Tony Stark Finds the Best Way to Make Fear Itself More Enjoyable
The issue picks up from Bucky Barnes' death in the previous issue and does nothing to give any meaning to it. It apparently makes Black Widow sad. Then, it is time to move on with the story. If this is truly the end of Bucky Barnes, it really is a slap to the face of Captain America readers. Fear Itself is unworthy of being the final story for any character, much less one of the past decade's favorites. Sin becoming one of the Worthy and rampaging with a bunch of Nazi's robots is no justification. This is really not a Captain America story. It is a Thor story, and killing off a major Captain America character is a ridiculous move. Even worse, Tom Brevoort and Matt Fraction have admitted in an interview that their reason for doing this is simply to artificial inflate the stakes of Fear Itself by killing a major character. Realizing that you have to do something like that to make your story event matter should be a giant sign that your story is actually not worth telling.
Finally, the Serpent decides to join the rest of us in the story and makes his big appearance. He feeds off the fear of the world in order to power himself up to full strength, and it is a really empty sequence. Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen try to sell us on the worldwide panic the Worthy is causing, but it just doesn't work. We have eight powerful beings rampaging around the world with hammers. Why exactly is this such an extreme situation for the Marvel Universe? How does this warrant such an uncommon level of panic from hero and civilian alike? The atmosphere of fear and destruction in this story falls completely flat. Fraction has not developed the Worthy or their actions enough, so he hasn't earned this moment.
Steve Rogers returns to his role as Captain America, and it leaves me thinking Marvel has become confused about its message here. When Marvel was hyping the event, there was a lot of talk about heroes having to face their fears. Specifically, it was discussed that Steve would have to struggle with no longer being on the battlefield and his fears of leading from afar. So this is Steve Rogers wussing out, right? Steve is giving into fear, isn't he? He fears not being on the front line like the others, so he ditches out on his duty by strapping on the shield and leaping into the fray. Am I supposed to take this some other way? Because this is how Marvel frames it. Steve isn't coming to terms with his new role. He is confronted with what is allegedly his first big test in it and running away from it. If Marvel expects me to read this as some big hero moment, they have lost track of what they were doing.
Tony Stark also gets a moment this issue. While I can understand what Fraction is going for, it relates right back to my previous point about how he hasn't earned this level of fear and desperation. It reads as a forced and ridiculous moment. Why would Tony go straight for this option? This is supposed to be heavy and dramatic, but it reads as just silly.
Fear Itself continues to devolve into a summer action blockbuster. The fact that a brawl between Thor and the gods possessing Hulk and Thing is being hyped as the primary reason to check out the next issue is really all that needs to be said about what substance there is here. Things like character and story ride in the back seat. This is all about big action splashes and awkward, unjustified dramatic moments. Sadly, I can't even think of a big action sequence that has been particularly cool or memorable that has happened yet. Next issue looks like it is aiming to solve at least that, though.