COMIC REVIEW: Fear Itself

Panini have done it again, getting their trade paperback of Marvel’s latest big event out into bookshops before Marvel have even released the hardcover. This means you can pick up a copy of Fear Itself TPB for about £8/$13 less than the HC and thanks to The Book Depository you can get global free shipping!

Writer: Matt Fraction
Pencillers: Stuart Immonen, Scot Eaton
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger, Mark Morales
Colourists: Laura Martin, Sunny Gho
Letterers: Chris Eliopoulis, Joe Caramagna
Collects: Fear Itself Prologue, Fear Itself #1-7

Without spoiling exactly what goes on, the central plot to Fear Itself is that an ancient evil is reawakened by Sin (daughter of the Red Skull) and empowers her and six others using mystic hammers which transform them into avatars of destruction. They then spread terror across the globe, which in turn makes their benefactor stronger as he feeds on fear and in turn are fought by the Avengers amongst others heroes. Events centre around the major Avengers players, so Thor, Captain America (both) and Iron Man all have pivotal parts to play in the storyline.

Fear Itself is an odd event. In recent times one of the great advantages that Marvel events had was that their concepts were easily explained, I think this is one of the reasons that Civil War and Secret Invasion got so much mainstream coverage (“Super-hero civil war” and “alien invasion” don’t take too much explaining to a non-reader), whereas DC’s had a tendency to be a bit more in-depth and require more knowledge on the part of the reader. This to me feels very much like Marvel trying to “do a DC” following the great success of Blackest Night. I’ve been trying to think of a simple statement in that Marvel style to describe Fear Itself’s plot…the best I can muster is “An age-old war between gods fuels and is fuelled by mankind’s fear” and that’s hardly punchy.

The way in which the various heroes and villains are transformed into avatars of destruction was very reminiscent of Blackest Night, as was the transformation of the heroes in the final battle. You have redesigned characters which just seem to be trying far too hard to be a toyline and which will only last for the duration of the event. There’s also a certain spectrum of colour to all the transformations from which I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Lantern Corps. Now this may be me projecting too much but after years of Marvel events which didn’t feature this sort of thing it feels like too much of a coincidence to see this the year after BN was such a commercial success.

When the story was all-out action I enjoyed myself, Stuart Immonen does his usual great job on the art and the scale of battle is truly epic, but there are large chunks of the plot that don’t really work for me. Sin is the first to be transformed, into Skadi, but whilst all of the other avatars are imbued with power that puts them on the level of Thor she is shortly thereafter seen piloting a Nazi battlemech…it doesn’t add up for me. It feels like they had too many ideas lying around and couldn’t let that one go. Odin’s abandonment of Earth also seems to fly in the face of the established idea that the Marvel Pantheon’s powers wax and wain in light of the number of their followers. Oh and a final whinge, I didn’t like that Asgard is now described as a planet in space, not as another realm. Pulling the MU closer to the movie universe feels the wrong way round.

The emotional bullets within the story also miss, there’s a character death which should have had far more resonance than it did, in fact I don’t think I felt empathy for any of the characters even those I am predisposed to liking. But I just can’t say I disliked it. As I mentioned above the art is good and packaging the story to include the Book of the Skull Prologue issue does add a lot to the story which you don’t get from #1 alone. The book ends with a series of teasers for storylines spinning out of Fear Itself, I don’t know if these were originally published in Fear Itself #7, the indicia isn’t very enlightening.

Whilst it has its high points Fear Itself is ultimately unsatisfying.

Rating: 

Reviewer: Dave Williams

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