Marvel Comics’ latest event, “War of the Realms,” places Thor in center stage – and here’s everything you need to know ahead of the event. Writer Jason Aaron has become one of the most important figures in Marvel Comics. He took charge of the Thor comics back in 2012, and launched a popular arc that’s transformed the Thor mythology. But everything has been building up to “War of the Realms.”
At first glance, that may make this particular event seem daunting for new readers; fortunately Aaron is a skilled writer, and he’s always mindful of the fact that every comic could be a reader’s first. Meanwhile, Marvel has a habit of publishing brief recaps and roll-call pages at the beginning of their books, which really help new readers to jump right in. For all that’s the case, though, there are lots of nuances that are easy to miss.
Given that’s the case, here’s a primer on everything you need to know ahead of War of the Realms #1.
War Rages Across The Ten Realms
In the Marvel Comics Universe, there are ten distinct “Realms” – mysterious worlds, or planes of reality, that are linked across the branches of Yggdrasill, the World Tree. Film fans will be familiar with this idea, which was a major part of the Convergence in Thor: The Dark World, but in the comics there are ten Realms – not nine. These are:
- Asgard, home of the gods
- Niffleheim, which contains the Kingdom of the Dead, ruled by Hela
- Vanaheim, the original home of a race known as the Vanir
- Jotunheim, land of the Frost Giants
- Muspelheim, the fiery Realm of Surtur
- Alfheim, home of the Light Elves
- Svartalfheim, the Realm of Malekith and the Dark Elves
- Nidavellir, where the Dwarves live
- Heven, the land of the Angels
- Midgard: The Asgardian name for Earth
Heven is a recent addition to Marvel Comics lore, introduced by Aaron during his run. The Angels of Heven launched an attack upon ancient Asgard, capturing Odin’s daughter Angela and taking her hostage. In retaliation, omnipotent Odin cut Heven off from the World Tree, and erased all memory of their existence from the Nine Realms. They became the subject of legend, until the Avengers caused a breach in reality that restored the link between Heven and the World Tree, and brought Thor’s sister Angela into play.
Aaron’s story has seen Malekith the Accursed rise to power, escaping from prison on Niffleheim and regaining control of the Dark Elves. Wily and dangerous, Malekith has forged alliances with other enemies of Asgard – ranging from the Enchantress to Laufey, King of the Frost Giants – and has declared war on any Realm which challenges his rule. The Gardens of the Light Elves are no more. In the Land of the Dwarves, the very mountains are burning. The gods of the Vanir lie trapped beneath their own temples. Even Hel itself has been ravaged. Malekith has emerged victorious at every step, overcome fearsome odds to become master of nine Realms – and now his eyes are set on Midgard.
Asgard Has Fallen
In a masterstroke, Malekith unleashed a primal force known as the Mangog upon Asgard itself. The Mangog draws its sustenance from the sense of injustice many have towards the gods, their frustration at being subject to their mercurial whims. It was more powerful than ever before, granted almost unstoppable might by the suffering of billions across the Realms. As a result, when it arrived on Asgard the Mangog ravaged the entire Realm. It killed countless of Asgard’s mightiest defenders, blinded Heimdall, and shattered the Bifrost. It would have even killed Odin himself if not for the intervention of Thor.
Led by Lady Freyja, Thor’s mother, Asgardian refugees have settled on Earth. Odin and Heimdall are the only two people who remain on Asgard; Heimdall keeps his watch, grieving for the loss of everything he has ever loved, while Odin has been drowning his sorrows in ale. Of late the All-Father has begun to face his own failures at last, though, actually calling in fellow alcoholic Tony Stark for advice. But will Odin’s recovery be too late?
Loki Is Playing Both Sides
Naturally, Loki has been making the most of the opportunities presented by Malekith’s rise to power. The Trickster God’s loyalties are divided; on the one hand, he has been consistently rejected by Asgard, and has seen the War of the Realms as an opportunity to gain the love of his father, Laufey. On the other, though, Loki truly does still love his All-Mother, Freyja. He’s struggling to navigate these conflicting desires, and is gradually realizing he’s placed himself in an impossible position. Unfortunately for Loki, his attempts to manipulate events have earned him the enmity of pretty much everyone in the Ten Realms.
Even Freyja doubts him, given he literally stabbed her in the back as part of his games, while Malekith has him targeted for death. Laufey, for his part, considers his son to be a waste of time and an insult to the entire Frost Giant race. It sure would be nice if he had his brother Thor on his side. But that’s where things get even worse…