It’s been an excellent year for Thor. Besides appearing in what is now the highest grossing film of all time as well as being on the roster in the first AAA Avengers video game, Thor was the headliner of the year’s biggest comic book event book, War of the Realms. Like any good comic book event, War of the Realms follows a bombastic battle for the fate of Earth as all of the other Nine Realms of the Asgardian mythos fight against the machinations of Malekith the Accursed.
On top of that however it also pulls double-duty as the finale to writer Jason Aaron’s acclaimed 7 year run on the Thor books starting with 2012’s Thor: God of Thunder through to Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor all while the war slowly built to its crescendo. As the year winds down and Jason Aaron closes off his time with a future-set epilogue over in the pages of King Thor, it’s time now for us to take a look back at War of the Realms and see how it all came together.
War of the Realms: The Main Event!
War of the Realms is an action-filled epic jam-packed into a brisk six issue read. Aaron is one of the best writers Marvel has right now and this was him showing up in top form to finish his seven-year run in style. This being an Asgardian-based event one would assume Thor would be the main focus, but he’s sidelined early in Issue #1 and sits out the next few issues, giving the ensemble of heroes defending the planet time to shine. This includes a rather heartbreaking final stand at the end of issue two that raises the stakes for the battles to come.
The ensemble is rounded out by the expected Avengers. Captain America, Black Panther, Iron Man obviously but the fun is in some interactions you may not have expected. The Punisher is surprisingly involved here and despite all the fantastical creatures, seems right in his element going to war. His interactions with Freyja are some of his best moments outside of his tie ins (More on that later).
One of my particular favorites from the ensemble is Daredevil. With Heimdall blinded, the forces of good need someone to take up his sword, man the Bifrost and coordinate the heroes’ efforts. So the man without fear becomes the God without fear. To spectacular results I might add.
If the ensemble overall is solid, the standout definitely has to be Jane Foster. It’s best to say the closest the book has to a main character before Thor’s return is Jane. This is fitting as War of the Realms operates as an ending to this chapter of her story that began earlier in Aaron’s run and she’s in full force here. Jane spends the first issue and a half trying to enter into the battle herself, once demanding to be taken directly to Malekith to no avail. Midway through issue 2, Freyja embarks on a dangerous mission and dubs Jane All Mother of Asgard in her absence. Jane steps up and proves herself a strong and compassionate leader, reaching the natural payoff for her story so far.
This is all clearly an extension and payoff for Jane’s arc that started all the way back in Thor: God of Thunder when she was first revealed to have cancer. Jane has been put through the ringer during this run. She’s fought minotaurs, giants, elves, gods and monsters and she did it all knowing the hammer that made her Thor was negating her cancer treatments and killing her slowly. By the start of War of the Realms she no longer has any powers but that doesn’t stop her from jumping into the fray and ultimately risking her life once more to join the final battle to save the Realms.
Art duties are handled by veterans to Aaron’s Thor run Russell Dauterman on line art with Matt Wilson as the book’s colorist and their typically gorgeous work is absolutely on display here. Dauterman is one of Marvel’s “Young Guns,” the “Next generation of elite artists,” and War of the Realms shows why that is. His line art is spectacular. Both detailed and purposeful. Of particular note is his facial expressions. Whether it’s Malekith cackling with glee, Loki’s sad regretful eyes, or Thor’s burning rage he captures the characters’ state of mind perfectly in every shot.
Line art is only half the picture however and that brings us to Matt Wilson’s colors. The story spans across the Realms and each is rendered beautifully with vibrant colors to symbolize each. Jotunheim is caked in shades of blue, Svartalfheim a lighter purple, and Muspelheim fiery oranges and reds. All contrasted in the more grounded and varied color palette for the early Midgard scenes. This creates a beautiful contrast late in issue one when Malekith’s army of creatures and monsters descend onto New York City and bring with them their vibrant and varied colors. The book is simply gorgeous from start to finish.
War of the Realms Tie-Ins In Review!
But what would an event be without Tie-ins? War of the Realms has a staggering 57 tie-in issues. Like most well-constructed events it’s a solid read by itself with the tie-ins only adding texture and flavor to the proceedings… most of the time. Not all of the tie-ins feel super relevant or even especially great entries for their own characters. Then again, they can’t all be the Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk so perhaps they deserve a closer look. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the Tie-ins and see what worked and what didn’t.
Easily the best tie-ins for the event were most of those written by Aaron himself. The main series Thor tie ins and the Daredevil stories in the War Scrolls book are on par with the main book in quality and how much they add to what’s going on. Interestingly enough however the Avengers tie-ins by Aaron really aren’t that important. They are somewhat interesting stories in their own right but have little to do with the main events of the story. The Thor issues unsurprisingly do add quite a bit. More fleshing out characters’ actions and thoughts during most of the event. The final Thor tie in actually takes place and fleshes out the final battle midway through issue six of the main book to the point I would almost call it a must read.
The books not written by Aaron are fairly mixed and can be split into two categories: Miniseries specifically created to be involved for this event, and ongoing books that are taking a break from their own stories to tie into the event. Just about every of the miniseries made for the event are solid to great. The three “Strikeforce” issues and Tom Taylor’s Land of Giants are a standout. These books are actually expansions of the 3 missions the characters split up and go on midway through the book and all of the things we learn here are great. The rest are all solid fun reads if not super relevant to the main story. One that surprised me was The Punisher. Frank’s part in the main story already surprised me as I’m not typically a big Punisher fan but his tie-in miniseries was surprisingly gripping. It focused more than any other book on the human cost of this War and I thought was quite good.
That brings us to the ongoing books that tied in. Some have a tenuous grasp on the War itself with the worst offender easily being Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur. The book has nothing to do with the actual War. The entire issue is a flashback to a previously unseen adventure Moon Girl went on in Asgard and has nothing to do with the present proceedings save a somewhat confusing framing story. It’s funny because The Fantastic Four tie in actually serves as a better Moon Girl tie in as she is a main character of the book helping the FF defend Yancy Street.
Also odd was the Venom tie ins. He’s a main part of the story and is at one point captured and used by Malekith but his own series adds to none of that. The main book actually ties more into Absolute Carnage, the event the Venom books were leading up to more so than these Venom issues. The rest are all various degrees of characters operating on the periphery of the battle. There and participating, but not integral while still being good stories in their own right.
That brings us to the end and what else is there to say? Jason Aaron’s Thor run has been one of my absolute favorite runs of the past decade and we were given a spectacular conclusion. War of the Realms is easily my favorite event of the year and probably now one of my favorite comic book events ever right up there with Hickman’s Secret Wars, the first two DC Crises, and World War Hulk. The stories will go on of course. Thor is now in the capable hands of Donny Cates, while Jane has her own solo book by Al Ewing and Jason Aaron himself, so as 2019 comes to a close, we’ll definitely be ringing in the new decade with some great stories and a hearty Krakaboom of thunder and excitement.