The first half of Realm War: Age of Darkness was packed with a hell of a lot of action. Writer Joe Brusha devoted a lot of time to fleshing out the post-Grimm Fairy Tales #100 world, one in which the bad guys won and took over the realms, even as the heroes rose up again to fight them, to reclaim their individual worlds. And things have certainly been downhill for them for most of the way. It was a rather classical approach, and it worked out well for me, for Brusha presented lots of fun mysteries and relationships, even as artists Sami Kivela and Maxflan Araujo went to town on the illustrations and all the cool action sequences and what have you.
But, Realm War #7 marks a turning point in that we move into the second half of this epic crossover, and the good guys are now starting to make some real headway. Despite all the adversity, all the losses and the betrayals, it looks like the good guys finally have a real chance of stopping the Dark Queen (retrospectively we know already that they win, courtesy of the other titles from the publisher, namely Grimm Fairy Tales itself). Issues 7 through 9 are full of more epic action, more character moments, etc, and it is the ninth issue that finally gets the ball really rolling, as the heroes strike out for a major blow against the villains, a definitive one in fact.
Loss is something that Brusha has covered very well in this series. Loss of home. Loss of friends. Loss of family. Loss of self-certainty. Loss of identity. Loss of respect. There is so much to unpack here, and every month he presents something different with this. Well, starting from the seventh issue, we see a lot of the dominoes he has propped up in the story start to fall. He’s been holding a lot of cards to his chest, keeping some of the sub-arcs mysterious and secretive, and with the seventh issue he starts to unravel all of it. And it all starts with the death of three more heroes, the betrayal of another, and the seemingly-permanent ascendancy of the Dark Queen beginning to crumble.
The entire story here is all about how Lucinda the Dark Queen is maintaining her hold over Earth, or rather, Earth as it is now after the fall of the realms with parts of these realms now having merged with Earth in a bizarre confluence. The heroes all hate her of course, but there are also those among her employ who hate her as much. Or at least have cause to have become disillusioned with her, those such as Malec the Dark Lord himself, her husband. And so, even as Sela and Britney and Agent Ciamp and others head off to Area 51 to find some weapons to use against Lucinda’s army of monsters, we have a really cool resolution of Malec’s schemes against Lucinda.
And all of it involves betrayals. A hell of a lot of betrayals. Enough to make you really wonder just how Brusha has managed to keep it all straight for so far, because it all gets grander and grander with every issue. And there’s some… brutality to all of it too, because the betrayals also involve some violent deaths. Such as when Andre fights Shang on Lucinda’s orders. Or when Malec has to face up for his schemes and plots. Or Sela and Britney holding off Robyn and others of Lucinda’s vast army, turning Area 51 into a battlefield. Super good stuff.
The artist here is Sami Kivela, with Maxflan Araujo on colours, and Jim Campbell on the letters (Christy Sawyer for letters on #7). The cover for #7 is by Paolo Pantalena and Ula Mos, for #8 is by Jarreau Wimberly, and for #9 is by Pasquale Qualano and Victor Bartlett. The art in all three issues is good, as usual. Malec in his human guise stands out of course, all charming and suave and manipulative. The action scenes have good choreography and setting, with a really good mix of characters for each sequence. And the light character moments, such as that between Malec’s top lieutenant Orcus and his love, Syvla. So much awesome here.
Just two more issues and then the big finale after those!