Or – “Boiling Something Down To It’s Essence Has A Problem…”

…namely, that most of these characters have been around so long that they have more than one “core truth.”  Whether or not you like this issue (and, indeed, this whole CROSSOVER) is going to depend on whether you share the creative team’s assessment of Marvel’s most iconic heroes.

FEAR ITSELF #6
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:  Asgard.  Home of the Norse Gods of lore, led by all-father Odin.  No setting in the entire Marvel Universe (save for perhaps Attilan, home of the Inhumans) makes you think more of towering spires, of golden sunsets, of beauty and wisdom and like that.  So, it makes perfect sense that Asgard has been stuck right in the middle of the last few psycho-blam-blam crossovers, and has become a blood-soaked ruin in the middle of the Oklahoma plains.  To add insult to injury, Odin’s brother (the mysterious Serpent) has returned to Midgard/Earth and has set off on a reign of terror unseen since…  Umm…  What was the last big crossover schmageggi?  Secret Invasion?  Excellent.  Since that.  Seven hammers, blah blah blah fishcakes, smashy smashy.  The core of the Avengers has likewise been splintered, with Iron Man building weapons in Svartalfheim, Captain America facing a losing battle in Manhattanflheim, and Thor flat on his tuchasheim.  Things look grim, but as my friend Otterdisaster is prone to say, it’s always darkest right before it’s PITCH BLACK.

TINKER, TAILER, SOLDIER, WEAPONSMITH…

So, it’s been ten years since the events that have become known as 9/11, and that fact has not escaped the creative folks at Marvel.  We open this issue with a very familiar looking cityscape, shattered buildings, fire, smoke, and vehicles thrown about like toys.  It actually bugged me that they were evoking this imagery, during this week, and then Captain America speaks: “Not thrilled about the visual here, gang…”   Matt Fraction’s middle-America plain-speaking Captain America isn’t discussing the parallels with 2001, but the fact that Earth’s Mightiest Heroes are retreating from battle with Thor on their shoulders, while the population of New York watches.  Luke Cage volunteers to take his team and run the evacuation of Manhattan Island (!!) while Captain America takes his squad to Asgard to heal the Thunder God.  It’s a heroic moment, until you remember that no one on Luke’s team save for Doctor Strange has any power that amounts to anything more than “Hittin’ stuff hard.”  There are some nice character bits in the issue, especially when Captain America confronts Odin with a full-bore R. Lee Ermey moment.  “You’re gonna need more guys!” snarls the Sentinel of Liberty after seeing Odin’s armies, while The Serpent laughs maniacally somewhere else and tells Skadi/Sin that he knows he will die in battle with Thor, but that she will ascend to power over the ravaged Earth.

FAMILY MAN, DEVOTED SON, WARRIOR, KING.

This book is very well-written, and very well-drawn, and every page has moments of character for the heroes of the Marvel U.  Spider-Man finds Aunt May, who reminds him that his responsibility is to be a hero.  Iron Man has created weapons to empower his Avenger pals against The Worthy.  Captain America picks up a rifle and leads the people of Broxton, Oklahoma in exhibiting their second amendment rights.  Thor makes peace with his father, and swears himself to be a MAN, the man Odin taught him to be.  What makes the issue work or not work is what you see.  I am troubled by seeing Captain America give up leadership of the heroes of the Earth to “man the line” and be a footsoldier.  I am troubled by Spider-Man running away from a fight to find his mommy.  I am less troubled by Tony Stark taking up the bottle again, but still I find myself asking what’s different in this crisis than in Civil War, or The Infinity Gauntlet or the Secret Wars.  What makes this battle with unstoppable gods any different than the last SIX battles with unstoppable gods?  And as much as I like Fraction’s dialogue, why does it feel like I’m reading a different Spider-Man, Captain America and Thor than I read in their home titles?  Basically, this issue is the prelude to war, and it’s a successful book in that aspect, but for some reason, I can’t reconcile it with what I already know about the Marvel Universe.

THE VERDICT:  WELL, UH…  I…  YOU…  THERE WAS…  OH.

So, how do I rate something like this?  Stuart Immonen’s art is terrible and beautiful all at once, and the inking and coloring are first-rate.  Fraction has crafted a smart tale with nice moments here and there, and even as this issue amounts to a lot of talking (welllll, yelling, really) it feels like productive talky-talky.  There’s nothing here that’s anything less than good, but I still don’t know how I feel about Fear Itself as a whole or this issue.  If it weren’t so PERVASIVE, perhaps these pages would hold more power?  I mean, really, I’ve been reading about the fear for almost seven months now, but the story has covered something like a day and a half, and I have a terrible feeling that a year from now the next crossover will be here to show us how nothering will ever be the same.  Again.  We’ve been given scene after scene to show us that this is the worst threat EVAR, even shattering Captain America’s unbreakable shield, but the effect is officially overwhelming.  Fear Itself #6 is a good issue standing alone, but the wave of hype, the flood of crossovers, and the sheer bludgeoning weight of the crossover event keep me from enjoying it, leaving the book with a disappointed and weary 2 out of 5 stars overall. 

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  I know that Spider-Man is a down-to-earth, feet-of-clay superhero.  But am I the only one finding his swinging off to find Aunt May a weird, almost cowardly move?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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11 Comments

  1. Ced
    September 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm — Reply

    Weird that the conflict between the Mighty and the Worthy will happen and be resolved in a single last issue. So in one issue we will have: presentation of the weapons, gathering and formation of the Mighty, conflict with the Worthy and resolution of the conflict + conflict resolution of the Serpent and Odin threat vs humanity.

  2. September 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm — Reply

    No, you are not the only one who finds Spidey running off to “Mommy”. But I feel that this problem has been around for at least as long as OMD. My belief is that this is all part of the whole deconstruction of the superhero fad that’s becoming more common. Especially in Marvel where almost every book is dripping with that grey area we insist on calling “realism”.

    You just have to remind yourself that you’re not reading about the guy who almost got killed fighting the Juggernaut by himself. You’re reading about the sap who sold his wife and true love to the Marvel equivalent of the devil for his 80-something year old “Mommy”. ;p

    • Michael
      September 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm — Reply

      I thought it was MJ who cut the deal with Mephisto. Granted, so Pete didn’t have to make the decision, but sill.

  3. September 16, 2011 at 3:34 pm — Reply

    I personally believe the issue was worth the price just for the joy of watching Captain America talk to Odin. I actually cracked up from the dialogue. (All other complaints are pretty valid. I’m sticking with it but I really just want this story arc to end so they can get to something interesting again.)

  4. Armaan
    September 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm — Reply

    Um. Actually, when you think about how so very HARD they’re trying to make this event seem like it’s the one that might actually end the world, the one everyone should REALLY be afraid of(which is just stupid. Nobody believes it. Nobody. The world’s been under threat in comics for 70+ years, and THIS is the one where the heroes lose hope?). So if it really WAS the end of the world, it makes sense that Spidey would want to go find his loved ones.
    It just seems babyish because none of the other Avengers are doing it.

    • September 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm — Reply

      I don’t have a problem with wanting to find your loved ones. And I’m pretty much a mama’s boy myself, in a lot of ways.

      But if I had dedicated myself to a situation like Spider-Man, I wouldn’t LEAVE the battle to go find my loved ones. It felt forced, especially when May immediately responded the way she did (“You have a responsibility…”) and sent him right back into battle.

  5. steviecool
    September 16, 2011 at 4:17 pm — Reply

    For me, this series has been awful.

    1. The dialogue has been awful. Thor and Cap are not speaking like Thor and Cap.

    2. The real pinnacle moments don’t seem to be getting pinncale moment time. Tony drinking, Bucky dying, Jugs, Thing and Hulk converting – they happened, but without the “shocker” feeling in the art or page content.

    3. I’m not seeing the fear in the story. Spider-Man’s Fear Itself had a lot of fear. Every other story and comic, I see no difference in anyone acting freaked out. It’s just another fight to them, and guess what, it’s just another dumb fight to me, too.

    4. I didn’t see things in the story that I expected to be covered: What if the brother wasn’t (at first) trying to destroy Earth, but just reclaim his title? What if they had explained a little about why each breaker existed? Why is Odin the only one who remembers this brother? What if each breaker had a one-shot that focused on them breaking their specialty item? Why didn’t they explain how easy the Thing and Hulk were seduced into grabbing the hammer? Why didn’t Cap warn Bucky about his Dead BuckyCap vision, or see this coming? How did all those 1950’s robots fly from the North Pole to NYC and avoid radar? Etc.

    I’m going to stop there. There were definitely good character moments in the series, but the overall premise is just lame and sucktardish.

    • SenorEjaz
      September 17, 2011 at 1:37 pm — Reply

      I completely agree. I have to (very) respectfully disagree with Matthew strongly on the notion that this story has been well written. The whole thing has felt empty from the beginning. There are no themes at all throughout the whole thing, which is bizarre for a story about ‘fear’ and Odin’s brother reclaiming his throne. There hasn’t been any character development either.
      The story itself hasn’t explained what has been happening or why. It hasn’t presented a world of fear well enough for me to buy it. The stakes don’t feel high at all.

      You’re completely right about the weird dialogue it’s been lazy at best – especially the stuff coming from Thor.

      I’ve seen very little mention in reviews of the various out of character stupid moments like Bucky’s death. What kind of tactical moron would take the action that got him killed? How stupid is Cap to think that his ‘awesome’ giant machine gun is going to have any effect on the enemy at all? What are the normal humans that he’s ‘manning the line’ going to do against GODS (that ODIN is frightened of) exactly?

      This series has been full of concepts that could have been brilliant, and yet none were explored in the story. This hasn’t really been about anything at all. Stuff happened and people did stuff and then the story ended (or will end).

      Honestly, this is like a manual on how to NOT write an event. Notions of having a complete story are jettisoned in favour of marketing gimmicks like ‘water-cooler moments’ that for me (at least) fail repeatedly, story points that should be in the main storyline are shunted into tie-ins, basic motivations are left completely absent for most of the story. I was psyched for this (being a Marvel Zombie) but it’s been so incomplete and frankly, rubbish that between this and Fractions work on Thor (the World-Eaters story was similar – good concepts incompetently executed to produce a story that I found very, very bad) I’m coming round to the idea that without a partner who’s better (i.e. Brubaker) he’s just not that great a writer.

      There have been some silver-linings, Journey into Mystery has been phenomenal (and really put the main event to shame) This weeks issue in paticular was hilarious and incredible in equal measure. Immonen’s art has been beautiful, I feel bad for him having to put so much effort into such a pointless story.

      I read a great and detailed breakdown of the problems with Fear Itself here:
      http://
      Very interesting stuff about the problems with comics generally as well.

  6. TaZ
    September 16, 2011 at 5:14 pm — Reply

    This is still going on?

  7. Bhiksu
    September 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm — Reply

    Actually, while I agree with the general point that thematically the series has been weak, and that the tie-ins have been OVERWHELMING, I disagree with a lot of the points that the reviewer brought up. Civil War wasn’t about unstoppable gods – and while it was paradigm shifting, the planet wasn’t exactly at stake. The Skrulls weren’t unstoppable – in fact the heroes had considerable experience fighting them, and after issue 4 of the poorly written secret Invasion, there was pretty much just a slugfest. I mean the closest crisis that the heroes have had in modern times were there was a real possibility of armageddon was World War Hulk – only in issue 7, AFTER his fight with The Sentry, when he got super-ticked (for like two pages). And then there was the battle against The Sentry to end Dark Reign (half an issue). But when was the last real extinction-level event besides those last two? (Please don’t mention the laughable Chaos War). Excluding all the random reality warping X-Men adventures, and the recent cosmic stuff which has not involved Earth, Onslaught might actually be it. Before that, the Infinity crossovers.

    Here you have the heroes who, if engaged in a battle royale with just Thor, would all be killed. And Odin kicks the crap out of Thor and says basically I am going to destroy everything on Earth in the hope of defeating someone more powerful than me. No Sorcerer Supreme, no Silver Surfer, no cosmic hero around. The White House is attacked. Eight Thors are running around killing everything in every country on Earth. There is a God MAKING everyone fearful. And then Captain America is killed.

    No granted a well-written series would have made this kind of the thematic highlight of the series: Captain America is KILLED live on national television. Even though it is Bucky, what does that do to the heroes? What does that do to the world?

    Thor is told he has to die to defeat the Serpent but the Serpent mops the floor with him during their first encounter so he doesn’t even know how to go about fighting. Odin is hiding things from him. I’d be scared.

    Spidey, who can’t hold a candle to half the heroes in the power department…I’d be scared as hell. I mean there’s nothing for him to do. Really. He could go on a suicide run against Skadi-Hulk or Skadi-Grey Gargoyle, but for what? There’s no plan.

    I think the Iron Man bit is inspired.

    Captain America…I thought the best parts of the book were his. Not only the Odin parts, which showed a rather out of character Cap: not a strategist, but a desperate FEARFUL man; but also him going to Broxton, whose inhabitants have a very love-hate relationship with Asgard to lead MORTALS in a final battle against gods…the dichotomy was striking. Steve Rodgers is no longer a symbol, and no longer a soldier but a fearful man who has already conceded defeat.

    I think the failure of this series is that the writer has not emphasized the fear in the right places, devolving to slugfests when there should be reflection. Honestly too, there should be more casualties. Lots more. There are like six Avengers teams. Wipe three of them out. This would have been more effective as a ten-book Decimation-style event, with plenty of smaller stories: a central character like a Hawkeye trying to just survive with a couple of kids in tow; some Norse mythology; Dr. Strange, Steve Rodgers and Nick Fury working through various potential mystical strategies; some Watcher cameos; etc.

  8. freddyfred
    September 20, 2011 at 3:43 pm — Reply

    I think if the situation was handled differently – lik ehaving Spidey finish the battle and when it’s in it’s slow moments have ’em say – I’ll be back, i want to make sure my family is safe ! then this would all be different – but what do i know … i haven’t liked Spidey since OMD

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