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SDCC 2019: It’s the Dawn of X with X-Men, Excalibur, Marauders, New Mutants, Fallen Angels, and X-Force

With just days until House of X #1 hits store shelves, Marvel announced six brand-new ongoing series with a suite of all-star creative teams to take mutantkind further than they’ve ever gone before, kicking off with X-Men, Excalibur, Marauders, New Mutants, Fallen Angels, and X-Force!

Announced at Marvel’s Next Big Thing panel at San Diego Comic-Con, these new series will build directly from the universe-shifting events of House of X and Powers of X.

These new series will kick off the first phase of Jonathan Hickman’s massive multi-year plan for the X-Men, redefining everything the world knows about mutants and their place in the universe. As the perfect jumping on point for new and long-time X-Men fans, these extraordinary series will change everything – with only more to come in the months and years ahead…

And this is only the beginning. The Dawn of X will begin this October!

X-MEN #1

Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Penciled by LEINIL FRANCIS YU
Cover by LEINIL FRANCIS YU

A NEW ERA DAWNS FOR THE X-MEN!

The X-Men find themselves in a whole new world of possibility… and things have never been better! Jonathan Hickman (HOUSE OF X, POWERS OF X, SECRET WARS) and superstar artist Leinil Yu (NEW AVENGERS, CAPTAIN AMERICA) reveal the saga of Cyclops and his hand-picked squad of mutant powerhouses!

On sale October 2019

EXCALIBUR #1

Written by TINI HOWARD
Penciled by MARCUS TO
Cover by MAHMUD ASRAR
On sale October 2019

A NEW DAY IS FORGED!

Mutantkind has always been special…as has their relationship with the world—or WORLDS—around them. As this new era dawns, a new connection forms between mutants and the magic of the world… and that of Otherworld! Can the new Captain Britain forge a new way through the chaos with her companions Rogue, Gambit, Jubilee, Rictor…and Apocalypse?!?

MARAUDERS #1

Written by GERRY DUGGAN
Penciled by MATTEO LOLLI
Cover by RUSSELL DAUTERMAN
On sale October 2019

THE X-MEN SAIL AT DAWN!

Even in this glorious new dawn, Mutantkind faces hardships and oppression from their human counterparts. Led by Captain Kate Pryde and funded by Emma Frost and the Hellfire Trading Company, Marauders Storm, Pyro, Bishop and Iceman sail the seas of the world to protect those hated and feared!

NEW MUTANTS #1

Issue 1 Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN & ED BRISSON
Issue 2 Written by JONATHAN HICKMAN
Penciled by ROD REIS
Cover by ROD REIS
On sale November 2019

THE NEXT GENERATION CLAIMS THE FUTURE!

The classic New Mutants (Sunspot, Wolfsbane, Mirage, Karma, Magik, and Cypher) get together with a few new friends (Chamber, Mondo) to seek out their missing member and share the good news… a mission that takes them into space alongside the Starjammers!

FALLEN ANGELS #1

Written by BRYAN EDWARD HILL
Penciled by SZYMON KUDRANSKI
Cover by ASHLEY WITTER
On sale November 2019

NOT ALL BELONG IN PARADISE!

Psylocke finds herself in this new world of Mutantkind unsure of her place in it… but when a face from her past returns only to be killed, she seeks help from others who feel similar to get vengeance. Cable and X-23 join Kwannon for a personal mission that could jeopardize all Mutantkind!

X-FORCE #1

Written by BENJAMIN PERCY
Penciled by JOSHUA CASSARA
Cover by DUSTIN WEAVER
On sale November 2019

THE COST OF THE FUTURE ISN’T CHEAP.

X-Force is the CIA of the mutant world—one half intelligence branch, one half special ops. Beast, Jean Grey and Sage on one side, Wolverine, Kid Omega and Domino on the other. In a perfect world, there would be no need for an X-Force. We’re not there… yet.

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

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

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


The Good

1. Thor’s Character Arc

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

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


Image result for russell dauterman war of the realms

2. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s Visuals

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

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


3. Humor-Driven Tie-Ins

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

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

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


4. Standalone Character Studies

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

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


The Bad

5. Mediocre Minis

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

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

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

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

Messages from Midgard #13- The Four Thors

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’s War 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.


Thor #14

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

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

Superior Spider-Man continues 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 Coast Avengers.

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.


War of 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.


Panel of the Week

Young Thor and King Thor bonding over craft beer is the cutest thing. (From War of the Realms #6, Art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson)

Preview: War of the Realms #6 (of 6)

War of the Realms #6 (of 6)

(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!

War of the Realms #6 (of 6)

Messages from Midgard #10 – Deadpool Down Under

“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 wish Journey 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, and Captain Marvel and Deadpool 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.

Deadpool #13

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…


Panel of the Week

Poor Skottie Young’s kids (Deadpool #13; Art by Nic Klein)

Messages from Midgard #7- I Am Iron-Odin

In what is probably a law of averages/regression to the mean situation, a decent issue of War of the Realms happened as Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson stopped crafting trailers for tie-in issues (For the most part.) and turned in a damn good Odin and Freyja story. Throughout his run on Thor, Aaron has done a fantastic job creating character journeys for Odinson’s supporting cast and rekindles some of that old magic as Iron-Odin and Freyja go all Thermopylae against the Dark Elves. As far as tie-ins, we’ve got two hits and a (near) miss. Inconsistent art and directionless plotting squander the amazing cast that Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, Kim Jacinto, and Ario Anindito have been gifted with in War Avengers while Spider-Man and the League of the Realms and Giant-Man are basically throwing shit at the wall to see if it sticks. And it does thanks to Nico Leon’s clean art, Sean Ryan’s heroic writing of Spidey, and Leah Williams’ wonderful wit.

War of the Realms #4

Freyja has been a complete and utter badass during the course of the “War of the Realms” event leading the charge as all her male relatives are Frost Giant food or injured. With the foresight that comes from her background as a Vanir goddess, she can both ward off hordes of Dark Elves and coordinate the Avengers recruiting surviving members of other realms to make a last stand on Midgard. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson channel Jack Kirby a little bit when showing her action using Kirby krackle and squiggly lines to demonstrate her magical powers and a black and pink palette that intensifies into red once her situation gets more dire.

And speaking of dire, this is what motivates an injured Odin to jump into battle. He truly cares about his wife and is angry that Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, Blade, and Punisher left her by herself at the Black Bifrost. He is very pissed off, and not even Captain America’s good wishes can calm him down. Luckily, Tony Stark has forged him an incredibly cool, golden suit of armor in one of the series’ most badass moments. Aaron also does an excellent job writing a bickering couple even sneaking in a joke about how Odin isn’t great in bed as they reach their end. Over the course of four issues, he and Dauterman have taken almost everyone away from Thor, and he is ready to be a hero with his axe, hammer, metal arm, and interruption of Jane Foster. This arc for Thor is very in line with his recent characterization in the Marvel movies, and I’m curious how many of these “deaths” will actually hold up once the event is over.

War of the Realms #4 has bits that feel like trailers for other issues (She-Hulk’s motivational speech to the dwarves of Nidavellir is very funny though.), but Jason Aaron’s focus on Freyja and Odin’s characterization combined with Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s beautiful, yet tragic visuals of their final stand give the comic an Overall Verdict of Read.

War of the Realms Strikeforce: The War Avengers #1

Writer Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum, artists Kim Jacinto and Ario Anindito, and colorists Java Tartaglia and Felipe Sobreiro’s War Avengers one-shot is set up back in War of the Realms #3 with Freyja sending a team led by Captain Marvel to coordinate the defense of Midgard. The members of this team are Deadpool, Sif, Weapon H (Hulk and Wolverine combined for some reason.), Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Captain Britain comes into help later. Hopeless understands the voices of these characters very well with inappropriately timed quips for Deadpool, a badass warrior vibe for Sif, strong military leadership from Carol, and simmering black ops chemistry between Natasha and Bucky that would make Ed Brubaker and Mark Waid smile. As the team heads to London to try to take out Malekith, he even writes one hell of a Union Jack, who quaffs a pint while waiting for the next wave of Dark Elves.

This previous paragraph made War Avengers #1 sound like a damn fine team comic, but it’s not. I know that deadlines are a thing and this issue is longer than usual Marvel ones, but Jacinto and Anindito’s art is very hit and miss and doesn’t really mesh. Some scenes are more cartoonish while others are stiffly rendered. This stiffness comes at awkward moments like an extended bit with Deadpool and a shark, or Black Widow and Winter Soldier doing a cool stealth mission to steal mechs from Frost Giants. But there are some good panels here and there like when Deadpool makes a joke about a scene of Natasha leaping from an explosion being a good movie poster for her. Sometimes, this comic does feel like Dennis Hallum unloading every joke he has for Deadpool at one go.

So, unlike the excellent Dark Elf Realm one-shot, Hallum doesn’t really have a focus after the Frost Giant heist mission and the failed attack on Malekith wrapping the comic up with some statements about war straight out of All Quiet on the Western Front’s Cliff Notes. With the exception of Venom’s capture, he doesn’t show the War Avengers being beaten back by Malekith and ends the issue with a Carol voiceover and setting up their next “mission”. This lack of conclusiveness plus inconsistent art earns War Avengers #1 an Overall Verdict of Pass even though I personally love this team lineup.

War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1

Sean Ryan, Nico Leon, and Carlos Lopez take one of the coolest concepts from Jason Aaron’s Thor run and craft a heartwarming, occasionally quirky heroic story in Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1. The story opens with Spider-Man driving a jeep to Lagos, Nigeria with a Light Elf, Dwarf, Mountain Giant, and Vanir god in tow. They’re trying to liberate Lagos from the Angels of Heven, who now rule the continent of Africa. The result is Spider-Man awkwardly trying to keep a team that has a couple killers at bay and looking out for regular people while angels rain down fire and fury from above.

What really makes this comic work is the clean lines of Nico Leon, which make the story fun and easy to follow even if you, like me, forgot half the names of the League of the Realms members. Leon works with colorist Carlos Lopez to highlight important parts of each panel like a gorgeous church in the background where Fernande, the Angel commander and a definite crusader type, has her headquarters. His Spider-Man is quite expressive, and he treats the mask like a face and not something static. Ryan gives him plenty of action to draw, but this comic has a pretty peaceful ending for a “War of the Realms” tie-in. It’s a done in one story and also has a cool cliffhanger plus Ryan creates tension between Spider-Man and the more violent members of his team that will probably lead to more conflict down the road.

Even though he’s in Lagos, not Queens, and is palling around with an Elf, Dwarf (I love me some Screwbeard.), god, troll, and not the Human Torch or Mary Jane, Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1 is still a great Spider-Man story. Spidey takes responsibility for every life he comes in contact with on his mission and truly lives up to Thor’s description of him as “the most Midgard of men”. Throw in Nico Leon’s artwork, and this comic earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.

Giant-Man #1

I would love to be a fly, er, ant on the wall when Leah Williams pitched Giant-Man #1 to Marvel. Basically, four size changing superheroes (Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Raz Malhotra aka Giant-Man, Tom Foster aka Goliath, and Atlas) grow to their full height, disguise themselves as Frost Giants, and take a trip to Florida to whack Laufey’s Frost Giant buddy, Ymir. Freyja is channeling the power of “big boy season” to get revenge for Laufey eating her adopted son, Loki back in War of the Realms #1. Scott wants to go back to Florida to look for his daughter, Cassie, and Williams and artist Marco Castiello do a great job having him and Freyja connect over their love for their children. Their care also extends to Goliath, who struggles with powers and being in the shadow of his uncle Bill Foster as well as Raz, who is a cute wholesome soul that had a recent breakup with his boyfriend, and of course, Atlas, who is just happy to have a shot at heroism again and comes to the mission already in “giant” mode. At first, Goliath seems like the team asshole, but Williams and Castiello prod his vulnerabilities and insecurity and add layers to his character.

However, for all its humor, general adventurous tone, and creative uses of size changing, Giant-Man #1 has a few flaws. There’s some Freyja dialogue at the beginning when she’s giving the mission that needed to be copy edited, and once the team has their “disguises” on, it’s sometimes hard to tell the characters apart except for Scott, who wears a larger version of his Ant-Man helmet. There’s a real flying by the seat of their pants quality to the characters’ interactions especially once they reach the Frost Giant haven of Yeehaw, Florida, which is a fantastic name for comedy purposes. The cast of Giant-Man has similar powers, but no real bond with each other except for Scott and Raz, who was trained by him in a previous comic. This is a definite liability for such an important mission as this one, and shit almost immediately hits the fan and doesn’t let up. Also, Frost Giant dogs make look cute, but they’re actually pretty scary.

Leah Williams and Marco Castiello go full hog with the fun, weird side of “War of the Realms” in Giant-Man #1, which also features plenty of jokes (Including a very good dick one), three dimensional characters, and characters riding on each other’s shoulders and in pockets. One line of clunky dialogue and occasional art clarity issues aside, it gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.


This was one of the better “War of the Realms” weeks in recent memory with Jason Aaron,  Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson doing strong work with Thor and his family in the main title while Spider-Man and the League of the Realms and Giant-Man showed there’s room for traditional hero stories and wacky capers in this event. War Avengers was kind of a disappointment, but extended panel time for Captain Britain, Union Jack, Sif, and non-surveillance state Carol Danvers is a good time. I like how Dennis Hallum wrote these characters, and maybe we’ll get a spinoff with a better artist. I still don’t get the deal with Weapon H other than as a cash grab.

Panel of the Week

She-Hulk is available for all your company’s motivational speaking needs. (War of the Realms #4; Art by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson)

Review: War of the Realms #4

War of the Realms #4

War of the Realms #4 plays out like a big budget film on the printed page. Does all flash and little depth work for this Marvel event?

Pray to All-Mother Freyja! For in her hands lies the key to ending Malekith’s war. The Black Bifrost – the only method of travel for Malekith’s vast armies – must fall.

War of the Realms #4 is all about rallying the troops. Writer Jason Aaron delivers a disjointed issue that leaves you wondering if there was something you missed while reading.

Freyja has dispatched her team to gain allies for a final showdown on Midgard. The issue hops around to the various action hotspots and how the Avengers teams are doing. That’s the problem with the issue. Aaron has put together an epic story that isn’t served by a main series.

War of the Realms‘ main series has felt like a newscast. It delivers quick hits as to what’s going on with little depth to the story itself. Captain America’s team retrieved Thor. In other words, beyond their departure and travel last issue, we know little else. How did they calm him down? You’ll need to get a different comic for that. That’s a major issue as no series, whether it be the main or a mini-series, has felt like a complete story. They’re pieces of a puzzle that can only be enjoyed and appreciated if you read everything.

Even then there’s an issue of too much going on. Great concepts are introduced and quickly abandoned. The story and characters have to shift elsewhere. This leaves the reader to wonder what’s going on and confused. It leads to enhancing the choppy and distracted nature of the issue.

What Aaron has put together is something that feels almost too epic. There’s not enough issues and pages, and not enough time to really explore and appreciate what has been going on. It’s very much a thin summer blockbuster whose entire shtick is to wow you with visuals and concepts. It’s all razzle dazzle so you don’t explore or think too much about what you’re experiencing.

That’s helped by the artist team of Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson, along with letterer Joe Sabino, who deliver a fantasy epic that feels like it’s right at home within the Marvel Universe. Even that feels short in some ways. For instance, moments pop but not quite to the extent you’d expect or hope for. Epic stands of characters feel dialed back as the hordes descend upon and the lack of two page spreads don’t drive it home. Moments that are supposed to pop and have you linger and deliver emotion don’t quite nail the landing. Like the story itself, it all feels like a concept not quite fleshed out.

Aaron and Dauterman have been a hell of a duo elsewhere, but War of the Realms continues to limp along with an event that’s better concepts than execution. The issue feels rushed and slapped together. The event isn’t being given the life it needs to breathe and stand out. As the climactic chapter of the story Aaron has been weaving for years, War of the Realms seems to be going out not with a bang but with a whimper.

Story: Jason Aaron Art: Russell Dauterman
Color: Matthew Wilson Letterer: Joe Sabino
Story: 6.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 6.0 Recommendation:
Pass

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Messages from Midgard #5: Cyclops Was Right

Halfway through the “War of the Realms“, and it looks like this is gonna be an event where the tie-ins were more memorable than the core story. War of the Realms #3 dropped this week, and it’s a treat to see Russell Dauterman draw, basically, the entire Marvel Universe including the Fantastic Four and Captain America’s cute little snow jacket for adventuring in Jotunheim. But, it’s just trailers for better, more interesting comics like Bryan Hill and Leinil Yu’s very longwindedly named War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1 and Champions #5 where Jim Zub and Juanan Ramirez once and for all prove that, indeed, Cyclops was right. (But Ramirez’s trolls look like Skrulls, oops.)

War of the Realms #3

After two straight issues of various Marvel superheroes fighting various fantasy creatures, we get yet another issue of Marvel superheroes fighting various fantasy creatures. Sights that Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson subject us to include Daredevil tripping balls and flirting with being an agnostic while having the power of the god of fear, Luke Cage riding a flying horse, Punisher wanting to blow up Ghost Rider’s car, and of course, Thor covered in blue Frost Giant blood. And there are jokes; so many jokes. However, with the exception of the Thor becoming a berserker part and a Venom plot point, the comic feels like a trailer for other comics, namely, the Strikeforce series of one-shots.

Jason Aaron did a fantastic job writing Daredevil in War Scrolls #1, and I was excited to see how he set up the Man without Fear’s transformation. Boy, was I disappointed. Heimdall makes a quip about about creeping on Daredevil while he was on Earth, there’s another joke about Catholicism, and then Daredevil is the God of Fear and defender of the BiFrost. The page where he gains godhood is very trippy with a Dippin’ Dots color palette from Wilson though even if his role is basically Asgardian Scotty from Star Trek until the BiFrost has to be destroyed for plot reasons.

This past weekend, Avengers Endgame showed that spectacular action could be combined with both continuity fun and character arcs. However, War of the Realms #3 is mostly just the spectacular action part with Aaron and Dauterman just moving pieces on the board. Sure, the comic looks cool, and there are some actually funny jokes (Spider-Man’s line about fighting with a shield). But it’s all fights and no substance or emotional tether even with Freya, who is written much better in the Dark Elf Realm one-shot. I also have some little quibbles with it like Captain America and Spider-Man being cool with animal cruelty, and Aaron’s portrayal of Venom not fitting in with Cullen Bunn and Iban Coello’s story for him. War of the Realms #3 is just a skeleton to be filled in with “meat” from its tie-ins so it gets the Overall Verdict of Pass.

War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1

I thought this was going to be yet another Punisher fights Elves shoot ’em up fest. I was happy to be proven wrong as Bryan Hill proves the old Brian Bendis saying that conversations can be fight scenes, and Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Matt Hollingsworth bring grit and shadow to the art of War of the Realms Strikeforce: Dark Elf Realm #1. Basically, this shows how Freyja recruited Punisher, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Blade to destroy and then defend the Black Bifrost adding context, depth, and resolution to the fight in War of the Realms #3. Along the way, Hill and Yu create some parallels between these heroes (and one not quite hero) and the Black Bifrost itself as they and Freyja embrace their shadow selves to get the job done.

In the space of a single one-shot, Bryan Hill, Leinil Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Matt Hollingsworth create some fantastic chemistry between the Punisher and Freyja. Freyja is afraid that she has to dip into the dark, sorcerous side of herself to defeat Malekith so she enlists a man who has been consumed by darkness and revenge to help her. Yu goes very stylized with Frank’s first appearance and in other scenes shrouding him in shadow as he has come to terms that he’s a monster fighting monsters.

This insight extends to the characterization of Jennifer Walters, Ghost Rider, and Blade as they fight their worst fears in powerful one page sequences that involves Jen punching Bruce’s Hulk in the heart, Ghost Rider headbutting Johnny Blaze while he tries to do a Penance Stare, and Blade fighting his older self, a vampire king. Yu uses close ups to give each final blow maximum effect and establishes that even though three of these characters are Avengers, they’re not afraid to act like a black ops team on this mission. But maybe Freyja isn’t ready, which is Frank comes in and talks about how they’re at war and must do everything to get victory.

Bryan Hill makes multiple cases for why he should take over a Punisher or Blade ongoing comic, or even a dark series set in Asgard as that realm (As shown in Aaron and Fraction’s Thor work and the Thor Ragnarok film.) was built on violence and war. He, Yu, Alanguilan, and Hollingsworth serve up dark, fascinating visions of characters (Except for Freyja.)who have been treated like jokes or action figures in the core War of the Realms series so Dark Elf Realm #1 earns an overall verdict of Buy.

Champions #5

Jim Zub and Juanan Ramirez finally give Cyclops the respect he deserves in Champions #5 where he takes a break from the X-Men to defend New York with his younger self’s old superhero team, the Champions. Along the way, Miles Morales and Kamala Khan deal with the guilt of letting someone die on his watch and seeing friends and teammates drift away respectively. It’s an issue that is part introspective and part cartoon-y art from Ramirez as Cyclops and Kamala showcase their tactical skills and fight trolls of the non-Internet variety.

Through Kamala’s narration and with the help of Ramirez’s kinetic fight choreography and confident poses, Jim Zub shows that Cyclops isn’t just a stoic stiff or mutant terrorist, but a great leader, who is cool under pressure. Also, with the tension of the Champions and their shifting and expanding lineup, Kamala needed a hug and a reassurance from an old friend. Zub and Ramirez also use the return of Cyclops to have him interact with Dust, who decided to not rejoin the X-Men because their predilection for violence wasn’t in line with her Islamic beliefs. For example, after a badass sequence where she uses her sand manipulation powers to choke out some trolls, Dust prays and tries to come to grips if her violent actions were necessary for the situation. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this lineup of the Champions is the first time that two Muslim women have been on a superhero team.

Under Jim Zub’s shepherding, the Champions series has been a template for a modern team of young superheroes with its diverse lineup of characters, social conscience, fun team-up action, and plots that come out of the team’s interpersonal relationships. Yeah, the series is a bit soapy at times, but Champions #5 ably juggles a big lineup of characters while getting in the action beats and doing some soul searching with Miles and Kamala. On top of that, Zub’s work on Avengers No Surrender and No Road Home has served him well in using big events and continuity to tell compelling stories like understanding that the X-Men are in New York at the same time as the Champions and using it to put a little respect on Cyclops’ name. For that, Champions #5 easily gets an Overall Verdict of Buy.


Unless Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman make some second half adjustments, War of the Realms might go down as that event where different Marvel superheroes had cool fantasy inflected designed and had some big battles, but it was mostly empty calories of story. Aaron does hit on some small beats like Jane Foster growing into her role of All-Mother and leading the Asgardians into battle despite having no powers and Thor’s violence addiction. The event has also been an okay frame for more perceptive intriguing stories featuring characters Freyja, Frank Castle, Kamala Khan, Blade, Dust, and surprise surprise, Cyclops!

Panel of the Week

Nothing more refreshing than Cyclops leading a team of superheroes into battle. Plus I love how Juanan Ramirez draws his classic costume. From Champions #5, Art by Ramirez and Marco Menyz.

Preview: War of the Realms #3

War of the Realms #3

(W) Jason Aaron (A) Russell Dauterman (CA) Arthur Adams, Matthew Wilson
Rated T+
In Shops: May 01, 2019
SRP: $4.99

RECLAIM THE REALMS!

North America freezes into New Jotunheim. Europe becomes New Svartalfheim. Asia goes up in flames as the new domain of Queen Sindr and her fire goblins. Ulik the Troll lays claim to Australia while Amora the Enchantress raises an army of the dead in South America. Africa falls to the Angels of Heven while Roxxon Oil drops its stakes in Antarctica. Midgard now belongs to Malekith and his allies! The Avengers’ last hope lies in a series of suicide missions across the realms, starting with the rescue of Thor-last seen surrounded by an army of Frost Giants in Jotunheim…

War of the Realms #3

Review: War of the Realms #2

THE WAR OF THE REALMS #2 COMIC REVIEW – DAMN ODIN SON!

In April’s WAR OF THE REALMS #1, Malekith’s invasion starts in Manhattan, but he doesn’t just want to conquer part of Earth — he wants the whole realm!” teases editor Wil Moss. “The heroes will have a hard enough time just defending New York from Malekith’s forces — but when they realize the full scope of his attack in April’s WAR OF THE REALMS #2, they’ll have to make some daring and surprising moves in order to stop Malekith and his army of Frost Giants, Fire Goblins, Trolls and more from taking over the entire planet! And as with any war, this world at war will have some casualties…

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