The "War of the Realms" begins today as Marvel Comics’ next event series launches with War of the Realms #1. Writer Jason Aaron re-teams with artist Russell Dauterman and colorist Matthew Wilson for a climax seven years in the making.
"The simple movie pitch is it's Lord of the Rings in the Marvel Universe," Aaron told ComicBook.com at C2E2 in Chicago. "It's all the worst villains of the 10 realms invade Earth and wreak havoc, and that would normally be a Thor story. That's normally the stuff Thor has to deal with. As we see in the opening of War of the Realms, Thor can't deal with it. Thor is taken off the board, so a Thor story becomes an everybody story. It's The Avengers, it's Wolverine, it's Punisher, The Fantastic Four. It's all of the main heroes in the Marvel universe having to deal with Thor stuff that they're not used to dealing with.
"The fun part is mixing up those elements, mixing up fantasy elements with Marvel Universe elements. Sometimes that's Spider-Man wearing a Viking helmet or it's Punisher having to up his arsenal to take on frost giants and trolls. There's a lot of fun stuff to be had. Daredevil is a big part of that. Daredevil gets leveled up in a big way. He [Daredevil] looks different. He's got a big sword. His powers are different. Everything's different. That's sort of War of the Realms number two you get the first taste of that."
The scale of War of the Realms lives up to the comparison to JRR Tolkien’s epic fantasy saga. This may leave some Marvel fans, especially those who haven’t kept up with Aaron’s entire Marvel run, a little intimidated.
Which is why we're here to help. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to enjoy Marvel’s blockbuster superhero-fantasy genre mashup.
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"War of the Realms" is the climax of the Thor saga writer Jason Aaron has been telling since he began writing Thor for Marvel Comics in 2012. He began planting the seeds for the story in Thor: God of Thunder #13, where he revived classic Thor villain Malekith the Accursed.
Since his return, Malekith has been waging war across the Ten Realms (yes ten, not nine) of the World Tree. An attack by the monstrous Mangog leaves Asgard in ruins and destroys the Bifrost. The loss of the Rainbow Bridge limits Thor’s ability to travel across the realms and continue the fight against Malekith, but Malekith has built his own Black Bifrost, which has allowed him to conquer all the other realms. In the "War of the Realms" event, Malekith will go for the killing stroke by invading the realm Thor loves most: Midgard.
If you’ve been away from Marvel Comics for a few years or more, or know its take on Norse mythology through the Marvel Cinematic Universe alone, you may be familiar with the Nine Realms connected by Yggdrasill, the World Tree.
Those realms are:
1) Midgard (Earth)
2) Asgard (Thor’s home)
3) Alfheim (home of Light Elves)
4) Vanaheim (home of the Vanir, sister race of the Asgardians, such as Heimdall, Sif, and Hogun)
5) Jotunheim (home of the Frost Giants)
6) Nidavellir (home of the Dwarves)
7) Svartalfheim (home of the Dark Elves)
8) Niffleheim (realm of the dishonored dead, where Hela rules over Hel)
9) Muspelheim (home of the Fire Demons)
You may not know that during the 2014 event "Original Sin", also written by Aaron, Marvel revealed a forgotten tenth realm,
Malekith is one of the Dark Elves of Svartalheim and a powerful sorcerer. He was created by Walt Simonson during the writer/artist’s run on The Mighty Thor during the 1970s and '80s. Malekith was imprisoned after his last defeat. During Aaron’s run, a band of Malekith’s followers freed him from his prison, and Thor formed a team of heroes from across the realms to recapture Malekith. Though they caught the villain, Malekith used intrigue, cunning, and political manipulations to install himself as King of the Dark Elves. From that position of power, he has been able to tip all the realms into war and chaos.
Jason Aaron revealed Malekith’s origin story in Thor: God of Thunder #25. His formative years were plagued by tragedy as he and his family suffered for the good of the Dark Elf king and his wars. Instead of growing up to oppose that kind of violence, he became obsessed with it. It made him who he is, and for him to admit that war is evil would be to admit that he is somehow broken. Instead, he’s out to make sure everyone experiences war the way he did.
Malekith has taken control of all the realms but Asgard, which is in no state to be worth conquering, and Midgard. He hasn’t done it alone. He’s allied with Loki, though Loki is secretly working against him, and resurrected Loki’s father, Laufey, to rally the Frost Giants. He’s also brokered an alliance with
Malekith also has an ally on Earth in Daario Agger, the CEO of the Roxxon Energy Corporation who also happens to be a minotaur. Daario has been eager to profit off of Malekith’s war, but a meeting with Rosalind Solomon suggests he may be reconsidering this alliance.
Thor Odison: In addition to revealing the existence of
Jane Foster: When Thor became unworthy, Jane Foster picked up Mjolnir and took over the role of Thor, even joining the Avengers for a time. But Jane Foster is also fighting cancer, and every transformation into Thor would undo the progress made by her latest round of chemotherapy. As Thor, Jane has carried on the fight against Malekith, but when the Mangog attacked Asgard, she was forced to strap the monster to Mjolnir and fling both in the sun. With Mjolnir destroyed, Jane could no longer take on her Thor form and nearly died. The combined power of Thor and Odin revived her, and she began seeking serious treatment for her ailment. In her last appearance before "
Loki: It has been years since Loki was the god of evil, playing the role of villain as he did in the early days of the Marvel Universe. Having died and been reborn, he’s been determined not to fall into anyone’s predetermined role for him. He was a spy for Asgard for a time and tried to sabotage Malekith’s war, but so far has failed. As "War of the Realms" begins, he’s been sent to live with his birth father, Laufey of the Frost Giants, in Jotunheimen.
Volstagg: The merriest of the Warriors Three was made Asgard’s representative at the Council of Worlds. During a trip to Nidavellir, Volstagg was exposed to the horrors of war when the Fire Demons set the realm ablaze. He was traumatized and drawn to a version of Mjolnir from another universe, which had found its way to Earth-616 after the "Secret Wars" event of 2015. Volstagg lifted this Mjolnir and became the War Thor, a version of Thor only built for battle. The War Thor fought and was nearly killed by the Mangog. Volstagg remains in a coma, but is still somehow muttering about war.
Rosalind Solomon: Roz Solomon is an environmentalist and a former agent of SHIELD. There was a romance brewing between Roz and Thor, but Thor’s mood change after losing Mjolnir and Roz’s own trauma after killing trolls while defending Asgard caused them to drift apart. Roz took Jane Foster’s place as Midgard’s representative on the Council of Worlds while Jane dealt with her cancer. Jane returned to the field when Black Panther personally recruited her into the agents of Wakanda.
The Asgardian Royal Family: Asgard lays in ruin. After Loki literally stabbed Freyja in the back (all part of his master plan to undermine Malekith), Odin became depressed and negligent in his duties as All-Father. When Freyja finally recovered, she was furious with Odin’s refusal to accept Jane Foster as Thor and left Asgard to live on Midgard. Odin has reinstated his brother, the god of fear Cul Borson, as the head of security on Asgard and also as a spy. Cul is eager to return to his monstrous form as The Serpent that once wreaked havoc on Midgard -- as seen in the "Fear Itself" event.
The Avengers: Part of Loki’s plan to protect the Earth from Malekith involved invading the Earth with an army of Dark Celestials, forcing a new team of Avengers to assemble. Those events took place in the first arc of Jason Aaron’s Avengers run, and the team has continued to protect the Earth under the leadership of Avengers chairman Black Panther. The rest of the team consists of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Ghost Rider, and She-Hulk. Thor has made them aware of the threat Malekith poses, and the team is doing its best to prepare.
The Agents of Wakanda: During the 2017 "Secret Empire" event, SHIELD was infiltrated by Hydra and helped the terrorist organization take over the United States. After Hydra was defeated, SHIELD was disbanded. Recognizing the need for an intelligence organization to help support and direct the Avengers, Black Panther has formed a replacement organization known as the Agents of Wakanda. Notable agents include Okoye, the Wasp, Gorilla-Man, Broo, Ka-Zar, Man-Wolf, American Eagle, Dr. Nemesis, Fat Cobra, Rosalind Solomon, and -- known only to Black Panther -- Odin. The group provides all manner of support for the Avengers, from IT help to undersea espionage.
The rest of the Marvel Universe heroes: "War of the Realms" is a universe-spanning event, meaning almost every character in the Marvel Universe will have some role to play, from the X-Men to the Champions to Venom. You don’t necessarily need to know what’s going on with all of those characters since most of their involvement will be contained in their own miniseries and one-shots, but if you want to see how the Punisher handles an invasion by Dark Elves, there’s going to be a book out there for you.
Marvel typically does a solid job of getting readers up to speed for these big events with their first issue. You may not know how all the story beats that led to War of the Realms #1, but you’ll probably be able to follow the story and catch on to past events through context clues just fine.
But if you want to do some background reading, your first stop should be Jason Aaron’s Marvel series from the past few years with a focus on his Thor run. That run includes.
- Thor: God of Thunder
- Thor (2014)
- Mighty Thor (2015)
- Thor (2018)
Other Aaron-written comics that influence the story leading up to War of the Realms that are probably worth checking out include:
- Original Sin
- Original Sin: Thor and Loki: The Tenth Realm
- Unworthy Thor
- Generations: The Unworthy Thor & The Mighty Thor
- Marvel Legacy #1
- Avengers (2018)
Some other writers have contributed directly and indirectly to Aaron’s saga. Titles worth checking out are:
- Journey Into Mystery (2011) (This predates Aaron’s run, but it’s the basis for Loki’s reformed character)
- Loki: Agent of Asgard
- Angela: Asgard’s Assassin
- Secret Wars
- Asgardians of the Galaxy
The most relevant tie-in books are likely to be Aaron’s own, which are:
- Thor #12-14
- Avengers #18-20
- War of the Realms: War Scrolls #1-3
Asgardians of the Galaxy #8-10, which features Kid Loki and Angela, is also expected to be a major book for the events.2comments
As for the rest, you can read them all if you want every detail of the story, or pick and choose based on characters and creative teams. Tie-in books include:
- Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #43-45
- Venom #13-15
- War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1-5
- War of the Realms: Punisher #1-3
- War of the Realms: X-Men #1-3
- Champions #5-6
- Fantastic Four #10
- Tony Stark: Iron Man #12-13
- Giant-Man #1-3
- Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #43
- War of the Realms: Spider-Man & the League of Realms #1-3
- War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas #1-4
- War of the Realms Strikeforce: The Dark Elf Realm
- War of the Realms Strikeforce: The Land of Giants
- War of the Realms Strikeforce: The War Avengers
- Deadpool #13-14
- Captain Marvel #6-7
- Superior Spider-Man #7-8
War of the Realms #1 hits stores today, and now you’re ready to join the fight. Check out ComicBook.com's review of the issue here, and let us know what you thought of it in the comments.