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This week marks the end of both “War of the Realms” and the Messages from Midgard column. There are a few straggler tie-ins like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and an Omega issue, which I will cover in its own review, but the core miniseries plus three ancillary tie-in minis and Jason Aaron’s arcs on Thor and Avengers wrap up this week. Plus there’s a fun Superior Spider-Man story where Peter Parker and, of all people, Gwenpool, teaching Doc Ock that heroism is about saving individuals and not just trying to glory hog the whole event. That privilege is reserved for Thor, of which there are four, because its their event.
War of the Realms #6
In War of the Realms #6, Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson knuckle down to give both this event and basically Aaron’s seven year run on Thor one hell of a conclusion. It’s centered around a simple premise. If only Thor can break the magic circle and confront a Knull-infused Malekith, then why not bring four of them: Odinson, King Thor, Young Thor, and Jane Foster’s Thor, who now wields Mjolnir from the Ultimate Universe. What follows is an exercise in fighting, bickering, and true heroism while the rest of the heroes confront Laufey on Midgard.
Before digging into the fantastic things that Aaron does with both Thor and Jane Foster’s arcs, I would like to praise the visuals of Dauterman and Wilson, who really outdo themselves in issue six. Wilson’s palette is majestic and varied ranging from the eye of the storm to the clash of lightning on symbiote ooze and a snowstorm to end all snowstorms. Like the different hammers and weapons used by the Thors, Dauterman switches up his inking style to fit the scene from looser work when Malekith does anything symbiote-y to more clean polished art when Odinson forges Mjolnir anew in the eye of a storm. His attention to detail is uncanny, and he draws many epic moments like when Odinson punches his own hammer and memorable small ones like Screwbeard and Ivory Honeyshot doing their best Gimli and Legolas imitation at the end of the world.
One word that can be used to describe War of the Realms #6 is “satisfying”. Odinson has gone on a painful heroic journey that draws comparisons to the one his own father, Odin, went on to become All-Father sacrificing body parts to gain the wisdom and power to rule Asgard. There are also parallels to the journeys of Dionysus and Jesus Christ in his story as he humbles himself and suffers to save the whole world. But, lofty comparisons aside, this is really the story of a man who becomes a hero and “worthy” in spite of his flaws, which is a metaphor for most of the Marvel heroes, who have fantastic abilities and feet of clay. It is a rare sight to see such an iconic character, like Thor, grow and change over a run, and Jason Aaron has pulled this off with War of the Realms #6 being the finishing touch and earning an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #4
In New Agents of Atlas#4, this new pan-Asian superhero team finally gets their act together to assemble and prevent Sindr, the Fire Goblin queen from melting the polar ice caps. Greg Pak and artists Gang Hyuk Lim, Moy R, and Pop Mhan take their cues from third act of the 2012 Avengers film from Jimmy Woo playing the Nick Fury role and lying about Pele’s true nature to get the team to work together and lots of big epic splash pages of heroes doing team-up moves. However, with the exception of Brawn, Shang Chi, and the Filipina heroine Wave, I feel like I barely know these heroes so the big fight scenes look pretty, but feel like action figures in position, not characters reaching the end of their journey.
Pak, Lim, Federico Blee and the guest artists and colorists had a tall order introducing new characters and ones who had only appeared in Korean and Chinese comics as well as mobile games to a new audience. Having four issues and a big, yet underdeveloped baddie helped, but in the end, the cast of New Agents of Atlas was simply too large to get to know the new folks. Hopefully, the upcoming miniseries will take its time to develop their personalities as well as show off their cool costumes and powers. Unfortunately, New Agents of Atlas #4 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass despite its one genuinely memorable twist.
War of the Realms: Punisher #3
War of the Realms Punisher#3
features the same fantasy baddies as the rest of “War of the Realm’s” tie-ins,
but Gerry Duggan, Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi, and Rachelle Rosenberg
take a grittier, more violent, and at times, fatalistic approach to their story
beginning with Frank Castle having guns pointed to his head by former mobsters.
He gets out of this pickle pretty easily by swearing on the souls of dead wife
and kids that he’ll spare the criminals once they get the civilians to safety.
Most of them don’t have to worry about living as they’re immediately set upon
by a squad of trolls; one of which Frank tortures in a chilling scene that
makes the criminals realize that they’re not getting out of this alive too.
Duggan and Ferreira portray Frank Castle as a hardened soldier in War of the Realms Punisher #3, and his enemy is the criminal element, both mortal and otherworldly. Sure, he’ll get the civilians to safety in New Jersey, but he’ll also gun down the last criminal standing with him while the doctor he was assisting shrieks in terror. This is because Castle is as much of a monster and a force of nature as the trolls and Fire Goblins that he was gunning down or blowing up tanker trucks to stop. Duggan’s understanding of Frank Castle’s character, and that we can cheer for him to take out the bad guys and recoil at killing one in cold blood as well as the hellish visuals of Ferreira, Poggi, and Rosenberg earns War of the Realms Punisher #3 an Overall Verdict of Buy and definitely has me interested in Duggan’s upcoming Punisher Kill Krew series.
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #3
Even though it’s nice to see Cyclops, Multiple Man, and your
favorite former New Mutants defending Citi Field from Frost Giants, Matthew Rosenberg, Pere Perez, and Rachelle
Rosenberg’sWar of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men has been the weak link of the tie-in
minis. Issue three is no exception with the pointless killing off of Sunspot,
the repetitive dialogue of (dead in the main series) Wolfsbane’s lover
Hrimhari, and a tacked on sequence with Dani Moonstar and the Valkyries even
though this plot point was only touched upon at the end of issue one. It could
have been a good hook for the miniseries and a through-line to the main action,
but in the end, it’s too little, too late.
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #3 does have a few cool moments like Multiple Man’s dupes luring the Frost Giants into a Limbo portal, a visceral claw on claw fight between Sabretooth and Wolfsbane, and Cyclops precision sniping Frost Giants. However, these are few and far between, and after three issues, this miniseries has really done nothing to justify its existence and earns an Overall Verdict of Pass. But the silver lining is that Jonathan Hickman is coming in a month and probably all these events/pointless character deaths will be retconned.
Jason Aaron, Scott
Hepburn, and Matthew Wilson’s story in Thor
#14 covers much of the same ground as War
of the Realms #6, but from the POV of Young Thor as the Fantastic Four
summon him from brooding and trying to lift Mjolnir to a fight for all ten
realms. I read this almost directly after War
of the Realms #6, and there are obvious re-draws of Russell Dauterman’s art
although Hepburn has an earthier take on the material to match the boisterous,
shit-talking Young Thor. The issue also has more direct connections to the last
adventure of the three Thors in Aaron’s Thor,God of Thunder series and a similar
art style although Hepburn is no Simon Bisley. There’s a lot of gruffness, talk
about hammers, and an indirect reference to Back
to the Future along the way.
However, compared to the standalone issues about Loki, Cul Borson, and even Gorilla-Man in Aaron’s tie-in issues of Thor and Avengers, Thor #14 seems less essential because Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman portrayed Young Thor’s carelessness, brashness, and adventurous nature so well in War of the Realms #6. He does get a cool action sequence against a gnarly Hepburn-drawn Venom symbiote and lifts Mjolnir in a moment that again proves that “worthiness” and heroism is not something bestowed externally, but internally. Most of the material in Thor #14 is covered in Realms #6, but that scene and the sheer joy that Aaron gets at writing Young Thor earns the issue an Overall Verdict of Read.
Avengers #20 is yet
another standalone success from Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, and
Jason Keith and is a metafictional
look at She-Hulk, and how she’s changed as a character in the past few years.
The opening sequence is brilliant and set in side a Wakandan therapy simulation
where She-Hulk looks at a pinup of the John Byrne version of her and beats up a
version of her that looks like it was drawn by Javier Pulido. The comic is a
narration about how she likes embracing the monster and getting to beat up
enemies with her new powers instead of being sexually harassed while in
costume. Unlike Bruce Banner, she enjoys the freedom of being Hulk, and
McGuinness and Morales use wide panels to show the swath of destruction she
causes with her bulging forearms.
Using the character of She-Hulk as a case study, Avengers #20 is also a bigger commentary about how women have to fit pre-conceived roles in the workforce (Even if that means the Avengers.) and society and get pushback whenever they’re assertive or show anger. Deadpool asking She-Hulk why she doesn’t crack jokes or break the fourth wall any more is the metafictional version of a male co-worker asking a woman why she doesn’t smile. And, on a more a geeky level, this issue also has some foreshadowing of Aaron’s future plans for the Avengers title with the help of omniscient Daredevil showing Aaron can work on both a micro and macro level. Avengers #20 is a fantastic, holistic character study of She-Hulk and her recent developments and easily earns an Overall Verdict of Buy with a side dish of allusions to Immortal Hulk.
Superior Spider-Man #8
to be an underrated delight and study in ego from Christos Gage, Lan Medina,
Cam Smith, and Andy Troy. Doc Ock continues to be terrible at reading the room,
er, event and wants to take out Malekith all by himself with the help of the
Fantastic Four and West Coast Avengers. He doesn’t want to protect New York
City, but basically hack America Chavez’s portal abilities to get to what he
thinks is the real action. This ends up backfiring, and he gets one hell of a
dressing down from Spider-Man in the nature of heroism while Spider-Man is
wearing his helmet from the Land of
Giants one-shot and is immediately abandoned by his “minions” aka the West
Gage and Medina use the wide scope of “War of Realms” to tell an entertaining and at times fourth wall breaking (Thanks to Gwenpool.) story about how heroism isn’t just about defeating the final boss, but saving one person from death and danger. Having Spider-Man deliver the lecture about this topic makes sense because for the most part, he has focused on protecting his neighborhood instead of mixing it up with gods and monsters. Gage’s script is self-aware, and Medina and Smith have a classic, illustrator style approach where it is easy to follow the action even in a Southern California blizzard. For commenting on the nature of heroism, being funny as hell, and having plentiful America Chavez side eye, Superior Spider-Man #8 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
the Realms #6 was the best ending to a summer Marvel event since
Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s Secret Wars,
and it shipped on time too. One thing that these two events shared in common is
that they were a culmination of two macro-stories, namely, Jason Aaron’s Thor
run and Hickman’s Fantastic Four-Ultimates-Avengers/New Avengers project. The
War of the Realms has been foreshadowed for years, and the early battles were
fought in the pages of Mighty Thor and
Thor so the event was really just
icing on the cake. Sometimes, the montage of the different battles were a
little insufferable, but when Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson grabbed onto the
character journeys of Odinson and Jane Foster, the book really sung. Nowhere
was this more evident than in War of the
Realms #6, and the spinoff I’m most excited for is Valkyrie even if I’m little disappointed that Tessa Thompson’s take
on the character is nowhere in sight although Al Ewing may pluck her from
somewhere in the multiverse.
(W) Greg Pak (A) Gang Hyuk Lim (CA) Woo Dae Shim Rated T+ In Shops: Jun 26, 2019 SRP: $3.99
FIRE AND ICE!
• As the QUEEN OF CINDERS unleashes her endgame, AMADEUS CHO and THE AGENTS OF ATLAS face their greatest test, with the fiery fate of Planet Earth in the balance! • A team unites! A hero falls! And four female forces of nature come together for the final battle! • The stunning conclusion of this WAR OF THE REALMS series – with shocking ramifications for Amadeus, SHANG-CHI, SILK, WAVE and all the heroes of the NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS!
“War of the Realms” is starting to wind down this week with the release of the penultimate issue of the core series, War of the Realms #5. The comic has a predictable ending thanks to the marketing department, but actually feels like a Jason Aaron/Russell Dauterman/Matthew Wilson Thor comic thanks to its excellent characterization of Thor and Jane Foster to go with fight scenes a la the third act of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The tie-ins aren’t bad either as I wishJourney into Mystery went on for another four issues of road trip hijinks, Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk Lim finally find their sprawling ensemble cast’s footing in New Agents of Atlas, andCaptain MarvelandDeadpool wisely choose comedy over melodrama. The only real stinker of the bunch is Tony Stark, Iron Man #12, which made feel really bad for Gail Simone, who has to do the comic book equivalent of walking, chewing bubblegum, and someone else’s calculus homework at the same time.
War of the Realms #5
War of the Realms #5 is paced like a fever dream and a reminder that Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson have done fantastic work on Thor and can tell a poignant story that isn’t just fight scenes stitched together. With the death of the Valkyries and Loki and the capture of Freyja and Odin, this is a real breaking point for Thor and the “War of the Realms” as a whole. Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson double down on the religious/mythological imagery by having cosmic powered Daredevil nail Thor on the World Tree so he can have some insight on how to defeat Malekith. It’s a big moment for a hero that has been considered “unworthy” for the past five years, and he takes responsibility for all the realms sliding into the role of All-Father and not just a rage-filled, hammer destroying warrior.
Speaking of war, there is quite a lot of it, but Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson do a good job balancing it with the intense, non-linear Thor/Daredevil/Jane Foster scenes. Even though they feature a variety of locations and characters, the action sequences work because they follow a uniting principle of “liberation”. There are sheer badass moments, like Okoye delivering killer one-liners while the Dora Milaje drive back the angels to Heven, Jane Foster and Roz Solomon watching Roxxon’s stock prices drop while they kick Dario Agger’s minotaur ass, and Captain Britain and Captain America teaming up to drive the Dark Elves back to the English Channel. War of the Realms #5 alternates between triumph and agony and is a treat for fans of the Jane Foster Thor stories as she is inspired by the sacrifice of the Valkyries to continue being a warrior and a hero. With operatic visuals (Especially the Daredevil/Thor scenes.) and its strong character development of Thor, War of the Realms #5 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #4
In its frenetic fourth issue, War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery enters the pantheon of one of my favorite types of mainstream comics: the fun, quirky B-list cast starring book that ends too soon. We’re talking books like Hawkeye,Mockingbird, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, and Secret Six. The McElroys are definitely hip to the idea that the best comedy comes from character, and it leads to hilarious moments like Wonder Man lamenting his Tommy Bahama shirt being riddled with bullets, the underage Brooklynite Miles Morales having no idea how to act in a casino, and Balder trying to order “sack” aka the favorite drink of Shakespeare’s Falstaff at the casino. As we’ve gotten to know the cast of Journey into Mystery better, the humor level has increased along with the level of general peril.
Yes, Journey into Mystery #4 isn’t all witty banter- it’s a heist story set at a henchpeople convention because the War of the Realms isn’t great for business. Andre Araujo’s diagram-like layouts and Chris O’Halloran’s flat approach to colors gives this issue great flair especially when the heist goes sideways, and a gun fight breaks out. Araujo tilts his grid to give readers a 360 view of the casino floor while the team struggles with what to do as Ares goes mano a mano with Thori. Great jokes, an easy to follow setpiece, a down ending, and the brilliant concept of a henchperson convention earns Journey into Mystery an Overall Verdict of Buy.’
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #3
Up to this point, New Agents of Atlas has had tons of potential yet has been a little bit of a mess with a huge cast of characters and middle of the road visuals from Gang Hyuk Lim and colorists Federico Blee, Andres Mossa, and Erick Arciniega. However, Greg Pak uses a team meal of spam prepared different ways to unite his Pan-Asian superhero team, and it’s a well-timed breather before Jimmy Woo puts his final plan in motion. Splitting the team into tasks that reflect their strengths finally showcases Woo’s strategic genius, and it also lets us get to know the sprawling cast of New Agents of Atlas before the big finale next issue.
Some character moments that stood out to me in New Agents of Atlas #3 was the growing master/apprentice type bond between Sword Master and Shang Chi and the fact that sexist, elitist Monkey King kept getting his ass handed to him by various team members. There is also a sad, yet relevant scene where the usually cheerful Filipina heroine Wave realizes that Sindr making the water warmer will lead to flooding in Cebu where her grandpa lives. New Agents of Atlas #3 is the issue where Pak and Lim make the majority of these characters seem like people and not interchangeable action figures with cool powers. Also, Amadeus Cho gets one hell of a redemption arc and basically is the Korean-American Wolverine as he fights off swarms of Fire Goblins so the rest of the team can accomplish teir tasks. The art is still too “house style”, the colors are still over rendered, but Greg Pak made me care about this new superhero team in this issue so New Agents of Atlas #3 earns an overall verdict of Read.
Captain Marvel #6
Opening with one hell of action scene from artists Annapaola Martello and Tamra Bonvillain where Bucky and Black Widow take out a group of undead ghouls with some acrobatics and a grenade, Captain Marvel #6 ends up being Freaky Friday with Captain Marvel and Dr. Strange, which is the result of them failing to defeat Enchantress. Writer Kelly Thompson has tons of fun with this premise that works because both Strange and Carol are Type A personalities even if his superpowers are more mental and hers are more physical. Black Widow’s dry sense of humor is on full display for most of the issue as she cuts these two big personalities down to size at least until surrounded by aforementioned ghouls.
The big problem with Captain Marvel #6 is that much of the action is said to take place in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil, which have metropolitan areas of over 12 million each, but 90% of the comic happens in a fucking jungle. Thompson’s writing is clever, and she nails the dysfunctional personalities of Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel. But, at the bare minimum, she could have read Wikipedia and realized that Brazil is 87.5% urbanized. Despite this huge research faux pas, Captain Marvel is an enjoyable read that doesn’t take itself too seriously, has hilarious faces and well-done action choreography from Martello and Bonvillain, and has an Overall Verdict of Read.
I always love when Deadpool has an event tie-in because he always ends up mocking the premise of the event and having a fun, goofy adventure. (Also, because the first Deadpool comic I ever read was a “Secret Invasion” tie-in). Writer Skottie Young and artist Nic Klein take him on a wild ride to Australia where he’s commissioned to liberate the continent/country from Ulik and the trolls with the help of their nation’s finest heroes, Captain Outback, Nuclear Nancy, and copyright friendly Tasmanian Devil. Yep, Young peppers his script with plenty of pop culture references and jokes like having Captain Marvel use Crocodile Hunter dialogue in dream sequence, and “Skottrick” even roasts his own writing when he borrows a one-liner from Terminator and blames it on his kids being home from school.
What makes Deadpool #13 so funny and work has a comic is the blend of silly, irreverent dialogue and detailed art that is played for drama like Klein’s double page tableau recapping what’s been going in the “War of the Realms”. But Klein can do humor too like Negasonic Teenage Warhead’s deadpan expression as Deadpool reacts and laughs at various romantic comedies, or the ending when Deadpool is making jokes about the shittiness of the Hobbit movies while being surrounded by trolls and not having the best allies to help him out. Skottie Young and Nic Klein have a good handle on irreverent Deadpool comedy stylings and have some clever ideas like the trolls enjoying the sparsely populated Australian Outback so Deadpool #13 gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Tony Stark, Iron Man #12
I love the idea of Tony Stark fighting a greedy, Smaug-like dragon (Or wyrm. I don’t wanna piss off the fantasy geeks.) and having that fight be written by Gail Simone, who excels at writing smarmy assholes that want to be heroes in spite of it all. (See Catman.) However, Tony Stark Iron Man #12 has to deal with the effects of Dan Slott’s previous arc, introduce the dragon, and have another plot about not having artificial intelligence completely work on technology that affects human behavior. Apparently, in the last arc, Tony Stark relapsed into alcoholism in a virtual reality environment, which honestly just sounds like a weak tea substitute for “Demon in a Bottle”, or a real problem that people experience.
So, Simone and artist Paolo Villanelli are stuck trying to continue that storyline and do a kind of prequel to “War of the Realms”. The idea of Malekith sending a dragon assassin with magical abilities to take out a man of science with quite a large “hoard” is clever and gives an opportunity for Simone to write some Stark snark as he compares the wyrm to Toothless and Falkor. But it’s weighed down by too many subplots. Honestly, this comic would have worked better as a miniseries with Dan Slott continuing his alcoholism/AI/wannabe Black Mirror thing in the main Tony Stark, Iron Man series. It’s safe to say it gets an Overall Verdict of Pass.
With the exception of a bungled Iron Man tie-in, I personally enjoyed this week’s “War of the Realms”, including the core book, which lived up to the pre-release hype of combining the strong arcs and ideas from Jason Aaron’s Thor run with epic Marvel Universe-spanning battles. I’m also going to miss The McElroys when they leave comics and return to their lucrative day job of podcasting and think they would make amazing writers on a humor, character-driven Justice League or Avengers title. Finally, it definitely seems that Skottie Young or someone in the Deadpool office has played Risk because Australia is truly the key to victory…
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, includingUltimate Spider-Manand 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 UncannyX-Men #17.
But there were also some hits this week. The McElroys’ and Andre Araujo’s War of the Realms: Journey into Mysterycontinues 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 Giantsone-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.
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.
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)
The Queen of Cinders has conquered Korea — and the rest of Asia! And only Amadeus Cho and a battered band of international superheroes stand between her and her ultimate goal — to melt the polar ice caps and turn all of Midgard into a sweltering new Muspelheim! With the ice-wielding superhero Luna Snow down for the count, Amadeus and his team must find a new way to fight fire.
In a story spinning out of War of the Realms, hit characters from the popular mobile RPG game MARVEL Future Fight join Marvel’s newest heroes from China, along with its newest Filipina sensation for an all-new story! Suit up as Luna Snow, Crescent and Io, Aero and Swordmaster, and Wave join Marvel mainstays Kamala Khan, Amadeus Cho, Cindy Moon, and Shang-Chi to fight Malekith’s forces on Earth!
Writer Greg Pak and artist Gang-Hyuk Lim bring new and exciting heroes to life in an all-new story with War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1, which has received critical acclaim from comic fans and critics alike – and Marvel is excited to announce that the first issue will return to comic shops for a second printing!
The “War of the Realms” takes a break this week from the main heroes and blockbuster trappings to tell smaller, quirky stories that are varying degrees of fun. The McElroys bring the road trip banter in War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #2, and Andre Araujo gets to take a break from advanced technology and gory fight scenes to be a humor cartoonist. War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1 is one of the first tie-ins to remember that this event has a global scope, and Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk-Lim introduce Marvel’s first Filipina hero, Wave, although the story comes apart at the seams sometimes. I tip my hat to Pak and Lim for introducing more Asian heroes to the main Marvel Universe, and hopefully we get to hear for them after three issues. And Unbeatable Squirrel Girlcontinues to be a sweet cinnamon roll of a comic that I hope Marvel never cancels. (Thank you Scholastic book club marketing!)
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #2
With the boring team assembling part out of the way, the McElroys, Andre Araujo, and colorist Chris O’Halloran are free to write and draw road trip hijinks after a quick prelude showing why Ares is working for Sindr and after Thor’s baby sister, Laussa. The McElroys settle into writing this truly odd assortment of characters in Journey into Mystery #2, and honestly, I could read a whole ongoing series of them traipsing through the Marvel Universe and arguing about personal space, the fact that no one on the team can drive except Kate Bishop (Kudos to Miles Morales for doing driver’s ed next semester though.), and Thori being fierce.
The McElroys and Araujo don’t force a fight with Ares just yet and have the team stop at “Bide-A-Wee” trailer park because, again, no one except Kate Bishop can drive. Araujo draws the denizens of the trailer park in a stiff manner like they’re pretending to be human. This makes sense because they are actually Skrulls. (Of course, the McElroys use this fact to get in some licks at Secret Invasion.) And, then, there’s the requisite action scene that Araujo and O’Halloran make fun with some creative shapeshifting and pink arrows for Kate. However, the sequence is resolved in a very un-War of the Realms way. But what do you expect from a creative team that made changing a dirty diaper both hilarious and suspenseful.
If we had to fight a War of the Realms to get this fun buddy road trip story from the McElroys and Andre Araujo, it will have been worth it. This comic definitely feels like it was written by a bunch of guys who have probably been in enclosed spaces with each other for a long time whether that’s childhood road trips or doing live podcast shows for rabid fans. Throw in a sense of wonder, humor, and love for cute babies interacting with Helhounds, and Journey into Mystery #2 an overall verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1
Through his elevation of Amadeus Cho to the Hulk and especially a four issue arc of Totally Awesome Hulk where Cho teams up with other Asian-American superheroes, Greg Pak has used his clout as a writer to push for more Asian and Asian-American superheroes in Marvel Comics. He and artist Gang Hyuk Lim turn that up to eleven in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1, which features appearances from Marvel’s first Filipina hero Wave, the Chinese hero Aero, and Korean heroes Crescent and Io and Luna Snow, who were popular in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game and make their first comic appearance here. It’s cool to see these characters and their unique abilities get the spotlight, but Pak struggles to juggle such a large ensemble cast in one issue. Lim’s art is also fairly pedestrian even though there are pops of color from Federico Blee like when Crescent sics his magic bear Io on some Fire Goblins.
In New Agents of Atlas #1’s back matter, Pak says that he wanted to use the book to explore the “diversity within diversity” having Asian and Asian-American from different countries and backgrounds interact while defending the continent from Sindr and Fire Goblins. And he pulls this off in one fantastic scene where Jimmy Woo, the leader of Agents of Atlas, asks Amadeus Cho, Kamala Khan, Silk, and Shang Chi what kind of pear he’s holding. Depending on their background, they say it’s a Korean, Chinese, or Japanese pear because Kamala has only seen that kind of pear at the Japanese grocery.
However, the lesson is that the kind of pear doesn’t matter, and Woo says that the important thing is that they work together as a team. They proceed to not do this with Kamala and Amadeus constantly bickering about some Champions business, which leads to their plane crashing outside Seoul and a fight against the Korean superheroes, not Sindr’s forces. Pak and Lim nail Amadeus Cho’s egotism as he flexes his muscles and showboats throughout the comic and impetuously launches himself into battle without regard for his teammates. However, the scene where the newly minted Agents of Atlas fight the Korean superheroes is very rushed as White Fox immediately assumes that Amadeus Cho is bad because he had a Hulk incident a while back. It’s a good illustration of the pointless drama that gets in the way of teamwork, but with an emphasis on the “pointless” part.
Luna Snow, who Silk fangirls over because she’s a hero and a K-Pop star, Crescent and Io, and a cool surprise character have visually distinct abilities, but Gang Hyuk Lim is too married to the Marvel house style to really let them shine. This is a book that could have used the stylized touch of a Takeshi Miyazawa, who collaborate with Greg Pak on his creator owned comic Mech Cadet Yu, or David Lafuente. With its introduction of new heroes and soapy team dynamic, New Agents of Atlas has tantalizing potential even if this first issue doesn’t completely deliver so it earns the Overall Verdict of Read.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44
the best “War of the Realms” tie-in continues as writer Ryan North, artist Derek
Charm, and colorist Rico Renzi
have Squirrel Girl team up with Ratatoskr, the Norse squirrel god of chaos
against Frost Giants and then frighten the citizens of rural Alberta. North and
Charm do a good job laying out Ratatoskr’s motivation as she sees that Malekith
ruling all ten realms would lead to conformity and boredom, which is the
opposite of chaos. So, she’s fighting Frost Giants although in a flashback, she
did give a thumbs up to Mangog, the destroyer of Asgard. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44 is really an exercise in ethics as
Ratatoskr tries to cross lines, but Squirrel Girl holds her back and tries to
keep everything even kneeled. However, this backfires.
every issue in this series, Unbeatable
Squirrel Girl #44 is a dense comic filled with jokes, extended riffs, footnote
jokes, and kick-ass fight scenes. What could have been just a simple fight
between Squirrel Girl and two Frost Giants ends up with Ratatoskr giving an
update on what she has been up to over the past 30 issues or so while
imprisoned in Asgard as well as some jokes about how Frost Giants see humans as
action figures and superhumans as rare ones. They’re still looking for the rare
action figures with kung fu grips though.
the Giants go down, North and Charm go into full fish out of water mode with
Ratatoskr, who is trying to blend in with the locals, but ends up as a femme
fatale in rural Canada and does not pass for human. She has great fashion
sense, and North and Charm get to sneak in jokes about video game palette
swaps, Sailor Moon, and draw a
squirrel ear wearing Spider-Man costume while she picks her look. Also, in her
interactions with the regular folks of Alberta, she chooses the chaotic option
over the safe one and ends up getting in random guys’ faces. This scene also
illustrates the classic principles that humans hate and fear what they don’t
understand as the Albertans turn on Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr, once they
realize that “they’re not from around here”.
Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi seem to be having a hell of time combining Squirrel Girl’s morality and empathy with Ratatoskr’s penchant for chaos and manipulation. It’s an instant source of drama and mischief and gives Charm the chance to draw “resting evil face”. Also, for its dedication to fun, good comedy, complex baddies, adorable art, and expressive, flat colors, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44 gets an overall verdict of Buy.
Although the quality of this week’s three comics does fluctuate, Journey into Mystery, New Agents of Atlas, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl use the backdrop of “War of the Realms” not as a crutch, but as a freedom to tell road trip, Asian superhero team-up, and odd couple stories. Frost Giants are coming through portals so why not bring back the entertaining villain Ratatoskr from a few years back to mess with Squirrel Girl and use her divine abilities to troll mere mortals. A book like New Agents of Atlas could use its own series to build up the new characters, but Journey into Mystery and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl uses the events of “War of the Realms” as jumping on points for comedic misadventures. This week is a breath of fresh air after all the melodrama, gore, and Frank Castleness of previous “War of the Realms” tie-ins.
A “War of the Realms” tie-in series! As Sindr, Immortal Queen of Muspelheim, and her legions of Fire Demons march on Asia, it’s time for a new band of heroes to unite to protect the Pacific Rim. Having brought together a ragtag team of heroes to defend the Earth from an alien invasion in the past, can Amadeus Cho reassemble his “protectors” — Shang-Chi, Silk and Jimmy Woo to save the world from incineration? And where is Kamala Khan? And just who are Crescent, Io and Luna Snow??? Featuring Marvel’s newest heroes from China, Aero and Sword Master, and a mysterious new Filipino heroine named WAVE!