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Review: Marvel Fear Itself, Part III

Overall Summary

After all of the astoundingly good and horribly bad, your next questions should be easy: what's the verdict with Marvel's Fear Itself? How would you rate it on a 5 star system?

Glad you asked; when giving out a critique, it's not hard to get animated and manipulated. You see, there are two different traps. The first one is the most popular; if someone is paying you for a good review, you ignore lots of the important drawbacks and it's clear you’re not being honest. The second occurs when you've got an axe to grind, and that's harder to detect. When you're armchair-quarterbacking like that, it's natural to flow into a complaint session of negativity.

Well, here's my status: no one is paying me and I don't have an axe to grind. So prepare for my honest assessment.

Characters (4 and 1/2 Stars): The character development of Fear Itself was overall exceptional. I've already noted how Speedball and Loki surpassed expectations, but I'm here to tell you that this event is intrinsically and successfully focused on moving many of the important personalities forward for later plots. We saw:

* Thor gets killed and Asgard forever changes. This isn't some minor situation; at last check, Odin just stranded a bunch of Asgardians on Midgard.

* Steve Rogers is reassuming his place as Captain America, which is how it should always have been.

*In the backdrop, other faces and groups showed up. Alpha Flight took off again; there's a new superhero around called The Monkey King; Amadeus Cho brought a team together; members of Avenger's Academy begin to recognize their place in the heroic societies.

Plot and Storyline (3 Stars): The backbone plot of Fear Itself was very robust, until the end. It started with the Red Skull in the 1940's; that's when Schmidt located an Asgardian Hammer he couldn't wield. Later, his daughter, Sin, locates her father's secret hideout and claims the weapon, becoming Skadi, The Serpent's Herald.

Throughout Fear Itself, once unleashed on the world, The Serpent's Worthy took most of the spotlight. These were immensely powerful beings, scattering across the globe, tearing everything up; this also created strong and well-reasoned tales. We were spellbound as The Thing a.k.a Angrir destroyed Avengers Tower, Mokk turned Paris to rubble and Skadi razed Washington D.C.

But it fell apart at the end. After all of these terrible moments, and in the middle of some dramatic battles, The Serpent called them to Dark Asgard for the final battle at Broxton, Oklahoma, against Fallen Asgard.

That's fine; alright, so their whole purpose was just to cause fear, power up their leader, and get into a big fight. But when the big fight occurred, it was relatively quick and contained in the few pages of Fear Itself #7. Let's ponder this a moment; Tony Stark creates a bunch of Uru weapons, passes them out to Avengers, and then they beat The Worthy like nothing. It was, even with Thor's passing...anti-climactic.

What also fell apart was the resolution of those conflicts. Once The Serpent had fallen, the Worthy were instantly de-powered. I guess the entire goal should have been to ignore everyone else except the evil all-father.

Presentation and Implementation (3 and 1/2 Stars): As happens with many crossovers and events, the comics are released out of chronology. This is how they do it now; secret knowledge governs what will come out, so the information from one series doesn't spoil another. Unfortunately, that doesn't always jive with us because we like continuity.

In most cases, Fear Itself was a normal, possible better than average, 100+ comic event. The enormity of the project guaranteed that it would be a difficult follow, but the event transpired relatively well. (It was also helpful that the event was 5 days long.)

Writing and Artwork (3 Stars): I was impressed by the direction Fraction and the hosts of Marvel portrayed Fear Itself, and generally, I liked how they gave us momentous points from different perspectives. It was cool to see the Avengers Tower fall from the eyes of different heroes; it showed us how significant and symbolic those changes were.

On its surface, Marvel brought together a well-honed machine of storytellers; Stuart Immonen won me over with his depictions; Mike Mayhew captured facial expressions perfectly. What I didn't appreciate was The Avengers (#13-17) series, which encapsulated the story, being told as a story, in an interview. It might have been a clever concept to deliver psychology and emotional flavor, but it didn't deliver for me.

Now that we've dissected some of greats and no-so-greats of Fear Itself, it's time to give them a grading mark. In my opinion, out of 5 stars, I'd give Fear Itself 3 and 1/2 stars. Even if you don't like big crossover events, you can dive into your favorite characters and find something to enjoy. But that may also be part of it's weakness...that there was just a heck of a lot to follow.

Overall, I'd say Marvel did a great job, and this might appear like it contradicts my final verdict, where I'm grading just above average. But I look at it another way: with the grand scale of Fear Itself...the tie-ins, characters, sub-plots, there were sure to be some aberrations. And ultimately, they went all out with a resounding story that can never be forgotten. 

This is a 3-part review. and wraps up my summary of Fear Itself. To read Part I: click here. To read Part II: click here.

DC Haunted #1: The Spectre

Within the haunted universe of paranormal dimensions, we are mysteriously guided by beings of destiny and divine purpose. It is not uncommon for these entities to fulfill heroic or villainous designs; that is their nature. And of all these celestial creatures, the most recognized from DC Comics is none other than The Spectre.


The Spectre is #1 on The Top 12 DC Spirits of Halloween, a countdown provided by The Superheroes List, summarizing the key ghouls, ghosts, and zombies of their comics books during the haunting season. If you like comic books and superheroes, welcome; it's time to check out the list!

Marvel Monster #1: The Ghost Rider

Born of hellfire and terrible retribution (Marvel Spotlight #5, 1972), one creature from the Marvel Universe takes no prisoners and battles for Halloween in a class of his own. In the dead of the night, only he speeds through the tormented streets on a monstrous motorcycle composed entirely of flame with an engine sputtering the screams of the dying. Those who see him look away; hoping he will pass them by, they fear the judgment of The Ghost Rider. Read More...

Ghost Rider arrives at #1 on The Top 10 Marvel Monsters of Halloween. This countdown has been sponsored by The Superheroes List.Be sure to check out the list if you look superheroes and villains. (There's always something.)

Review: Marvel Fear Itself, Part II

The Positive

With all of my negativity, previously hatched surrounding Fear Itself, you might wonder if it was worth reading. Well, it was. As a matter of fact, it was astounding! Aside from the demoting aspects I detailed, there were hoards of great material within its confines. The key to the highly involved event was knowing which stories stole the essence of the story and which didn't. In other words, if you picked the right titles, you were sucked right in.

In my opinion, there were a host of positives, and fundamentally, it boils down to certain highlights and what I call the "knockout character", a title I give to the most interesting figure during a grand-scale event. In Fear Itself, perhaps surprisingly, that award is a split-decision which can be given to two individuals, Speedball and Loki.

Speedball was expected to take a major role, but well-surpassed my expectations. With the talents of writer Christos Gage, art from Mike Mayhew and color inking by Rain Beredo in Fear Itself: The Home Front, those crispy pages of dread and chaos confronted us with Robbie Baldwin, a man whose problems had escalated from the days of Marvel's Civil War. Even though his super-bouncy powers were virtually useless, he maintained his resolve, desperately fighting his way from city to city just to protect citizens and minimize casualties. (I remember one panel where he does nothing more than hand out Avenger-Tech earpieces to citizens so they can hear what's going on.) Robbie Baldwin was the superhuman willpower behind Fear Itself; having been demoted to a national pariah, he resists his flaws, confronts those who hate him, and manages to stay heroic.

Loki, god of Mischief and brother of Thor is the other…hero - Ok, let’s just say he broke the mold; I didn't realize how good he could be as a child. Taking the front stage in Asgard and across dimensions, he appeared in Journey Into Mystery and was an elusive, tricky shadow that worked The Serpent from behind as only a youthful god can. Writer Kieron Gillen with Doug Braithwaite and Ulises Arreola really made a masterpiece; every issue twisted expectations, unraveled the cunning of Loki and kept him one step ahead of his enemies. And what really made him shine was the craftsmen's tongue he wielded like a sword of death; in every encounter Odin's dark seed outwits his way, building a coalition of power that moves into Dark Asgard and manipulates prophecy to his own gain. By the end of the story I was practically cheering for Loki; I wasn't even bothered that he corrupted Volstagg, freed Surtur from Limbo and had a hand in killing Thor.

Those two showed us superhuman change and development; that’s what makes a story memorable. And before we saw a page, that was the promise from the main writer Matt Fraction and others; Fear Itself was going to dramatically alter things in the Marvel Universe. And that...they did: Bucky, the new Captain America, is killed by the Red Skull's daughter; Steve Rogers retakes the mantle. Thor dies, killing his evil uncle; Tony Stark goes back to drinking. There were lots of evolutions. (And they'll still be panning out in Shattered Heroes as things settle down.)

Clearly a lot of planning pulled this off; each crew of their creative teams had to weave a certain strand of belief, giving Marvel the opportunity to set up a series of brilliant stories. The goal was straightforward: they wanted to push the psychological state of 2011 culture in the beginning to prepare us for further dramatic changes in 2012. Take, for example:

* Fear Itself: Spider-Man: It's funny how the web-swinger always manages to steal the show even though it looks like he can't be a major player. In this 3-issue miniseries, though, he laid the foundation of fear (although I point out that Speedball was holding his own over at The Home Front). Swinging through Manhattan, the place is in chaos; before anyone knows there is a Serpent, public panic sets anarchy in the streets. And there's our friendly neighborhood wall-crawler; place to place, he swings in, saves a person or stops a thug, delivers his quips and sense of responsibility, and then moves off. I guess it’s because Spidey always has a great internal debate (thanks to writer, Chris Yost) with himself that we see actual reflections of the dismal present. That's why it sold me.

* It wasn't Tony Stark that stopped my heart for beating a moment, it was The Invincible Iron Man series where he battled Mokk, Breaker of Faith. Now that's a villain! What a backdrop of death. Mokk, formerly the super villain known as The Grey Gargoyle, grabs his hammer in France. Once he gets powered up, he turns Paris to rubble. Citizens are dead, turned to stone, and there he is, a huge avatar of hopelessness, ready to instill more. When Iron Man's international conflict ended, I wondered if he was going to get out alive, because some of the other superheroes with him didn't (Rest in Peace, Detroit Steele).

* Blitzkrieg U.S.A., Washington goes down. This happens as early as Fear Itself #2. Okay Marvel; I'll bite. How do you just...walk away from that? I’m very excited to see how this all plays out.

* The Hulk and Banner, separated. The vote is still out for Hulk taking on Dracula, but the cleverness of using Nul of The Worthy as a means to break them into their alter egos sets a solid draw for readers.

There was just so much; lots to follow. And realistically, if you're interested in reliving the Fear Itself story, the best way to work it is to sift through the right material. There's gold in them hills, so to speak, and what you'll want to do is build your own Reading Order. (Yes, it will probably be different for each person.)

But if you take the time, work through these magnificent subplots and clever character developments, you'll find the real gem. Fear Itself, you see, has something for everyone. There are incredible fights, monumental defeats and breath-taking turns and twists. It delves into the philosophical, the psychological, and yes, the gruesomely physical. What you have to do now, as a fan of comic books, is fulfill your part of the bargain. And I say, don’t be afraid…it's worth it.

This is a 3-part review. The next part should show up on Halloween, October 31, and wrap up my summary on Fear Itself. To read Part I: click here.

Review: Marvel Fear Itself, Part I

I've been following some of the comments, twitter posts, and replies over Fear Itself for the last few months. It's really been quite a journey, seeing hot it was hyped and where it all started. Originally, I believed I'd avoid commenting on a review; it's not really in my interest to critique these stories, I just like to present them.

But I felt - or I still feel - I have to do this.

Not just because I love comic books and not simply due to my deep interest in the Fear Itself event. I think what's happening - in my own mind - is that I'm trying to resolve some of the uniqueness that happened in the months from March to now, involving an event which took the span of five days, destroyed quite a bit of the world, and then ended. And before I begin, I realize there are still parts of the story left to tell. They'll be revealed in the next phase Marvel is rolling out called "Shattered Heroes".

This will be a 3-part review:
Part I will detail the negative. People who loved Fear Itself will hate me. I'm releasing it today, Wednesday, October 26, 2011.
Part II will detail the positive. That's when you find out I'm pretty unbiased with comic books and show you the cool and incredible. I'll release it Friday, October 28.
Part III will be the final summary and I'll wrap it all together on Monday for Halloween.

Part I: The Negative

Ok. So it's over, Fear Itself, and here's what I can't quite grasp. My understanding, and what I thought was supposed to be the psychological backdrop of this story, was the notion of terror, desolation, hopelessness. Oh, and fear.

Naw...To be frank, I felt very little of it. Heck, maybe it was too much and it just became white noise. In the beginning of the Fear Itself event, it started strongly. We were seeing civilians, innocents, and everyday people give up and lose hope. Anger rose in the population; prejudices became inflamed. All credits go to Fear Itself: The Home Front, which seemed to focus heavily on that theme. It's also noteworthy to point out how Spidey, who always seems to feel the pulse of Manhattan, followed a psychological undertone in Fear Itself: Spider-Man.

But aside from those honorable mentions, it seemed kinda flat if you were looking for "the feel" of fear. And in that perspective, it was not easy to follow. Of the most difficult parts of the event were the numerous tie-ins; it seemed like every super-villain was cashing in on the chaos and too stupid to understand that the end of the world was here:

* In Canada, the newly-elected Unity party decided, rather than fight against the apocalyptic threat, they'd attack their own state-sponsored superheroes (Alpha Flight) and prepare them for brainwashing. (Seriously, could’ve picked a better time, fellas.)

* Did you read Fear Itself: Deadpool? Why? Sure, he's insane and funny, but it wasn't funny enough to be relevant to the main story in any way. Deadpool finds his own villain, fashions up his own hammer (which turns out to be magical) and heads to an isolated town that has a werewolf problem. Don't read this if you're focused on Fear Itself.

* In Fear Itself: Wolverine, there were similar issues. Why are villains interested in blowing a heli-carrier over New York when the world is about to be destroyed? (Ok, I get it that the villain is mentally deranged, but it really had very little to do with the actual event.)

(And while I'm on the subject, someone tell me why Wolverine had to be in the final installment? Why type of Odin-blessed weapon did Logan receive? All I saw was an Uru-needled porcupine mutant.)

Perhaps the problems, then, were the many issues comprised of Fear Itself (I've cataloged around 115 so far) and the numbers of superheroes that needed something to do. Was that what this was all about? Because even now I'm still trying to figure out why a haunted carrier attacked Pearl Harbor in Fear Itself: The Home Front #7. Or why the new Ghost Rider had to go up in a spaceship to burn sin from the world (Ghost Rider #4).

In the framework of pointing out the problems with the event, we've had a harsh pill to swallow. The story had a strong start with lots of expectations, but quickly turned into video game where Iron Man gets the Uru-Armor Upgrade and The Avengers get new weapons. I think what surprised me the most was when The Serpent shattered Captain America's shield; at that moment, I was interested and wondering. But in the last issue, the Dwarves of Svartalfheim remake it in a day. (Oh, and it's also infused with Uru, so it's stronger now.)

My friends, there was something missing from Fear Itself, and it wasn't the loss of hope and the isolation of suffering. Absolutely, it had episodes of success (and I'll address those in the Part II review Friday), but in terms of spell-binding intensity and psychological backdrop, it was lacking. When paging through the multitudes of tie-ins, many were weak and had no business being included. And finally, after wading through the sea of titles, we came to the not-so-big conclusion, where the answer is a quick-fix patch; let's give everybody an Uru-upgrade.

And so, let's hop back to the past. Do you recall the teaser posters of Cap kneeling before a shattered shield with no faith in his country? How about Hulk's fear of losing control or Spider-Man's fear of tomorrow? Ask yourself "How did they do?" Did things measure up to your expectations? The big thematic element was the audio tied to the event, FDR's First Inaugural Speech. We all know it by rote: "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself".

Say those words to yourself at let me know.

This is a 3-part review. The next part will be released on Friday, October 28, and go over the positive elements of the Fear Itself event..

DC Haunted #2: Nekron

Amongst those spirits and entities fulfilling destiny, there is one horrid creature that continues to dwell among them, never seen, rarely felt, but unyielding and willing to destroy every living thing in existence. His name is Nekron, and is he nothing less than an elemental force of death, and therefore cannot be killed. Read More...

Nerkon is #2 on The Top 12 DC Spirits of Halloween, a countdown for the holiday with some rather "unsavory" characters. Spondered by The Superheroes List, if you like this kind of stuff, head on over; there's always more to check out!

DC Haunted #3: The Phantom Stranger

Proving both inhuman and supernatural during his adventures in the DC Universe, the Phantom Stranger is one of the most...well, unusually divine, yet haunting characters siding mostly with order and benevolence. What separates him from others is the burden placed on his soul (we're not sure if it is divine or self-imposed, but the Stranger always says he'll be there "when he is needed".) Read More...

Recommended: The Phantom Stranger Collectible

One of the many reasons to harbor an interest in the Phantom Stranger is his...strangeness. Yeah, that's right; he's one of those "dark" figures, like Batman, who never follow the normal rules, but instead show up in the last second unannounced.

Ironically, it's hard to find a lot of Phantom Stranger collectible items. You can pick up his comics, when available, but other than that, you'll have to do a lot of searching to get a T-Shirt or otherwise.

This is a 6 and 1/2 inch tall figure with multiple points of articulation. Adorned in his most recent, traditional garb, the Phantom Stranger wears his trademark suit, dark cloak, and black-banded Fedora., walking the dimension in search of those who need his assistance.

The Phantom Stranger is #3 on The Top 12 DC Spirits of Halloween, a weekly countdown provided by The Superheroes List. As October 31st looms closer, it's time to see the scary side of superheroes, don't you think? So head on over and Check out the List!

Marvel Monster #2: Nightcrawler

From a sightless perspective, there is no hero more benevolent and kind than Kurt Wagner, a devout German Catholic who often bears testament to his faith even in the most hopeless moments of crisis. Born a mutant, he is an inspiration to all people, having served the greater good of society since he was first recruited by Professor Xavier in Giant-Sized X-Men Annual #1 (May 1975). Kurt is, in all possible ways, an upstanding, model citizen. Read More...

Nightcrawler is #2 on The Top 10 Marvel Monsters of Halloween, a weekly superhero countdown list provided by TSL. Come check out the List; if you like this kind of stuff, there's always more to come.

Agent #1: Director Nick Fury

Of all the agents who have ever served with SHIELD, only one has been so intertwined with the organization on multiple levels that their identities are forever joined. In nearly every story, every intricate plot whether he is present or not, Nick Fury, agent of SHIELD, is referenced and influencing their outcomes. Read More...
Recommended: S.H.I.E.L.D Law Enforcement Sticker 4" x 4"
  • Size: 4" x 4"
  • Long-Lasting, All-Weather Outdoor Grade Vynil, UV and Water Resistant
  • Apply to Any Surface - car bumper, window, locker, binder, wall, wood, metal, etc.
  • Easy Application - Peel & Stick, Removable & Reusable

Usually hard to find, some of you fans have been searching out some SHIELD memorabilia and collectibles for the organization.

If you're really interested, you should pick up these 4-inch by 4-inch stickers; you can put them on your car or man cave. (Just tell your mom that you're on official government doesn't matter if you're in your 40 years old, either.)

Nick Fury is #1 on The Top 10 Greatest Agents of SHIELD, a weekly countdown provided by The Superheroes List. After 10 weeks of updates, this concludes this article. And if you're still interested in some superhero stuff, be sure to Check out the List!

DC Haunted #4: Deadman

If you're a Halloween fan, now it really begins, starting with the haunting and morose abiding of a restless soul as it attempts to find peace. Such is the curse of Boston Brand, the one and only Deadman, who stirs between the world of the spirit and that of the mortals. Forever a superhero in the eyes of the DC Universe, he is a being incapable of interacting with the physical until he possesses a host. Read More...

Recommended Reading: Deadman Vol. 1

Boston Brand, the character ultimately fulfilling the undead shoes as Deadman, is a creation of the well-reknowned artist Neal Adams back in the 60s, who implied that the idea came from The Fugitive TV series. Basically, you take an assassination and try to find the true killer, except in this case, you're a ghost who can't affect the real world except through possession and paranormal means. (Does this sound like the movie "Ghost"? Well, now you know.) After the Deadman concept drew in fans, it became clear that plots of this nature were many, inspiring a superhero of intrigue and longevity.

Boston Brand, the character ultimately fulfilling the undead shoes as Deadman, is a creation of the well-reknowned artist Neal Adams back in the 60s, who implied that the idea came from The Fugitive TV series. Basically, you take an assassination and try to find the true killer, except in this case, you're a ghost who can't affect the real world except through possession and paranormal means. (Does this sound like the movie "Ghost"? Well, now you know.) After the Deadman concept drew in fans, it became clear that plots of this nature were many, inspiring a superhero of intrigue and longevity.

Deadman is #4 on The Top 12 DC Spirits of Halloween, a weekly countdown provided by The Superheroes List. If you like Halloween, now's the time to head on over. (I'll even give you candy.) So Check out the List!

Marvel Monster #3: The Thing

UFO Horror has invaded our media successfully for decades. In many horror movies and books (especially from the likes of authors such as H.P. Lovecraft), our most fear-inspiring monsters come from outer space; they can be strange, gibbering creatures bent on stealing our minds or ruthless aliens plotting to take over the world.

And sometimes-once in awhile-they can be homemade like Ben Grimm, The Thing. Read More...

Recommended Viewing: Marvel Blu-ray 3-Pack (FF / FF: RotS / Daredevil)

If you've never gotten to see any of the Fantastic Four movies, you should purchase this Blu-Ray Three Pack; it comes with both FF movies and adds in the additional Daredevil film with Ben Affleck. Take a look at the price and if you divide it up, that's a pretty fair price for purchase.

Each movie stands on its own, serving as a collectible item or simply a night of superhero movie viewing. The Fantastic Four movie is an origin flick; The second film: FF: Rise of the Silver Surfer introduces you to that cosmic herald of Galactus and his wondrous powers. To finally top off the evening, you'll have the third film, Daredevil, which draws you into Hell's Kitchen with Matt Murdock, Elektra, and Bullseye.

Ben Grimm is #3 on The Top 10 Marvel Monsters of Halloween, a weekly countdown provided by The Superheroes List. Sticking with the Trick or Treat spirit; Check out the List!

Agent #3: Steve Rogers

Captain America is a staple icon of The United States and can be seen everywhere, including as far back as the 1940s when he first appeared in Captain America Comics (1941). At the time, he was nothing more than a patriot; a sickly, almost disabled young man with a heart of American Exceptionalism and a will of iron. Somewhere in his origin, this “Avenger” who we knew as Steve Rogers, was endowed with a miracle process known as the Super-Soldier formula and physically and mentally raised to the heights of human standards.

Now; how does this relate to SHIELD? Answer: who do you think chose Rogers for the Super-Soldier program? (Read more...)

Recommended: Captain America: The First Avenger (Three-Disc Combo)

Being a fan of superheroes, yep, I saw the movie. One of the most important aspects of Captain America, though, is that he originated in the World War II era. And that was key to me going in; sure enough, with Tommy Lee Jones and an excellent supporting cast of characters, Cap, played by the role of Christopher Evans, is true to the time, lending a sense of our "Greatest Generation".

Product Description: Captain America leads the fight for freedom in the action-packed blockbuster starring Chris Evans as the ultimate weapon against evil! When a terrifying force threatens everyone across the globe, the world’s greatest soldier wages war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving, The Matrix). Critics and audiences alike salute Captain America: The First Avenger as “pure excitement, pure action, and pure fun!” – Bryan Erdy CBS-TV

Steve Rogers is #3 on The Top 10 Greatest Agents of SHIELD, a weekly countdown provided by The Superheroes List. If you like spies mixed with super-agents, Check out the List!

DC Haunted #5: The Gentleman Ghost

Born in the 18th century, James Craddock was nothing; a lowly highwayman spurned into world of preying on weak passersby. Coming from poverty, a life of crime was all that he knew, eventually taking his spree to the United States. Well, that is until a fateful day when legendary gunslingers Nighthawk and Cinnamon killed him.

From that point, his (un) life was forever changed; the ringing words of the gypsy which prophesied his fate became unerringly true.

He looked dead; but no, his spirit could not rest and from thence he rose to become the super-villain we know as The Gentleman Ghost. Craddock, to this day, is unable to die and we've learned that the source of his "immortality" is none other than his exposure to the Nth Metal of Thanagar, which resides in the hands of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Read More...

The Gentleman Ghost is #5 on The Top 12 DC Spirits of Halloween, a countdown provided by The Superheroes List. If you're enjoying spooky ghost and goblins with a touch of superheroes, Check out the List!