necrosword. It’s nice to enjoy the ride/event you’re on before thinking about the next one.


The Bad

5. Mediocre Minis

Most Big Two events have three to six issue miniseries to add depth to major supporting characters, give B-list heroes a showcase, or just to make money. Sadly, most of “War of the Realms'” minis were more miss than hit with the exception of Journey into Mystery and the anthology series War Scrolls. I also personally liked the end of War of the Realms: Punisher and its portrayal of Frank Castle as a defender of innocents and unrelenting executioner of criminals even if it didn’t connect to his portrayal in the event possible.

However, the rest of “War of the Realms'” minis were either untapped potential or just plain stinkers. New Agents of Atlas introduced a new team of Pan-Asian superheroes, but became overwhelmed by its ensemble cast and its intriguing character designs didn’t translate well to its interior art. Giant-Man had a madcap concept of Marvel’s size-changing heroes taking out the “source” of the Frost Giants, Ymir. But it went off the rails by its third issue with a villain who was shoehorned in and an artist that was really bad at staging and establishing scenes.

Spider-Man and the League of Realms had a cool concept of Spider-Man leading representatives from the other nine realms into battle, but it constantly changed settings, switched bad guy/threat on the fly, and like New Agents of Atlas, didn’t make me care enough about its ensemble cast. The worst tie-in of all was War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men which had a decent premise of the X-Men defending New York, but shoehorned in awkward connections to Norse mythology, killed off Sunspot for no reason and had no focus even though Sabretooth would have made a great villain. Thankfully, it will probably be all retconned when Jonathan Hickman begins his X-Men run.

If you stick to the core miniseries plus the Thor, Avengers, War Scrolls, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and Journey into Mystery tie-ins (I can also vouch for Cullen Bunn’s work on Asgardians of the Galaxy and Venom.), “War of the Realms” is a good time. First and foremost, it works as an event because it’s a culmination of seven years of work that Jason Aaron has done with Thor, Jane Foster, Odin, Freyja, Asgard, and the non-Midgard Realms instead of trying to tie into an MCU movie. In fact, much of the current MCU Thor’s arc seems inspired by the work that Aaron has done throughout his run.

Advertisements

Messages from Midgard #11 – Thank You, Frost

Endings seem to be a recurring theme for this week’s “War of the Realms” books with Giant-Man being the first tie-in miniseries to reach the finish line thanks to some incredible weirdness and a wonderful father/daughter team-up from Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg. There’s also the bittersweet end to Cullen Bunn’s work on the Asgardians of the Galaxy series even after it was name-dropped in the second highest grossing movie of all time. Thankfully, Tini Howard and German Peralta’s recently announced Strikeforce will continue Angela’s journey.

In addition to these titles, Bunn and Iban Coello’s short Venom arc wraps up just in time for “Absolute Carnage”, Superior Spider-Man is way too funny and meta, Champions seems determined to feature every teen Marvel hero, and Ryan North and Derek Charm’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is still a wonderful gift with Ariana Grande karaoke and Frost Giants talking shop about, well, frost.


Giant-Man #3

My feelings on the conclusion of Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Giant-Man are definitely mixed. What has been a fairly straightforward adventure yarn set in Florida and featuring Marvel’s size changing heroes gets pretty freaking weird. Apparently, former Thunderbolt/Master of Evil Moonstone has been enslaving the women of Florida to forcibly harvest ice from Ymir to make Ice Giants. It’s definitely a twist and throws a wrench into the whole Ymir assassination mission. The scene where Cassie Lang rescues the slaves and teams up with her dad are heartwarming as well as Raz’s empathy for Ymir, who is in pain and being held against his will. Ymir being a victim and more of a primal force of nature than a baddie is more nuanced and memorable than the team punching him to death.

However, Williams and Castiello do less of a good job introducing and telling the story of Moonstone, the miniseries’ Big Bad. Her powers and motivation fluctuate depending on this scene as she goes from slave master to force of nature and even a redemptive figure depending on the scene. It’s like Williams and Castiello reached the end of miniseries and realized they needed a final boss that wasn’t Ymir and used her past connection with Atlas as a shorthand reason to feature her. Throw in visuals that are hard to follow when the characters change size, and unfortunately, Giant-Man #3 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.


Asgardians of the Galaxy #10

Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 is a bittersweet comic for many reasons. It features the quirky cast of this book kicking ass together one last time as well as Angela using the MacGuffin from the book’s first arc to get revenge on the Angels of Heven, who abused and tortured her. Writer Cullen Bunn and sharp artists Luca Maresca and Federico Blee give each character a couple of fantastic moments before signing off on a series that had an interesting cast of characters, a fun morally ambiguous space-faring tone, fantastic LGBTQ representation, and was mostly forced to be an event tie-in.

But the fact that it’s a tie-in doesn’t negate Skurge earning redemption as a hero in Valhalla, Angela saving Nairobi, Kenya and finding revenge by beheading her evil adoptive mother, and Ren and Annabelle Riggs being cute while getting cool weapons from the dwarf Urzuul. Maresca’s art has a cartoonish lyricism to him with slash shaped panels when Angela and an army of undead gods lay waste to Heven, or when Okoye gives Annabelle tips on using a Valkyrie spear. He and Bunn do an excellent job wrapping up Angela, Skurge, and Annabelle’s arc while letting this team kick ass in various and sundry ways. Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy, and hopefully, it’ll get a revival once Chris Hemsworth signs a deal to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.


Champions #6

Jim Zub, Juanan Ramirez, and Marco Menyz bust out the Disir, the cursed ghosts of Odin’s father Bor’s Valkyries, in their Champions “War of the Realms” tie-in. First appearing in Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, they’re a formidable foe for this team of teen heroes that almost seems to double in membership each issue. Zub and Ramirez are constantly cutting from character to character throughout this issue in different action scenes. However, a few beats land like Power Man realizing the full potential of his “chi”-based powers and basically hulking out and save the team’s asses when he is stabbed in the heart by a magical, undead Asgardian artifact. There is also Kamala Khan, who gets a vision of her dead in a parallel universe and starts to realize that leadership of the Champions may be too much for her.

These two strong character moments stand out in what is mostly a loud, action-driven issue where the Champions are driven up a wall, and it’s hard to get a read on any character personalities between the explosions. Zub does hit on a few cool concepts like Hummingbird joining the team because she saw a distress call on a message board and using her empathy-driven, telepathic abilities to calm the team down. With the exception of the loose cartooning and cool moment where Power Man gets to wreak havoc, Champions #6 pales in comparison to the previous issue’s Cyclops and Kamala-centric tale and reduces powerful enemies to “monster of the week” status. Therefore, it earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.


Superior Spider-Man #7

I haven’t read the previous issues of Superior Spider-Man, but Christos Gage, Lan Medina, Cam Smith, and Andy Troy’s work on this story definitely made me want to pick up the previous six issues. The series has a similar premise to Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, but without the weird mind swap plot devices and is more about a bad guy trying to do good and use the power of science and his intellect to be a better hero than Spider-Man. The first half of this issue is filled with precise storytelling and illustrations from Medina and Smith as Spider-Ock evacuates San Francisco and turns his brain to the cause of Frost Giants invading North America and not just the symptom. As Gwenpool later states, he’s a core miniseries hero stuck in a tie-in.

Oh yeah, and to pile awesomeness on more awesomeness, Gage, and Medina pair Spider-Ock with the West Coast Avengers because he wants to use America’s star portal abilities to shut down the one letting Frost Giants onto Earth. This plan doesn’t work out, but we get fun team-up fights, Gwenpool doing running commentary on event comic structure, and Spider-Ock and Quentin Quire bonding over their shared interest in arrogance. I love how the other characters think she’s raving mad, but the always curious Spider-Ock is out here asking questions about “legacy characters”. For its strong visuals, heavy dose of meta-humor, fun guest stars, and interesting characterization of Spider-Ock, Superior Spider-Man earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45

The search for the Frost Giants’ secret base continues in Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, but due to irreconcilable ethical differences, Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr break up as teammates fairly early in the story. The split-up and reunion leads to great comedy, pathos, and later, adventure using the power of Frost Giant-induced fast travel. Ratatoskr doesn’t want to save the world; she only wants to create chaos and use her mind control abilities to get whatever the heck she wants. This includes go-kart video games, on command Frost Giant-friendly performances of “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, and even psychological therapy.

However, the therapy part (Done by a mind-controlled Frost Giant.) named Daisy reveals that Squirrel Girl’s words about Ratatoskr never creating and only destroying have gotten under her skin. (Charm and Renzi draw moment of truth Ratatoskr quite adorable.) This leads to forgiveness and working together to stop the Frost Giant in an ethical, non-mind controlling way. But, there’s one last pit stop before the HQ as Charm and Renzi capture the beauty of snowfall and nature with the help of the (Newly in the public domain) poems of Robert Frost. (Also, North can’t help himself with puns.) It’s a singular moment in a very silly comic with a tongue in cheek ending. For showing that beauty and humor can co-exist with sneaking around a Frost Giant camp, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Venom #15

In the conclusion to their Venom “War of the Realms” arc, Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, Alberto Albuquerque, Roberto Poggi, and Andres Mossa realize that Jack’o’Lantern is kind of a lame villain and pivot to Eddie Brock battling his own anger with a side of Dreamstone magic. The interplay between Bunn’s narration and the chaotic line art of Coello and Albuquerque creates heavy metal alchemy as Eddie wanders around New York and channels his anger again to remember that he is a “lethal” protector of the innocent, especially his son Dylan. He genuinely cares about the regular people who are caught in the crossfire of the War of the Realms and comes up with a new spin on “We are Venom” to protect them in a fist-bumping moment.

Venom #15, and Bunn and Coello’s overall work on this storyline has been a fantastic marriage of deep emotional turmoil and fun symbiote-meet-dark magic action. This issue is no exception as Eddie has his big moment and the returns to the bunker to protect Dylan and continue their journey to survive. What could have been filler while Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman were prepping “Absolute Carnage” end up telling a tale about Eddie and his son trying to survive in a world without his symbiote and featured memorable visual mash-ups of Asgardian and symbiote iconography. Because of this, Venom #15 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.

This was truly “War of the Realms'” week of the underdog as characters, like Skurge the Executioner, Squirrel Girl, Gwenpool, Spider-Ock, Annabelle Riggs, and the West Coast Avengers, who get their books canceled or a relegated to second stringers lit up the comics pages thanks to the passion of creators like Cullen Bunn, Ryan North, Christos Gage, Luca Maresca, Derek Charm, and Lan Medina. In particular, Bunn’s letter at the end of Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 about how he wanted to do a story with these characters back in 2015 and then had to shoehorn them into two events shows the pitfalls of having an original spirit in corporate comics. But, hey, we’ll have those ten majestic issues than honestly work whether or not you read “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”.


Panel of the Week

I really hope someone in the Ariana Grande camp reads comics. (From Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, Art by Derek Charm and Rico Renzi)

Messages from Midgard #8- Noble Jester Warriors

This installment of Messages from Midgard is dedicated to the memory of Marvel Comics colorist Justin Ponsor, who passed away from cancer earlier this week. He worked on many fantastic comics, including Ultimate Spider-Man and the Avengers comic that led into “War of the Realms”.

“War of the Realms” hit critical mass this week with eight total tie-ins featuring characters as diverse as Spider-Man, Punisher, the X-Men and even Gorilla Man and one of the Jack’o’Lanterns. There were some books this week that screamed “unnecessary” or even “cash grab”, such as War of the Realms: Punisher and War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men, which did the mean thing of bringing Wolfsbane back after she was fridged a couple issues back in Uncanny X-Men #17.

But there were also some hits this week. The McElroys’ and Andre Araujo’s War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery continues to be a delight, Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness play 3D chess by using Avengers to flesh out parts of “War of the Realms” while laying the foundation for future storylines in the book, and Tom Taylor and Jorge Molina turn in a Strikeforce: Land of the Giants one-shot that has pathos, humor, action, and made me with they were writing an Avengers book. Honestly, that book is how you do a superhero comic with popular, long established characters in 2019.


War of the Realms Strike Force: Land of the Giants #1

Tom Taylor, artists Jorge Molina and Adriano Di Benedetto and colorist David Curiel depict Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist’s Pegasus-riding, Asgardian armor wearing quest to find Thor in War of the Realms Strike Force: Land of the Giants #1. Taylor makes Spider-Man the narrator and POV character as he processes all the violence, destruction, and fantasy beings around him in narrative captions that are him talking to Mary Jane. He is generally freaked out about what is going, but there is a feeling of real glee when Captain America swoops in on a flying horse to pick him up for a secret mission. The humor, both physical and verbal, is the secret ingredient in this comic from Wolverine messing with Spidey by putting a random helmet on his head to Luke Cage’s deadpan reaction to Spider-Man talking to his horse, Buttercup aka Queen Artorius.

And the character of Queen Artorius is the real emotional linchpin of Land of the Giants #1 as Taylor and Molina show that the death of the Valkyries’ steeds in War of the Realms #3 wasn’t animal cruelty, but mighty warriors fighting to avenge their riders. Also, her description of Spider-Man as a “noble jester warrior” captures his essence. When the team hits Jotunheim, Molina, Di Benedetto, and Curiel’s become quite dark as they must kill all the Frost Giants for Thor to snap out of his berserker rage. This ability to blend a fun superhero ensemble piece with the horrors of war and genuine emotion is why Land of the Giants #1 gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.


War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #3

Journey into Mystery is the one “War of the Realms” tie-in that I’m glad is a five and not three issue miniseries. Who would have thought that a group of guys (The McElroys) who hang out on a regular basis would excel at writing an ensemble cast that you wouldn’t mind hanging out with? In this issue, the team goes Western and ends up at a literal ghost town populated by old Marvel Western characters. This prompts Death Locket and Wonder Man to debate about their favorite Westerns that culminates in finger guns at dawn. The sassy teen Death Locket’s love of classic Westerns (Nothing after 1970’s Rio Lobo.) is a weird trait, but the McElroys connect it to character background because those were the only movies she had access to as an LMD living with her “Uncle” Dum Dum. (Another LMD).

It’s safe to say that Death Locket geeks out the entire fight sequence against characters like Apache Kid and Phantom Rider, and artist Andre Araujo and colorist Chris O’Halloran use all kinds of grids to make the action easy to follow. Their strong storytelling allows the McElroys to pepper in jokes and character insights like Miles and Thori bonding, or Balder admitting he’s a bad leader and letting Kate Bishop take charge. Kate was already a cool character, but her ability to know where arrows land by looking an archer’s stance and holds puts her on another level. There is still an ongoing story with Thor’s sister Laussa and Ares as the divine Javert, but the McElroys and Araujo continue to give each issue its own distinct flavor of adventure, which earns Journey into Mystery #3 an Overall Verdict of Buy.


War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #2

I’m really glad that a New Agents of Atlas miniseries was announced in Marvel’s August solicits, but these characters deserve better than they’re getting in this miniseries. Greg Pak, Gang Hyuk Lim, and Federico Blee fill New Agents of Atlas #2’s pages with action, but the only character whose personality that I have a grip on is Pele, the Pacific Islander fire elemental. She’s much more serious than her compatriots, Aero and Wave, and her connection to Earth allows her to see the big picture. Clayton Cowles stately world balloons for her really drive the point home in this issue that is full of strategic retreats, carefully timed Amadeus Cho teleports, and the takeover of South Korea by Fire Goblins.

New Agents of Atlas #2’s pacing is the opposite of decompression as Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk Lim try to move from battle to battle and show off new characters, like Sword Master’s powers, while using Jimmy Woo to comment on the “team’s” lack of teamwork. They are allergic to establishing panels and locations and want to skip to the cool moments of which there are a few like Shang Chi kicking a Fire Goblin in the face. New Agents of Atlas could be a new team of international heroes with different cultures, personalities, and abilities, but right now it’s just a big old jumble with house style visuals, which earns this issue an Overall Verdict of Pass. Hopefully, the team fares better when they don’t have to be an event tie-in.


War of the Realms: Punisher #2

The Punisher has fared quite well in the “War of the Realms” event as Freyja made him the leader of her team to invade Malekith’s realm and destroy the Black Bifrost. His background as a veteran of wars, both overseas and against organized crime, fits the series’ themes and has led to some unlikely bonds between him and the Asgardians. But, none of this comes through in War of the Realms: Punisher #2 where writer Gerry Duggan, artists Marcelo Ferreira and Roberto Poggi, and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg tell the story of him and team of prisoners leading a group of people to safety from New York to New Jersey via the Lincoln Tunnel. It’s all (cool looking to be honest) violence, a predictable plot twist, and a non-existent antagonist/supporting cast. Also, Frank is drawn as ugly as the trolls he’s mowing down.

The first issue of War of the Realms: Punisher established the characters of Dr. Baldwin and the criminal Ferrante, but the first does nothing and the other just betrays Frank on the last page. Duggan’s writing of Frank is one dimensional too with the exception of a touching, sepia colored scene where he remembers being stuck in Lincoln Tunnel traffic with his wife and kids during a happier time. Punisher is there to kill and make gritty faces. His using lighter fluid, lighter, and a grenade to blow up a troll is cool, but this story continues to feel unnecessary because Frank is written much better in the main series and the Dark Elf Realm tie-in. The concept of a vigilante teaming up with the criminals he usually executes to protect innocent people is intriguing, if a little 1970s. However, Duggan, Ferreira, and Poggi can’t pull it off on the page so War of the Realms: Punisher #2 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.


War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #2

I despised War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1, but issue two isn’t as bad with Matthew Rosenberg, Pepe Larraz, and Rachelle Rosenberg leaning more into the X-Men’s role as the last protectors of Queens with Citi Field as a base. But, then, there’s the whole Wolfsbane subplot featuring a child and a Norse god plus a wild Sabretooth appears with no explanation of why he’s acting this way and teaming up with Frost Giants. Except Wolfsbane is dead in the main series so the subplot comes across as an arbitrary something to move the story other than team action sequences.

The highlight of War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #2 is Larraz’s mostly solid fight choreography from Jamie Madrox and his dupes leaping and slicing Frost Giants with an axe to Havok and Cyclops blasting things and finally a heavy on the reds and claw shaped panels battle royale between Wolfsbane and Sabretooth. But, then, it seems Rosenberg realizes that he has to throw in some kind of a cliffhanger so he introduces Wolfsbane’s ex on the last couple pages and goes full soap opera. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the X-Men, which has always been a soapy comic, but comes across as disingenuous in relation to Wolfsbane’s recent death. Like War of the Realms: Punisher, a band of fan favorite X-Men protecting New York from the friendly confines of Citi Field sounded like a cool concept, but it can’t really sustain its own miniseries and earns the Overall Verdict of Pass again.


Avengers #19

Jason Aaron is using the events of “War of the Realms” in Avengers to maneuver pieces in his overall plan for the series as well as show the events of the War from a different POV with the help of wide screen art maestros Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, Justin Ponsor, and Erick Arciniega. In this case, it’s Gorilla Man, who is an alcoholic with an ancient curse as well as the head of security for Avengers Mountain and an Agent of Wakanda. Aaron uses him to provide some snarky commentary on crossover events as well as share his honest opinions on A-listers like Captain America, Captain Marvel, Black Panther, and Tony Stark (Respect, respect, fear, douchebag.) He also gets to check in on some Avengers ongoing plotlines like Russia’s superhero team Winter Guard and the fate of Dracula and have a chance to be a hero.

The choice of art team really impacts the story of Avengers #19. McGuinness, Morales, and Ponsor are known for their work on blockbuster comics and for the most part, play Gorilla Man’s entry into the War of Realms straight even if he and Russian double agent Ursa Major meet in a zoo to swap intel. Gorilla Man isn’t an Avenger, but his quick swinging and technical know-how allows Shuri and Tony to score a hit on the invading Frost Giant/Dark Elf army with a Celestial weapon. But, in keeping with the previous issue’s dark and shady tone, this isn’t the triumphant tale of a Z-list hero finding redemption, and Avengers #19’s subversive ending, characterization of Gorilla-Man, and big time art earns it an Overall Verdict of Buy. Aaron’s Avengers run is really the love child of Brian Michael Bendis’ sharp, savvy character interactions and Jonathan Hickman’s long term planning.


Asgardians of the Galaxy #9

Out of all the “War of the Realms” books, Asgardians of the Galaxy #9 does the best job of exploring the emotional impact of the death of the Valkyries in War of the Realms #3. But this isn’t just a sit around and mourn issue. Cullen Bunn, gritty, yet pretty artist Paolo Villanelli, and colorist Federico Blee send the team (Minus Angela and Urzuul) on a magical mission with the Inhuman Ren Kimura to rescue her girlfriend and fellow Asgardian of the Galaxy, Annabelle Riggs, from a limbo-type state.

Basically, Bunn and Villanelli take the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice and make it lesbian and more action-packed. Villanelli and Blee veil the area around Valhalla in shadow and fill it with revenant warriors that are a perfect punching bag for Ren, Clea, and the wholesome boys/frog Thunderstrike, Skurge, and Throg. But this story isn’t just about smiting, and Bunn gives the unique relationship between Valkyrie and Annabelle Riggs real closure and motivates the team to fight back against Malekith and his forces. Also, there’s smooching, Valkyrie’s sacrifice is justified, and the usually standoffish Angela empathizes with Ren because she had just gone through a similar situation with her girlfriend, Sera. Asgardians of the Galaxy continues its great tradition of telling fantastic stories under the constraints of crossover events and gets an Overall Verdict of Buy. Hopefully, it will get more issues after getting name checked in Avengers Endgame of all places.


Venom #14

One of the big continuity boo-boo’s of “War of the Realms” is that currently Venom has his normal symbiote and is a slave of Malekith in the core series while he has a magic symbiote and is doing his own thing in the comic called Venom. However, Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, and Andres Mossa’s focus on the relationship between Eddie Brock and his son (Who think he’s his little brother) Dylan and monster movie worthy battle between Venom and Jack’o’Lantern made me forget about the continuity issue. Basically, in Venom #14, Venom fights Jack’o’Lantern, who initially is a puppet of Malekith’s War Witches, but then goes off the reservation and starts burning down San Francisco.

If Venom #13 was The Road with elves and magic, Venom #14 is a kaiju movie. Less Dylan means less pathos, but there is more crazy symbiote action and yet another costume change for Eddie Brock that is more Viking berserker than Todd McFarlane. Coello’s loose cartooning is perfect for a clash between a fire character and viscous fluid character, and Bunn continues to tap into the “Lethal Protector” characterization of Venom as a monster who protects innocents from worst monsters that include corporations in a nice bit of political satire. Venom #14 is messy and angsty, but it’s a lot of fun and still has the emotional core of Eddie and Dylan so it gets an Overall Verdict of Read.

Reading through the “War of the Realms” books this weeks definitely felt like going to one of those all you can eat buffets off the Interstate. There were parts of the meal that I definitely savored with Journey into Mystery and Land of the Frost Giants being the yummy, yet healthy salad bar and Venom being that terrible for you, yet addictive fried chicken. And then, there were War of the Realms: Punisher, Uncanny X-Men, and sadly, New Agents of Atlas, which felt like yesterday’s warmed over leftovers. Writing for an event can be handcuffs on some creators, but others, like Tom Taylor, Cullen Bunn, and the McElroys, use it to craft stories that are fun and sometimes even a bit emotional. (RIP Buttercup/Queen Artorius)


Panel of the Week

Spider-Man and a talking, majestic horse is easily the best team-up of “War of the Realms” so far. (War of the Realms Strikeforce: Land of the Giants #1, Art by Jorge Molina, Adriano Di Benedetto, David Curiel)

Preview: Asgardians of the Galaxy #9

Asgardians of the Galaxy #9

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Paolo Villanelli (CA) Gerardo Sandoval
Rated T+
In Shops: May 22, 2019
SRP: $3.99

WAR OF THE REALMS TIE-IN!

New York City is overrun with Malekith’s invasion forces. Earth is inches from falling to the Dark Elf King. And with Thor missing in Jotunheim, All-Father Odin injured and All-Mother Freyja about to embark on a mission of her own, Valkyrie is one of the few gods left to face the onslaught. But her fate is intertwined with another. What of Annabelle Riggs, the mortal girl who shares the body of a god? THE RIDE OF THE VALKYRIE begins here!

Asgardians of the Galaxy #9

Messages from Midgard #2: Frog Thor Feelings

The “War of the Realms” settles into its second week with a trio of tie-ins that seem utterly unrelated: War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #1, Asgardians of the Galaxy #8, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43. However, the first two comics are a shining example of how difficult doing ensemble casts are, and the third is a proof that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a beautiful gift even when it’s an event tie-in. It even moves “War of the Realms'” narrative forward by showing how Malekith and his allies divvied up the different continents of the Earth. Stereotypically, the Frost Giants got Canada.

War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #1

The McElroys (Father Clint and sons Justin, Travis, and Griffin, but those names aren’t in the comic.) are big time podcasters known for their work on the advice show My Brother, My Brother and Me and the Dungeon and Dragons show The Adventure Zone, which I’ve listened to a couple episodes of and was a best-selling graphic novel for First Second. At first, I thought they were comic neophytes, but apparently, Clint McElroy worked on licensed comics like Universal Soldier and Green Hornet in the early 1990s. They team up with artist Andre Araujo and colorist Chris O’Halloran to tell the buddy road trip story of Balder teaming up with Miles Morales, Kate Bishop, Thori, Becca aka Deathlok 2.0, Sebastian Druid, and Wonder Man to protect Thor’s baby sister, Laussa.

Journey into Mystery #1 has a fun premise that is only a little bit related to the main “War of the Realms” narrative and pokes fun at continuity changes as well as certain character being “off limits” because of events. See, Balder wanted Peter Parker, Clint Barton, Dr. Strange, and the original Deathlok, but he ended up with the legacy versions. The McElroys and Araujo introduce the cast in a typical flash forward, flash back, flash forward, and big cliffhanger fashion. Each road trip member gets a humorous origin and is then thrown into the fray by the Norn, Skuld. The level of funny varies from Matt Fraction/Kieron Gillen cover band while writing Kate Bishop and Thori respectively to the genuinely clever situation of having Miles rescue Times Square cosplayers and a teen Deathlok making a fake graduation party with Life Model Decoys to feel less alone and more human.

The story should have hit its stride in its third part when the team is assembled and being chased in a truck by Sindr, the daughter of Surtr, and her fire troll/demon/generic being army. Araujo cuts to the right moments in the chase to build tension and gets to do real storytelling instead of just the funny faces of the flashback. However, The McElroys kind of lose track of their team in the chaos with Miles and Dr. Druid especially suffering. They do manage to write around Wonder Man’s superhero story sapping pacifism to give him a great moment. Journey into Mystery has its clever moments, but in chemistry terms, it’s more of a heterogenous mixture than an a homogenous one so, for now, it gets an Overall Verdict of Read.

Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

Even though 75% of its run has either been a tie-in to “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”, Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, and Federico Blee’s space faring, Asgard-connected team book has been one of Marvel’s hidden gems. It’s the spiritual successor of Bunn’s Fearless Defenders or even Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s run on Guardians of the Galaxy. The current team lineup is Angela, Valkyrie who sometimes swaps places with archaeologist Annabelle Riggs, Skurge the Executioner, Thunderstrike (The son of the one from the late 80s and 90s), Throg aka Frog Thor, and the dwarf Urzuul. They’re protecting a beacon that summons an army of undead gods, but Heimdall divests them of this and sends them to fight for Earth in the War of the Realms.

While Journey into Mystery gets to have its own plot, Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 takes place during the big battle for New York in War of the Realms #1. So, there’s not much plot once the book gets earthbound, and Lolli and Blee end up riffing off Russell Dauterman’s double page spreads, and well, they’re not Dauterman with a long lead time. But, even though, he’s stuck in the constraints of the event’s plot, Cullen Bunn has a one great trick up his sleeve: characterization.

Unlike Journey into Mystery where many characters are lost in the shuffle or are catchphrase shouters, Bunn gives each member of the Asgardians of the Galaxy at least one small showcase moment. Executioner and Punisher get to compare guns, and Black Panther compliments Urzuul’s weapon craftsmanship. (Wow, that came out wrong.) Cap tells Thunderstrike that his dad was a great hero, and Angela gets to be very angry at the Angels of Heven for siding with Malekith. However, the characters who come across the best are Throg and Annabelle Riggs/Valkyrie.

Throg made his first appearance way back in Walter Simonson’s run on Thor and was an ordinary Central Park frog named Puddlegulp, who was worthy to lift a sliver of Mjolnir and become the Frog of Thunder. Bunn and Lolli give him a moment of great tragedy when he returns to Central Park and sees all his old frog friends being burned up. He feels a lot of guilt for adventuring in space instead of protecting his people and gets a great action sequence that also riffs on Jason Aaron’s concept of Thor Odinson being unworthy.

But Annabelle is the center of Bunn and Lolli’s narrative in Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 as she continues to struggle with her Nova powers and the magic that Kid Loki gave her in the last arc. They keep shorting out, and she subs out with Valkyrie. Or does she. In a big moment, Annabelle rides Valkyrie’s flying horse to look for her girlfriend Ren in the middle of the carnage. They share a beautiful reunion before being literally ripped apart by the plot of War of the Realms. Bunn does a great job writing the only non-powered character and gives her a strong romantic and heroic arc despite this issue being an event tie-in. The emotional moments with her and Throg plus great individual action moments with the rest of the team makes Asgardians of the Galaxy #8 worth an overall verdict of Read.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43

The final “War of the Realms” tie-in and the unlikeliest even though Squirrel Girl has connections with Thor, Loki, and the Norse squirrel god Ratatoskr is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 from Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi. This used to be one of my favorite Marvel titles, but then I fell behind. However, North’s ability to couch exposition in jokes and Tony Stark/Squirrel Girl Twitter thread recaps caught me, the lapsed reader, up to speed as well as anyone who didn’t pick up War of the Realms #1. Basically, the event is an excuse for Loki to send Squirrel Girl on a mission to take out a secret Frost Giant base in Canada, and there’s lots of mysteries to be unbundled from this, including Loki’s alignment, which North hides in ambiguous and purposefully misleading dialogue.

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 is cute, funny, and the only one of these three comics to have a complete plot while having joke, riffs, clever action sequences, and some sweet interactions between Doreen and her parents, who live in Canada and sadly got rid of her Arctic variant costume. Derek Charm is one of my favorite current artists and is really the full package, including animated facial expressions, gesture cartooning, clever layouts, and above all, humor that is helped by North’s great footnote jokes. (His inspiration for the fight between Squirrel Girl and the Frost Giant made me cackle.) He even nails the mandatory superhero group shot splash page that should instantly get him a slot drawing the X-Men, Avengers, or Justice League. Renzi’s colors, especially for the Frost Giants, really pop and have an attitude to them. And his shadowy work with the Ratatoskr gives him the right level of menace.

North, Charm, and Renzi are a clever bunch of creators, and a linewide crossover offers them more opportunities to roast mainstream heroes, like Iron Man and Captain America while giving Doreen a new adventure and new bad guys plus family time. It’s not every day you get a comic that makes a running gag of the Asgardian spelling of “Hek”, but today is this day. For this, a physics defying Frost Giant battle, a joke about Jim Davis’ Silver Surfer/Galactus short story in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #26, and Loki’s unlikely friendship with Nancy Whitehead, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43 gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.

The real heroes of this week’s “War of the Realms” tie-in were a hero that eats nuts, kicks butts, and tries to reason with her enemies before punching them and a heroic frog that despite his unworthiness still fights to avenge the people he loves. Also, writing a cast of ensemble characters in the middle of a summer crossover is like trying to walk and chew bubblegum. Jokes and emotional character arcs help smooth things over though.


Panel of the Week

The end result of messing with Throg from Asgardians of the Galaxy #8. (Art by Matteo Lolli and Federico Blee)

I want to make this column more interactive. Email me questions at ldalton626@gmail.com or tweet me at MidnighterBae, and I will answer them in an upcoming installment of Messages from Midgard.

Preview: Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Matteo Lolli (CA) Gerardo Sandoval
Rated T+
In Shops: Apr 10, 2019
SRP: $3.99

WAR OF THE REALMS TIE-IN!

Bit by bit, the Dark Elf King Malekith has been taking over the Ten Realms. Now at last every realm has fallen save one: Midgard. The invasion has begun, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will need all the help they can get. The Asgardians of the Galaxy join the battle for the Tenth Realm!

Asgardians of the Galaxy #8

Preview: Asgardians of the Galaxy #7

Asgardians of the Galaxy #7

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Matteo Buffagni (CA) Jamal Campbell
Rated T
In Shops: Mar 13, 2019
SRP: $3.99

EGO AWAKES!

The Asgardians thought they were in trouble when they stumbled upon a planet full of refugees – and that was before the planet started moving. Just what have their newfound allies gotten them into?! And if the planet is this angry…what will its moon do?

Asgardians of the Galaxy #7

Preview: Asgardians of the Galaxy #6

Asgardians of the Galaxy #6

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Matteo Buffagni (CA) Jamal Campbell
Rated T+
In Shops: Feb 06, 2019
SRP: $3.99

“Nothing for nothing – everything has its price.”

In accordance with her personal code, Loki promised Angela a gift in exchange for her help against Nebula. And the debt is coming due. But Angela is about to get a whole lot more than she asked for – including a run-in with Yondu Udonta and his … new Ravagers?! Fans of Cullen Bunn, C.M. Punk and Scott Hepburn’s 2016 Drax series rejoice as Planet Terry, Pip and Kammi clash with the Asgardians!

Asgardians of the Galaxy #6

Preview: Asgardians of the Galaxy #5

Asgardians of the Galaxy #5

(W) Cullen Bunn (A) Matteo Lolli, Stephanie Hans, Luca Maresca (CA) Dale Keown, Jason Keith
Rated T+
In Shops: Jan 16, 2019
SRP: $3.99

RAGNAROK IS HERE!

It’s the final battle for Earth as the Asgardians take on Nebula’s full armada! But the undead may be the least of their problems. Just want is their supposed ally Loki up to now? Don’t miss the end of the first thrilling arc!

Asgardians of the Galaxy #5

Prepare for the War of the Realms this April!

The War Of The Realms is coming…and no corner of the Marvel Universe will be untouched! But before the award-winning creative team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson ushers in this epic event, Marvel invites you to journey on the road to the War of the Realms with some of the universe’s biggest heroes!

Join the Avengers as they battle the undead, who are vying for the title of the new Lord of the Damned! Hop into space with the Asgardians of the Galaxy as they encounter Ego the Living Planet! And in the final prelude to the War of the Realms, prepare for an invasion with Thor and Lady Freyja as they fight to keep Midgard safe from an initial strike by the Dark Elves…

The War of the Realms is coming, and it starts in March with these stories! Look for Marvel’s special “Road To” branding on the covers of these select issues!

AVENGERS #16
Written by JASON AARON
Art and Cover by DAVID MARQUEZ

AVENGERS #17
Written by JASON AARON
Art and Cover by DAVID MARQUEZ

ASGARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7
Written by CULLEN BUNN
Art by MATTEO BUFFAGNI
Cover by JAMAL CAMPBELL

THOR #11
Written by JASON AARON
Art by LEE GARBETT
Cover by MIKE DEL MUNDO

« Older Entries