Fear Makes The Serpent Bigger Than He Is
OverviewThere are very few monsters who warrant the fear we have of them, but giant Marvel mega events with a bajillion cross over tie ins that suck? Perhaps the fear involved in spending so much money only to be overwhelmed or disappointed is perfectly justified in this particular instance. So seeing as hardly anyone reviewed this issue, I thought I would attempt to look at all the parts of this first issue of the giant Marvel Fear Itself event blockbuster, that others might be overlooking, or perhaps not focusing as much attention on to. Additionally I would like to add, that I am not a big fan of Matt Fraction's writing. Not his Uncanny X-Men work, or his Thor work, and since I love those books, and characters, I am always quick to point out what I consider flaws in his approach to writing those books, and so it would have been very easy for me to have been disappointed with Fear Itself #1, and yet I was not. In fact I was pleasantly surprised. So here I stand ready to dive into and discuss why this has not only been my favorite Matt Fraction penned issue of the last 4 years, but my favorite big two event series starter issue, since Annihilation Wave.
Writing & PlotFraction's pace though out this issue is pretty slick, and I think it was well considered and executed. We have a larger than regular book, and we need those extra pages, as we have various subplots which weave together fairly seamlessly. We have a story centered on Steve Rogers, which helps convey to us the reader, that times in the regular Marvel 616 is pretty intense, irrespective of any actual substantial threat by a villain. Of course we all know this is to reflect that real life is kickings everybody's ass a bit. Economy, political tension, Rebecca Black, well Fraction gets this. Fear is a going to be a reoccurring theme, in multiple contexts here. Not all enemies will have a face to be punched. The riot has been deconstructed by others, but my understanding of the why and how, is that it was meant to be fairly ambiguous, rather than specific. Allowing the reader to project their own understanding I think is a smart move, it won't win any writing awards, but its not going to alienate or offend anyone. Plus it now acquires a timeless quality applicable in future years. My only criticism with this thread, is Steve's characterization. This is the same guy who lived before World War II right? He is surprised at how people deal with tough times? Felt a tiny bit forced. One of my favorite parts of this issue, one that I wish to draw focus to, would be the subplot centered on a few residents of Broxton, Oklahoma, the same area Asgard is at. We see a working man, who needs to pack up his home and family and move to another place I can't remember. I can't remember the guys name either, but the main point here is that he lost his job, and his house, and things... aren't doing so good for him. He is heading out to another town to live with his sister in law. Its a small moment, and we might not see this character ever again, but in a moment of foreshadowing, he warns a neighbor to lock up at night, things look like they might get out of hand. Later on in this issue we actually get to see his neighbor and son witness a fiery sight in the sky, before proceeding indoors and indeed locking their door. I liked this moment, reminds us that yes, this will be an epic, but any destruction that might occur, well, there is a very human side to this story.
We also have two other subplots at work here which other reviews have covered rather elaborately. We have the rise of Sin, the rise of Red Skull, the rise of Skaadi. An interesting character who is thrust more into the spotlight than any other story she has been in. She probably picks up the highest Frequent Fliers bonus points in this issue, traveling around the globe a number of times. We also an emphasis on Thor and Odin. Now, I am a huge fan of these characters, and this is the part of the issues I felt was the weakest. Whilst not really being regression, how Odin acts or is characterized, it sort of feels that way for me, but its an interesting dynamic for this story. Thor alongside Cap seems set to have to go though the most in this upcoming arc so we need ways to challenge him, and tense interactions with his father has been a staple of their relationship, if not also slightly a dated one. I know a Norwegian. Is that odd to suddenly mention in a review? If you think she embraces Thor in a similar way I know some Americans embrace Captain America or some Canadians embrace Puck (he is huge there right?) you might be surprised to find its actually to the contrary. I can empathize, even though I am a huge fan of Marvel's Thor, and Marvel's Asgard (as well as the myths) it can be odd for me to see such massive changes and alterations to Asgards structure. With this issue, we are teased that big changes may be coming to how we view Asgard and Odin. I am willing to wait and see how exactly though
I also can't neglect to mention how Fear Itself, has been 8 years in the making, and that Dazzler predicted the Serpents arrival, thus confirming her unholy nature! Fractions foreshadowing skills you have underrated haven't you? Interesting the lyrics spat out by Ali, also refer to a Garden of Eden. Beta Ray Bill also later starred in a mini the Green of Eden. Beta Ray bill who also knows Thor. Who once had a First Class Team Up with Kitty Pryde. Thats the same Kitty Pryde who an issue later teamed up with Dazzler! The prophet! The same one I mentioned before with Beta Ray Bill! The same one given a similar hammer to Mjölnir by Odin! The same Odin from this issue! Masterful these revelations I suspect you are finding.
Art & VisualsStuart Immonen is in fine form here as the Fear Itself artist. He displays his flexibility as an artist, in drawing a diverse range of locations, characters and settings. It certainly aids the global, and epic scale one would predict Fear Itself would try to instill straight off. We get ice cold barren landscapes, undersea palaces, blue fresh water, lush jungles, ruins of Asgard, space and the cosmos, the urban hustle of a city, and well, just a lot. This book fits a lot in visually. Thats just locations. This is really an ensemble piece. As one could guess after reading about plot outline, Captain America, Thor, Odin, Red Skull, feature quite prominently. Also a few regular base line human characters as well. We have lots of appearances from various Avengers and Asgardians though, both minor and important. All wonderfully illustrated. Sizes are captured well, demeanors. Its all very tight and as good as you would expect from an issue of this caliber.
Moment Of Immensely Powerful Villain?
Everyone is talking about the big bad of this issue. This is a character that even gods fear. There are rumors of its power, that reach unknown seas, whispers of this entity cause pregnant women to give birth. I was surprised that we would see this force of destruction against so soon, and so early. Also surprising is that the person he targeted survived his onslaught... and of course I am talking about.. The Brick.
Moment of CoolThis issue actually has a lot of cool small moments. Sin, oh sorry, Red Skull undergoing a transformation, a epic father and son, god vs god fight. Volstagg making an argument for leading an Avengers team. Brand new character about and a fairly important new character at that. Burning Hammers falling from the sky. Odin calling Watcher a fat mute baby. Giant sea serpents, and more, and more.. my favorite of the whole issue, a snippet was Odin breaking it down MC Hammer style. Except err instead of saying, stop, he said drop.
Moment of Monumental DamageIts cheesy, and corny, but its a fast way to give a comic a sense of global scale. Give a story a sense of impending doom and disaster, is to have several break away panels to several locations, countries around the world. Countries most 8 year olds would know. Double bonus points if you can sneak in a few iconic buildings/monuments. Fear Itself has such a scene. Philip Bailey would be especially proud!
Who Should Buy This?Marvel fans? Its kinda big, and will probably affect your favorite book somehow. Fraction fans? New and old. Fraction haters? Eh, you can see why he has fans. Fans of Captain America, Thor, and Odin. Odin?!? Yes Odin, surprisingly ol one eye, has quite a few nice moments in this issue. Maybe you won't like how he is characterized, but its important character development. Fans of Big Comic events? This is the beginning of one of the biggest for some time. Those who like their stories grounded and epic at the same time? Fans of Hammers? This is a big issue. Its meant to be fairly accessible. So, I think unless you already know you will hate this issue, then maybe try it?
Overall I give this issue 4/5
I will say I was feeling extra generous at the time of giving a score. This is a good issue, it won't be the best issue you ever read, it won't be the worse. It does a good job at wanting to make me see what happens. Characterization was at worse average. Mostly fine. The plot is interesting and so are our villains, and our heros have more than one challenge ahead. Its a big event issue, I hate big event issues, I mean, as far as hype goes, and actual execution. This issue doesn't buckle. It doesn't try to hard too soon, its going to try and earn your appreciation. Now fingers crossed as to what happens next eh?