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Time’s A Wasting: Raven #9-12 Review

Dan

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We’ve come to the end of Raven: The Pirate Princess’s first run of issues! This week I cover the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth issues in the series. Next week we begin Year 2: Love & Revenge.

Issue #9: Raven’s Story Time

In this issue, Raven’s crew reacts to the aftermath of their fight with Raven’s brothers. While Raven deals with Ximena, a temporarily deafened Jayla has to learn sign language, Katie must learn to take charge, and Sunshine begins to deal with her own complicated emotions. While the more-able bodied crew plots a course for a “spa” that can heal Ximena, Raven keeps her company with a story from her family history.

Review:

The inevitable cool down chapter after an action-packed climax, we get to see relationships being tested in this issue and, largely, it works. At the center, of course, is the running tension between Ximena and Raven. Raven’s tenderness and worry really shine through despite the comic’s continued issues with inconsistent tone (having Raven give a big emotional speech and following up with “I’m kinda in love with you” bugged me to no end). However, a big chunk of this story feels just a tad wasteful: Raven’s story. While it’s a story well-told, it’s essentially an info dump on Raven’s family more than anything. It has some relevance as an explanation for Raven’s drive (although we’re reminded of that nearly every issue) and drawing a few comparisons to the current situation Raven finds herself in. However, the effect of such a large piece of story being devoted to a flashback story is that the side stories just don’t have room to work. I would have preferred the story to stay in the present and focused on Jayla, Katie, and Sunshine. It also just slows the story up considerably, meaning that the next few issues (as we’ll see) cover a weirdly brief bit of time.

Issue 10: Sunshine’s Secret Origins

The crew has reached the mystic spa that promises to heal Ximena, but first their leaders must parlay with the intimidating island guards. As Raven intimidates, seduces, and cajoles her way through a “no-pirates” policy, Sunshine is left to babysit her romantic rival, and she tells the story of her conception to kill time.

Review:

One comic with a lengthy flashback can be a problem, but understandable, two in a row just feels indulgent. And this story seems to have even less bearing on current events than the last comic’s diversion, though I suspect it will pay off as Sunshine develops in Year 2. The best I can tell is that it gives some insight into Sunshine’s romantic sensibilities and her own attraction to Raven. Sadly, it’s not quite enough for the story to really feel important when we could see more in the moment action and character work.

It is nice, however, to see Raven actually acting like a pirate. For a long time, she and the crew have been taking a “holier-than-thou” stance on things and it felt like the “pirate” name was just a fancy title. But this issue she’s in full Capt. Jack mode as she tried to convince the guards to let them on the island. It’s something we really don’t see enough of.

Issue #11: Earn Your Ex-Machina

We get to see more pirate/ninja/rogue work from Raven as she infiltrates the secret hideout of the mysterious “Lady” of the healing island. Through a combination of her own martial arts and a bag of tricks that includes flaming arrows and magic purple smoke, Raven is able to literally crash the party and meet Leilani, the possible-goddess at the center of the island. But before she will heal Ximena, Leilani has one demand: Raven must best her in single combat. But despite her kind appearance and feminine bearing, Leilani is not what she seems.

Review:

I’m just happy there’s no stories in this issue. Instead, we get more swashbuckling fun from Raven as well as just a little bit of moral ambiguity. Which is good because, y’know, she’s a damn pirate. Essentially, Leilani and Raven’s fight is a violent cross between “Won’t Say I’m In Love” from Hercules and a therapy session.

My only problem with this issue is a bit of a nitpick, but Raven’s pause to help a guard with asthma just feels kind of…weird. It doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing you’d organically come up with when writing a fight scene, does it? While the pause does justify Leilani’s mercy after Raven’s trespassing, there surely could have been a better way to go about it than “guard happens to react badly to Raven’s attack.” It’s an action comic, guys. It’s okay if the guards just go down and stay down if it can keep the story going, rather than pull the reader out.

Issue #12: A Weird End

It’s the end of the first run of Raven and things are…slightly quiet. We start mid-stick fight as Raven finally gets the upper hand on the previously untouchable Leilani. She forces the healer onto the defensive as she finally begins to admit that yes, she loves Ximena, and yes, it’s her fault the two were separated for so long. Back on the ship, Katie and Sunshine plan a dance party. When Raven returns with Leilani, the ship is overjoyed when the tall healer makes the comatose Ximena whole again. But the issue ends with two threads unresolved: Raven has still not admitted her love for Ximena, and Sunshine won’t admit her love for Raven.

Review:

I just really wish the cliffhangers here weren’t entirely romantic. While the love triangle is well written and I do care about the outcome, it just feels like a real blah thing to leave off for a hiatus. There’s not much danger or immediacy to these revelations, and there’s no sense that any outside dangers are coming anytime soon. Even a little flash, to see Raven’s brothers on their way, or a totally new threat on the horizon, would make the end hit a little harder.

In this issue, as well, Raven‘s tonal inconsistencies rear their head again. In the big fight between Raven and Leilani, the wise and knowing Leilani quickly becomes a slapstick victim as she begins to lose. Having her go from “I know the depths of your soul” to making goofy faces and cracking jokes is just…weird. It immediately robs her of weight as a character and makes Raven’s victory over her just a tad less impactful.

I really hope Katie gets her awesome bisexual dance party next season.

Final Thoughts:

While I enjoyed parts of this block of issues, it really feels like a poor finale. Even if Year 2 is more of a continuation than a new “season,” there really needed to be more urgency and action in these finale stories to keep things going. As well, while I know it’s about Raven, you can’t just dangle these little side stories in front of me then deviate back to the main character’s story, especially when that time is filled with what essentially is filler.

And, I might add, this is still a pirate comic. I really hope we get to see more pirating going into Year 2. I’m a Star Trek fan, so I can appreciate a good piece of genre soap. But even the soapiest Star Trek had sci-fi adventure to go along with it, to justify the setting. I worry that Raven may get so lost in the personal drama that it forgets itself.

But we will deal with that next week!

____________________________________________________

If anything in the above review interested you, you can pick up digital copies of Raven the Pirate Princess on Comixology , and collected physical editions on Amazon. If you’re already a fan, you can spread the word about Raven on social media and to your friends! Share this review with them! Review the book on Amazon or at other retailers.
Images courtesy of Action Lab

 

 

Dan

Author, Editor, Podcaster, Media Junkie. Currently working towards an MFA and trying to get a sci-fi novel published. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Wichita and Indianapolis.

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DC Elevates Batwoman to Live Action, Cancels Her Book

Griffin

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[~Hello Darkness, My Old Friend~]

In the span of less than a week, Kate Kane has reached the absolute height of her cultural awareness…and then had her entire foundation smashed into teeny-tiny pieces. To say that this is mixed messaging is quite the understatement. And also gross and infuriating, and why couldn’t people just buy this fucking book, why does ever queer story have to have explicit romance to get anyone to care—what is wrong with everyone!?

Ugh. Before anyone asks, no, there’s no way to save Batwoman from cancellation. Again. Volume 3 is dead. If you’re one of the ~25,000 people who bought and read Batwoman during the New52 era, in which her book reached a total of 45 issues (including two annuals, two #0s, and a crappy tie-in), but then just noped out reading Batwoman Rebirth…welp. Fuck you. 

Because yes, that’s how frustrated I am.

The comics world didn’t get less diverse between the first cancellation and the relaunch. Sure, we’re sort of living in a Darkest Timeline scenario but that doesn’t mean socio-cultural progress evaporates overnight! Especially when the kind of people that Kate’s original ongoing managed to reach are only more numerous now. Which just begs the question: why did nobody read this book?

Unfortunately I suspect that I already know the reason. It’s kind of the same reason people seem to be sleeping on Black Lightning despite it being streets ahead of every other DCTV production. The lesbian wasn’t shtupping anyone (well, not in present day). Of course, in Black Lightning’s case, there’s also racism involved, but the more explicit and assertive Jewishness Bennett wrote in for Kate probably set off quite a few antisemite alarms. This attitude is unfortunately disturbingly common within queer spaces, because of course it is. Which means, yes, one can technically blame Nazis for Batwoman’s cancellation. I know I am!

(Or DC suits mumbling about ROI.)

So where do we go from here? Apparently, we sit on our hands and wait for December to roll around and watch the CW likely take a giant dump all over Kate Kane. I’m not going into this hopeful, and it’s not because I think it’s impossible to do it right. Frankly, I don’t even think it’s that difficult to pull off. You just need to actually know who she is. Here’s a list of people who have demonstrated that they fit that description:

  • James Tynion IV
  • Marguerite Bennett
  • Tom Taylor
  • Gail Simone
  • J.H. Williams III
  • Haden Blackman

Notice someone missing? It’s Greg Rucka! Because apparently “his” Kate is entirely unrecognizable from the Kate we have now (and have always had), which means he’s either pissed he didn’t get to write this stuff and is being a jerk about it…or his original intent was absolute shit. Either way, not a great look for Greg.

Obviously, none of those people will be writing/advising/consulting for the DCTV yearly crossover event. Maybe there’s someone on one of those four writing staffs that does get her, but the odds of that are exceedingly low. And even if someone does, the odds of them being able to adapt her right are basically zilch.

Why? It’s not because I suspect they’re only doing this as a palate cleanser/apology after the nazi-tastic crossover last year. It’s also not because Kate’s maybe being brought in to show off their stunning “progressivism”. It’s because the folks over at DCTV clearly lack one of the most fundamental understandings of how Kate can even be Batwoman: there needs to be a Batman.

For anyone who knows the story well, this should not be a surprise even if it does sound like a fanboy’s wet dream. There will always be a Batman, regardless of who happens to be under the cowl, but there are so many ways that there wouldn’t be a Batwoman. So many, in fact, that the entire running theme of Bennett’s Batwoman run was about that explicit choice she made, and the one she continues to make every time she operates as Batwoman. Kate chose this. She was not compelled by a bat flying through the window, or the hands of fate. The Batwoman is not a universal constant.

Kate Kane wanted to protect innocent lives, and her country. Following in her family’s long history of military service, she enlisted and attended West Point. Near the end of her second semester, she was dishonorably discharged under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (watch them cut this and never elaborate on why she was kicked out aka the Andreyko Origin) because she refused to lie about who she was. The flag she wanted to serve tossed her into the dumpster, and that’s where she forced herself to stay in a drunken stupor for years and years.

The Kanes are a very prominent family, so this made headlines. Kate was basically outed globally. She had money, and her father had no earthly idea how to help her find a new purpose in life since she’d dedicated her entire existence towards serving others and fixing the world from literally her twelfth birthday. That is, until she found a new flag.

She’s the same Kate, Greg. Just stop it.

If not for that one night in the alley—in which she was not saved by Batman, but rather offered a helping hand out of the rain—Kate would never, not in a million years, have considered vigilantism as an actual option for her. Because that’s completely insane. The only way Kate becomes Batwoman is by meeting Batman. Thus, there cannot be a Batwoman without the Batman.

So, does that mean there is a Batman in the Arrowverse now? Is he dead? If Bruce is dead, why isn’t Dick the new Batman? If Dick is dead too, why not Tim? Or a resurrected Jason? Or, shit, Damian? Jean-Paul Valley? There has to be a goddamn Batman, and ultimately it doesn’t matter who it is, there just has to be somebody in the costume to inspire Kate and legions of others.

Tynion’s run has been very explicitly about what the Bat means to different people. How it can manifest, and how people interpret the symbol. It’s no accident that The Colony, Kate’s father’s black-ops group designed to operate like a literal army of Batmen in terms of effectiveness, exists in indirect opposition to Bruce’s ideology…yet more or less consistent with Kate’s. Because Kate doesn’t wear a costume; it’s a uniform.

So why the hell would Batwoman of all people be the focus of a DCTV four-part crossover? What possible plot contrivance could there be to remove every other vigilante from Gotham, because literally all of them are more inclined to interact with “tourists” than Kate? The answer is going to be stupid or shallow.

Whoever shows up on screen won’t be Kate Kane. She may have the name, and the colors, and the look, and the mentality of a Navy SEAL/Green Beret/Marine, but it won’t be her. Because at the end of the day, as far as DCTV is concerned, Kate is a lesbian and they got lots of good press from that Alex stuff, and hey Kate once dated Floriana Lima’s “Maggie Sawyer” (who totally isn’t a watered down Renee Montoya) so this all makes perfect sense!

Well, all of that stuff, but also a lack of emphasis on her Jewishness kind of breaks her character. Intentional or otherwise (great job, Greg!), Kate needing to scream for her own right to exist is kind of integral to how she operates and lives and you know…exists. Kinda speaks for itself considering what she had to do to find some sort of grounding in her life after the military shat her out.

All of that being said, the optics here are just…really bad. DC shoves Kate on the silver screen and then axes her book? Look, we’ve all seen Marvel do that over and over and over and over and over again with their movies, but this is just a new level of stupid. Considering how the only other queer lead book DC has in their primary line is the abysmal Wonder Woman by James Robinson (that is somehow getting a spin-off featuring the somehow not copyright infringing Wonder Man?!), this is a Bad Look.

Which makes me suspect that DC isn’t so much as cancelling the book, as they are retooling for a relaunch around December with a new #1 and creative team. Probably with Kate Perkins because she’s written two Batwoman stories for DC already, despite them being just…comically insincere.

Or maybe they’ll give it to Gail. God, I hope they do. I mean, I’m heartbroken that Bennett lost her literal dream job because people won’t consume queer media unless there’s shipping, but I’m also terrified of Kate just…going up on the shelf. For a very, very long time. At least the solicitation for the series finale has Kate clearly getting back together with Renee. It’s not much, but it’s something.

Back in February of last year, I told you folks that this was likely going to be Kate’s last chance at a solo book. Let’s pray I’m not right.


Images courtesy of DC Comics 

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Sunshine Of Your Love: Raven Year 2 #5-6 Review

Dan

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We’ve now caught up to the series with the next two issues in Raven: The Pirate Princess. If you’d like a review of the most recent issue, #7, you can read my review here. For now, let’s see how our favorite half-elf is faring under the sea.

Issue #5: The Kiss

a.k.a “lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice”

This issue begins on the mysterious island where Sunshine has found herself after landing in the drink. Why is she here? Who is this queen? It’s been a month, what’s she been up to? No time for all that! We have to use the Mirror of Galad…I mean Ursula’s Cauld…no I mean Queen Pavarti’s scrying pool to check on our friends back on the ship.

There, Ximena is angsting over her relationship with Raven after the loss of sunshine. The rest of the crew is taking part in a pullup contest between Raven and Katie, which Raven wins with gusto. She and Ximena are gay for a while until Ximena drops the bombshell: she wants to learn to fight. Their eventual near-kiss (there’s so many of those in this comic) is ruined by a lighting strike! But it is not the sea being moved by Sunshine’s antipathy towards Ximena, but by her own magic! Which she now has. The scene shifts back to the mysterious island where the irate queen casts Sunshine out of her palace for her inadvertent magic use. She mopes on a bench until she judo flips a mysterious girl, who asks her to dance.

Returning to the ship without the conceit of the mirror, the new drama is a poem that Dezzie has found. The embarassing poem, read aloud to the crew, is addressed to Quinn, who angrily storms out after an impassioned speech about acceptance. But it turns out that the poem was written by Zoe. Finally confessing her affection for Quinn, the two finally kiss at the end of the issue.

Review:

I enjoyed the relationship drama of the issues, as I’ve largely resigned myself to this shift in focus for the comic. The art has shown a marked improvement from the last few issues, perhaps due to a more diversified art staff. The Zoe/Quinn relationship is perhaps my favorite out of all of them, with the perfect mix of angst and fluff without too much contrivance to accomplish either. The Sunshine/Ximena/Raven triangle, by contrast, is becoming more and more of a relic as Ximena and Raven get plenty of good moments while Sunshine whines about it.

The shift from the island to the ship is a strange one. We know Sunshine’s ok, but we don’t know anything about the month she’s spent on that island. We find out her side of things next issue, but for now it just seems kind of odd. Especially since it gets so little focus compared to the next issue.

Issue #6: The Heart of the Sea

a.k.a “Happy, huh?”

We finally find out where Sunshine is. She has been rescued by a gay mermaid, as if there is any other kind, and taken to the island of Queen Parvarti. Sunshine is part of the Queen’s “collection” of women rescued from death at sea. It’s sort of a Flying Dutchman but for women. Also not dead. Maybe.

In any case, Sunshine is acclimating very well to the island thanks to Ananda, the girl she flipped last issue. The two go dancing, share dinner, and have a flirty time in Ananda’s garden. They share their origins and bond atop a romantic waterfall. It all seems idyllic. But when night falls, a gap appears. Ananda is not just a kind soul here to help. She was in fact sent to Sunshine by Queen Pavarti. A spy? A genuine attempt to help them both? Sunshine, and the reader, is unsure.

Review:

I had much less to recap this issue as there just wasn’t so much. This is one of those slowed down issues, where it’s very talky and introspective. As I alluded to, this really should have swapped with the last issue. I love flashbacks, but when its such a short time as this it may as well have just happened.

In-issue, Sunshine’s internal monologue is hilarious as much as it is heartfelt. I loved how she shut down whenever someone pretty looked at her or kissed her. Her emotions seem to be a bit scattered as she shifts from sad to in-love to happy and worried over the space of a few hours. Ananda is kind of bland, sadly, but she’s sweet enough that she’ll be able to fill her role helping Sunshine heal with gusto.

The biggest quibble is the thus far unaddressed issue of the Queen’s “collection.” I commend Raven for not going the Steven Universe route and making the literal ownership of people some kind of fun quirk as opposed to something worrying, but it’s only very briefly touched on as a problem. I know it’s not dealt with next issue, but there’s still time.

Final Thoughts

The only big problem with these issues is the order of them. Issue #5 doesn’t justify the scenes with Sunshine outside of a Little Mermaid shout out and a way to yet again interrupt  Ximena and Raven’s kiss. Plus, the story about the island is so much cooler than the relatively mundane drama on the ship. Why would I care about a high-school drama about misplaced poems,  albeit a well done one, when there’s an ISLAND OF MAGIC GAY MERMAIDS! Like, that is such a neat idea and there’s so many places it can go. But, inevitably, we’ll be back on the ship next issue to continue the dating drama.

These issues also confirm my fears that there’s a long lull happening in this part of Year 2, which will reach its zenith in the doldrums of Issue #7. However, the character writing from Whitley is still top tier, and I really do find myself enjoying the fights, make-ups, near-kisses, and snark coming out of the characters. I just kind of wish the adventure of it all got more attention.


If anything in the above review interested you, you can pick up digital copies of Raven the Pirate Princess on Comixology , and collected physical editions on Amazon. If you’re already a fan, you can spread the word about Raven on social media and to your friends! Share this review with them! Review the book on Amazon or at other retailers. Issue #8 of Raven: The Pirate Princess drops on the 23rd of May, and is available for pre-order today!
Images courtesy of Action Lab

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A Not So Final Goodbye To Jane Foster

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See, I knew that Marvel was going to pull of something like this. I’ll admit I’m slightly annoyed. Death should never be used as a plot device unless you’re fully going to commit to the consequences both figuratively and practically within the realm of story and of emotional response from the reader. Not only do you risk losing the significance of said life ending, you also break the readers immersion into the fantasy the world that you’ve created. They will no longer fear the suffering or death of their favored characters if there are none.

On the other hand, I’m am so glad that Jane Foster is still with us. Only a writer like Jason Aaron could completely paralyze us with the fear of losing such an important and beloved hero and still fill us with a sense of satisfaction and pride when she returns.

So yes, after a long and enduring battle with the Mangog alongside her equally arduous struggle with cancer, Jane gave us a sacrifice that we would never forget. And she gave us a return that even though we should resent (because comics) it, we can’t help but shed tears of pure relief and joy that one of Marvel’s most well written characters will live on to fight another day…and fight she will.

With the series over and the future looking all the brighter for Jane, it’s important to remember our journey with her. We’ve seen her victorious and we’ve seen her defeated, yet never broken. The spirit she brought out in all of us is why her story will remain one of the timeless classics in comic book history. Yet thanks to these two final issues, we definitely know that this is not the last we’ve seen of Jane playing a hero. She may never be able to become Thor again, but we know thanks to the epilogue issue that things are far from over. The Mangog may be vanquished but threats are ever present.

At The Gates

Now we all knew that Jane’s death would be honored by Norse belief even though she herself wasn’t actually Asgardian. As such, the revered dead who died in battle go to Valhalla to live out the rest of their existence in glory. So it really wasn’t a surprise when she ended up before the gates. What was surprising however, was Odin’s appearance and subsequent reaction. Since the start of the series, Odin has been a constant thorn in Jane’s side. He was obviously not happy about his son’s birthright being taken by another and spent most of his time in the comic series foiling her every chance he got. They shouted and dueled at some point or another. Even when he was deep in mourning after Loki stabbed Freyja with a poisoned blade, Cul Borson did not make life any easier for her.

The true surprise was the fact that upon learning that Jane Foster had taken his son’s mantle, he showed nothing but respect and acceptance. Considering she had given her life so that his people and family could live, I would expect no less. Even from someone as thick headed as Odin. It’s a heart wrenching scene for sure, as we see Jane take in the finality of death. In the moment, she was ready to give her life to save others, but now that she really has a moment to look at it, she was not ready to die. Yet try as he might to convince her of her reward as an honored dead, she was not the only one who wasn’t ready to let go.

Back in the cosmos, Odinson and the rest of Asgard mourn Jane’s passing. Yet the anger, rage, and denial in Odinson only serves to pique the attraction of what lived inside Mjolnir. As you know, Mjolnir was destroyed along with the Mangog when they were thrown into the sun, leading to the ancient hammer releasing the mother storm. Odinson’s will alone is not enough to channel the mighty storm as is begins to break him down, even his mighty Uru arm melts at its power. I think it was safe to say we all cheered and cried when Odin shared the power of the storm, causing the great tempest to breathe life back into Jane.

The comic ends in such a promising way. Jane confirms that she will resume her treatment, as her rebirth has given her a new lease on life. Odinson also prepares himself for the challenges that will face him soon enough in order to reclaim his identity as worthy, as Thor. Our two Gods of Thunder depart as Odinson gives Jane a surviving piece of Mjolnir. Our spirits fly with hope as we get a deserved happy ending, and surely this hope will let Jane fly into our memories.

Jane The Remembered

Remember back in Mighty Thor 700 when he got a random glimpse of three very Thor like Asgardian women? Well, they get their own story in the first half of The Mighty Thor: Gates of Valhalla and it’s way more significant than we originally thought. They are the granddaughters of Thor Odinson some billion years after the present time. In this charming and beautiful story we see the three sisters—Frigg, Ellisiv, and Atli—battle across time to find the greatest Thor of all.

During their travels, we see a young Odinson struggle to lift Mjolnir for the first time. We also see all the silly variants of the God of Thunder over the years, yes, even the frog. The sisters also witness a fight between their grandfather and Loki far in the future, telling of possible stories to come. Yet, by the end, their search is complete and they come across Jane Foster, who in that time was struggling in fear to return to chemotherapy.

This right here was so important. Not only do we see a human Jane again, but we see the real fear that affects so many afflicted with this deadly illness each and every day. Not everyone wins the fight against cancer, but everyone who fights is a hero, just like Jane. The end of this made me feel a sense of peace and comfort knowing that even so far in the future Jane is remembered for the hero she was and that her story is not yet over. She will fly again and a war will wage, one that everyone seemed to forget about.

The War of the Realms is Coming to Midgard

One of the biggest plots of this comic series was not closed with the end of the series. The three sisters transition the tone of this comic from light hearted to dark as soon as they mention Jane’s role in the war of the realms. The last we saw of this war was during the War Thor arc, where Malekith had a firm grasp on many realms. In the second story of the issue we see him solidify his hold on nearly all of them. His alliance with Roxxon corp, a deal struck in the 2014 series, is virtually unopposed as the Asgardians regroup and resettle on old Asgard.

This story shows the malice and pure ruthlessness of his campaign against the entirety of all the realms within the world tree. Not only that, but he also emplores the angels of Heaven with news that their greatest enemy, Asgard, has fallen. Dark days are indeed coming as we are left with a vision of earth burning among the various armies under Malekiths influence.

I love this portion because it lets the reader know that this huge of a story wasn’t forgotten and eventually loose ends will be tied. I also love that it will be it’s own event, either within the main Thor series coming in June or as a standalone series. What I don’t like is that I have to wait until next year for it. Seriously, that’s way too long a wait. Yet, we can find solace that Jason Aaron will continue writing Thor in June and also his run on the Avengers, which is already promising, two issues in. I say all we can do is prepare ourselves for the eventuality that is the war of the realms and hope our favorite Goddess of Thunder will return in all her glory.


Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics

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