Divided forces on desperate missions. An overwhelming enemy, always two steps ahead. Victory hinging on every detail. Defeat certain. A man with a shield.
In a confluence of timing, there are moments in War of the Realms #3 that reflect the record-setting blockbuster Avengers: Endgame, opening just six days before the release of the midway point of the current Marvel Comics crisis. Reflection is not imitation, however. It can be the inevitable outcome of consistent, epic storytelling that reflects on our collective understanding of how these sagas ebb and flow. Midway through the story, all seems lost. Hope is dangled in front of our heroes, only to be snatched away at a moment’s notice. Gods are laid low while men and women despair. Creative team Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matt Wilson have brought together a beatiful, rich world of heroes and villains, humans and monsters, to fight for the continued existence of Midgard. The gods are silent and blind.
There is a lot to unpack in this issue, but Daredevil, a practicing Catholic, taking the sword of Heimdall and becoming, for the moment at least, a god, is a gooey torte of internal conflict. Can a mortal withstand the pressure of seeing…hearing everything in the universe? Can a blind man succeed an all-seeing god now blinded by his enemies? How will Matt Murdock’s next confession go? “Forgive me, for I have sinned. I killed a dozen Dark Elves with a mystical sword, but to be honest, father, they had it coming.”
While Daredevil, Jane Foster, and Heimdall protect the newly reopened Bifrost from saboteurs, Captain Marvel’s War Avengers (just breathe that name in for a moment) takes the fight to Malekith himself in Europe, hopefully distracting him from both Freyja’s team sent to destroy the Black Bifrost and Captain America’s squad headed to Jotunheim to rescue Thor. Meanwhile, every continent on Earth is overwhelmed by Malekith’s allies, each carving out a continent for themselves, poised to destroy any hero who stands in their way. Roxxon claims Antarctica, the Trolls assault Australia, The Queen of Cinders burns Asia, The War Angels lay waste to Africa, Enchantress creates a new Land of the Dead in South America, and the Frost Giants hold North America. Everywhere they plant their flags, heroes stand to stop them. Under these odds, however, it seems only a matter of time before they all fall.
Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson have put together some of the most beautiful comics to come out of a major publisher in years. Their combination of storytelling working directly through the art and creative use of the traditional comics panel has allowed their books to tell impossible stories in new ways. Enough cannot be said about the creativity of the layout, the colors (my gods, the colors!), even the fonts, stretching beyond the bubble in an onomatopoeic burst of light and fury. The rage, the raw emotion pouring from Thor in the final moments is palpable.
There is not a more cohesive, talented, and innovative creative team in comics today, and giving Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson the opportunity to play with the Marvel Universe of heroes and beings from the ten realms brings us the most visually impactful event in recent memory. They bring a truly epic scale to the work, making even the B and C-plots into a visual and emotional place where they feel as vital to the overall story as anything else. There is not a wasted word or drop of ink in their work and I cannot wait to see where they take this world-shattering tale.