The SuperHeroes List
  Last Week's Comics                                                  Arriving This Week                                                  Coming Next Week

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment