Alex: Every Wednesday on Twitter, I pick a comics issue that caught my eye and do an illustrated thread of little observations and stuff I enjoyed about it. It’s called #oneweekonecomic, and I’m collating each thread into its own blog post.
This week, it’s Jason Aaron/Russell Dauterman/Matt Wilson’s WAR OF THE REALMS #1. This is Marvel’s big crossover event, and Tim has been documenting his readthrough of Aaron’s Thor run on this very blog. So the two of us teamed up to tackle this issue a page at a time.
Spoilers relatively light, and our commentary cuts off before the final reveals, but the page-by-page nature mean you should be able to safely duck out if things start to get too spicy at any point.
Alex: The issue opens with a double callback to 2013’s Thor God of Thunder #13, first part of the Accursed arc, which started to put all of the pieces for War of The Realms in motion. Six dang years ago.
Tim: The map is also a reference to Thor (Vol 4) #7, where Dauterman first used this design for it. There, it was zoomed in on Alfheim, which makes me hope that, in Asgard, scrolls function a bit like magical Google Maps.
Alex: I also love that Midgard is represented by a New York skyline and a lil’ cartoon Spidey. It’s a beautiful encapsulation of Marvel Earth and – because of the contrasting modernity and the MU’s most down-to-earth hero – a neat little subversion of the epic fantasy map trope.
Alex: I dig the way the icons for each Realm (designed by Patrick McGrath) are incorporated into the location captions, blending text and image. Loc caps can sometimes feel a little artificial, but this makes them much more part of the whole.
Tim: Good to see the Dark Elves have armed themselves with Batarangs, lending credence to my ‘every core member of the Justice League corresponds to one of the Ten Realms’ theory that I just came up with.
Alex: Dauterman makes great use of tilted panels for action (more on that later), but note how, whenever the Dark Elves appear, their presence knocks the relatively straight right-angled layouts off their axis.
Alex: This is a lovely layout that maybe meant to evoke a globe shape (given it’s the first time we visit Midgard this issue), or possibly a sunset and its reflection on the water (like in the background of the panels). Or, hey, maybe it’s just pretty.
Tim: Dauterman is fantastic at integrating sound FX into his art in really dynamic, evocative ways, and he goes a step further here with FX that are panels in their own right.
Tim: Loki’s positioning here mirrors Bruce Banner’s arrival in Infinity War, which itself was a reference to Silver Surfer’s similar entrance in Infinity Gauntlet. Clearly, the best way to start an epic Marvel crossover is to drop a character with a warning out of space.
Tim: Dauterman’s design for the Dark Elves is heavily indebted to their look in Thor: The Dark World, one of the few good things about that film. The expressionless faces also resemble the Hellfire Club’s guards, which featured in the X-Men: Schism event Aaron wrote back in 2011.
Alex: Multiple Hammer Thor is totally my jam, because it’s basically the same idea as Iron Man 3‘s House Party Protocol. Which in turn means that… yes, these are basically trick arrows. I LOVE TRICK ARROWS!
Alex: It feels a little like Odinson is biting Jane!Thor’s style here, with all the loop-de-loop flying hammers.
Tim: So far, the clear thematic core of War of the Realms seems to be ‘always listen to your dog’.
Alex: This page acts as subtle foreshadowing for careful readers. The quote marks around “brother” can be read in that Hiddleston mocking tone… or as a tease for the coming reveal.
If you find yourself asking why the heck Loki is licking a knife? GOOD QUESTION, NOW TURN THE PAGE.
Tim: Dauterman once again deploying some unique panel structure. The arrow-shaped panels offer a close-up of the action they are pointing to, while also lining up nicely with the angle of the Frost Giants’ spears.
Tim: Putting Spider-Man out of focus is really smart here. It tells you to pay attention to the rooftop in the background, rather than just assuming those speech balloons are New Yorkers yelling at Spidey as he swings overhead.
Alex: Dauterman’s Spider-Man never stands the same way twice. There’s not a single neutral feet-planted pose here, and it gives Spidey this twitchy energy. It also helps establish him as out of place alongside Asgardians – note how he pops in at the bottom corner of the page.
Alex: I love this page of incredibly purple narration. Tim’s written about how Aaron switches between first- and third-person narration in his run and this is very much the latter, bringing that same mythic storybook quality to the sequence.
Alex: This page works to link up the disparate areas of Marvel New York, each with their own localised characters, stories and genres. This Punisher panel really breaks down those barriers, as one genre intrudes on another.
Tim: In this sequence, as the magic of the other Nine Realms starts to intrude on to Midgard, the panels of everyday New York become detached from the page and tip like dominoes.
Tim: The final domino falls (note the blank corners signifying this double-page-size panel is also askew) and New York erupts into a rainbow of Matt Wilson pyrotechnics. When you want to blow shit up on the comics page, there’s no one better.
Tim: (Minor spoilers for the broader crossover, if you’ve managed to avoid promo for War of the Realms) The “open your eyes” line feels so directed towards Daredevil that it has to be foreshadowing for what’s going to happen to him during this event.
Alex: This panel does a great job of selling the premise of this entire event – the clashing of mundanity and epic scale, an incursion of things that shouldn’t be here. Plus, the frosting-up of the windows is an A+ detail.
Tim: The background of this panel features both Thori terrifying a Dark Elf into submission, and one of my favourite minor tropes: a fantasy creature getting absolutely blatted by a car.
Alex: Asgardians misunderstanding heroes’ names and turning them into fantasy titles is a hoary old trope (cf. “Man of Spiders”, in this very same issue) but for some reason I love this one. CAPTAIN OF AMERICA.
Alex: The one dud note in the issue for me was some of the dialogue given to Daredevil and Dr Strange. The glib quippiness is dialled up to Spidey/Iron Man levels – presumably to contrast with the Asgardians, but it means Midgard’s heroes don’t feel distinct from one another.
Alex: Cap’s voice, though, stays distinctive. Steve Rogers is one of very few characters who could deliver this kind of line while looking completely unfazed.
Alex: As already established, Dauterman is the master of tilted action panels. But where do you go from there, when you need to sell an especially powerful impact? HULK SMASH PANEL BORDERS, natch.
Alex: Our villains enter. “Lords of Midgard” is a callback to the title of a 2016 Mighty Thor arc, but I’m intrigued by the choice to put it in a logo font. Does that mean it’s their official Team Name? Should we be expecting a Lords of Midgard spin-off book?
Tim: Ulik (the troll fella over on the right there) has been working alongside Malekith’s ally Dario Agger since back in Thor: God of Thunder #21, and every time he shows up, I am reminded how much I love his extremely Kirby/Fourth World design. It’s those stone knuckle dusters that raise it to perfection.
Tim: I will never get tired of villain monologues being interrupted by a swift shield to the face.
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