This week’s Marvel Rundown spotlights a trio of finales. First, with the War of the Realms nearing its conclusion, we discuss the final issue of the McElroys-written Journey Into Mystery tie-in series. Then, Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5 closes out the series and completes the saga of Wolverine’s return to the Marvel Universe. And finally, Ed Piskor’s X-Men opus, Grand Design, wraps up with the concluding chapter of the X-Tinction miniseries. Reviews and discussion of all those titles await you—it’s time for the Marvel Rundown!
War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #5
Written by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy & Travis McElroy
Illustrated by André Lima Araújo
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Valerio Schiti & David Curiel
Alexander Jones: Joe, I’m curious to know your thoughts on War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #5. I feel like the book was able to change tones and come off a little more serious this time around. Did you also feel a massive difference from this issue compared to the first installment? I also find myself strongly enjoying the ambitious pencils of André Lima Araújo this time around. What was your take on the issue?
Joe Grunenwald: I didn’t notice as stark a difference between the first and last installments of this series as it seems you did. Through the first four issues of Journey Into Mystery I thought things felt a little disjointed, with the characters moving from one random scenario to the next with what felt like no real rhyme or reason. The final issue tied things together nicely in my opinion and did so with a lot of heart in the writing and some real skill in the art.
Jones: I think this issue certainly had higher stakes. Now that the McElroys have a solid motivation for Ares, his role as the villain is a lot easier to get behind in the story. Rooting for the anti-hero and introducing such a morally complex idea is something that I couldn’t even comprehend the series doing from the first issue. I think this script has a better idea of the complicated tone the McElroys were going for. The more tragic elements in the issue give off a Spider-Man influence that I also really enjoyed.
Grunenwald: I definitely appreciated the complexity of the story that the McElroys crafted. Tonally I thought they deftly balanced the heavy dramatic moments with some decent humor, which may not have been laugh-out-loud funny, but it was still enjoyable. I also thought they did a really nice job throughout the series of giving each character a moment to stand out, and the development of this group into a team by the end of the series was fun to watch.
Jones: This issue has a lot of cast members in it. I think one aspect of the title that will go unnoticed are all of the nice little nods to continuity. I really liked the reference of Simon Williams being a pacifist. There are a couple of really great moments with Thori. I also really liked the Secret Warriors callback that is in the DNA of the issue. Araújo’s really rounded and angular pencils captured my imagination. I think he does a great job crafting interiors that have strong sequential storytelling.
Grunenwald: Thori needs an ongoing series. And I couldn’t agree more about the artwork on this series. André Lima Araújo and colorist Chris O’Halloran have made trailer parks, old west ghost towns, and the cramped interiors of an RV feel weighty and lived-in. Araújo’s characters move fluidly and dynamically, and no page of this series was ever visually boring. Everything the McElroys threw at them, the artists ran with and rendered beautifully.
Jones: I can’t agree with you more. The movie poster page and moments with Miles and Thori were both fantastic. I also think the script balances the premise of the story pretty well. This comic melds a lot of genres together but still make sure the narrative is planted in War of the Realms. The plot surrounding the issue is still centered around Gods of Asgard. The plot is unwieldy but balances a lot of story elements really well. Doesn’t this issue also almost tease something else with these characters? Did you get that impression as well?
Grunenwald: I did, but I don’t know how much of that was in the text and how much of that was me knowing that publishers like to spin new series/teams out of their event tie-ins. I wouldn’t mind seeing this group of characters together again, though Kate is busy with the West Coast Avengers (RIP) and Miles is with the Champions. But there’s nothing that says they can’t go on another road trip just for fun! They were meshing really well together by the end of the series, and I’d love to see the McElroys continue to develop their comic-writing chops with these characters.
Jones: I didn’t think this way at the beginning, but I would really like to read more stories starring this team with the same talent developed by Marvel. Event titles have the potential to introduce really off-the-wall teams like this and I’m definitely going to be remembering this issue fondly. Do you have any last thoughts before we deliver a final verdict?
Grunenwald: I remember, when the character lineup for this book was announced, being a little baffled by the hodgepodge of characters involved, and I’m pleased to say it ultimately paid off. The McElroys, Araújo, and co. took a truly random assortment of heroes thrown into a really ridiculous situation and told a story with some great action and a lot of heart. This whole five-issue series gets a BUY from me.
Jones: I’m not sure I agree with your sentiment of the whole series being on the same level but I’m definitely able to give a BUY verdict to the finale. I think this issue improved upon the debut in almost every way. The team dynamic was better established and the villains are a lot more captivating here.
Final Verdict: Joe and Alexander award a BUY verdict to War of the Realms: Journey into Mystery #5.
Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5
Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Andy MacDonald
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Roberto Poggi, & Dean White
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
In Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5, Gerry Duggan appears to be writing ideas faster than he can flesh them out. Duggan has been incredibly creative with series antagonist Hector, whose powers of freezing time are explored with a fascinating level of possibility. We see Hector come up with some inventive ways to utilize his unique skill set. Hector is a strong villain that could provide some greater context to The Marvel Universe. The issue struggles when it comes to the connective tissue. The title fails to bring together enough cohesive elements to tell a truly captivating story. One of the big problems with the issue is the non-linear time sequence at the end. While I commend Duggan for his ambitious tone with how it relates to the story, the unwieldy narrative gets the better of him by the end of the issue. Plot threads are muddled and confusing.
Andy MacDonald’s artwork is a little loose for the issue. MacDonald has a difficult time getting his characters to emote properly with some of the imprecise artwork. Pages that are packed with detail don’t play to MacDonald’s strengths. Moments with less detail on the page give MacDonald the freedom to draw bigger panels that stand out. From a writing perspective, this is also the best part of the book. There a couple of scenes where the lack of detail hurts the artwork. Some fight scenes that include lots of characters are missing some of the important facial expressions to carry a scene forward.
As a comic book tied to any sort of Infinity concept, Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5 falls woefully short. The issue is stronger when it takes liberties and detaches into odd tangents involving Hector. Wolverine feels particularly unfocused as a protagonist in the issue. Bats is an odd supporting cast member who doesn’t serve the overall narrative. The strange tone for the issue derails when Bats makes jokes or functions as comedic relief.
Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5 is a confusing coda for Infinity Wars. The title’s lack of a solid direction and precise artwork doesn’t serve the issue well. There are a few good ideas hidden at the bottom of the issue for devoted fans to find.
Final Verdict: SKIP. The ambitious, but muddled artwork and script behind Wolverine: Infinity Watch #5 disappoints.
X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction #2
Written and Illustrated by Ed Piskor
Reviewed by AJ Frost
And here we are. The end of an epic. Over the course of six issues, the singular mind and pencil of Ed Piskor has given comic readers a soaring encapsulation of the convoluted, operatic saga of the X-Men. By doing so, Marvel did more than simply produce one of the best X-Men comics in recent history, but also showed that the mainstream industry paradigm of avoiding auteur voices is folly. After six issues, readers will know of Piskor’s modus operandi. And yet, Piskor ends his Grand Design tale with the most vibrant and visceral story yet.
The stories that Piskor chooses to highlight in these pages are from the wildest years of X-Men’s past. This is the stuff of the oft-criticized extreme early ‘90s—the time of Liefeld and Lee—where proportions (and sales) were at their biggest. As before, categorizing the plot is really beyond description as Piskor samples, bobs, and weaves through huge stacks of issues to filter only the key material. Yet, the overall thrust of this ultimate chapter is to explore the political and moral effects of legislation that would register all mutants, the multi-generational teaming up of mutant heroes through the decades (borrowing, of course, from the eponymous “X-Tinction Agenda” storyline), and the final triumph against apartheid and exploitation on Genosha.
Of course, besides the visual trickery that Piskor conjures so effortlessly (seemingly), the holistic package of this book is really its selling point. It’s not so much that it feels and looks like an artifact from a bygone era, but that in its attempt to create a comprehensive and flowing arc, Grand Design feels like a master thesis about the intimate power of cartooning to create new worlds and connection to significant ideas. It is this latter point that I feel is the true magic of Grand Design. I’d be the first to admit that the X-Men’s daunting history has turned me off from really exploring the comics iterations of the team. But with these issues—through this retelling of the X-Men and the Marvel mythos writ large—I feel more secure in my knowledge of the nuances of the exploits of the mutant heroes.
As a standalone issue, X-Tinction #2 works so well as the capstone to the series. Every aspect of the book hums along at an excellent pace and every page is packed with action, thrills, and raw human drama. But as the ending piece of a years-long work, there is a touch of melancholy in these final pages. Everything in place, everyone at peace, but still so much more to explore.
With the whole of Grand Design, Piskor created a masterwork of the comics form. These outings into X-Men lore display the finest sense of sequential storytelling and using the foundation of the past to mold something relevant for the contemporary moment. This is a work that will stand on its own as one of Marvel’s finest publications for decades for come. And even more to the point, it’s one of the best damn comics of the era.
Final Verdict: BUY.
Next week, the War of the Realms concludes, and Spider-Ham returns!