By Zack Quaintance — With this issue, Marvel’s massive War of the Realms event hits its halfway point, which is as good a time as any to discuss how it’s been so far. I’d like to focus primarily here on the main series of this event. The tie-ins are another thing, and we don’t have space for them here, so let’s instead take this comic as the third in a six-part series, independent from the auxiliary titles. In that context, it’s been very good, especially for any readers (like myself) who have followed Jason Aaron’s long Thor run.
War of the Realms #1 started with an explosion, with the armies of the scheming dark elf king Malekith finally breaking through to the realm of Midgard (earth) after spending the past three or four years in the pages of Thor steadily conquering every other realm. Various incarnations of Thor (War Thor, Jane Foster, regular) worked to slow and counter Malekith’s efforts with little results. Earth is now the last free realm of the nine or 10 or whatever you’d find in Norse mythology. The opening volley of this series was really two parts—War of the Realms #1 and #2—with the latter basically ending with the bad guys victorious, driving the heroes into hiding or on desperate missions, and out of New York, the center of everything in the Marvel Universe.
War of the Realms #3, then, is more of a fulcrum, a point at which this story hinges between the conflict and fall of its opener, and what I presume is the steady march to victory that will consume the back half of these proceedings. One of the qualities of this issue I really appreciated is how this book—and really the entire series—has pretty easily integrated the larger pantheon of Marvel characters into totally bananas Norse action. On page one, we have Captain America standing inside the armory at Avengers Mountain (see the current Avengers title), holding up an axe as big as he is and taking a mission to go find Thor in another realm. This is comicbook superhero grandiosity at its best.
I, however, have been on board with the Norse side of Marvel’s books for some time, loving as I do Aaron’s all-time great Thor run. I’m still not entirely sure how it all plays to someone just dropping in, someone who reads a few other superhero books and mostly knows Thor from movies, but I think it’s maybe a little clearer than some recent mega events, Stevil and Civil War II, namely. An invading force from somewhere else with a leader as viscerally-sinister as Malekith is an easy thing to wrap one’s mind around.
Really though, what elevates this series from good to must-read is the artwork by the team of Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson. With news breaking this week that artist David Marquez was leaving the publisher for a new Superman/Batman book over at DC, Dauterman for my money stands alone as far and away Marvel’s best artist. And he’s owning his chance on comics biggest stage within the pages of this book. There are ideas in here that maybe shouldn’t work so well—Spider-Man and Wolverine flying into battle on pegasuses (pegasi?), the Punisher and Blade dressed as dark elves, etc. They aren’t bad ideas, but they’re visually risky, and if done wrong they could end up as mockable. Duaterman and Wilson, however, execute every last one to perfection.
I won’t spoil it, but there’s a page-turn moment in here that lands us on what I believe is Dauterman’s first rendition of some classic Marvel characters, and it’s done so well it made me break a smile, even though I was at home reading this all groggy in the morning alone. So, where are we at on War of the Realms so far? We’re at delivering on the hype. I’ve also been impressed at how well this comic stands without the tie-in series. I’ve mostly skipped all of those, and the confusion here was pretty minimal. I hope that continues.
Overall: War of the Realms is an event that feels more like a natural extension of a long-building storyline from Thor. This is a compliment. The third issue slows things down a bit, letting players from the wider Marvel line move into some interesting places. 9.0/10
War of the Realms #3
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.