Well, what do you know. It has been about one month since Marvel’s last big event ended so you know what that means, right? Time for yet another Marvel Big Event! I will be the first to admit that I am suffering from big Event burnout given the rate of big events at Marvel. And at DC, too. After all, DC is running two Big Events at the same time right now.
Any way, despite my big event fatigue, I am still interested in War of The Realms. I am a huge fan of Thor so any Big Event that centers on the Norse God of Thunder immediately gets my attention. Jason Aaron has been tapped by Marvel to helm this latest big event. Aaron is not the first writer I would ever choose to handle a large roster, engage in massive world building, or write a huge big event. Aaron tends to shine on titles that veer more toward the supernatural and the occult. Aaron’s style matches better with titles with a grind-house vibe.
However, the fact remains that Aaron is definitely good at delivering action. And given that some Big Events, I am looking squarely at you Heroes in Crisis, often deliver slow and dull stories I am excited about a big event that focuses on action. I am rather confident that Aaron is not going to bore or talk the reader to death. I fully expect Aaron to come out of the gate with both shotguns blasting and deliver an action packed and fast paced read with War of The Realms #1. Let’s hit this review for War of The Realms #1 and find out!
Words: Jason Aaron
Art: Russell Dauterman
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with Malekith’s dark elf assassins arriving in Asgard. The War of the 10 Realms has begun. The Land of the Light Elves is in ruins. The Land of the Dwarfs is in ruins. The Land of the Vanir is in ruins. Asgard is in ruins. The Land of the Dead is in ruins. Asgard is also in ruins. The Rainbow Bridge has been destroyed. Heimdall has been blinded. (Soooo, basically we are getting Thor: Ragnarok?)
The only person left in Asgard is Odin. We see the dark elf assassins surround Odin. They arrack Odin and stab him to death. (Really? The omnipotent All-Father is taken out by a couple of dark elf assassins?)
We shift to Midgard specially the Newark Harbor. Thor has been throwing his various hammers both old and new into the either to try and pierce the void between the 10 Realms. So far none of the hammers have returned. We see Thori by Thor’s side.
Suddenly, Loki teleports onto the scene. (Well, look at that. Dauterman draws Loki to look identical to Tom Hiddleston. This is Thor: Ragnarok!) Loki has two swords stuck in him and he lies on the ground bleeding to death. Loki says that he posed as Malekith’s alley in order to get close enough to Malekith to kill him. But, Malekith did not trust Loki and has his dark elf assassins attack Loki. Loki says that it is too late. That Malekith’s dark elf assassins are already in Midgard.
We see four dark elf assassins appear on the scene. Suddenly, Thor’s four hammers return to him and kill the four dark elf assassins. Thor then tells Loki to get up and take him to Malekith. Loki says that he is nearly dead and cannot travel between Realms anymore.
Thor picks Loki up by his neck and tells Loki to take him to Malekith now or he will rip out the tiny swords and bury his hammers in Loki. Loki agrees to take Thor to Malekith. Thor tells Thori to go alert the Avengers. Loki and Thor then teleport away from the scene.
We shift to Loki and Thor teleporting into Jotunheum, the Land of the Frost Giants. Thor says that this is not the Realm of the Dark Elves. Thor gets mad and says that this is the last time Loki betrays him. Loki pulls the swords out of his body and licks them. Loki then transforms into Malekith. Malekith says that this has all been a trick.
Suddenly, a bunch of frost giants appear on the scene and surround Thor. Thor says that a few frost giants will not stop him. Thor says Malekith’s war ends now. Malekith says that his war is just beginning. Malekith teleports away from the scene.
We zip to Spider-Man web-slinging his way through the Bronx. Peter thinks how nothing bad has happened to him today which means that at any moment his spider-sense should go off. Suddenly, Peter’s spider-sense goes off. Spidey sees a bunch of dark elf assassins on the roof of a brownstone.
Spider-Man lands on the roof. He sees that the dark elf assassins are about to attack Freyja. Spider-Man helps Freyja to defeat the dark elf assassins. Jane and Sif run onto the roof after the fight has ended. Freyja says that the War of the Realms is going to take place on Midgard.
We cut to the Sanctum Sanctorum where Dr. Strange has noticed the appearance of the dark elves. Dr. Strange begins casting spells. We zip to Daredevil in Hell’s Kitchen listening to the extra-dimensional warning bells on Yancy Street ring. We then see Wolverine getting an ache in his bones and then ordering one more round of drinks. We then see Punisher on a building rooftop about to kill a criminal when he notices some alien energy crackling through the air.
We then see a massive army of dark elves, frost giants, fire creatures, trolls, goblins, and war angels attacking New York City. The Punisher kills the criminal and then says he wishes he had a bigger gun and then begins shooting one of the frost giants. We see Spider-Man and Freyja battling Malekith’s army. Daredevil then jumps into the battle and attacks some dark elves. (And Daredevil delivers some Peter Parker styled witty banter which is just odd for Matt Murdock given the situation.)
We then see Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain America, She-Hulk, Carol Danvers, Robbie Reyes, and Blade arrive on the scene and attack Malekith’s army. Suddenly, the Lords of Asgard arrive on the scene. They consist of Enchantress, Ulik, Kurse, Laufey, Sindr, Queen of Heven, and Dario Agger.
Captain America rallies the heroes and yells, “Avengers Assemble!” Freyja yells, “For Midgard!” Spider-Man then yells, “New York is for lovers!” (Eeeeh, yeah. There is good witty banter and then there is…this. By the way, Aaron. Everyone knows that slogan is Virginia is for Lovers. That has been around since 1969 and has been considered one of the most iconic ad campaigns in the last 50 years.)
Laufey then grabs Freyja and says he is going to kill her. Suddenly, Loki severs Laufey’s hand which frees Freyja. Laufey says that Loki has always been an embarrassment to him. Loki tells Malekith that he knows Malekith sent assassins to kill him. Loki says that he turned Malekith’s assassins into toads.
Doctor Strange appears on the scene and says that this war is not welcome on Earth. Strange say that he demands that they leave this dimensional plain. Loki tells the heroes that Thor is trapped in Jotunheim. Loki says that Thor is their only hope. That only Thor can stop Malekith.
Freyja says that Loki has lied so many times before. Freyja asks why should they believe him now. Loki responds that he tried to love Odin and Freyja. Loki says that that will go down as his greatest sin.
Laufey then grabs Loki and pulls him to his face. Loki says that he is Laufey’s greatest sin. Loki says that Laufey fathering Loki is the only noteworthy thing that Laufey has ever done. Laufey says that Loki is his greatest embarrassment. Laufey says that the Land of the Frost Giants does not allow for weakness or shame.
Laufey then tosses Loki into his mount and eats him. Robbie Reyes comments who that was “super gross” and that he “might throw up.” (Ah, Robbie Reyes. Continuing his trend of being one of the dumbest characters.) Our heroes then engage Malekith’s forces in battle once again.
We shift to Jotunheim where Thor is busy kicking ass on all of the frost giants. We see Thor spinning two hammers with one in each hand. Thor yells that he will flood the Realm of the Frost Giants with their blood. Thor yells, “The God of Thunder will be the doom of you all.” End of issue.
The Good: War of The Realms #1 was an absolute blast to read. This issue was 100% pure fun from cover to cover. It is nearly impossible for the reader to read with issue and not have a big smile plastered on their face. War of The Realms #1 is an action packed read designed to entertain the reader with an adrenaline pumping story. Does Aaron succeed in that goal? Hell yeah, he does.
War of The Realms #1 is a wonderfully plotted and paced issue. Aaron gives the reader what they never get over in Heroes in Crisis. This issue is strongly plotted. The issue is focused and moves forward with a clear point and purpose in mind. Each scene organically unfolds into the next scene. The scene transitions are smooth and seamless. The flow of War of The Realms #1 is pleasant and well orchestrated.
While War of The Realms #1 is not a deep story, Aaron definitely gives the reader tons of actual content and plot progression. Aaron wastes no time at all introducing the villains, the heroes, and the main conflict. Aaron gives the story some real stakes in order for the reader to get invested in the story.
Best of all is the pacing. No, the reader is not going to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog day as the story creeps forward at the slowest pace possible while recycling the same material over and over. Aaron stomps on the gas pedal and kicks off War of The Realms at a quick pace. This issue moves forward at a quick tempo that helps give this story plenty of energy and helps create tension and excitement in the reader.
The clear and obvious strength of War of The Realms #1 is the kick-ass action that Aaron serves up in huge heaping helpings. The fighting begins in just the third page of the issue and really never stops at all from that point all the way to the end. And the fight scenes are incredibly cool. The fighting is bloody and bad-ass.
Aaron also does an incredible job with the scope of War of The Realms. This truly feels like a proper big event. The scope is massive and covers all of Earth and multiple other dimensions. This is exactly the type of scope that a big event needs to feel truly important and special.
There is little doubt that what makes War of The Realms #1 so damn appealing and fun to read is the incredible action, plotting, pacing, and scope of the story. Character work, dialogue and depth to the story are not the strengths. Having said that, there is some good character work to be found in War of The Realms #1.
Aaron’s best character work is reserved for the two Asgardian brothers in Thor and Loki. These two are the clear stars of the issue. Let’s talk about the hero of this big event: Thor. Aaron delivers a fantastic Thor in this issue. I was concerned how Aaron would handle Thor’s character in War of The Realms given how Aaron has written Thor over on Avengers. Luckily, Aaron does not give us the stupid joke machine Thor that we see in Avengers. No. Aaron gives us a properly bad-ass and godly Thor. This is the version of Thor that makes me like the character so much.
Aaron gives Thor the absolute best lines in this entire issue. Thor gets all the cool bad-ass dialogue. Aaron successfully puts Thor over as the star of this big event and also as one of the biggest heavy hitters in the entire Marvel Universe. I am excited to see how Aaron handles Thor’s character during War of The Realms.
Thor has some quality depth and texture to his character. We see the burden of being the savior of Asgard falling heavily on his shoulders. We see Thor’s trademark temper. We see Thor’s ego and supreme confidence. We also see Thor’s warrior spirit and lust for fighting. All of these traits that Aaron delivers are why Thor can be such a compelling and appealing character.
I am hoping that War of The Realms delivers the redemption of Thor. Aaron is the one of delivered the fall of Thor. We have seen Thor return as unworthy. Now it is time for Thor to resume his rightful place as one of the most mighty and worthy characters in the Marvel Universe. War of The Realms should provide the vehicle to restore Thor back to his prior glory. I am all in for this to happen.
Aaron also does an excellent job with Loki’s character. Aaron crafts a delightfully complex and nuanced Loki. There is no doubt that Aaron’s Loki is a conflicted character. Loki seems to want to do good but cannot help being bad. Aaron has a good handle on the dichotomy of Loki’s character.
Loki has some of the best dialogue in War of The Realms #1. Loki brings some gravitas and seriousness to a story that gets a bit too carried away with the humor and levity at certain moments. Loki provides the more serious and emotional moments. The reader is drawn to Loki’s character and feels compassion for the role that he is destined to play.
We all know that Loki is not dead. Loki was far too zen as he offered himself up to Laufey. Aaron certainly has something in plan for Loki for later in this big event. And I am sure it will be a cool moment.
The only other character that really gets any kind of character work at all is Spider-Man. For the most part, Aaron delivers a pretty good Spider-Man. Aaron gives Peter some quality witty banter at certain points in the story. Spider-Man has his trademark everyman role to play in this big event.
I do love the roster of heroes that Aaron has assembled for War of The Realms. We get a diverse blend of traditional superheroes, magical superheroes, and street-level superheroes. Having higher powered heroes along with street-level heroes will allow War of The Realms to be examined through different viewpoints in the main story and also in the inevitable War of The Realms tie-in issues.
All right, now it is time to talk about the real star of War of The Realms #1: Russell Dauterman. Holy crap. War of The Realms #1 is an absolutely gorgeous issue. Dauterman delivers some stunning artwork with every single page in this issue. Dauterman’s artwork is big event worthy style art. This is exactly the kind of art that I demand when purchasing a big event comic.
Dauterman’s art is insanely detailed. Every panel is meticulously crafted. Dauterman brings Aaron’s story to life in a vivid and cinematic fashion. The double page splash shots in War of The Realms #1 are simply jaw-dropping. Dauterman also draws Thor as bad-ass as the way that Aaron writes Thor. The final page splash shot of Thor spinning multiple hammers is beyond bad-ass! After I read War of The Realms #1, I went back and slowly went back through the issue just admiring Dauterman’s incredible artwork.
On a complete side note, War of The Realms #1 came out with tons of variant covers. Many of them are quite fantastic. However, there was one in particular that was simply the best. Yup. Thor fighting Malekith on the side of a 1970’s van. That is so Jason Aaron.
The Bad: War of The Realms #1 is the comic book equivalent of a big summer blockbuster movie. And that means that this issue has all the positives and the negatives of a big summer blockbuster movie. The fact is that the story itself is kind of dumb. There is no doubt that War of The Realms #1 is formulaic. There is not much artistry or depth to the story. If you do not like big summer blockbuster movies then you probably will not enjoy War of The Realms #1.
Outside of Thor and Loki and some of Spider-Man the rest of Aaron’s character work was weak. The rest of the heroes are mere window dressing for the story. Character work is not going to be an emphasis with War of The Realms. These heroes are all going to be fairly generic versions of themselves.
It does not get much better with the villains, either. The assembled villains are all rather nondescript. The main villain for this big event is equally unimpressive. Malekith is a one-dimensional villain. There is nothing at all particularly compelling, interesting or unique about his character.
Aaron’s dialogue has too many weak moments in War of The Realms #1. Aaron loads up this issue way too much “witty” banter from characters not named Spider-Man. And to make matters worse, this humorous dialogue came at some of the most awkward moments where it simply did not make any sense. The poor timing of the humorous dialogue robbed the story of much of its seriousness at times when the reader
Another problem with giving so many characters humorous dialogue is that the story begins to feel more like a joke than a serious big event where the reader should be concerned for the well-being of our heroes and their world. Also, not every single character can be a jokester throwing out witty banter. By making so many characters jokesters Aaron only manages to devalue the characters where witty banter is actually one of their core traits.
Witty banter and being a jokester is a core trait of Spider-Man. By making other characters talk just like Spider-Man Aaron only accomplishes making Spider-Man appear less unique and different. All of the characters begin to display homogenized external voices.
Also, if the reader gets the feeling that the writer is joking way too much and is not taking the story seriously then the reader will also stop taking the story seriously. I love action and adventure tales that place an emphasis on fun and entertainment. But, even those types of stories know when humorous dialogue is appropriate or not for the specific moment or scene. Less is more is a good rule that Aaron should follow in the upcoming issues of War of The Realms.
Aaron also delivers some downright groan-inducing dialogue that is just way too cheesy. I love a fun story. And a bit of cheese in the dialogue can work given the overall tone and mood of the story. But, there are moments in War of The Realms #1 where the cheesy dialogue feels awkward and unwelcome given the serious and violent actions that take place.
Overall: War of The Realms #1 was an absolute blast to read. Is this a deep and brainy read? No. But, is this some fantastic action delivered in a strongly plotted and quickly paced issue that creates a big event that feels epic? Absolutely! If you love fast paced blockbuster type movies with lots of action and adventure then you will definitely enjoy War of The Realms #1.
On the other hand, War of The Realms #1 is a $6.00 issue. So there is that to keep in mind. That is definitely a high price of admission for any single comic book.