Chaos War opens with a bit of minor confusion regarding the heavenly heroes. That's all right though. Balder the Brave is the latch-on character. He's the figure most readers encountered before. So, although you may not know the Japanese lady standing with him, Balder's presence is a kind of comfort food. Though the exact jargon may be alien to you, the intent is clear. The Council of Godheads, whatever that is, intends to hide themselves from the Chaos King in order to protect the realms of Heaven.
Meanwhile, Hercules' team assaults the dead heroes and gods of the underworld. The Chaos King scores a victory with a sacrifice and the true puppeteer of events reveals himself. Hint, it's not the Puppet Master.
Serving on Hercules' team, Venus engenders comedy and strategy. All fall victim to her siren song including, in a superb moment, Thor and Amadeus Cho. Venus' powers are as stupidly impressive as those of Dazzler. Some may consider these characters jokes, but Dazzler can turn sound into lasers. Venus can pacify the Hulk. Game over? Hardly. Whereas normally Venus would have been able to cow even the most enraged foe, she cannot overcome the Chaos King completely. What she does is tap into the souls of the dead gods and that makes Greg Pak's and Fred Van Lente's battle more energetic than the usual fisticuffs.
As Khoi Pham, Tom Palmer, and Sunny Gho spread an invigorating melee across the panels, the dialogue creates a disconnected feeling. Only the bodies are the Chaos King's pawns. Zeus, Ares, and the others converse with their sons and brothers. So, the reader can actually enjoy the characterization on display as the fight against essential zombies goes on.
Over the years, readers have orchestrated super-hero death matches. Who would win in a fight? Superman or Wolverine, Batman or Doctor Doom, et cetera. Chaos War feeds into that somewhat by pitting gods against gods. Who will win? The Norse or the Greek. Well, Galactus rules. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee rule.
The fight itself is entertaining, but it also serves as a clever sleight of hand that ties into the opening. The battle is merely a ruse and exemplifies how the Chaos King is no mean foe. This sucker isn't another Venom, Carnage, or Norman Osborn. This beastie demonstrates devastating intelligence.
The engagement takes on greater import, and the creative team craft conversation and art suitable for the gods at war. However, make no mistake, Chaos War is not another War of the Gods. This mini-series differs strongly from the mediocre Big Stupid Event. While there are lives at stake, Van Lente safeguards them smartly and transports the defense against the nightmarish invader to a higher plane. The immortal gods know each other, which leads to some witty banter, particularly from Sersi, that puts a lighter flourish to the drama. I didn't expect much from Chaos War, but it continues to deliver.
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