War of the Realms: Week Five

As promised, before running down the three War of the Realms reads for week five, here’s a continuation of my tribute to the dearly departed Brunnhilde — Odin’s favorite, first among the Valkyries, and first in my heart… 😢

Last week we looked at my five favorite Val covers from the seventies through the present, singling out only standard cover designs (or, as we called them before the variant era, “covers”). When Brunnhilde was restored in the pages of Busiek and Larsen’s wonderful 2001 Defenders series, she received what is, in all likelihood, her first variant showcase courtesy of Arthur Adams. It’s a good one. But it didn’t quite make the cut of top 5 variants. Surprisingly, we had a lot to choose from. In chronological order:

Secret Avengers #4 (2010)
Variant cover by Chris Bachalo

I’m never a fan of those line-wide trade dress frames, even when they’re composed of nothing but the beautiful Women of Marvel. They invariably take away from the art, as this one threatens to do to Chris Bachalo’s dope ass Valkyrie swinging a giant ass Dragonfang. Love this. And the Secret Avengers book, like the aforementioned Defenders vol. 2, is a sorely underrated, kooky gem.

Secret Avengers #6 (2010)
Variant cover by Marko Djurdjević

Case in point. Check out how much cleaner another Women of Marvel variant is, two issues later, this time by Djurdjević. By the 2010’s, Val’s costume had undergone a few minor changes here and there, which of course is totally common for superheroes and their ilk. But bless you, Marko, for reminding us of the best part of that original John Buscema character design — those sweet straps criss-crossing Val’s calves above those totally impractical black ballet slippers. Sure, the fur-lined Viking boots make more sense, but when is logic ever welcome in fantasy costume creation?

Fear Itself: The Fearless #7 (2011)
Variant cover by Frank Cho

Frank Cho has a special knack for certain characters. While his gorgeous pin-up style was more often employed with the Ultimate universe’s version of Valkyrie, he did show off that certain set of skills on the 616’s Brunnhilde for this variant of The Fearless. The series itself, like much of the Fear Itself event, is forgettable. But hard to forget a pose like that.

Fearless Defenders #1 (2013)
Variant cover by Milo Manara

Following a sexy X-Women collaboration with Chris Claremont, Italian erotic comics legend Milo Manara did a number of variant covers for Marvel in 2013. Following a touch of controversy surrounding his (in)famous Spider-Woman cover, Marvel discontinued plans for future work. Luckily, he knocked out this fantastic cover for the otherwise shitty Fearless Defenders series first.

War of the Realms #2 (2019)
Variant cover by Javier Garrón‏

Garrón, a Spanish artist and 2019 “Young Gun,” got my attention on Matt Rosenberg’s Secret Warriors, but he really blew me away on Mark Waid’s Ant-Man & Wasp mini. Now he’s killing it on Saladin Ahmed’s Miles Morales book and he got tabbed to design one of the variant covers for last month’s War of the Realms #2, that fateful issue in which Brunnhilde was so rudely removed from the playing field. It’s a great tribute to Marvel’s valkyrior in general, with a vibrant focus on our favorite Val. Check out his Blogspot for some sketch studies that went into the cover art.

Now, back to our weekly War of the Realms rundown. Three books this week including the third issue of the main series.

Book three of Aaron, Dauterman, and colorist Matt Wilson’s magnificent magical melee is chief among this week’s offerings. New York has been surrendered to Malekith’s forces and our world’s heroes are scrambling to put various strike teams into action. Among those teams is a badass boots-on-the-street brigade marching into Jotunheim to find Thor. Even if Jason Aaron still doesn’t have a voice for Spider-Man, this comic is obviously essential.

Speaking of those strike teams, the very well-crafted and perfectly timed (a kudo not to be taken lightly; remember how fucked up the releases were for Civil War 2? That wasn’t that long ago!) War of the Realms Strikeforce: The Dark-Elf Realm #1, by Bryan Hill and Leinil Yu, zeroes in on one of the key plot events from this week’s main book. The one-shot gets deeper into Freja’s team’s assault on the black bifrost and offers a splendid showcase on some of the angriest heroes in Marvel’s stable. It also provides even more exposure for the surprisingly ubiquitous Frank Castle. Highly recommended, but read War of the Realms #3 first.

I’m a fan of what Jim Zub has been doing on Champions of late. In particular the deal-with-the-devil intrigue and resulting team drama reminds me of Claremont & Byrne Uncanny X-Men. The actual tie-in to the War of the Realms in Champions #5 is tangential, and casual readers will likely be confused by what has been transpiring in previous issues, and very confused by Scott Summers’s connection. But if this gets you to read more of Zub and Izaakse’s run, then I think it’s worth it. Somewhat recommended, but just as easily skippable.

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