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Jack Fisher’s Weekly Quick Pick Comic: War Of The Realms #4

Once a week, the benevolent lords of the comic book world and the corporations they serve grace us with a new stack of comics. At a time when only the headlines of The Onion don’t make you cringe, this world needs the joy they offer. As such, I make it a point to single out one comic from that stack that offers the most value for the joy it conveys.

Some comics succeed by focusing on character development, as is often the case in most X-Men comics. Some succeed by subverting or stretching common superhero tropes, as we often see in comics like Kick-Ass, Invincible, or The Punisher. However, a book need not be overly creative to qualify as an awesome comic. It just needs to take everything we love and turn the volume up to 11.

That’s exactly what “War Of The Realms #4” does and then some. It’s one of those books where you need only real the title to know the scope and scale of the story within. This is not just superheroes in flashy costumes battling killer robots on the streets of a big city. This is a war that spans multiple realms involving gods, demigods, evil elves, and frost giants. If you can’t be entertained by that, then you’re just being difficult.

That said, “War Of The Realms #4” is not just several dozen pages of flashy action scenes. There have been plenty of those moments since this event began, but the action was mostly a means of conveying the sheer breadth of this war. Now, the writer of this Marvel main event, Jason Aaron, has raised the stakes even more by making it personal and turning the tide of the battle.

While you don’t have to know too much about the mythos surrounding Asgard and the 10 realms, it certainly helps in this case. Even if you’ve only seen “Thor: The Dark World,” you’ll have enough insight to know why this war is so massive. Malekith the Accursed might have been an afterthought in that movie, but make no mistake. He’s a devious, scheming, evil badass that requires a fully assembled team of Avengers to combat.

For the past three issues, Malekith and forces that include Frost Giants, Angels, Fire Demons, and Dark Elves have led a massive invasion of Earth. It’s not just in New York City, either. Malekith has bigger ambitions than simply disrupting traffic on Broadway. His forces hit every continent.

To this point, there has been no stopping him. Despite the Avengers fighting back on every front, teaming up with the likes of Spider-Man, Blade, Wolverine, Daredevil, Punisher, and Ghost Rider, it still isn’t enough. They still find themselves pushed back, beleaguered, and overwhelmed.

As a result, there have been casualties in this war. Some have already hit certain characters harder than others. Thor, the one usually tasked with beating the unholy shit out of Malekith before he can launch an invasion, is effectively subdued before he hammer back the threat. It is, by far, the most successful attack Malekith has ever launched against his Asgardian nemesis.

That means winning the war won’t come from Thor swinging his hammer around and hitting anything that looks like an evil elf. The Avengers and heroes from across the Marvel landscape have to join in the battle. They’ve managed to fight back, if only to keep the battle going. However, they haven’t made much progress in terms of ending it.

That changes in “War Of The Realms #4” and in some incredibly satisfying ways. Aaron, with the help of the divine artwork of Russel Dauterman, shifts the course of the battle by giving Odin and Freyja an overdue moment that has been years in the making. It’s a moment that marks an emotional high point for this event and for Thor’s overall story.

For the past several years, some of Thor’s biggest battles involve his parents. Odin and Freyja may have come off as only somewhat overbearing in the movies, but things are far more dysfunctional in the comics. There have been times when they’ve actively opposed one another. At one point, Odin even fought Jane Foster when she was wielding Thor’s hammer.

He is a divine blow-hard who most fluent language is arrogance. Freyja has managed to temper his tendencies in the past, but those moments have become few and far between. For a while, they were the godly equivalent of a married couple attempting a trial separation and making everything worse. They still see each other as husband and wife, but it seems like a formality at this point.

Finally, they share a moment in “War Of The Realms #4” that affirms why they got married in the first place. It’s a moment that will likely define the course of this realm-spanning war and have major implications for Thor, Asgard, the Avengers, and every other creature that has tasted an Uru hammer.

I won’t spoil the details of that moment. I’ll just say that it’s a culmination that has been in the works since before the war began. Every big battle, whether it’s in a comic book, a movie, or a TV show with a massive budget, needs a moment like that to give the conflict some emotional weight. That weight has been somewhat lacking since this event began, but “War Of The Realms #4” delivers in a way that feels satisfying and thrilling.

There are other moments in between. Aaron never lets the plot become too chaotic and Dauterman makes sure there’s always a spectacle to admire. Many characters manage to shine through the fog of war, including Ghost Rider, the Punisher, and Jane Foster.

It’s still a big, flashy war featuring superheroes, gods, and monsters from every corner of the Marvel universe. It has all the flashy style to make this realm-spanning war feel like a major event, but “War Of The Realms #4” gives it the necessary substance to give it weight.

It has spectacle, drama, action, and adventure. It also has gods, demigods, superheroes, and evil armies that can overrun continents. What more could you want from a comic book?

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Emma Frost: The Future Of Female Villains?

Not long ago, I dedicated several posts to the defining traits of villains and why Walter White was such a game-changer, beyond getting Bryan Cranston more Emmys than he’ll ever need. I could’ve done many more posts because quality villains are every bit as integral to any story as a quality hero. Just look at Batman’s rogues gallery, and the number of cos-players that dress as them, for proof of that.

In these discussions, I kept things fairly general and if I did, I singled out a specific character like Walter White or Magneto. Well, recent events and ongoing trends have inspired me to re-address the issue of villains from a different angle. Specifically, I’d like to talk a bit about female villains.

Quickly, take a moment and recall your favorite female villain of all time. Chances are it’ll take you a moment and not just because a great many female villains made us both scared and horny at the same time. It may also be difficult because some female villains don’t exactly carry themselves as villains. Catwoman may be a thief, a deceiver, and the subject of one of the worst comic book movies of all time, but she’s not an outright villain.

Female villains are one of those difficult concepts to flesh out and not just because men can’t resist turning female villains into sexy anti-heroes, some more egregiously than others. It’s just one of those elements that either gets under-used or overlooked.

Well, as is often the case with the ever-changing/insanely-erratic tastes of pop culture, that may be changing. At a time when a new generation of strong female characters, badass female superheroes, and women who just do more than give the male characters something to obsess over, it was only a matter of time before female villains caught up.

Now I generally suck at making predictions. I’m the same guy who was convinced that Cleveland Cavaliers would never win the NBA championship last year. I’m not proud of the things I had to do for the bets I made on that game, but it does show that everybody, including aspiring erotica/romance writers, can be dead wrong. With this, however, it’s not just a prediction. It’s based, in part, on an observation.

As most regular readers of this blog already knew, I love comic books and superheros. Specifically, I have a special affinity for X-men comics. So it should come as no surprise that I follow the events of the X-men comics very closely. Well, this past week, something pretty damn major happened in the X-men comics and it has to do with this woman.

Her name is Emma Frost. Trust me, she’s even sexier than her fan art would imply. She’s a prominent character in the X-men comics and has had numerous roles throughout the series for over 30 years now.

At times, she’s been a devious villainous vixen. At others, she’s been a cunning heroic vixen. In every role she’s in, she generally makes it a point to be sexy as hell. She doesn’t mind getting naked, she doesn’t mind having sex, she doesn’t give half-a-tortoise fart about what anyone things. In short, she’s a perfect blend of Regina George and Wonder Woman.

Now Emma Frost is somewhat unique in that she’s had so many roles, but she’s never defined herself completely as a hero or villain. She hasn’t even been an anti-hero. If you were to do the villain’s journey test I laid out in a previous post, she wouldn’t complete it, but she would come pretty damn close.

The same goes for the hero’s journey. She would check some boxes, but not all. She’d just look a million times sexier than anyone else on that journey.

Why is this important? Well, in a major X-men crossover event that just concluded recently, Emma’s role changed again. After a clash between the X-men and the Inhumans, one Marvel built up over the course of two years, Emma crossed a line that effectively sealed a new fate for her. She’s a villain now. However, she’s a very different kind of villain.

What do I mean by that? Why is that even relevant? Well, to answer that, think back to what I said about listing your favorite female villains. Go back to that list again. Exactly how many of those villains are refined, well-rounded, complex characters? Chances are your list will shrink considerably or outright disappear.

That’s because female villains have a history of being annoyingly flat. Going all the way back to the Wicked Witch of the West, they rarely had many compelling traits. Most of the time, they were just evil witches or devious vixens. Basically, just think of every evil female character in a James Bond movie. That’s the extent of the depth female villains usually get.

This is what makes the development with Emma Frost so intriguing. Emma Frost isn’t like Pussy Galore or the Wicked Witch of the West and not just because she looks better in a thong. As a character, she has a rich history. She even had her own comic series at one point. She has various layers as well. She’s not just out to be a total bitch and look good doing it, although she does make it look pretty damn easy.

Emma Frost has real, genuine motivations. They’re not always pure either. For a time, she was a stripper who didn’t mind using her sexuality to get ahead in the Hellfire Club, who have been major X-men villains for many years. When she was a teacher, she watched many of her students die in an attack that she had no chance to stop.

However, she has never been one to play the part of a victim. She never uses tragedy or excuses to justify her actions. She does what she thinks needs to be done and anyone who disagrees with her can just kiss her perfectly shaped ass. Hell, she could probably charge for that and it would be worth every penny.

The recent events in the X-men comics pushed her to extreme actions and for good reason. As part of the story that set up the clash between the X-men and the Inhumans, she lost someone near and dear to her. Cyclops, a character she had been romantically involved with, died in her arms. It affected her profoundly, which is saying a lot for someone who killed her own sister.

That effect leads her to do more than just lead a conflict. They put her in a position to become a hardened, but complex villain, both to the X-men and anyone else who generally pisses her off.

Her timing really couldn’t be better. Just as everyone from Disney Princesses to Taylor Swift prove that there’s a market for strong female personalities, she’s entering a domain that’s ripe for new energy. Emma Frost could very well be the first of a new push for better female villains to go along with the female heroes that every comic company and movie studio is pushing these days.

I feel like this is a trend that needs to happen. Women can kick ass as heroes. That much they’ve proven. Why not show they can do the same as villains? Emma Frost is unique in that she has the kind of complexity that allows her to be a hero when she needs to be and a villain when she wants to be. I believe there will be a market for that kind of complexity.

Sure, some parents would still prefer that their daughters dress up as Disney princesses rather than Emma Frost, if only to avoid any Honey Boo Boo comparisons, but having strong female villains still does something important. It adds balance to the greater narrative between heroes and villains as a whole.

Now I’m somewhat guilty myself of not fleshing out female villains. In my book, “The Escort and the Gigolo,” the main villain was a woman named Madam Felicity. While I did make an effort to give her some complexity, I admit she’s not more ground-breaking than a James Bond villain with boobs.

I’d like to change that in future novels. I just hope that by then, Emma Frost will have set the bar and set it high. As any X-men fan will tell you, Emma never does anything haphazardly. If she’s going to usher in a new wave of strong female villains, then she’s going to make damn sure she’s the best and looks damn sexy while doing that. For that, she’ll always have a special place in the hearts and pants of X-men fans everywhere.

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