REVIEW: Fear Itself #2 (of 7)

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Or – “The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is CROSSOVER MADNESS…”

Odin has returned and Asgard is to be rebuilt by Anthony Stark, but the return of another ancient Norse deity has empowered a familiar wackjob with abilities equal to Thor himself.  Now, Odin has elected to walk away from Midgard, and the clock is ticking for complete annihilation.  STOP!  HAMMERTIME!

FEAR ITSELF #2
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Stuart Immonen
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Editor: Tom Brevoort
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on Fear Itself: Cynthia Schmidt, the lunatic daughter of the equally lunatic Nazi $#!+head known as the Red Skull, has somehow managed to channel the power of Skadi, apparently a lost member of Odin’s Norse pantheon.  Having heard his son’s plan to rebuild Asgard, Odin is not impressed, and the news of the Serpent’s return spurs him to abandon Earth entirely (but not before beating the aitch-ee-double hockeysticks out of his blonde offspring.)  The heroes of Earth are left in the lurch, as Odin leads his people back across the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard…

Where The Booming Heav’ns Roar!

…which, as you may remember, lies pretty much in ruins.  The golden city itself was shattered to pieces on the plains of Oklahoma, and even the Asgardians themselves aren’t sure what’s up with their resurrected leader.  The Warriors Three worry that any doom that comes to Midgard (Earth) will surely come for Asgard as well.  Thor (playing possum, it seems) suddenly raises his bruised head and insists that they MUST stand for Midgard as they would for any of the nine worlds.  Stuart Immonen is probably best known recently for his work on Ultimate Spider-Man, but his rendition of the Nine Worlds is vastly different than his take on Midtown high, and his Thor is pretty impressive as well.  Odin rises up in fury, demanding that Thor be locked away and his people prepared for a horrible battle.  For all the hints and teasers, the true nature of our villain is still shrouded in mystery, but Odin’s words do their job, filling me with unease and a general dread.

He Fights And Fights With Repulsor Ra– Wait, Whut?

The second half of the issue is what I honestly expected to see in issue #1 of the series, as we find out where all our players are (The Avengers, the Future Foundation, and more) and we start to see what the teasers promised, as hammers fall from the sky.  We are introduced to Kuurth, breaker of stone; Nul, breaker of worlds; Skirn, breaker of men; and the promise of more to come as an old-school Marvel villain is seeking his own hammer, while one of our veteran heroes hears of an unclaimed hammer on his home turf.  The rest of the issue feels very familiar as all hell breaks loose around the world, reminding me of the first volume of Ultimates, early chapters of both Civil War and Secret Invasion, and probably half a dozen other world-shattering catastrophes.  Things end on what should be a frightening note, but seems to me to be more chaotic than fearsome.  Most frustrating, the issue ends with a two-page explanation of things that are going to be happening in the crossover titles, implying that those need to be read before we come back for the next issue.

The Verdict: To Destroy The Status Quo, You Gotta HAVE One

It’s clear that this is supposed to be a game-changer, and every attempt is made to pull us into something that should be a shattering experience, but the Marvel Universe hasn’t even settled down from the last time we all danced this dance.  The Heroic Age never really materialized, The Avengers are still moving into their new digs and working out their new lineups, Iron Man and the FF are both in the nascent stages of brand-new stuff…  There hasn’t been a “normal” in the Marvel Universe since before Planet Hulk, it seems.  The first third of the issue is strong, but it goes downhill from there.  Once again, I have to deal with the irony of working for Major Spoilers, as part of me quietly wonders if the hammer-wielders identities being shocking might have made up for what feels a bit rushed in the climax.  All in all, this is a mostly positive, albeit somewhat familiar, experience, feeling a lot more like a first issue than the actual first issue did.  Fear Itself #2 is a mixed bag with a pretty even mix of peaks and valleys, earning a still-mostly-worth-the-four-bucks  2.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: In the event-driven madness of today’s comic industry, is there room anymore for quiet establishing moments in comics?  Or are we doomed to rush from blockbuster to blockbuster forever?