Most of Marvel’s crossover events have a tendency to start strong and then steadily lose momentum and focus over time. War of the realms has been far different. For most of its run, this miniseries has fallen well short of the (admittedly high) standard set by Jason Aaron’s Thor run. Too much empty spectacle and too little emphasis on the core Thor cast. But that changes in a big way in the final issue. War of the Realms #6 is a terrific finish to a previously underwhelming Thor tale.It’s not difficult to spot the difference between issue #6 and the previous chapters. Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman keep the majority of this issue focused squarely on Thor and his fellow hammer-wielders – King Thor, Young Thor and even a re-empowered Jane Foster. The Avengers make small appearances here, but one the whole this issue is far more directed and focused than any chapter before it. That’s one big reason why the finale connects on such a deeper level.

But even more crucially, this emphasis on the past, present and future incarnations of Thor helps tie War of the Realms more firmly to Aaron’s larger saga. It very directly invokes the events of the original God Butcher storyline. It highlights just how far the Odinson has come in the six years since. Several scenes serve as a poignant reminder that Thor is much closer, both physically and emotionally, to becoming the King Thor of the far future than when this saga began. And this issue also reflects on the most fundamental theme of Aaron’s Thor work – what is it that makes a god worthy? Can Thor ever recover what he lost and truly become worthy again? This issue brings Aaron’s run full circle in that regard, meditating on how it’s the struggle itself that determines worthiness.

Dauterman’s art, especially enhanced by Matthew Wilson’s colors, has been the one consistently great element of War of the Realms. That doesn’t change in this finale. Dauterman captures the full, sweeping scope of this story as the Thors make their final stand against a symbiote-empowered Malekith (definitely one of the cooler character designs of the series). At the same time, the more intimate approach really allows Dauterman to hone in one the emotional core of the conflict. Thor’s internal struggle is conveyed clearly and beautifully under Dauterman’s skilled hand.

All the Creators Joining Forces for Marvel Comics #1000

As much as this issue captures so much of what has made Aaron’s run one of the all-time greats, there are a few points of frustration remaining. For all that War of the Realms was made out to be a massive, realm-changing conflict, there’s not actually much in the way of tangible changes to the Marvel Universe. Thor himself is certainly changed, but the larger Marvel Universe isn’t. The way the various Avengers so easily brush off the dust of battle and resume their lives speaks to how straightforward a battle between good and evil this story has been. Worse, another big development from an earlier chapter is quickly undone in the closing pages. It all speaks to the notion that War of the Realms works as a Thor-centric story, not an Avengers story, and it probably should never have grown as massive as it became.



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