Review: Fear Itself #6
I bet if I was reading this story all in one sitting it would be a lot more awesome. Instead, the same disjointed feel is evident everywhere. The penultimate chapter of Fear Itself is written like a big, bombastic movie epic starring my favorite superheroes…it just doesn’t read like one. A lot has happened in both my life and in the world of comics since Fear Itself #5. So, frankly, Fear Itself #6 has a lot to contend with in the battle for my attention. That it falls just short is not its fault. I bet it will read great in collected form.
Shame I won’t be buying it in collected form. Single issues for me.
Everything is still top notch in Fear Itself. The art by Stuart Immonen is clear and beautiful, and the writing by Matt Fraction is well-paced and exciting. The heroes of the Marvel Universe are facing a diabolical threat that’s cutting the world asunder. New York City is in ruins. The heroes are tired and feeling blue. And the villain, The Serpent, is ready to declare his victory. He has but to attack the Norse World Tree with his army of empowered super-villains and the entirety of existence will fall in his name! Only a battle weary but seriously pissed off Captain America stands in his way.
Fortunately for Cap, the cavalry is just around the corner. Thor and Iron Man are gearing up for the last stand.
I like the issue, but as I said, it felt disjointed. There isn’t a feel of where all of the characters are in relation to one another. We know where they are, but it just doesn’t feel connected. The problem, to me, is that everything sounds much more awesome as an idea than what’s actually on the page. The events look like they’re supposed to be epic, they just don’t feel epic. As if the pitch was a lot stronger than the finished product. I think all of it probably sounds really awesome in Matt Fraction’s mind as he’s writing it, and I know he’s having a blast, I’m just not feeling it.
Again, it would probably be better read all in one sitting. Maybe I’ll have to try that some day.
We begin in New York City, which is looking a little worse for wear.
The Avengers are regrouping after the big fights of Fear Itself #5. I know Thor got into a big scrape with the Thing and the Hulk, both of whom were possessed by the villainous Serpent. He dispatched the two of them, though not without some difficulty. Then I think Thor and some of the other Avengers went up against the Serpent directly. But sadly for them, the Serpent kicked their asses. He broke Captain America’s shield and laid waste to the lot of them. The entire world is gripped with chaos and fear, and he’s feeding off all of it. He’s getting stronger and stronger.
And he kicked Thor’s tuckus.
I seem to recall the fight between Thor, Hulk and Thing not being very epic. One problem is that there are a bazillion tie-ins to Fear Itself. For example, Hulk got knocked out of the city by Thor at the end of the fight. He’ll land in another comic called Fear Itself: Hulk vs. Dracula. Which just sounds dumb. Marvel is trying very very hard to jump on this whole vampire frenzy by pushing their Dracula character. But Hulk could have been awesome in Fear Itself! Instead he’s got to go fight Dracula in some lame spin-off that nobody is going to buy. But I digress.
The team spits up. Luke Cage takes his New Avengers, such as Dr. Strange, Iron Fist and Mockingbird, back into New York City to try and help with evacuations. While Cap, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel and a few others teleport Thor back to Asgard for healing. You see, Odin is marshaling the armies of Asgard to destroy the Earth. He’s got a scorched Earth policy for this war. If Odin destroys Earth, he’ll destroy the Serpent as well. Humanity is just collateral damage. At least Asgard and the rest of the Nine Realms will be saved.
The Serpent, you see, is Odin’s brother. He should have been king of Asgard eons ago, but Odin defeated and imprisoned him on Earth. This whole story is about how the Serpent gets free and threatens to destroy all of existence!
Unfortunately, the Serpent is not a very compelling villain. He just sort of showed up in Fear Itself, revealing some secret history of Asgard and Odin that we’d never heard about until Fear Itself. There were no seeds planted along the way, no big secret revealed. He just showed up to reek havoc. Sure he’s doing a fairly good job of it, but still. He’s just evil for the sake of being evil. He’s definitely not a Magneto or a Sinestro, two top notch villains with real depth. The Serpent started out as an old fogey, then got younger when he got more power. The only intresting thing he’s done is recruit Marvel characters to be his soldiers. That’s better than just making up new henchmen. The Worthy look especially cool…but they don’t have voices anymore. They can’t banter or talk to the heroes. They speak only in unreadable Norse speak. So there’s no drama in forcing the heroes to fight their friends or their familiar enemies.
There’s just punching and more punching.
Fear Itself lacks drama. Or more correctly, it lacks really touching drama. Because it’s got a lot of attempted drama, stuff that, again, I feel would probably mean a lot more to me if I was reading everything in one sitting. As it is, the events just seem like they’re really awesome or meaningful in Matt Fraction’s mind. They’re meant to be amazing. They just don’t succeed.
Like Spider-Man’s scene. This one was really lame. At the end of Fear Itself #5, when the good guys were defeated, Spider-Man gave up and left the other Avengers. A lot of people on the Interwebs complained about this, but I don’t care as much. Basically, rather than stay with the others and lick their own wounds, Spider-Man wanted to go check on Aunt May. Makes sense to me. So in this issue, he finds her – but she doesn’t know that Spider-Man is really her nephew Peter Parker!!
This was just bad. It’s two pages right in the middle of the story, and it’s very very bad. It would have meant something if May knew that was Peter under the mask. But current Spider-Man continuity has Aunt May oblivious. As far as she’s concerned, Spider-Man just randomly showed up to make sure she’s OK. Out of the hundreds of refugees she’s hiding out with during this attack, the Spider-Man seeks her out and makes up some pathetic story about passing on a message from Peter. Ugh. Just tell her! Reveal the secret to her! This is the big Event Comic of the summer! Let Aunt May know the truth!
It just rings horribly hollow, constrained by the One More Day/Brand New Day reboot from a few years ago.
Another scene that doesn’t have the impact it should is Captain America facing off against Odin. Once the Avengers bring Thor back to Asgard, Cap sees Odin’s armies and gets up in the big god’s face. He wanted Odin to heal Thor, but also wants to tell Odin off for having the nerve to attack Earth with his armies. Cap gets really shouty, right up in Odin’s face. He tells Odin that he’ll need more than an army to try and destroy Earth, if Cap has anything to say about it. It’s a cool scene that will read better if one can remember how much of a dick Odin has been in this series.
Odin gets annoyed with Cap’s prattling and teleports all the Avengers back to Earth. They are sent to Broxton, Oklahoma, among the ruins of Old Asgard. You see, a couple of years ago, when Thor was King of Asgard, he moved it to Earth. The whole Golden City was floating peacefully over the fields outside of Broxton, Oklahoma. Then a bunch of stuff happened and Asgard was destroyed. But the stories had the added benefit of turning the citizens of Broxton into important characters in the Marvel Universe. It’s an important place, because that’s where the Serpent can reach the World Tree. That’s where the final stand will be. But after Cap gets teleported away by Odin, he’s lost a lot of steam.
Cap gets his nerve back later in the issue.
Then we cut to Asgard. Odin did indeed heal Thor and explained a bit more about the Serpent…but not really. Thor asks if the Serpent is the true King of Asgard and Odin tells him nothing really. Just explains how Odin has fought hard to keep everybody safe from the Serpent, who he describes not as his opposite, but as his “absence”. Then Odin gets down to business and says all that matters is that the Serpent can be killed, and he gives Thor a big honking sword to do it with. He also gives Thor the same armor he wore eons ago when he defeated the Serpent. Odin is proud that his son is going to take a stand.
Once Thor is armored up, it’s time to get everyone else ready to fight too. In one of the tie-ins that is also written by Matt Fraction, Tony Stark has been working with some dwarves to craft some truly awesome weapons. The plan is to make new weapons that are similar to Thor’s hammer Mjolnir. Tony and the dwarves have them ready, and the final step is to plunge them into the molten Uru metal so that Odin can grant them godly power. Tony has crafted weapons for a few specific Avengers.
Plus he plans to have Odin imbue his armor. That means Iron Man has to dive into the molten Uru as well. So in he goes.
Iron Man and Thor are preparing for the final battle in Asgard. That leaves Captain America, a handful of Avengers and the citizens of Broxton to hold the line as the Serpent arrives in Oklahoma to attack the World Tree. This is where the book really gets an epic feel. This final scene here before the end of the issue could definitely come from an awesome movie. It would be a highpoint right before the climax. Captain America is pissed. He’s lost his shield and he’s down to his last nerve. He has faith that Thor and Iron Man are out there somewhere, but he has no idea what they’re doing or when they’re coming. So he’s got to hold the line!
Stay tuned for Fear Itself #7, the epic conclusion…hopefully!