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‘Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: War of the Realms’ review: could not avoid the tie-in, for better or worse

Does the second and final volume of this title get a fitting ending?

With a name like Asgardians of the Galaxy, was there any doubt that Cullen Bunn’s quirky title would end up tying into Jason Aaron’s line-spanning, epic event, War of the Realms? Probably not, so the remaining questions would be the usual ones:  How will tying in affect the previous story’s progression? Will it make sense if you aren’t reading the main event? Will this struggling book get enough of a sales bump to continue on a little while longer?

Sadly, it would seem there aren’t positive responses to any of those. The first volume of Asgardians was good, old school fun with a modern twist. Yes, I praised it for taking advantage of Marvel continuity, but the references it made were largely in passing, and didn’t require other purchases to have an idea what was going on. I’m not prima facie against event tie-ins, but they’re tricky things to pull off, requiring the right balance when serving potentially separate audiences.

The first two issues of Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: War of the Realms actually precede the crossover, tying up (but not really) the loose ends from that first story. We’re on the search for team leader Angela’s ex-girlfriend, Sera, as we get dumped onto a mystery planet, where we meet some familiar and not-so-familiar faces, with little explanation of who they are or why they’re there.

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Which, of course, leads to a big misunderstanding brawl before both sides reconcile to take on the larger REAL threat, which in this case is right beneath their feet. And then Kid Loki, one of the main characters in the first book, winks out of existence and is not seen again for the duration. There’s some language about something outliving its usefulness, but it’s a strange creative decision if it wasn’t due to the crossover, and a damn shame if it did have to happen for that reason.

Matteo Buffagni draws these two issues, with help from Sefano Landini on #7, and his style is a departure from the spacey realism of Asgardians‘ original artist, Matteo Lolli. The lines aren’t as crisp and the facial features are stylized, which might be fine in a vacuum, but it’s a jarring disconnect with what’s come before.

The next three issues bring the Asgardians to Earth for War of the Realms proper. I’ll be honest, if you’re not reading the main story, you may not know what the Hel is going on. There’s little connection to the previous volume of Asgardians of the Galaxy, until the Naglfar beacon makes its return. Is this the use the MacGuffin was always intended for? It’s hard to imagine it was.

Valkyrie is killed midway through, a major plot point in War of the Realms, leaving her dimension-crossed counterpart, Annabelle Riggs, to soldier on with a Nova helmet but without her other half. This leaves the team to a lineup of her, Angela, Skurge, the young Thunderstrike, Throg, a dwarf they met in space, and Riggs girlfriend, who … has blades extending from her gloves? Did we know about that before? It seems like it’s out of nowhere, much like a lot in this book, and after a lot of punching and demons, it’s all over.

Oh, and the Punisher is here, too. Who would’ve thought he’d have been the breakout role in War of the Realms?

Image credit: Marvel Comics

Lolli returns to draw issue #8, with Stefano Landini on #7, Paolo Villanelli on #9 and Luca Maresca on #10. Needless to say, that kind of bouncing around hurts the consistency and overall cohesion of the book. Even Lolli seems to have lost some of his touch from the fist volume, and the others look more similar to Buffagni, so we get the same disconnect for a second time. The only thing holding everything together are Federico Blee’s colors, which are characteristically bright and kind of washed out.

Ongoing titles sometimes get a raw deal from event tie-ins, and Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: War of the Realms suffers more than most. It’s pretty clearly not the story Bunn wanted to tell, and it’s apparent he had to cram in all his payoffs in limited space, as this was indeed the end of the book. The event comic sales bump couldn’t save it, leaving the narrative rushed and the ending somewhat confusing and anticlimactic. A sad fate for something that started out so well, verily.

Asgardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: War of the Realms
Is it good?
It's a cluttered, disappointing way to end a book that had promise. Poor sales and an inconsistent creative team conspire to bring this one down.
Closure (I guess?)
A brief glimpse of Matteo Lolli
Little cohesion, with characters introduced and written out quickly
Inconsistent art team

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