I was talking with a colleague of mine at ComicBook.Com when they asked, “Is War of the Realms over yet?” Normally, when this question inevitably arises about any superhero event from Marvel or DC, the response would involve some mention of delays or artist changes or a dozen other reasons why the event would never end. This time my answer was simple, “Yes. It wrapped everything up this week.” This story isn’t meant to show that some people disliked War of the Realms, some readers have disliked every superhero event ever, that’s normal. What it shows is that War of the Realms might be the only superhero event in recent memory to not wear out its welcome; War of the Realms succeeded in being a succinct (and very enjoyable, no matter what this colleague might have said) event.
This shouldn’t be a singular celebration of War of the Realms, though. This event with all of its associated tie-ins and miniseries did not simply appear as a black swan event. It was carefully planned by the editors, creators, and dozens of other professionals at Marvel Comics. The execution of War of the Realms is a massive success that they should rightfully be celebrating and, more importantly, seeking to replicate. There are already some suggestions that the upcoming Absolute Carnage event will continue the strengths found here, but before it arrives, we should look at what makes War of the Realms an ideal model for future superhero events at any publisher.
The Timing of Events
Two collaborators. Three months. Six over-sized issues. These are the essential elements that defined War of the Realms. When comparing this to past superhero events, at Marvel and DC, it’s easy to see how this combination stands out. There’s a reason events have a reputation for running too long, with too many issues, delays, and fill-in artists. 2019 alone provides multiple examples of these exact problems. It’s not that there was any less to War of the Realms; there were about 188 pages of storytelling in the core series (the equivalent of more than 9 standard Marvel issues). This story was simply delivered in a more compressed fashion.
This returns the superhero event to being a seasonal affair. While there is a general association between events and summer, that hasn’t been true in actuality for quite some time. Events run throughout much of the calendar, often consuming a majority of months before they’re completed. War of the Realms can be fairly defined as an early summer or spring event as it only fell into April, May, and June, excluding some non-essential preludes and epilogues. Even all of the tie-ins and miniseries appear to have landed right on time, ensuring that War of the Realms was the first truly seasonal event in quite some time.
One other essential element to note with this timing is that it contained all of the various miniseries associated with the event to only a few issues, as well. The longest one, Journey Into Mystery, was 5 issues, while most others were only 3 or 4 issues. This makes it more cost effective for readers to try out new concepts and creators, but also ensures that most of these series will succeed in a market that’s not friendly to new ideas. As we noted in our review of creator-owned publishers, the majority new ideas lose the majority of their audience in the range of issue 3 through 5. So the shortened event time frame provides the perfect amount of time for a new mini series, as well.
The Production of Events
Publishing so many pages of content on time in such a tight timeframe doesn’t happen by accident. The planning alone is worthy of applause, as Marvel editors had to ensure artist Russell Dauterman enough time to draw almost 200 pages of incredibly detailed battle sequences according to each issue’s publication deadlines. Factor in the additional work of designers, colorists, letterers, and that is a Mjolnir-lifting sort of feat. While we don’t know how Marvel approached the planning, scheduling, and management of War of the Realms, it’s clear that whatever they did behind the scenes worked. It’s the sort of approach that any publisher would want to retain moving forward, one that hits deadlines and delivers a consistent, quality comic book.
That level of excellence was maintained across the entire line. Miniseries put the spotlight on new and classic creators, alike, delivering a wide variety of stories. Some were outright humorous in tone, while others delivered some bloody action fitting the “War” in this event’s title. No matter what critics had to say, there’s no disputing that each of these new titles was released on time and clearly connected to the ongoing events of War of the Realms. There were none that would be essential to understanding the core title, but they could all be clearly connected and were released in a way that made them feel pertinent to the moment.
Even the tie-in stories were limited in their scope, never taking more than 3 issues of an ongoing series and risking scaring current readers with little concern for the event away. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which had never previously engaged in a tie-in discovered a perfect opportunity to retain its own tone and charm, while fleshing out what happened in Canada here. In other titles, like Tony: Stark Iron Man, key character plots were continued and strengthened through the addition of a new “War of the Realms” themed antagonist. Each title focused on its own strengths to some degree, never going purely for the short-term cash grab. While it’s possible to still complain about their being too many minis or tie-ins (isn’t it always?), it’s difficult to dispute the high quality of execution across the board.
The Future of Events0comments
For as much as some fans may like to complain about the nature of superhero events, it has never been a question of whether or not they should exist. The sales alone speak to their enduring popularity and ability to showcase top creative talents. So it’s not about if, but how these events should exist, and War of the Realms offers the ideal model.
It delivered a sprawling core story from the same creative team, a narrative that will retain its appeal in collections for years to come, in the course of only three months. That would be enough, but Marvel Comics also made sure all of the “War of the Realms” tie-ins and miniseries were pertinent to the story, consistent in quality, and limited in their scope. This overall approach to timing and execution has made “War of the Realms” one of the best event experiences in recent memory. It is the bar to which all future superhero events should be measured and a standard that, if replicated, could lead to a renaissance for this sort of story at both Marvel and DC Comics.