(W) Ryan North (A) Derek Charm (CA) Erica Henderson Rated T+ In Shops: Oct 09, 2019 SRP: $3.99
IT’S THE PENULTIMATE ISSUE OF SQUIRREL GIRL!
• It’s also the ULTIMATE issue of Squirrel Girl, at least until the next and last one comes out. • Wait, I’m getting word that’s what “penultimate” means – okay, nevermind. • In this issue: Squirrel Girl faces off against her arch nemesis, with just some friends and a dressed-only-in-his-underwear Tony Stark at her side. Can she win?? • See, normally you’d say “yes, of course she can, it’s right there in the title” but this is our second-last issue! ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN! • INCLUDING SHOCKING TWISTS!! • Please enjoy the several (SEVERAL) shocking twists in this issue, including the (already established as shocking) return of a beloved character!
(W) Ryan North (A) Derek Charm (CA) Erica Henderson Rated T+ In Shops: Sep 11, 2019 SRP: $3.99
• Things go from bad to worse as Brain Drain is still missing, and the greatest villains in Marvel history team up to take out the one thing that’s stood in their way: our hero, Doreen Green! • With Melissa doing everything she can to destroy Squirrel Girl, is there anything Doreen can do to survive?? • Gosh, I sure hope so because it’d be nice if we actually make it to #50 BUT TECHNICALLY YOU NEVER KNOW!! • Especially when Squirrel Girl’s first villain, DOCTOR DOOM, is involved… • I don’t want to say more because SPOILERS, but trust us when we say this is a bonkers issue in which bonkers things happen, and you should definitely order it right now!!
(W) Ryan North (A) Derek Charm (CA) Erica Henderson
In Shops: Aug 14, 2019
BRAIN DRAIN IS MISSING!
• Do you want the good news or the bad news first? • Let’s do the good news: It’s the start of a new Squirrel Girl arc! BRAIN DRAIN is missing! A sinister face from the past returns! And the hitherto UNBEATABLE Squirrel Girl will have to face CERTAIN DEFEAT to save him! • Now the bad news: While this is the start of a new Squirrel Girl arc, it’s the start of our LAST Squirrel Girl arc! We’re going out on a high note. You have been amazing, and making this book has been amazing, but sadly in four months, THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL will end with issue #50. I KNOW. • Now the good news again: Because it’s our last story ever we’re making it COMPLETELY HUGE AND AMAZING and it is going to BLOW YOUR MIND! • It’s the start of the most nuts Squirrel Girl story ever as lives hang in the balance, narrative threads are resolved, and shocking reveals are made! • <3
(W) Charles Soule, Ryan North, More (A) Paulo Siqueira, Alessandro Vitti, Rod Reis (CA) Arthur Adams Rated T+ In Shops: Jul 31, 2019 SRP: $4.99
Welcome to the 21st century! A new age dawns for Logan in his mission to stop the demon Truth! Iron Man faces the biggest financial crisis of his lifetime! And a hero reborn for a new millennium, the Winter Soldier returns in brand-new tale by D.C. Pierson (Crap Kingdom, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Alessandro Vitti (Secret Warriors)!
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“.
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.
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.
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 NewAgents 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-Menwhich 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.
(W) Ryan North (A) Derek Charm (CA) Erica Henderson Rated T+ In Shops: Jul 03, 2019 SRP: $3.99
A WAR OF THE REALMS TIE-IN! The MOST squirrel-centric War of the Realms tie-in reaches its conclusion! Only one woman stands between the invading army of the Frost Giants and utter disaster on Earth, and that woman is SQUIRREL GI- hold on… hold on, sorry. I’m getting word that not one but TWO women actually stand between the Giants and utter disaster on Earth, and one of them is…RATATOSKR?? It seems unlikely that the Norse god of gossip would be on Team Doreen, let alone a valuable member of it – but hey, stranger things have happened, right? I can’t think of any off the top of my head, but they’ve probably happened. Can SQUIRREL GIRL team up with her SMACK-TALKING ENEMY? Can two people who couldn’t be more different find a common ground in time to save everyone? And will BRAIN DRAIN make it back from the Negative Zone? You may THINK you know the answers to these questions, but only by purchasing and then reading this illustrated picto-narrative will your suspicions be confirmed or denied!
The 2019 convention for the American Library Association (ALA) kicked off with huge news that DC was consolidating its line under three “brands.” That left many to wonder about the future of the DC Zoom and DC Ink graphic novel lines. Launched last year, the new graphic novel imprints were focused on the young adult and middle grade readers and have been hits so far. DC followed up those concerns with an announcement of a slate of graphic novel releases aimed at those young adult and middle grade readers.
These graphic novels continue the focus on stories not part of DC’s ongoing continuity making them accessible to new fans. The releases also focus on the original mandate of YA titles being about “everyday aspirations, struggles, and triumphs,” while the middle grade releases being focused on stories about “friends, family, and growing up.”
Endings seem to be a recurring theme for this week’s “War of the Realms” books with Giant-Manbeing the first tie-in miniseries to reach the finish line thanks to some incredible weirdness and a wonderful father/daughter team-up from Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg. There’s also the bittersweet end to Cullen Bunn’s work on the Asgardians of the Galaxy series even after it was name-dropped in the second highest grossing movie of all time. Thankfully, Tini Howard and German Peralta’s recently announced Strikeforcewill continue Angela’s journey.
In addition to these titles, Bunn and Iban Coello’s short Venom arc wraps up just in time for “Absolute Carnage”, Superior Spider-Man is way too funny and meta, Champions seems determined to feature every teen Marvel hero, and Ryan North and Derek Charm’sUnbeatable Squirrel Girl is still a wonderful gift with Ariana Grande karaoke and Frost Giants talking shop about, well, frost.
My feelings on the conclusion of Leah Williams, Marco Castiello, and Rachelle Rosenberg’s Giant-Man are definitely mixed. What has been a fairly straightforward adventure yarn set in Florida and featuring Marvel’s size changing heroes gets pretty freaking weird. Apparently, former Thunderbolt/Master of Evil Moonstone has been enslaving the women of Florida to forcibly harvest ice from Ymir to make Ice Giants. It’s definitely a twist and throws a wrench into the whole Ymir assassination mission. The scene where Cassie Lang rescues the slaves and teams up with her dad are heartwarming as well as Raz’s empathy for Ymir, who is in pain and being held against his will. Ymir being a victim and more of a primal force of nature than a baddie is more nuanced and memorable than the team punching him to death.
However, Williams and Castiello do less of a good job introducing and telling the story of Moonstone, the miniseries’ Big Bad. Her powers and motivation fluctuate depending on this scene as she goes from slave master to force of nature and even a redemptive figure depending on the scene. It’s like Williams and Castiello reached the end of miniseries and realized they needed a final boss that wasn’t Ymir and used her past connection with Atlas as a shorthand reason to feature her. Throw in visuals that are hard to follow when the characters change size, and unfortunately, Giant-Man #3 earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10
Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 is a bittersweet comic for many reasons. It features the quirky cast of this book kicking ass together one last time as well as Angela using the MacGuffin from the book’s first arc to get revenge on the Angels of Heven, who abused and tortured her. Writer Cullen Bunn and sharp artists Luca Maresca and Federico Blee give each character a couple of fantastic moments before signing off on a series that had an interesting cast of characters, a fun morally ambiguous space-faring tone, fantastic LGBTQ representation, and was mostly forced to be an event tie-in.
But the fact that it’s a tie-in doesn’t negate Skurge earning redemption as a hero in Valhalla, Angela saving Nairobi, Kenya and finding revenge by beheading her evil adoptive mother, and Ren and Annabelle Riggs being cute while getting cool weapons from the dwarf Urzuul. Maresca’s art has a cartoonish lyricism to him with slash shaped panels when Angela and an army of undead gods lay waste to Heven, or when Okoye gives Annabelle tips on using a Valkyrie spear. He and Bunn do an excellent job wrapping up Angela, Skurge, and Annabelle’s arc while letting this team kick ass in various and sundry ways. Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy, and hopefully, it’ll get a revival once Chris Hemsworth signs a deal to be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
Jim Zub, Juanan Ramirez, and Marco Menyz bust out the Disir, the cursed ghosts of Odin’s father Bor’s Valkyries, in their Champions “War of the Realms” tie-in. First appearing in Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, they’re a formidable foe for this team of teen heroes that almost seems to double in membership each issue. Zub and Ramirez are constantly cutting from character to character throughout this issue in different action scenes. However, a few beats land like Power Man realizing the full potential of his “chi”-based powers and basically hulking out and save the team’s asses when he is stabbed in the heart by a magical, undead Asgardian artifact. There is also Kamala Khan, who gets a vision of her dead in a parallel universe and starts to realize that leadership of the Champions may be too much for her.
These two strong character moments stand out in what is mostly a loud, action-driven issue where the Champions are driven up a wall, and it’s hard to get a read on any character personalities between the explosions. Zub does hit on a few cool concepts like Hummingbird joining the team because she saw a distress call on a message board and using her empathy-driven, telepathic abilities to calm the team down. With the exception of the loose cartooning and cool moment where Power Man gets to wreak havoc, Champions #6 pales in comparison to the previous issue’s Cyclops and Kamala-centric tale and reduces powerful enemies to “monster of the week” status. Therefore, it earns an Overall Verdict of Pass.
Superior Spider-Man #7
I haven’t read the previous issues of Superior Spider-Man, but Christos Gage, Lan Medina, Cam Smith, and Andy Troy’s work on this story definitely made me want to pick up the previous six issues. The series has a similar premise to Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man, but without the weird mind swap plot devices and is more about a bad guy trying to do good and use the power of science and his intellect to be a better hero than Spider-Man. The first half of this issue is filled with precise storytelling and illustrations from Medina and Smith as Spider-Ock evacuates San Francisco and turns his brain to the cause of Frost Giants invading North America and not just the symptom. As Gwenpool later states, he’s a core miniseries hero stuck in a tie-in.
Oh yeah, and to pile awesomeness on more awesomeness, Gage, and Medina pair Spider-Ock with the West Coast Avengers because he wants to use America’s star portal abilities to shut down the one letting Frost Giants onto Earth. This plan doesn’t work out, but we get fun team-up fights, Gwenpool doing running commentary on event comic structure, and Spider-Ock and Quentin Quire bonding over their shared interest in arrogance. I love how the other characters think she’s raving mad, but the always curious Spider-Ock is out here asking questions about “legacy characters”. For its strong visuals, heavy dose of meta-humor, fun guest stars, and interesting characterization of Spider-Ock, Superior Spider-Man earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45
The search for the Frost Giants’ secret base continues in Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi’s Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45, but due to irreconcilable ethical differences, Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr break up as teammates fairly early in the story. The split-up and reunion leads to great comedy, pathos, and later, adventure using the power of Frost Giant-induced fast travel. Ratatoskr doesn’t want to save the world; she only wants to create chaos and use her mind control abilities to get whatever the heck she wants. This includes go-kart video games, on command Frost Giant-friendly performances of “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, and even psychological therapy.
However, the therapy part (Done by a mind-controlled Frost Giant.) named Daisy reveals that Squirrel Girl’s words about Ratatoskr never creating and only destroying have gotten under her skin. (Charm and Renzi draw moment of truth Ratatoskr quite adorable.) This leads to forgiveness and working together to stop the Frost Giant in an ethical, non-mind controlling way. But, there’s one last pit stop before the HQ as Charm and Renzi capture the beauty of snowfall and nature with the help of the (Newly in the public domain) poems of Robert Frost. (Also, North can’t help himself with puns.) It’s a singular moment in a very silly comic with a tongue in cheek ending. For showing that beauty and humor can co-exist with sneaking around a Frost Giant camp, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #45 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
In the conclusion to their Venom “War of the Realms” arc, Cullen Bunn, Iban Coello, Alberto Albuquerque, Roberto Poggi, and Andres Mossa realize that Jack’o’Lantern is kind of a lame villain and pivot to Eddie Brock battling his own anger with a side of Dreamstone magic. The interplay between Bunn’s narration and the chaotic line art of Coello and Albuquerque creates heavy metal alchemy as Eddie wanders around New York and channels his anger again to remember that he is a “lethal” protector of the innocent, especially his son Dylan. He genuinely cares about the regular people who are caught in the crossfire of the War of the Realms and comes up with a new spin on “We are Venom” to protect them in a fist-bumping moment.
Venom #15, and Bunn and Coello’s overall work on this storyline has been a fantastic marriage of deep emotional turmoil and fun symbiote-meet-dark magic action. This issue is no exception as Eddie has his big moment and the returns to the bunker to protect Dylan and continue their journey to survive. What could have been filler while Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman were prepping “Absolute Carnage” end up telling a tale about Eddie and his son trying to survive in a world without his symbiote and featured memorable visual mash-ups of Asgardian and symbiote iconography. Because of this, Venom #15 earns an Overall Verdict of Buy.
This was truly “War of the Realms'” week of the underdog as characters, like Skurge the Executioner, Squirrel Girl, Gwenpool, Spider-Ock, Annabelle Riggs, and the West Coast Avengers, who get their books canceled or a relegated to second stringers lit up the comics pages thanks to the passion of creators like Cullen Bunn, Ryan North, Christos Gage, Luca Maresca, Derek Charm, and Lan Medina. In particular, Bunn’s letter at the end of Asgardians of the Galaxy #10 about how he wanted to do a story with these characters back in 2015 and then had to shoehorn them into two events shows the pitfalls of having an original spirit in corporate comics. But, hey, we’ll have those ten majestic issues than honestly work whether or not you read “Infinity Wars” or “War of the Realms”.
The “War of the Realms” takes a break this week from the main heroes and blockbuster trappings to tell smaller, quirky stories that are varying degrees of fun. The McElroys bring the road trip banter in War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #2, and Andre Araujo gets to take a break from advanced technology and gory fight scenes to be a humor cartoonist. War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1 is one of the first tie-ins to remember that this event has a global scope, and Greg Pak and Gang Hyuk-Lim introduce Marvel’s first Filipina hero, Wave, although the story comes apart at the seams sometimes. I tip my hat to Pak and Lim for introducing more Asian heroes to the main Marvel Universe, and hopefully we get to hear for them after three issues. And Unbeatable Squirrel Girlcontinues to be a sweet cinnamon roll of a comic that I hope Marvel never cancels. (Thank you Scholastic book club marketing!)
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #2
With the boring team assembling part out of the way, the McElroys, Andre Araujo, and colorist Chris O’Halloran are free to write and draw road trip hijinks after a quick prelude showing why Ares is working for Sindr and after Thor’s baby sister, Laussa. The McElroys settle into writing this truly odd assortment of characters in Journey into Mystery #2, and honestly, I could read a whole ongoing series of them traipsing through the Marvel Universe and arguing about personal space, the fact that no one on the team can drive except Kate Bishop (Kudos to Miles Morales for doing driver’s ed next semester though.), and Thori being fierce.
The McElroys and Araujo don’t force a fight with Ares just yet and have the team stop at “Bide-A-Wee” trailer park because, again, no one except Kate Bishop can drive. Araujo draws the denizens of the trailer park in a stiff manner like they’re pretending to be human. This makes sense because they are actually Skrulls. (Of course, the McElroys use this fact to get in some licks at Secret Invasion.) And, then, there’s the requisite action scene that Araujo and O’Halloran make fun with some creative shapeshifting and pink arrows for Kate. However, the sequence is resolved in a very un-War of the Realms way. But what do you expect from a creative team that made changing a dirty diaper both hilarious and suspenseful.
If we had to fight a War of the Realms to get this fun buddy road trip story from the McElroys and Andre Araujo, it will have been worth it. This comic definitely feels like it was written by a bunch of guys who have probably been in enclosed spaces with each other for a long time whether that’s childhood road trips or doing live podcast shows for rabid fans. Throw in a sense of wonder, humor, and love for cute babies interacting with Helhounds, and Journey into Mystery #2 an overall verdict of Buy.
War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1
Through his elevation of Amadeus Cho to the Hulk and especially a four issue arc of Totally Awesome Hulk where Cho teams up with other Asian-American superheroes, Greg Pak has used his clout as a writer to push for more Asian and Asian-American superheroes in Marvel Comics. He and artist Gang Hyuk Lim turn that up to eleven in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1, which features appearances from Marvel’s first Filipina hero Wave, the Chinese hero Aero, and Korean heroes Crescent and Io and Luna Snow, who were popular in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game and make their first comic appearance here. It’s cool to see these characters and their unique abilities get the spotlight, but Pak struggles to juggle such a large ensemble cast in one issue. Lim’s art is also fairly pedestrian even though there are pops of color from Federico Blee like when Crescent sics his magic bear Io on some Fire Goblins.
In New Agents of Atlas #1’s back matter, Pak says that he wanted to use the book to explore the “diversity within diversity” having Asian and Asian-American from different countries and backgrounds interact while defending the continent from Sindr and Fire Goblins. And he pulls this off in one fantastic scene where Jimmy Woo, the leader of Agents of Atlas, asks Amadeus Cho, Kamala Khan, Silk, and Shang Chi what kind of pear he’s holding. Depending on their background, they say it’s a Korean, Chinese, or Japanese pear because Kamala has only seen that kind of pear at the Japanese grocery.
However, the lesson is that the kind of pear doesn’t matter, and Woo says that the important thing is that they work together as a team. They proceed to not do this with Kamala and Amadeus constantly bickering about some Champions business, which leads to their plane crashing outside Seoul and a fight against the Korean superheroes, not Sindr’s forces. Pak and Lim nail Amadeus Cho’s egotism as he flexes his muscles and showboats throughout the comic and impetuously launches himself into battle without regard for his teammates. However, the scene where the newly minted Agents of Atlas fight the Korean superheroes is very rushed as White Fox immediately assumes that Amadeus Cho is bad because he had a Hulk incident a while back. It’s a good illustration of the pointless drama that gets in the way of teamwork, but with an emphasis on the “pointless” part.
Luna Snow, who Silk fangirls over because she’s a hero and a K-Pop star, Crescent and Io, and a cool surprise character have visually distinct abilities, but Gang Hyuk Lim is too married to the Marvel house style to really let them shine. This is a book that could have used the stylized touch of a Takeshi Miyazawa, who collaborate with Greg Pak on his creator owned comic Mech Cadet Yu, or David Lafuente. With its introduction of new heroes and soapy team dynamic, New Agents of Atlas has tantalizing potential even if this first issue doesn’t completely deliver so it earns the Overall Verdict of Read.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44
the best “War of the Realms” tie-in continues as writer Ryan North, artist Derek
Charm, and colorist Rico Renzi
have Squirrel Girl team up with Ratatoskr, the Norse squirrel god of chaos
against Frost Giants and then frighten the citizens of rural Alberta. North and
Charm do a good job laying out Ratatoskr’s motivation as she sees that Malekith
ruling all ten realms would lead to conformity and boredom, which is the
opposite of chaos. So, she’s fighting Frost Giants although in a flashback, she
did give a thumbs up to Mangog, the destroyer of Asgard. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44 is really an exercise in ethics as
Ratatoskr tries to cross lines, but Squirrel Girl holds her back and tries to
keep everything even kneeled. However, this backfires.
every issue in this series, Unbeatable
Squirrel Girl #44 is a dense comic filled with jokes, extended riffs, footnote
jokes, and kick-ass fight scenes. What could have been just a simple fight
between Squirrel Girl and two Frost Giants ends up with Ratatoskr giving an
update on what she has been up to over the past 30 issues or so while
imprisoned in Asgard as well as some jokes about how Frost Giants see humans as
action figures and superhumans as rare ones. They’re still looking for the rare
action figures with kung fu grips though.
the Giants go down, North and Charm go into full fish out of water mode with
Ratatoskr, who is trying to blend in with the locals, but ends up as a femme
fatale in rural Canada and does not pass for human. She has great fashion
sense, and North and Charm get to sneak in jokes about video game palette
swaps, Sailor Moon, and draw a
squirrel ear wearing Spider-Man costume while she picks her look. Also, in her
interactions with the regular folks of Alberta, she chooses the chaotic option
over the safe one and ends up getting in random guys’ faces. This scene also
illustrates the classic principles that humans hate and fear what they don’t
understand as the Albertans turn on Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr, once they
realize that “they’re not from around here”.
Ryan North, Derek Charm, and Rico Renzi seem to be having a hell of time combining Squirrel Girl’s morality and empathy with Ratatoskr’s penchant for chaos and manipulation. It’s an instant source of drama and mischief and gives Charm the chance to draw “resting evil face”. Also, for its dedication to fun, good comedy, complex baddies, adorable art, and expressive, flat colors, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #44 gets an overall verdict of Buy.
Although the quality of this week’s three comics does fluctuate, Journey into Mystery, New Agents of Atlas, and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl use the backdrop of “War of the Realms” not as a crutch, but as a freedom to tell road trip, Asian superhero team-up, and odd couple stories. Frost Giants are coming through portals so why not bring back the entertaining villain Ratatoskr from a few years back to mess with Squirrel Girl and use her divine abilities to troll mere mortals. A book like New Agents of Atlas could use its own series to build up the new characters, but Journey into Mystery and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl uses the events of “War of the Realms” as jumping on points for comedic misadventures. This week is a breath of fresh air after all the melodrama, gore, and Frank Castleness of previous “War of the Realms” tie-ins.
Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios Writer: Ryan North Artist: Braden Lamb & Shelli Paroline Letterer: Jim Campbell Cover Artist: Shelli Paroline Price: $14.99
The acclaimed team behind the Eisner Award-winning Adventure Time™ comic books, New York Times best-selling author Ryan North (Squirrel Girl) and beloved illustrators Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb (One Day a Dot: The Story of You, The Universe, and Everything), combine forces once again for an original sci-fi space comedy unlike the universe has ever seen!
Space captain Joey, navigator Fatima, and scientist (and dinosaur) Cooper are headed to Earth—a planet completely sectioned off, abandoned, and covered in gold—and are confronted by the most powerful weapon in the universe: some ancient dead guy’s body?!
Now they gotta keep King Midas’s body from being dropped on planets across the universe, and figure out exactly what to do with a gross dead dude with one truly ridiculous superpower.