It took years of Thor stories for Jason Aaron to get to War of the Realms, and when he finally did, Marvel editorial knew it was too big to be confined to a single title. Hence, 2019’s expansive summer crossover was cemented, and man, did it spread across the publishing line like Malekith’s Dark Elf army across the galaxy.
Like any giant crossover, tie-ins weren’t confined to just existing titles. There were plenty of dedicated mini-series and one-shots, including three loosely related Strikeforce issues that each followed a separate team of “Avengers” as they tried to fulfill a particular mission. War of the Realms: Strikeforce collects these stories, dubbed The Dark Elf Realm, The Land of the Giants, and The War Avengers.
While it may not be readily apparent if you’re not reading the main event, these issues are fairly instrumental to the unfolding of War of the Realms. Captain America is stretched pretty thin, so he’s tasked different heroes with different skills to take Malekith’s Black Bifrost, to rescue Thor, and to, well, hold the line and buy everyone else some time. At least one of these missions goes off the rails, which is nice to see. Not everything always lines up with the plan.
Though are they really heroes? Not only do we have Captains Marvel and Britain, but Punisher, Blade, Venom, and even Weapon H get thrown at the darker problems. It seems uncharacteristic, but it really does show that this is not another petty superhero squabble or a supervillain ransom scheme — this is a war for humanity’s very survival, and you’ve gotta put a bullet in every chamber you can.
And Marvel really emptied the clip on the talent for Strikeforce. Bryan Hill writes Dark Elf Realm, which sees Freyja test She-Hulk, Punisher, Blade, and Ghost Rider before they help her bring out her own darkness. Hill gets a little goofy with the dialogue, and you keep waiting for the real fight to start before you realize this is setting it up for War of the Realms proper. Once you accept that, it works, and Leinil Francis Yu brings his usual gravitas on the pencils, complemented perfectly by Matt Hollingsworth’s muted color palette.
The Land of the Giants is the closest thing to a dud in the group, as Tom Taylor sends Spider-Man, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Wolverine, forced jokes and all, to retrieve Thor from Jotunheim. It’s not a bad story, but the Pegasus subplot is kind of weird, and jeez, did we need to see horses get shot with enormous Frost Giant arrows? Jorge Molina’s realistic art, with David Curiel’s bright colors, is at times breathtaking in this issue, but a little off-putting in that case.
Strikeforce saves the best for last, as possible Marvel utility player MVP Dennis “Hopeless” Hallum trots Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Lady Sif, Weapon H, Venom, and Deadpool all over the globe to put out fires and slow down Malekith’s forces as much as they can, in The War Avengers. Hallum captures Deadpool’s voice well, and we feel the whole team’s desire to be more than pawns in this game, and the despair of unintended consequences after trying. Artists Kim Jacinto and Ario Anindito struggle to keep a consistent tone at times, likewise with colorists Java Tartaglia and Felipe Sobreiro, but the facial expressions and action scenes accomplish their goals more often than not.
War of the Realms: Strikeforce is the right kind of event tie-in, one that fleshes out somewhat minor plot beats from the main story for those readers who want to dig a little deeper, while giving creators room to play. This one’s unusual in that even A-list artists showed up to put their stamp on things. Ultimately inessential, but probably worth the read if you’ve immersed yourself in all things Asgardian this season.