Midgard has been overrun by the forces of Malekith, as the War of the Realms reaches its endgame. North America has been taken over entirely by Frost Giants, the beings that inhabit Jotunheim. As his country falls around him, Scott Lang is approached by Lady Freyja of Asgard for a top-secret mission: To assassinate the King of the Frost Giants, Laufey.
This TPB opens on a dark note, and the plot throughout remains fairly dark. Scott must lead a group of people with Pym Particles through the land of the Frost Giants (namely Florida) to kill their king, and hopefully rescue his daughter who has been missing since the Frost Giants attacked. The team comprises of Raz Malhotra AKA Giant-Man, Tom Foster AKA Goliath, and Erik Josten AKA Atlas. Each member of the team is immediately depicted with distinct character traits, making it easy to tell them apart just by dialogue without their distinct appearances. Leah Williams familiarizes the audience with all four of these characters within five pages, which allows the rest of the miniseries to focus on the actual ongoing story and character beats. This continues further on as each character’s explanation of their origins is integrated seamlessly with the story progression, and serves to fill out more silent moments. The book as a whole is an excellent showcase in how to properly write exposition – at no moment does it feel like the story is slowed down through the necessity of exposition, and at no point is the story hampered by a lack of information. Williams’ mastery of exposition keeps the pacing of the miniseries flowing incredibly smoothly.
The story in this book is a fun side adventure to the main thrust of War of the Realms. Following the ending of the first issue of the event, Lady Freyja recruits some hefty superheroes to go on a covert mission into the heart of Frost Giant territory. It’s a bit of a basic plot, but it plays out like a heist story and is incredibly fun, and is a great vehicle for character development. The character writing throughout this miniseries is incredible. The first issue opens with Scott Lang’s anxiety about his daughter’s safety, which is a compelling character hook that guides his story throughout the series. Similarly, Goliath’s inner struggle is to live up to his father, which is an intensely relatable character beat and another that is used to keep his story moving. Raz’s struggle is more internal, as he struggles with asserting himself and being confident. Erik doesn’t have any explicit conflict but his character history drives him forward. Each character goes through their own internal journey throughout this story, and by the end each character arc has reached its conclusion and begun moving on to the next stage. Leah also gives Moonstone and Stature great character moments in their brief appearances, and makes them feel just as significant as the main characters.
The real highlight of the miniseries is Leah Williams’ comedy. From the very beginning the book maintains a lighthearted tone throughout all the grimness of the story. Scott especially is written as a funny person, but it’s also clear that a lot of his jokes are there to hide his pain. Everyone else in the book is equally hilarious – the interactions between characters have some incredibly funny beats, and the Frost Giants serve as excellent fodder for extra comedy on top of their purpose in the narrative. The jokes never feel mean-spirited, they land perfectly and really help to break up some of the darkness of the suicide mission.
Marco Castiello’s art is also an incredibly important piece of what makes this book work. A lot of the humor of the book lands because of the way Castiello lays out the pages or how he draws characters’ facial expressions and body language. His art is also great at portraying the scale of the Giant-Men. There’s several panels where the characters literally break past the panels, which does an amazing job showcasing their size relative to normal folks. With Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors to further the detail and expressiveness, the art really accentuates the strengths of Williams’ writing.
Giant-Man is a great story about the larger than life heroes of Marvel. Each character in it gets a good introduction, a fun character arc, and ends in a place that gives each one a hook for a future story. It’s really fun with excellent character writing, a compelling plot, and great art. As a standalone story it works incredibly well with minimal prior knowledge required, and as an extension of the War of the Realms it’s one of the best.
Sidenote: the trade also contains some extra stories – Some of the War of the Realms: War Scrolls anthology series, and an issue of Nick Spencer’s Astonishing Ant-Man. They serve as some fun extra padding to the TPB, but are mostly unrelated to the main story.