Writer: Jason Aaron Penciler: Mahmud Asrar Cover Artist: Esad Ribic
THE MANY LOVES OF CONAN! There have been many loves of Conan’s life beyond ale and battle. But nothing is sacred as the CRIMSON WITCH twists what is truly best in life! PLUS: The next chapter in the all-new CONAN novella “BLACK STARLIGHT”!
With only a single issue left in the War of the Realms core series, the tie-in writers have fallen into the unenviable trap of wrapping up their story, connecting it to the event’s inevitable conclusion, and maybe leaving a loose thread or two when their comic returns to its normally scheduled programming.
Six comics came out this week, and one was heads and shoulders over the pack: War of the Realms Journey into Mystery #5. The McElroys, Andre Araujo, and Chris O’Halloran have finished crafting an ensemble cast that I want to read an ongoing series about, made Ares sympathetic, Laussa more than a MacGuffin, connect all the seemingly random plot threads of the series, and made me laugh out loud a couple times. No other book came close to this, but with snark, grit, and one hell of a Wasp cameo, Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli made up for last month’s disappointment and delivered a nifty science vs magic clash in Tony Stark, Iron Man #13. I enjoyed it and wish Simone had more time on the book.
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #3
War of the Realms’ anthology tie-in War Scrolls wraps up with its third issue. There is the conclusion to Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil serial as well as a Dr. Doom story from Christopher Cantwell,Cian Tormey, and Dan Brown and a She-Hulk one from Charlie Jane Anders, Simone D’Armini, and Federico Blee. Daredevil, God without Fear continues to be an accomplishment in panel layouts, fight scenes, and theodicies. This three part story is a turning point in Sorrentino’s career as an artist as he transitions from flowing tapestry layouts to strict grids that work like slow-mo while Daredevil fights Malekith with Bifrost shruikens. Aaron’s narration continues to show the perils of omniscience, and even if Daredevil can’t defeat Malekith, he can inspire his blind children hostage to escape and cut God a break along the way.
Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell tells the story of the Dark Elf invasion of Latveria from ordinary citizens’ POVs. Dr. Doom has a godlike status in this country, and even when he makes silly mistakes like wasting his troops on a Saving Private Ryan-esque rescue mission, they look to him to save them. The switching point of views can be disorienting, but Cian Tormey gives the story a documentary feel and builds to one badass crescendo where Doom is part-Superman, part-God of the Old Testament, and still authoritarian. It’s a tasting menu that really needs to be expanded to a full feast of the regular lives of Latverians.
War Scrolls #3 wraps up with a story of She-Hulk and Freyja fighting dragons and talking about relationships. Charlie Jane Anders’ writing sometimes feels like she’s making her characters have her interests like making Blade a Beyonce fan and Punisher a Joni Mitchell aficionado, but she nails the conversations between Jennifer and Freyja. She-Hulk talks about how she is dating Thor and not sure how serious it is, and Freyja understands how much She-Hulk cares for her son and that they are both insecure about their “worthiness” and status as heroes. The cherry on top of this pretty good story is D’Armini’s artwork that makes She-Hulk incredibly muscular and monstrous. For the most part, War Scrolls has been full of thought provoking character studies and memorable visuals, and issue three is no exception earning an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #5
Journey into Mystery #5 wraps up this god demon baby starring road trip saga into a neat little bow and uses continuity to enhance and deepen character development and humor instead of as a crutch. The McElroys seamlessly transition from podcasting to mainstream comics while Andre Araujo and Chris O’Halloran enhance their jokes and punch up the action scenes beginning with Wonder Man sweeping to save Laussa. They keep their character portrayals internally consistent like having Wonder Man continue to be a pacifist and having Sebastian Druid being uncertain about his powers, but reminding readers he had a relationship with Ares’ son back in Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Warriors.
This kibble of continuity isn’t just a piece of cute, fanboy trivia, but sets up Ares’ road for redemption. He isn’t a bad guy and doesn’t have a quarrel with this book’s cast; he just like to fight and wants to be reunited with son in the afterlife. Journey into Mystery #5 isn’t just a slugfest between the team and Ares, but is filled with twists and turns about Laussa that aren’t 100% deus ex machinas. The comic does have a pleasing plot, but its real magic are in the small moments like any time Miles Morales and Thori interact, or Laussa’s expressions with the world around him. And for this mastery of both the macro and micro aspects of comics, Journey into Mystery #5, and by extension, the whole miniseries earn an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3
Unless it’s for a storytelling purpose, having two or more artists on a comic usually means it was rushed to meet its deadline, and that seems to be the case with Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. Gone are Nico Leon’s slick cartooning and well-choreographed set pieces of the previous two issues, and writer Sean Ryan giving each League member a distinct personality beyond fantasy race action figure. This issue is mostly a slugfest against Malekith’s lieutenant, Kurse and peppered with awkward poses, constipated facial expressions, and basically, generic visuals from Leon and Marco Failla.
The angel Fernande goes a bit ballistic in the middle of the fight, and Spider-Man finds a shared connection because they have both lost loved ones. But this was already covered in the previous issue so it feels a lot like padding in Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3. The main plot point of this issue (and a cool connection to War Scrolls #3) is that Kurse was once League member, Waziria, and for the first time in all of War of the Realms (Except the Cul Borson story in Thor.), the Dark Elves aren’t treated like evil cannon fodder. In the end, this comic was about saving people instead of punching evil, and that’s a good sentiment from Ryan and Leon. However, it ends on this week’s “standard” heroes pose together and jump into the final battle panel and earns an Overall Verdict of Pass because of art issues and the difficulty of writing a large cast.
Captain Marvel #7
Spider-Man & the League of Realms #3 wasn’t the worst “War of the Realms” comic this week. That honor goes to Captain Marvel #7, which wraps up the unbearably banal if well-colored by Tamra Bonvillain body swap story featuring Carol Danvers and Dr. Strange. This issue does have a few positives like Kelly Thompson’s gift for quick banter and cutting one-liners like Strange roasting Carol for only knowing magic from various pop culture things. However, it’s pretty shallow, Strange and Carol’s ineptitude with each other’s powers are quickly resolved, and afterwards, they and an underutilized Black Widow go separate ways.
One slight positive about Captain Marvel #7 is Annapaola Martello’s art. She’s equally good at drawing fun facial expressions/hints of flirting and things that go boom/pew pew. Even if the story is thin, it’s pure joy to see Dr. Strange in Carol’s body go Binary and kick undead ass and then steal a little moment at the end. And about the ending, it seems random and tacked on even if it’s our first glimpse of a post-War of the Realms world. Carol is hanging out in her apartment like everything is normal, and the last story had no effect on her. Honestly, this is for the better as Thompson no longer has to shoehorn a quick tie-in and can tell her full story. My Overall Verdict for Captain Marvel #7 is Pass, and it’s worth skipping for regular readers of her title and those just following “War of the Realms”.
If there’s any comic that Deadpool#14 shares DNA with, it’s Simon Bisley’s Lobo books of the 1990s with their combination of serious, detailed fantasy art and silly dialogue and situations. In this comic, Skottie Young and Nic Klein chronicle Deadpool’s defense of Australia from Ulik (Which is apparently a very common name for trolls.) and his minions with the help of a knock-off Captain Britain and Daredevil and then an assist from some real superheroes. Young continues to have fun breaking the fourth wall and poking fun at his own writing like ending the issue with a deus ex machina and commenting on the legality of including a figure that’s all but named Tasmanian Devil.
Nic Klein draws and colors his own work in Deadpool #14 and turns in some gorgeous splash pages of Deadpool, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Daredevil, and various Z-list Australian heroes beating the shit out of trolls. He can also do funny too like his depiction of the solution to Australia’s troll problem, which is feeding them and putting them to work at New Zealand’s copyright-friendly version of a Lord of the Rings set tour. The panel of trolls chasing tourists with selfie sticks around a “bobbit” hole is like something out of Mad magazine and a wonderful Deadpool-esque way to wrap up the plot. For its humor, skilled art, and ultraviolence,Deadpool #14 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy. (And, apparently, the next issue is the final one of the series.)
Tony Stark, Iron Man #13
Free of continuing subplot from previous issues (Except for the important Tony Stark relapsing in a VR environment one.), Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli are free to tell the story of the battle between Iron Man and the wyrm Sadurang, who wants to rob the New York Stock Exchange. They make fantastic parallels between traders and hoarding dragons, and starting off a conversation between Sadurang and a now homeless broker about how riches cloud one’s morals sets the tone for the issue. And what happens is a back to basics Iron Man story where Tony must destroy or deactivate all his magic infected armor and get back to the analog days to defeat this greedy dragon.
Edgar Delgado’s powerful colors match Villanelli’s art, which can be loose and scratchy when Tony is getting his ass kicked and trying to quip his way out of a bad situation or tighter and tougher when he’s in the Mark I armor doing his best St. George impression. Also, Simone brings in the very winsome Wasp as a guest star in this issue, and she brings Tony hope and her stings and fast flying gives him enough time to rally his counterattack. Then, they get to share a sweet moment after the fight is over, but Tony doesn’t tell her about the relapse and is interrupted by Malekith’s initial invasion of New York. This two steps forward, one step forward approach to Tony’s journey works for Gail Simone and Paolo Villanelli and coupled with a satire of capitalism via knight/dragon metaphors, Tony Stark, Iron Man #13 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Even though it’s sad to see Captain Marvel’s portrayal stumble in yet another event, and some writers love doing the “heroes join the final battle” ending to their tie-ins, this wasn’t a bad “War of the Realms” week. Skottie Young and Nic Klein turned their Deadpool two-parter into an exercise in maximum absurdity and pulled off the first funny Lord of the Rings reference of the event while Gail Simone added Iron Man to characters she excels at writing. But the real highlight was Journey into Mystery, which is a redemptive road comedy starring a great mix of heroes, tons of quick jokes, and a coherent plot that zigged where others zag. I’m definitely looking forward to Clint McElroy’s upcoming work on Marvel Team-Up.
(W) Jason Aaron (A/CA) Ed McGuinness Rated T+ In Shops: Jun 26, 2019 SRP: $3.99
WAR OF THE REALMS TIE-IN!
The final battle for Midgard! Captain Marvel leads the War Avengers! Hulk battles Ulik! Blade takes on the Black Berserkers of Roxxon! Plus: Daredevil the God Without Fear has a cryptic message that will decide the future of the team.
(W) Jason Aaron (A) Russell Dauterman (CA) Arthur Adams Rated T+ In Shops: Jun 26, 2019 SRP: $5.99
THE WORLD’S SHATTERING CONCLUSION OF WAR OF THE REALMS!
The tides begin to turn as unexpected allies appear in a twist that will shake the heavens! Malekith’s allies are faltering at last before the might of all Earth’s heroes, but the Dark Elf King has one final trick – and it’s got a VENOMOUS bite! Out of options, the God of Thunder makes a sacrifice that will leave him forever changed. But will it be enough? And what heroes may fall in his wake? Midgard’s fate is sealed as Jason Aaron’s years-long saga comes to its epic conclusion!
While the status of Dracula the vampire nation might have been the focus of the “War of the Vampires” storyline that ran in Avengers #13-17, there was something else that stood out. The return of Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider! Blaze is still reigning as the King of Hell, who took over in Damnation, and we’ll see more of this role in “The Challenge of the Ghost Riders” this September.
In Avengers #16 we saw current Ghost Rider Robbie Reye stuck in traffic in the depths of hell. A mysterious character was talking to him and teasing the difficulty he’d be facing. The last page of the issue featured Blaze sitting on his bike and leaving Reyes with a warning their story would intertwine once more.
You’ll be back. And the King of Hell will be here waiting. And next time I see you, Ghost Rider, you and me… we’re gonna do a bit more than just talk. We’re gonna have us a little ride.
– Johnny Blaze aka Ghost Rider – Avengers #16
The next chapter for Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider begins this September. Find “The Challenge of the Ghost Riders” in Avengers #24.
Check out the full solicitation below and cover artwork (which is not the final trade dress).
JASON AARON (W) • STEFANO CASELLI (A/C)
THE CHALLENGE OF THE GHOST RIDERS!
If the Avengers thought one Ghost Rider was tough to deal with, wait’ll they see how many Spirits of Vengeance have just been unleashed by the King of Hell, Johnny Blaze! Including the craziest, most powerful Rider of them all…That’s right, it’s the Avengers vs. Cosmic Ghost Rider!
(W) Jason Aaron, Christopher Cantwell, Charlie Jane Anders (A) Andrea Sorrentino, More (CA) Alan Davis Rated T+ In Shops: Jun 19, 2019 SRP: $4.99
THE MUST-READ COMPANION TO THE WAR OF THE REALMS!
The Kingpin joins the battle for New York! And even with his new cosmic senses, the God Without Fear can’t touch the venerated Mayor…can he? Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino’s tale comes to a dramatic close! Plus, Halt and Catch Fire co-creator Christopher Cantwell and Nebula Award-winning novelist Charlie Jane Anders make their Marvel debuts with stories about Doctor Doom and She-Hulk!
“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…
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This was a really enjoyable week in “War of the Realms” country with all kinds of heroic happenings going on from Spider-Man choosing to negotiate with and not fight both the Angels of Heven and the Nigerian army in League of the Realms #2 to Cul Borson finding redemption in Thor #13. This week also marks the return of anthology War Scrolls, which features one of Marvel’s best stories of 2019, namely, Wiccan going to drag brunch with Loki. Speaking of drag brunch, “War of the Realms” also got a head start on Pride Month by featuring LGBTQ characters in both League of the Realms #2 and War Scrolls even though the first one is a little more tragic as the angel Fernade mourns over her lost love, Anemone.
War of the Realms: War Scrolls #2
War Scrolls is really one of the “War of the Realms” tie-ins that I wish got more than three issues, especially when we’re blessed with a trio of stories that like we got in issue two. First up is the part two of Jason Aaron, Andrea Sorrentino, and Matthew Wilson’s Daredevil, God of Fear serial, which cosmic sizes a classic battle between Daredevil and the Kingpin. But, before things go from Netflix to Man of Steel, Aaron and Sorrentino do some chilling characterization in a Ben-Day dot flashback where Daredevil prays that he won’t beat a mass murderer to death. Wilson’ color palette switch from flat and old school to majestic fantasy mode helps the story keep its momentum, and although he’s a bad guy, it’s fun to see Wilson Fisk get one up on Malekith and the Dark Elves.
The second serial is a Doctor Strange one from Devin Grayson (Nice to see her getting work again), Paul Davidson, and Andres Mossa. It show the effect of teleporting all the civilians and heroes in New York to the North Pole on Strange and is also cute and charming along the way. The main plot involves Dr. Strange preventing Nightmare from attacking this plane of existence, and Davidson and Mossa channel their inner Ditko with psychedelic art that wouldn’t be out of place in a head shop circa 1968. Grayson writes Dr. Strange as a heroic figure a la the Doctor or even Morpheus from Sandman, who admits his mistake of teleporting the superheroes out of New York and shows Nightmare that fear can be fought and resisted to. And he does this all while taking a nap. (A cute kid even tucks him in and gives him a stuffed animal.)
War Scrolls definitely saved the best for last, and that is a drag brunch story by Anthony Oliveira, Nick Robles, and Cris Peter featuring Hulking, Wiccan, and Loki in a mini-Young Avengers reunion. It’s funny, sad, and Kid Loki turns Thor into a bear on the first page. Oliveira and Robles spin the tale of Loki’s relationship with Wiccan and the Young Avengers, and how even though he may have manipulated them and even cast his lot with Malekith the Accursed that they still care about and support him. The story is in direct conversation with Kieron Gillen’s Loki arc in both Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers and clears up loose ends while providing the reason for why Loki wears a horned helmets. Plus Jean Grey and Emma Frost drag queens get into a fight, and Oliveira, Robles, and Peter create a vision of the Marvel universe that is beautifully queer. This story alone (The Daredevil and Dr. Strange ones were great too.) earns War Scrolls #2 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #2
InSpider-Man & the League of Realms #2, Sean Ryan, Nico Leon, and Carlos Lopez basically have Spider-Man herding cats, er, trying to get people like Screwbeard and Ud the Troll, who are hardwired to fight, to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. However, they start with a tragic love story, and Lopez uses beautiful whites and reds to show the story of the Angels Fernande and Anemone, who was killed by Malekith because he just wanted to know what killing an angel felt like. Fernande was the enemy in the previous issue, but now she’s a staunch ally of Spider-Man and decides to help the resistance against the Angels of Heven in Nigeria.
But this issue isn’t all triumphant, and Leon gets the opportunity to show Screwbeard, Ud, and Ivory Honeyshot, whose realm was the first one conquered by Malekith, shooting and fighting their way through Rome. The measured conversation and protective spells of the first half of the issue are replaced with catchphrases, explosions, and a foe that might be beyond any of them. The blows that Malekith’s main lackey Kurse land are powerful reminders of the pointlessness of unceasing violence, and Spider-Man’s probably going to have clean up the mess in the next issue. Because of its mix of fine and cartoon-y art, still quirky ensemble cast, and story that shows the results of both war and diplomacy, League of Realms #2 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
In the Thor tie-in issues of “War of the Realms”, Jason Aaron and artist Mike Del Mundo have been doing a fantastic job of fleshing out the supporting Asgardian characters that have popped up throughout Aaron’s run. Cul Borson, the God of Fear and on a secret suicide mission from Odin, gets the treatment in Thor #13. Beginning in the present day with Cul surrounded by crying Dark Elf children, the comic is structured like a biography of the god with childhood flashbacks of him bullying Odin and eventually being banished to Midgard as the “Serpent”. As he fights through the mushroom mines of Svartalfheim, Cul is in conflict between wanting to be feared and loving and between caring for his little brother and wanting to usurp his throne.
Although the flashbacks include Cul overhearing arguments between Odin and Thor that made him wish he had a son and dark temptations from Malekith, Thor #13 is an action-oriented issue tempered by soul searching narration from Aaron. Del Mundo’s Cul cuts a dark figure in the sickly green of the swamps of Svartalfheim where Dark Elf children, who have been called unworthy, help build Malekith’s empire. He wants to leave them to die, but in a moment of supreme character development hacks off their chains. This leads to a resistance movement even if Cul never sees the fruits of his actions. He was a never a “good guy”, but in a tough moment, he did one heroic thing and can die without wasting his life. Cul’s last stand against the Dark Elves is pretty damn noble as Del Mundo fills his panels with bodies, and combined with Aaron’s insightful writing earns Thor #13 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
“War of the Realms”‘ most random tie-in continues in Giant-Man #2 where Leah Williams fits Scott Lang, Raz Malhotra, Atlas, and Tom Foster into a fantasy quest narrative, and Marco Castiello’s art is still so shadowy and less than detailed that it is still difficult at times to immediately know who’s talking. (Tom’s shirtlessness, Atlas’ septum ring, Scott’s Ant-Man helmet, and Raz’s Skyrim do help.) In Hero’s Journey and college movie tradition, they end up facing a threshold guardian, who needs them to pay a toll and drink way too much at a party.
Williams’ gift for humor shines through in Giant-Man #2 with Tom’s knack for karaoke coming in handy when faced by Frost Giant locals, and it’s nice to know that there are some Dolly Parton fans in Jotunheim. Castiello also turns the nine panel grid into a grid of debauchery as Atlas keeps downing pints while tired dad Scott Lang passes out early. Also, the drinking songs are cleverly weaved into the plot of the miniseries as the team literally learns how Frost Giants are made and end the penultimate issue with a shot of their final obstacle and a side of how utterly expendable they are. By leaning into fantasy genre trappings and its characters’ dysfunctional personalities, Leah Williams and Marco Castiello create a fun event tie-in that earns an Overall Verdict of Read.
Fantastic Four #10
One thing that I loved about Fantastic Four #10 is that write Dan Slott and artists Paco Medina and Kevin Libanda start out by telling the story of the Fantastic Four moving to Yancy Street and Franklin and Valeria Richards trying to fit in with “regular” kids after working with the Future Foundation out in the multiverse and don’t force a tie-in. Franklin is struggling with the dwindling nature of his powers and going through an emo phase, and there’s a block party. Then, Slott introduces all the baddies from “War of the Realms” and connect it to the strength and resolve of the people of Yancy Street as Franklin realizes that growing up in this neighborhood and learning to never give up made Ben Grimm a hero long before the Thing.
I love how Slott writes Franklin and Valeria as ungrateful adolescents and not just cute kids with big brains and godlike powers. Franklin’s almost limitless superpowers have gone to his head, and it’s nice to see some of the kids in the neighborhood cut him down to size when he brags about his abilities instead of helping with art classes at the Grimm Community Center. However, this story nails the awkwardness of moving to a new area when you’re a kid, getting used to new people, and ways of doing things. It also shows that New York didn’t roll over when Malekith invaded, and best of all, introduces a friendship/rivalry between Moon Girl and Valeria that I hope gets fleshed out in future issues. Most of “War of the Realms” has involved street level heroes fighting cosmic threats, but Slott, Medina, and Libanda turn the tables and have the Fantastic Four protecting their neighborhood. This earns Fantastic Four #10 an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Although Marco Castiello’s giant blue Paul Rudd will haunt my dreams, this was probably one of the best weeks for “War of the Realms” with issues that focused on character and story and not making the millionth Dungeons and Dragons/Lord of the Rings reference. Even if Jason Aaron’s War of the Realms mini ends up being a bust, it won’t tarnish his classic Thor run, which has done a great job showing the journey of side characters during this event. Also, Anthony Oliveira needs to write a Young Avengers run ASAP, and Nick Robles has definitely entered the pantheon of sexy Loki artists after his work on War Scrolls #2 and even made the horned helmet cute.