After the initial invasion hit the ground running in the debut issue War of the Realms, the second issue of Marvel's latest crossover event keeps the momentum going without missing a beat. This is a testament to the creative team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson, who are operating at the height of their powers as they continue to craft a story that is simultaneously full of swashbuckling fun, pitch perfect character moments, and heartbreaking twists and turns that will remind readers of the stakes and consequences involved with the premise.
Picking up where the previous issue left off, the various heroes of New York and Asgard team-up in a pitched defensive battle to protect Manhattan from Malekith's invasion of dark elves and monsters from across the nine Norse realms. While the heroes certainly put up a valiant fight in the face of overwhelming odds, it becomes clear that they are hopelessly outnumbered as the battle for Manhattan continues to escalate and the losses to Malekith's assault begin to mount.
One of Aaron's greatest qualities as a writer that perhaps doesn't get mentioned enough is that he knows the importance of making his mainstream comic work fun, accessible, and character-appropriate. Having displayed his flair for bombastic action writing Avengers, Thor and Wolverine & the X-Men, Aaron balances this with character moments to show how key members of the crossover's extensive cast deal with the fiery invasion. It grounds the story, providing several heroes with their own moments to shine without throwing off the issue's pacing. Additionally, though Aaron had been building to this event literally for years while writing Thor: God of Thunder and its subsequent follow-up series, the creative team makes this event completely new-reader friendly for those that haven't read a single issue of his run.
Similarly, Dauterman dials up the visuals to reflect a rapidly intensifying conflict, more than delivering upon the series' premise of fire and blood raining from the heavens. Continuing his effective partnership with Wilson on colors, the art team really excels at blending fantastical monsters with the Marvel Universe's more grounded characters in hyperkinetic action sequences. Much of Dauterman and Wilson's work with Aaron on Thor had taken place across the cosmos so seeing them render a fiery vision of New York City, in the throes of apocalyptic intensity, is a refreshing change of pace. And for all the superhero action, the art team also illustrate the issue's moments of heartbreaking tragedy with emotional aplomb.
And for all its swashbuckling, escapist fun, the creative team reminds readers that the stakes of this war come with bloody consequences. Not every fan-favorite character walks away intact (if at all), making it clear that it was never going to end easily or quickly for Earth's Mightiest Heroes. And just as they had with the opening issue, the creative team has the final pages here go straight for emotional beats that will leave readers eager to read its follow-up in two weeks' time.
Two issues in, War of the Realms shows no signs of slowing down as Malekith's forces threaten to engulf the whole planet in a frenzied, take-no-prisoners invasion. Already one of the most fun comic book crossover events in recent memory, Aaron and Dauterman have delivered another well-paced issue that still brings the character moments and dialogue that feel wholly appropriate for each hero. With Malekith going medieval on the Marvel Universe, the heroes will have to regroup, not only to save the Earth but the fate of all Ten Realms. And if the first act is any indicator, this desperate bid to save the Marvel Universe is going to be an adrenaline-fueled, emotional rollercoaster of a series enjoyed by longtime Thor fans and new readers alike.
War of the Realms #2 is written by Jason Aaron and illustrated by Russell Dauterman. It is on sale now from Marvel Comics.