It’s an all tie-in week in “War of the Realms” country after last week’s utter victory for Malekith’s forces and the slaughter (Fridging?) of the Valkyries. Jason Aaron keeps right on going with his sneaky good Avengers run and provides insight into the very jingoistic and almost copyright infringing Squadron Supreme of America as they kick Frost Giant ass from Pennsylvania Avenue to Erie, PA. He uses the events of “War of the Realms” to set up a very good future antagonist for his comic and gets to write one hell of a “Superman” scene. Over in Venom #13, Cullen Bunn and Iban Coello pinch hit for Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman and do a damn find job as a symbiote-less Eddie Brock tries to find safety for him and his son Dylan as Dark Elves and War Witches attack San Francisco. It’s The Last of Us with a heavy metal twist. This week’s final book is War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1, which is the definition of unnecessary tie-in although Matthew Rosenberg gets kudos for remembering Dani Moonstar’s Valkyrie connection.
In a story cheekily titled “Crisis on Ten Realms”, Avengers #18 is Jason Aaron’s riff on DC Comics characters and critique on nationalism with art from Ed McGuinness (Who drew a fair number of DC books in the early 2000s), Mark Morales, and Justin Ponsor. The Squadron Supreme of America have been set up in the background of Aaron’s Avengers run as Thunderbolt Ross, Phil Coulson, and the American establishment have been a little wary of an Avengers team led by a foreign monarch, Black Panther. However, this is the first time that Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess, The Blur and Spectrum have been featured and fleshed out. And, boy, do they love the United States.
Using “War of the Realms” as a metaphorical background for the United States’ constant foreign interventionism in the 21st century, Aaron and McGuinness channel The Authority a little bit as the Squadron Supreme of America is literally programmed to defend the United States and nowhere else in the most violent of ways. They don’t get to chase and pursue the Frost Giants into Canada, but are relocated to fight in the “battleground state” of Ohio in another winking bit of political humor. Even if the use of DC Comics character archetypes is a little heavy handed, Aaron adds layers to the “War of the Realms” events by showing the historical connection between foreign wars and nationalism. He also gets to roast Batman’s mommy issues big time through the character of Nighthawk, who is the paranoid congressman from Washington D.C. in this incarnation.
The Squadron Supreme of America will make great villains for the more diverse Avengers in future storylines even if Aaron handwaves their motivations into a literal “devil made me do it” situation. (Probably to appease the Coulson fans.) Avengers #18 fleshes them out and shows their rise in connection to “War of the Realms” while crafting a superhero team that Roxx, er, Fox News set would like. For its satirical value and longterm planning, Aaron’s fantastic writing of Superman analogue Hyperion, and Ed McGuinness and Mark Morales’ depictions of bloody violence that contrasts with the more peaceful ways of the Avengers, Avengers #18 earns an overall verdict of Buy.
Compared to Avengers #18’s big action, big ideas, and comments on geopolitics and the superhero genre, Venom #13 is more intimate. Especially in the early going when Eddie Brock has to get him and his son, Dylan (Who thinks he’s Eddie’s little brother.) to safety without the use of his symbiote that “broke up” with him in the previous issue of Venom. But, then, it gets loud and violent like your typical Venom comic with some great moments of mayhem like Venom beheading a troll with a flick of his tongue courtesy of artist Iban Coello.
With series creators Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman working on the upcoming “Absolute Carnage” storyline, writer Cullen Bunn, the aforementioned artist Coello, and colorist Andres Mossa team up to tell a three part Venom story set during the events of “War of the Realms”. But the event is just a backdrop for more internal conflict between Venom’s (anti)heroic side and his monstrous one. Bunn’s narration sets this up long before Eddie Brock accepts the War Witches’ gifts and gets a spiky, runic new Venom look and then promptly eats her hand. He is supposedly the protector of innocents, but in this case, he just wants to kill everyone and the “War of the Realms” is like an all you can eat buffet of elves, trolls, and other beings.
The final pages where Coello and Mossa let Venom cut loose are entertaining, but they and Bunn’s most memorable work is when Eddie and Dylan are sneaking around San Francisco in the mode of a good stealth video game. Eddie fighting three Dark Elves with no powers and breaking one of their necks to rescue Dylan shows how much he cares for his son, but then he gives into temptation and the heavy metal symbiote of the first arc of Venom is reborn. Because of its strong internal conflict, powerful action and character interaction cartooning from Iban Coello, and black and blue Andres Mossa color palette, Venom #13 gets an Overall Verdict of Buy and is worth checking out if you like what Cates and Stegman were doing on Venom and aren’t keeping tabs on “War of the Realms”.
War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1
Disclaimer time. Unfortunately, I haven’t been keeping up with the current run on Uncanny X-Men even though I’m a huge fan of Matthew Rosenberg’s work on various Black Mask titles as well as Phoenix Resurrection, Kingpin and Secret Warriors. Also, it’s damn cool that Cyclops is back, and Rosenberg has his and the other X-characters’ voices down like Havok, Hope Summers, Multiple Man, and especially Dani Moonstar in War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1. However, artist Pere Perez’s fight choreography is underwhelming, and the story lacks any kind of momentum with the current X-Men lineup running around New York and fighting various “War of the Realms” beasties after the events of War of the Realms #2 left NYC with no defenders or really any people.
Rosenberg and Perez try to build the story around Dani Moonstar’s connection to the Valkyries, but there is a lot of in-fighting, occasional funny banter, and more fights and running until we see her mourning over her dead sisters. It’s filler and not particularly well-drawn filler as Perez’s attempt at a big splash of the X-Men fighting Frost Giants and Dark Elves isn’t well balanced and is a lot of figures splayed over two pages. The plot is driven by various X-Men disappearing and running after each other plus the conflict between the main team and their “prisoners” Hope Summers and Banshee, which I guess is established in the core series.
It’s cool to see Marvel (Due to the post-Disney/Fox merger) integrate the X-Men into their linewide events with the presence of Wolverine in the core War of the Realms book and the Uncanny X-Men in this tie-in miniseries. However, the haphazard execution, subpar visuals, and the lack of an emotional hook until the final page earn War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1 the overall verdict of Pass.
I definitely find the core metaphor of the X-Men more interesting than the Avengers and have never found Venom compelling until Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s run. However, Avengers #18 and Venom #13 were solid macro and micro, respectively, tie-ins to “War of the Realms” while War of the Realms: Uncanny X-Men #1 was the weakest one yet. The world has turned upside down, or maybe it shows with the right combination of creators or compelling story, any character can be cool and relevant.