Virtually every major comic book crossover event teases life-changing consequences for its characters. The promise of ever-escalating high-stakes storytelling have made crossovers perennial bestsellers for decades, although they haven't always delivered on the promises of marketing. However, Marvel Comics' latest, War of the Realms, serves as both a culmination of writer Jason Aaron's six-year tenure with Thor, and an Asgard-centric story that organically draws the entire Marvel Universe into the proceedings.
The sixth and final issue of War of the Realms brings all the disparate threads of the epic crossover together, battling for the fate of Earth and Norse fantasy worlds in a satisfying conclusion. By the time the dust settles at the book's end, several major Marvel characters have experienced significant changes to their status quo which is sure to inform the characters for years to come. And, perhaps most importantly, Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman have delivered the finale to one of the more fun, accessible Marvel crossovers in recent memory, packed with fan-pleasing character moments and bombastic action from cover-to-cover.
Following the previous issue's setup, this issue is entirely focused on the pitched final battle against Malekith, having received his own dark power boost as he seeks to complete his invasion of Earth, thus completing his conquest of the Norse Ten Realms. In a desperate last stand, the forces of Asgard and Midgard regrouped and launch an all-out assault directly against Malekith to drive out the villainous Dark Elf and defeat him once and for all.
One of the most laudable, remarkable things about the sixth issue of War of the Realms is how it somehow manages to be relatively accessible to those that have only been reading the crossover and, yet, extremely rewarding to those that have been following Aaron since he first began writing Thor in 2013. There really is years of payoff in this single issue, touching on virtually every major thread from Aaron's run, some as far back as the very first story arc he penned starring the God of Thunder. As such, most of the other Marvel superheroes are largely sidelined for the finale but, at the end of the day, the entire premise of the story always revolved around the Asgardians and the scheming villain Malekith, with the Avengers and other heroes drawn in as the conflict widened in scope.
This entire crossover storyline has seen Russell Dauterman bring his A-game, rendering some truly breathtaking imagery of bloody war among fantastical combatants and settings. Paired with colorist Matthew Wilson, the art team deliver some standout action sequences as the final battle is joined, including one particular two-page spread of the epic charge against Malekith through the cosmos. And just as Aaron's script touches on his own history with Thor, Dauterman and Wilson's visuals perfectly and distinctly capture the different eras of Aaron's running all crashing together at once in a gorgeous cacophony of kinetic action and standout character moments.
So many comic book crossovers are overly focused on the stakes and the promise of making the story "matter" that they forget to make the story itself an entertaining, accessible read. Ever since its beginning, War of the Realms has balanced the tricky feat of paying off previous threads but being welcome and open for new readers. The core series has been concise and well-paced yet sure to give its major characters standout, crowd-pleasing times to shine throughout the chaos. And, in this grand finale, Aaron and Dauterman deliver on the promise of telling an enjoyable, bombastic crossover while setting up a new beginning for its main characters. As far as Marvel Comics crossover events go, War of the Realms has been one of the most fun and well-told in recent memory.