This week Thor is finally back to take on Malekith and end the War of the Realms, and he’s not alone! The final entry in Marvel’s latest crossover event is also one of the last steps in writer Jason Aaron’s epic Thor run spanning across multiple years and titles. Does the conclusion leave us satisfied? Plus, the breakout star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse returns to the spotlight as Peter Porker, the spectacular Spider-Ham, stars in the newest Spider-Man Annual! Check out our discussion of both these books in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
War of the Realms #6
Written by Jason Aaron
Illustrated by Russell Dauterman
Colored by Matthew Wilson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover by Arthur Adams and Matthew Wilson
Alexander Jones: Joe, the War of the Realms is officially over with this week’s final installment. What were your opinions on the big finish from Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman? Did any of the final twists or turns in the issue catch you by surprise? Would you recommend the event as a whole?
Joe Grunenwald: I’ve been surprised all the way through at how much I’ve loved War of the Realms, and the final issue didn’t disappoint as far as I’m concerned. This is one of the most fun events I’ve read in a long time. How did you feel about the ending?
Jones: I think this title is best appreciated in the context of Aaron’s full Thor run. Thor is a very special Marvel character to me and I think The House of Ideas has done an excellent job treating him incredibly well over his publishing history. It is nearly impossible for me to view this issue without the years of build-up Aaron lent toward Malekith or the prophecy of the War of the Realms. I think the level of quality in the event snuck up on me and made this one of the strongest Marvel events I can think of since Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic’s Secret Wars.
Grunenwald: You and I come at it from very different perspectives, as aside from a handful of issues of the Jane Foster run, I’ve not followed Jason Aaron’s Thor work at all. The fact that both of us can enjoy this event is a testament to the strength of Aaron and Dauterman’s skills as storytellers.
Jones: I’m really excited about the prospect of reading this series from a collected perspective. There are several ideas that stretch back over years of storytelling. I thought this particular issue was able to get really creative with the use of art in terms of the sequential interior panels. The page compositions from Dauterman are incredibly bold and carry a shocking level of beauty. I also don’t feel like Dauterman is repeating what he had already done in previous Thor comics because lots of the visual designs are slightly different. Aaron adds new hammers, alternate characters and ideas to the narrative. Aaron and Dauterman are a creative team that deserve to be heralded among comics greats like Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (if you ask me.)
Grunenwald: Russell Dauterman and colorist Matt Wilson’s art throughout this event has been absolutely spectacular. Dauterman’s use of off-kilter page layouts has conveyed a sense of frenetic energy during the story’s big battle scenes, and made even the heavily expository scenes visually interesting. And when he opens up the field for big splashes, they’re breathtaking, made all the stronger by Wilson’s glorious colors. I had to stop and take in the double-page spread of the titular ‘storm of Thors’ in this issue. That spread’s worthy of being a poster for sure.
Jones: There were multiple moments in the issue where I wanted to tear off a splash page and tack it directly to my wall. It isn’t just about how great Dauterman’s line work is on the page either because Aaron’s script in this issue is really emotionally charged. I think after the dull debut, Aaron started to build the tension until the script hit a marvelous crescendo. I also have to stress that Aaron ties things together from the previous issues in a cerebral nature. He’s not attempting to seed in plot threads from 2012’s Thor: God of Thunder in a heavy-handed nature, those ideas are just coming back more naturally and in a creatively familiar, yet different context.
Grunenwald: I think Jason Aaron may have made me a Thor believer over the last two issues of this series. For some reason, I’ve always had this notion of Thor and his mythos as being this dull, over-written, stilted world, but the ideas that Aaron brings to the table in this series, and this issue in particular, are some of the biggest, craziest things I’ve encountered in comics in recent memory. Even the beats that I expected to happen happened in unexpected ways—we all knew that character wasn’t really gone, but did anyone expect that was how they would return?—and generally extremely satisfying.
Jones: I would highly encourage you to go back and see how it all started. There is an impressive level of grandeur and importance the book carries when you consider the background of the run. It is so difficult to map out a long run like this at a Big Two publisher and when someone actually does it, it is one of the most exciting and ambitious achievements in superhero comics. Aaron has been heralded as one of the strongest writers at Marvel and his achievement with the Thor property is going to be one of the most important runs on the character. I still think you can take War of the Realms at face value with just the event of MCU continuity and quickly realize the greatness of the comic.
Grunenwald: It’s certainly made me want to go back and check out what I’ve been missing. With the run wrapping up soon I may do just that. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, how do you feel about the status quo for Thor coming out of this event?
Jones: I think it finally makes a big plot point of the series feel earned and puts some of the demons I had with the run earlier on to roost. Aaron is putting some of the toys back in the toy box but there are little changes and tweaks that made me feel like he wasn’t just dropping the comic back to square one with the most boring incarnation of the Odinson. The issue also does a great job setting up the final Aaron-penned Thor mini-series and Valkyrie spin-off title. The event just left me wanting more after a huge page count, and that has to be a good sign, right?
Grunenwald: I’d say that’s definitely a positive thing. The ending didn’t feel quite as earned to me as I’m sure it did to you as a long-time reader, but I still enjoyed it and appreciated it as a big moment for Thor. It was a nice cherry on top of a really enjoyable event.
Jones: I’m interested to hear your take on that with a little more substance. I can’t think of a singular criticism to lob at the issue either considering the quality of the art and writing, are there any other elements of the book you found to fall short of expectations?
Grunenwald: I think to get into it further would be probably to spoil it outright, which I don’t really want to do. The ending and status quo shift for Thor felt like something that had been a long time coming for the character, and I’m sure you appreciated it more having read all of the stories the led to it. Having just read this six issues, though, it felt a little sudden (possibly because Thor was absent for much of the first two acts of the event), but not unsatisfying in a ‘hail the conquering hero’ way, if that makes sense.
Jones: There were a couple of Thor issues right before War of the Realms that gave the moment a little more context. That being said I can definitely appreciate where you are coming from. Are you ready to deliver a final verdict to the issue?
Grunenwald: I think so. I’m sure it’s no surprise that both this issue and the event as a whole are a BUY for me. This has been a supremely enjoyable story, with strong character work, epic action, and fantastic visuals. I was extremely wary of this event going in, and it won me over, and it was fun. That’s the highest praise I can give it.
Jones: I agree with you completely. After recent events in the main Thor title, I was left devastated and wasn’t ready for War of the Realms. The event had the difficult task of navigating me towards what was left for the property and did an extremely good job getting us to the final moments of Aaron’s Thor run. This entry won me over and has me excited to read the finale of Aaron’s Thor. I’m going to award the issue a BUY verdict as well. Russell Dauterman’s gorgeous art makes every page a joy to look at!
Final Verdict: Joe and Alexander award a BUY verdict to War of the Realms #6.
Spider-Man Annual #1
Written by Jason Latour, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Illustrated by David Lafuente and Jason Latour
Colored by Rico Renzi and Jason Latour
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by David Lafuente
Alexander Jones: AJ, I was shocked and appalled by the content of Spider-Man Annual #1. The number of puns Jason Latour packed between the excellent artwork from David Lafuente was inexcusably…delightful. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the ambitious title.
AJ Frost: Alex, the Spider-Man Annual #1 was surely a (non-kosher) treat. The stories contained in this annual really highlighted the absurdity and dada qualities of Spider-Ham. Everything about the character is absolutely ridiculous and his resurgence in the spotlight is really a testament to the public’s desire for a truly radical and irreverent take on the Spider-Man mythos. Nothing here made sense, yet it all worked together. What a fun reading experience!
Jones: I have several misgivings with the issue. I don’t understand how a seasoned writer like Jason Latour would create animal versions of popular new Spider-Heroes, but I’m sure glad he did because the gags in here were delightful. The issue doesn’t wear out it’s welcome as Latour introduces a few puns and then closes out the narrative really quickly. There are some incredibly clever cameos particularly in the second story which contain fantastic Latour artwork. I’m pleasantly surprised by the non-kosher experience and think the artwork retains an impossibly high level of quality throughout the extended run time of the chapter.
Frost: Have you ever read the original run of Spider-Ham (I say this as someone who hasn’t)? I think a lot of those puns were in there from the beginning. Any pun-related material usually wears out its welcome pretty quickly, but the different writing teams really went for the maximalist effect here and every turn of the page actually felt pretty fresh (if not a bit groan-inducing though. Well, that’s dad-joke-level punnery for you!).
Jones: I’m unfamiliar with the original run of the character and the very concept of Spider-Ham is mildly groan-inducing for me as a reader. Latour was tasked with the difficulty of winning over skeptical readers and weaving a solid narrative. I think Latour achieves both facets, and I found the puns to be novel as someone who is unfamiliar with the source material. The art from all creators is really polished and beautiful.
Frost: Yeah, the art really was spot-on. The central conceit that Spider-Ham gets “cartoonier” as he gets going is something that can really work in the comics form. And it’s an ingenious way to explore the limits of his character between the panels. And the color work really was vivid. It had to be because it had to match the lineage from the cartoons that Spider-Ham is indebted to. But let me ask you this, Alex: Besides the overload of puns, what elements of the book detracted from the overall reading experience? Did you see anything that made you wince or cringe… in a bad way?
Jones: That is a solid question. I think I had some problems when the narrative dove into the mythology of Spider-Man specifically. It just seemed a little cheesy when they explored some of the actual spider elements and that Doctor Doom duck was cringy as well.
Frost: Yeah, Ducktor Doom. Quack! I think for me, it was that maybe the stories dragged on a bit too long. I think Spider-Ham is better enjoyed in short bursts rather than in a longer narrative. If the individual stories had been shortened (although, it’s not a long book anyway, to be fair), I feel that the restriction on page length would have created kookier results.
Jones: Jason Latour’s art was so beautiful in the second feature that I was almost stopped in my tracks. His work is so expressive and fluid. The artwork is wonderfully designed. Some of the surprises in that second story were made all the better with the impeccable art and layout of the pages. Despite the shortcomings of the premise, I think this issue explored the best parts of Peter Porker. The end of the first feature did drag until the surprise appearance of Bucky (not Bucky) Barnes.
Frost: You ready to put this pig in a blanket? What’s your verdict on the trough of stories here?
Jones: I’m horrified to report that I enjoyed a Spider-Ham comic. I resent the full creative team for crafting a story involving ham with supernatural powers that appealed to me. I think if you are willing to indulge the subject matter this issue is worthy of a BUY according to yours truly! Do you share this sentiment?
Frost: It may be forbidden, by this Ham is a winner in my book. This is a BUY!
Final Verdict: AJ and Alexander award a BUY verdict to Spider-Man Annual #1!
Excelsior! This week was a winner with two excellent books! Next week a new hero takes the spotlight in Aero #1!