Everything You Need to Know About War of the Realms
Who are the major players? What do you have to read? Your questions are answered here!
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War of the Realms, the epic comic event coming to Marvel this April, has been ramping up for months. Now that we’re getting even closer to the big debut, you might want to know what you need to know before the War of the Realms begins. On a recent episode of This Week in Marvel, Ryan “Agent M” Penagos picked the brain of Marvel editor Wil Moss to get the lowdown on what’s happening with all Ten Realms and all the Marvel characters involved.
To begin, Moss answers the most basic of questions:
What is the War of the Realms?
“War of the Realms is this big, big Marvel universe story involving all the heroes from the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Wolverine, the whole line. It spins out of Jason Aaron’s run on THOR but it’s still very much a Marvel universe event. Malekith, the King of the Dark Elves, has been out there conquering the Ten Realms, and Earth, aka Midgard, is the last one. So War of the Realms is about Malekith and the Dark Elves, Frost Giants, Fire Goblins coming to Earth, and the heroes having to try to fight them off.
What are the Ten Realms?
In the Marvel Universe, the Ten Realms are Alfheim, Asgard, Vanaheim, Jotunheim, Nidavellir, Svartalfheim, Niffleheim, Muspelheim, Midgard (Earth), and Heven.
For long-time Marvel fans, Heven is not a realm in traditional Asgardian Norse mythology – however, Moss explained that in recent years, Heven was revealed to be one of the Ten Realms once upon a time.
“Heven was one of the realms just like all the other nine and they were at war with Asgard. Odin and Freya had a baby daughter that the angels seemingly killed in the course of the battle. Odin was so upset over them killing his baby girl that he uprooted the entire realm and banished it, ripped it out of the world tree and erased it from everyone’s memory. We only just recently did a story where we found out that there was Heven and the true history behind it. That’s when Angela was introduced into the Marvel Universe, and we found out that she was Thor’s sister. That baby girl, turns out, didn’t die after all.”
And if you guessed that this version of Heven is nothing like the serene, peaceful paradise the name invokes, you’re right. Heven’s angels are more like mercenaries. Moss: “They’re pretty ruthless. They’ve got wings but they’ve got big laser swords.”
They’re also part of Malekith’s assault. “The queen of the angels,” says Moss, “is one of his generals and they mess things up real good.”
Where do the Ten Realms stand as of right now?
At this point all but Midgard have fallen to Malekith’s forces, with Niffleheim holding on.
Malekith is no stranger to the Marvel Universe – and he will be the main antagonist in the War of the Realms.
Who is Malekith?
Malekith is one of the Dark Elves from Svartalfheim. Moss went into his origin story at Marvel: “He’s a character that Walter Simonson introduced back in his legendary run on THOR. He had been imprisoned for a very long time, ever since Simonson’s run and during Jason Aaron’s run on THOR. Aaron freed Malekith, who immediately started taking over Svartalfheim, killed the Dark Elves who opposed him and eventually became king. And he’s got a pretty interesting and tragic backstory in terms of how war shaped him as a child, and rather than not wanting anything to do with war, he instead wants war all the time. It’s kind of the only mindset he knows, so once he conquered Svartalfheim he just kept going. He wanted to have all the realms. He wanted to see them all fall. And he’s been pretty successful and now it’s just Midgard left. So he’s a tough guy.”
Malekith’s first appearance was in THOR #344 (1984), written by Walter Simonson, though according to Ryan, “we do get a hint of him in issue #341.
THOR #345-348 is the saga of the casket of ancient winters, during which Malekith blankets the planet in ice; his initial story wraps up around issue #368, after which he made sporadic appearance.
Who is Kurse?
Another important character in War of the Realms is Kurse.
Moss: “The original Kurse was this massive force, this big, awesome villain from Secret Warriors II. We’ve got a new Kurse in this story who’s a similar deal, imprisoned within this massive body, this force, who is cursed to be this stooge for Malekith. This Kurse specifically has got a really messed up backstory because she’s a Dark Elf who was an ally of Thor, and she took Malekith’s place as a prisoner. He freed her only to turn her into this new Kurse.”
Other Malekith stories from the late ‘90s include THOR #29 (1998) written by Dan Jurgens with art by Andy Kubert. But Malekith’s most important arc appears in THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #13 from 2013, written by Jason Aaron with art by Ron Garney.
Moss: “This is the return of Malekith and he’s pulled up from this pit in Niffleheim, which is the frozen land of Hel. There’s a gorgeous, full-page spread of Malekith where we finally see him and he’s covered in blood. He’s holding a dagger. There’s snakes around him. He’s holding the chains that had been imprisoning him and the caption says ‘The day Malekith the Accursed climbed out of the Pit of Woe and the rest of the Nine Worlds fell in.’ And just reading that I was like – it almost feels like Surtur forging the sword in Walter Simonson’s run. You can feel the sense of menace right there.”
The end of the series, 2014’s THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #25, also marks the first mention of the War of the Realms. In this story, Thor’s granddaughters are looking through the library and say “The war to end them all, the War of the Realms.” Moss recounts, “One of the granddaughters says, ‘The All-Father does not want us talking about this one.’”
What other issues are part of the lead-up to the War of the Realms?
In 2015’s MIGHTY THOR #1, a disturbing panel of one of Alfheim’s Light Elves floating in space, dead, with the phrase “So begins the War of the Realms” carved into his torso. This series was created by the team driving the War of the Realms: writer Jason Aaron and artists Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson.
How is Malekith waging this massive war?
According to Moss, Malekith has been “making alliances and he’s been conquering.”
Who are Malekith’s allies?
The Frost Giants from Jottunheim are on his side, but it didn’t come easy, as Moss explains: “[Malekith] actually went to great length to get the skull of Laufey, the king of the Frost Giants who’s been dead for a long time. He resurrected Laufey to seal their alliance, so now the Frost Giants are pretty much the biggest muscle he’s got.”
The Dark Elf can also boast the Light Elf realm of Alfheim, the Fire Goblins of Muspelheim (led by Surtur’s daughter Sindr), Nornheim’s Rock Trolls (led by King Ulik), Heven and its angels, and on Earth, he’s gained an ally in Dario Agger, the head of Roxxon.
Malekith also enjoys support from Enchantress and Loki – whose father is Laufey – as well as his own War Witches, who serve as advisors.
On the other side of the war...
Who is trying to stop Malekith?
One group is the League of Realms, which usually comes with a cost, as Moss points out: “[Every] time the League gets together, there are fatalities. People don’t always make it out of this because these guys get into some heavy stuff. So there’s going to be a new League in this series that we’ll meet, and it’ll be fun to see how they come together. But it’ll be dwarves and giants and somebody from Earth too.”
There is also the Congress of Worlds, which assembles representatives from each of the realms and that’s kind of fallen by the wayside as War of the Realms has gained steam and all of the realms have fallen. Moss explains that one of the parties responsible for this is Odin: “In War of the Realms, Odin has a lot to own up to because it’s been on his watch as All-Father that Malekith has been going after all these realms despite lots of people in the Congress of Worlds raising the alarm. Thor (Jane Foster) and Thor Odinson have both been doing their part to stop it, but we’ll see Odin get called out on his part in letting this War of the Realms happen.”
Which Marvel heroes can we expect to see?
While this is a big story for Asgardians, many Marvel heroes will be playing important roles in the War of the Realms.
One street-level hero will definitely find himself in a new world: Daredevil. Moss explained where the War of the Realms is taking the Man Without Fear: “He gains the abilities of Heimdall – we call him the ‘God Without Fear.’ He becomes the point person for retaking Earth back from Malekith.”
Captain America will also have a significant role, plus Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Shuri, Blade, Punisher, and even Venom makes an appearance, playing “a key role in this story.”
What about the Rainbow Bridge, which was destroyed during the Death of the Mighty Thor?
The destruction of the Rainbow Bridge when it was shattered by Mangog was a big blow to Thor, preventing Thor from traveling from realm to realm to try to stop Malekith any further. Malekith, however, has a dark version – the Black Bifrost – which allows him to go where he needs and wants to go.
What is Thor’s status as we approach the War of the Realms?
Following the Death of the Mighty Thor, he regained the mantle of Thor. Even without Mjolnir, he still has “replacement hammers,” Moss says, “and he’s living in a boat with his dog and his goat, and he’s trying to do what he can to stop Malekith. But with the Rainbow Bridge shattered he’s severely limited.”
What about Jane Foster’s role?
Moss was tight-lipped, but revealed that “there are three cool things about Jane in this story and I don’t want to spoil any of them. But she gets a lot of cool moments, for sure.”
What other members of Thor’s family will we see?
Thor’s family also still plays a role, beyond Odin. Thor’s mother, Freya, and Cul Borson, Odin’s brother, both have important roles in War of the Realms. “Cul has a really cool thread of his own and Jason will be exploring that in one of the Thor tie-in issues for this series. And Freya is really one of the main characters for War of the Realms in general. This story just makes you totally bow down to the All-Mother. She’s awesome in this story, and she does a ton of action and she has a cool journey too in this.”
Thor’s sister Angela, currently with the Asgardians of the Galaxy, will also be seen on the battlefront.
What do we need to read before War of the Realms?
One of the most pressing questions during the buildup to a big comic event is “Have I done the reading?” Here’s the great news: You can jump in any time! But if you want some background information and see what was happening in the Marvel Universe to lead up to the War of the Realms, here are some issues you can check out:
- THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #1-25
- LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #1-5
- ORIGINAL SIN (Event)
- ORIGINAL SIN: THOR AND LOKI: THE TENTH REALM #1-5
- THOR #1-5 (2014)
- ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #1-6
- LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD #6-11
- SECRET WARS
- MIGHTY THOR #1-18 (2015)
- UNWORTHY THOR #1-5
- MIGHTY THOR #19-23 (2015)
- GENERATIONS: THE UNWORTHY THOR & THE MIGHTY THOR #1
- MIGHTY THOR #700-706: AT THE GATES OF VALHALLA
- MARVEL LEGACY
- THOR (2018)
But remember -- the big event has yet to begin! Stay tuned to Marvel.com for more about War of the Realms, coming this April!
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