In this penultimate issue of the Marvel comics event The War of the Realms, major shifts take place in the greater battle on Midgard for the fate of the realms themselves. Malekith’s forces, left behind by their leader, are struggling to deal with the combined forces of the heroes of Earth and the light elves, dwarves, and Asgardians who have joined them. With one stroke, however, Malekith can bring the whole thing crashing down around them by baiting Thor into making a decision that could cost the side of good the entire war.
This issue of War of the Realms is a frame story, flashing back from Thor staring at the burning Yggdrasil, itself growing in the sun that swallowed Asgard and the Mangog, to the forces of Earth’s heroes taking on the splintered armies of Malekith around the globe. This issue is not about story; it is about action. We’ve reached the final moments before the climax of the series and it’s time to just kick some major, other-wordly ass. Much like perhaps the greatest collective moment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, writer Jason Aaron has given us some amazing team-ups across the world that all somehow deserve their own comic mini-series, just to explore the dynamics thrown about. With artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matt Wilson on board, the action sequences burst off the page in glorious color with heroes tearing apart the invaders.
Skeptical that these teams are that good? Here’s the current line-up across the globe:
- Africa (facing the armies of Heven): Black Panther, Shuri, Hildegarde, Lady Sif, Okoye (and the Dora Milaje), and Punisher leading a squad of automatic rifle weilding light elves.
- South America (facing Sorceress and the armies of the Dead): Ghost Rider, Dr. Strange, Baldur (currently driving Ghost Rider’s car and loving it), and Spider-Man and his army of actual spiders from Hel who consider him their new King.
- Australia (facing the Trolls): Hulk, Deadpool, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist
- Antarctica (facing Roxxon and Dario Agger): Broo, Gorilla-Man, Blade, Ka-Zar of the Savage Lands, the gods of the Vanir, Roz Solomon (with vibranium bullets), and Jane Foster – All-Mother of Asgard – wielding Gungnir.
- Asia (facing the forces of Muspelheim): Captain Marvel, Hercules, the Winter Guard, Moon Knight, and the New Warriors Three – Fandral, Hogun, and Wolverine.
- North America (facing the Frost Giants of Jotunheim): Iron Man and a squadron of Iron Dwarves and The Fantastic Four (not appearing in this issue: Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr).
- Europe (facing Malekith’s Dark Elves): Captain America, Captain Britain, Thori, and Volstagg the Destroyer.
The issue jumps quickly between each team taking it to the bad guys hard, showcasing just enough of each fight to make me want to pick up the tie-ins just to see how they play out. That is comic event mastery. The real key to the issue, however, is Thor and his need for wisdom. Malekith has issued a challenge of some sort to Thor himself, but the God of Thunder cannot see a way to win. Thanks to Daredevil’s new status as a god, Thor finds The World Tree growing on the surface of a sun from a seed left on Asgard as it was destroyed. In another nod to the mythology of the Norse gods and to the hints that Thor will someday become the All-Father, taking over for Odin completely, Thor asks Daredevil to pin him to Yggdrasil, hanging him from its limbs as Odin once did. To learn the wisdom of the runes, Odin died upon Yggdrasil, a sacrifice to himself in exchange for wisdom. Why would Thor even need to do such a thing in the moments when his side is winning the war? The final pages reveal Malekith’s challenge, given from inside a protective bubble around Stonehenge. The challenge is one on one, hammer and axe vs Symbiote spear, Thor vs Malekith. The stakes are more than the fate of the realms. They are enough to drive Thor to a pain heard across the universe.
Aaron, Dauterman, and Wilson have been on the top of their games as a creative unit and this issue showcases that. The vivid color in the scenes involving Yggdrasil and the ruins of Asgard, the panels that stretch to fit the story, the tight dialogue and storytelling that all lead to next month’s finale clearly put this team atop the Marvel Universe. If this is their swan song as a unit, it is a Hel of a way to go out.