This week is the last stand of Midgard in Marvel's War of the Realms event. The Dark Elf Malekith has won big and killed many heroes along the way, so now Thor, Daredevil, Black Panther, and Earth's remaining forces have nowhere to go.
This week's War of the Realms #5 is the penultimate issue in Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson's sprawling event, and series editor Wil Moss had time to speak with Newsarama the series - both what happened recently, and what's to come.
Newsarama: War of the Realms #5 comes out this week, but I'm still reeling from the toll it's taking on Marvel heroes - and Thor's parents. Excuse me if I focus on that first but... Odin and Freyja?! How'd that come about?
Will Moss: Are you referring to the badass new looks they both sport this issue - Freyja as "Dark Freyja" when she takes control of the Black Bifrost and Odin as "The Iron All-Father" when he puts on the suit of armor that Tony Stark and Shuri built for him?
Or do you mean the way they managed to rekindle the romance in their marriage mid-battle?
Or, uh, do you mean them sacrificing their lives to destroy the Black Bifrost?
Regardless, I think the answer to all three is that Jason and Russell have spent a lot of time on and have a lot of love for Thor's parents, so they wanted to give them a correspondingly awesome presence in War of the Realms.
And I gotta say that, personally, I think Freyja's the hero of the whole dang war. She's been fighting Dark Elves from the very beginning of the invasion, she's taken responsibility for Asgard's part in all this, she's rallied Earth's heroes together, she's organized two strikeforce missions and lead one of them, and now she's made the ultimate sacrifice to shut down Malekith's most crucial asset. Pick up the slack, Warriors Three!
Nrama: War of the Realms has had several deaths here. What's the process like as a Marvel editor to get these kinds of major changes approved? Is it all hashed out during summits, or is there red tape, forms, meetings and more meetings?
Moss: Before we start the clearance process, we make sure any proposed deaths are key to the story and aren’t just done for shock value. From there, the specifics of how deaths are cleared tends to vary from story to story, but generally they all involve making everyone in editorial aware of the plans so that you can see if anyone has any objections or different plans.
In the case of War of the Realms, all the big deaths were in Jason's original outline, so C.B. Cebulski, Tom Brevoort, and I gave the initial "go-ahead" on them, but then we fully cleared them with the rest of editorial and some of Marvel's writers at one of our creator summits when Jason pitched the overall story to the room.
Nrama On the good side here, Thor has a new arm - Destroyer's. That was teased awhile back in some imagery - how long have you, Jason and the gang been thinking about making this happen?
Moss: I mean, I'm pretty sure Jason's had it in mind ever since he introduced Old King Thor, who also has the Destroyer arm, back at the start of his run seven years ago. But it's been something we've concretely been building toward ever since Malekith lopped off Thor's arm back in 2014's Thor #1. The final piece fell into place, so to speak, when Mangog bit off the Destroyer's arm in Mighty Thor #703. Since then we've just been waiting for the time that Thor would need it -- cue Jotunheim Berserker Rage!
Nrama: The story continues this week with War of the Realms #5 - and Malekith has reinforcements, with the dead souls of Niffleheim. I hate to speak ill of the dead here, but will some of the dead Asgardians we've seen previously be coming back in this new wave of madness?
Moss: Yes, but not in the way that you think...
Nrama: That's ominious.
Moss: And hey, for even more frozen undead warriors of Niffleheim, check out June’s Captain Marvel #6 and #7, as well as Champions #6, the latter of which includes the return of the Dísir, the "Valkyries gone bad" from Kieron Gillen's time in Asgard!
Nrama: Black Panther has low key been placed as a real focal point of this series. I remember Jason's brief Black Panther run years ago and his work on Avengers now, but how would you describe T'Challa - and Wakanda's - place in things here?
Moss: Wakanda's the most technologically advanced country on Earth, and the Avengers are Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and T'Challa leads them both. So T'Challa's head is always heavy, but never more so than during this war. But he's of course a very good strategist, so in addition to his Avengers teammates, T'Challa also wisely calls upon his various allies -- the Agents of Wakanda (look for a Broo cameo in War of the Realms #5!), Shuri (now the world knows she's vegan!), Okoye (wait till you see the group of heroes she leads into battle in War of the Realms #5!), and even the Dora Milaje, who have separated from T'Challa recently but have left the Jabari-Lands to come join the fight, as we saw in War of the Realms #3.
Nrama: Due to the nature of solicits, we already know some of what's to come in the finale: "unexpected allies ... that will shake the heavens" and Malekith having something with "a VENOMOUS bite". For the first one, can you say if that is indeed Angela - seeing as how she's from Heven?
Moss: Angela is indeed in War of the Realms #6, but for her big moment during this war - a moment that's been coming ever since we learned her true origin in Original Sin: Thor & Loki -- don't miss Asgardians of the Galaxy #10. And Angela plays a central role in a big new series spinning out of War of the Realms that we haven't announced yet (but soon will be!).
Nrama: And on the "venomous" side of things, Donny Cates has said Venom's involvement here is something he will be working more with on his books. What can you say story-wise, and meta wise, about Venom and Cates upcoming work in relation to War of the Realms and Thor?
Moss: With Thor back on Earth and the Black Bifrost destroyed, the heroes actually are starting to turn the tide as we head into War of the Realms #5 and #6. But the symbiote is Malekith's last ace up his sleeve. He's had it since War of the Realms #3, but it's only in War of the Realms #6 that you'll see the full scope of the chaos he's able to cause with it. And there's a direct thread from War of the Realms to Absolute Carnage, as you'll see in War of the Realms #6.
Nrama: Let's take stock - four issues are out, two more to go. All on time, all by the same creative team. For as many moving parts event comics can be, War of the Realms has been seamless from an artistic and scheduling perspective. If I remember right, the team had four or five issues done before #1 even came out. What kind of mountains did you have to move to make that happen?
Moss: I don't mean to undersell the amount of work that running this event has been -- because it has been a lot of work (all of which, by the way, I've done hand-in-Destroyer hand with War of the Realms associate editor Sarah Brunstad, the true hero of this war - well, her and Thori) -- but because Jason has known all the beats of his Thor run for a while now (including the events of War of the Realms) and because "The Death of the Mighty Thor" was such a logical place for Russell to stop drawing the main Thor series, Jason was able to start writing War of the Realms and Russell was able to start drawing it well in advance.
And we've all been working together on Thor/Mighty Thor for several years now, so we've got experience with the kind of work and planning that would be necessary to pull off a stretch of issues all drawn by Russell. We've never done this many before, and with a cast this large and with this many moving pieces, granted, but all those epic, killer arcs on Thor and Mighty Thor - from "Who Holds the Hammer?" to "The Asgard/Shi'ar War" to "The Death of the Mighty Thor" - helped prep us for this event.
Nrama: And related to that, why do you think its so important to move those mountains and schedule things realistically to have a consistent schedule and consistent creative team when possible?
Moss: Everybody accepts that the nature of the industry today means you're going to have some fill-ins every now and then on ongoing series. They’re ongoing - it’s understandable. But on a finite event like this, I think it feels more like a unified story if it’s all by the same creative team. And especially on this story, where Russell has been such an integral part to so much of Jason’s overall Thor story, it just wouldn’t feel right for anyone but Russell to be the one to illustrate the whole war.
Nrama: Big picture, what are your goals as editor and a fan as this series builds to a finale?
Moss: Honestly, same goal as always: Help the creators tell the best possible version of their story. And this far into the game, that’s mostly about helping keep all the trains on schedule - we all know the destination, we just need to get there on time. And - knock on wood - we’re gonna!
Then there’s also the matter of simultaneously getting all the stories that are spinning out of War of the Realms up and running - from the new Jane Foster: Valkyrie and Loki series to the War of the Realms epilogues like War of the Realms: Omega #1 and Thor #15. But hey, that’s another interview, right??
Nrama: You read my mind. Lastly, any teases you can give fans to what's to come? I know you can only say so much....
Moss: I'll just say this: I think the last page of War of the Realms #5 is going to put a big smile on the faces of a lot of Thor fans - just in time for Jason, Russell and Matt to melt those faces off with the craziest final battle you've ever seen in War of the Realms #6!!!