Review: Fear Itself #7
This is how the world is saved: not with a whimper, but with huge, bombastic combat and superheroes defeating the bad guys and slaying dragons. The finale to Fear Itself has all the makings of an epic conclusion…except for the continued lack of connectivity with the reader. I said it back in my review of the last issue, but Fear Itself will most likely be better read all in one sitting. This final issue moreso than the last one. We’re looking at just one big, giant fight scene followed by a few seemingly random epilogues. It’s fun to read, but it feels paper thin.
Overall, I’d say Fear Itself is a success as a big, bad superhero brawl. But it’s nothing deeper than that.
Comic rating: 4/5: Good.
I suppose I liked Fear Itself. It was certainly better than most Big Event comics. It had action, it had strong characters…but it lacked heart. Even the death of a major Marvel characters is muted. It was all excited energy, and rarely took time to slow down and smell the roses. And since superhero comics are all about actions and fight scenes, Fear Itself succeeds as the biggest fight scene of the year. We have Thor slaying a dragon, the Avengers rallying for the final fight and a small moment where the common man lends a hand. There are even a few neat catch phrases thrown around.
So it’s a good comic book. I just wasn’t feeling it. There will be spoilers in this review.
We open exactly where we left off last issue: the Serpent and his evil forces are floating towards Broxton, Oklahoma (of all places) while Captain America stands alone holding he line. He’s doing a pretty badass job of it too.
This is exactly the sort of ‘no-heart’ scene I’m talking about. This should be the very definition of badass. Captain America holding the line against evil! The cliffhanger from the last issue was cool, and it carries over, but I’m just not feeling it. I assume a continuous read from one issue to the next would be more effective. Still, it’s a fun way to open the issue. Captain America has been something of a main character this series, so he’s a good man to be holding the line. I should probably gather together all my issues of Fear Itself and read it all in one sitting.
But not yet! We’re sticking with just issue #7 for now.
The Serpent sends his Worthy warriors at Captain America, who somehow successfully holds them off with his machine guns. I’m not entirely sure how this happened. Seriously. Last issue established solidly that Cap was standing alone at Broxton. And several pages pass in this issue where we’re left to assume that Cap is still alone fighting the entirety of The Worthy. That includes super massive, super powerful enemies like Juggernaut, Absorbing Man, Titania and Gray Gargoyle, all of whom are enhanced by the Serpent. The fight definitely lasts long enough for Tony Stark to show up from Asgard and bring the rest of the Avengers their new super-weapons, an event that had to last at least several minutes.
I guess Cap is just really badass with those guns.
This brings us to the turning of the tide moment, or the cavalry moment. Tony Stark has spent most of Fear Itself off in Asgard making super weapons for some of the Avengers. Scenes like these make me really curious about the creative process. who decided which Avengers would get weapons? Red She-Hulk gets a weapon…but not Luke Cage? Where did Red She-Hulk even come from? Has she been in Fear Itself all along? Is she even an Avengers? I know Red Hulk is an Avenger…where’s his weapon? The splash page looks pretty badass (this is actually the second of two splash pages showing off these weapons), but is it anything more than ‘check out these cool new costumes/weapons’ for the team! And what’s Wolverine’s weapon? Are those new claws glowing gold? It looks like he’s wearing an entire suit of spiky Asgardian armor…but I’m pretty sure Tony didn’t make that.
Oh well, probably best not to worry about it. Basically we’re just kicking off a big fight scene. The Worthy vs. The Mighty. I’m sure it was a blast for Matt Fraction to write. All these cool ideas coming together in his head and on the page.
I just can’t bring myself to care beyond just the physical. Sure they look cool, I suppose, and it’s neat that they all get new action figure accessories. But who cares? It’s just yet another giant fight scene to end a Big Event comic. It happens in all of them. And I guess that’s my main complaint about Fear Itself. Nothing that happens in this comic is in any way all that different from other Big Event comics or threats.
A bad guy shows up, he, she or they cause a lot of mischief/damage and after 6 or 7 issues the Avengers and other Marvel superheroes rally together to win the day. Throw in a couple of random character deaths and you’ve got yourself a Big Event comic. There’s just one thing missing…
Yep, there it is. Someone had to shout the team’s catchphrase. Except that Cap says it right in the middle of the battle. Everybody’s already assembled, already fighting (except for Luke, Red Hulk and Spider-Woman there in the background, apparently. I guess he just thinks the idea of him picking up Thor’s hammer will help with morale, maybe? I wonder if those three heroes are jealous that Tony Stark didn’t make super weapons for them. Heck, Tony specifically mentions that he didn’t make a weapon for Cap since Cap has his shield (or did, it was broken a few issues ago). I guess Tony just doesn’t care if Spider-Woman or Luke Cage feel left out.
Iron Fist gets a new toy, but not Power Man? For shame.
So the fight scene is what it is, just a whole lot of punching and the like. Frankly, we don’t get to see much of it. I think each of the newly weaponized heroes gets one page or one moment to show off their new badass weapons, but that’s it. There are some double-page spreads of the action, and a few panels featuring each hero, but that’s it. They’re fighting random Serpent goons and the few named bad guys. But no one has any sort of personal moment other than general fighting. All the heroic Worthy, like the Thing or the Hulk, are gone, so nobody cares that they are once again fighting Juggernaut or the Absorbing Man. And it’s still a shame that the villains can’t banter back.
We do get a brief, one-panel cut away to the Hulk fighting Dracula from a separate mini-series – but fuck that. I will not be caught dead buying into Marvel’s cheap, exploitative attempts to rebrand their Dracula character in light of the recent vampire fad. It’s a complete waste of the Hulk.
The most prominent fight of the issue is Thor vs. the Serpent, who has turned into a dragon for some reason.
The fight is basically just Thor vs. a giant dragon, one that’s capable of bantering back and forth with the God of Thunder. The two of them mostly talk about the general themes of this story, like the importance of humanity and Thor’s love of humanity versus his devotion to Asgard. The Serpent has only ever been a boring, one-note villain, and nothing that happens in this fight changes that stance. One might even be confused as to why he’s all of a sudden a giant dragon. The transformation isn’t shown. One moment he’s the Serpent, shouting about his victory and absorbing energy. Then a few pages later he’s a giant, talking dragon.
I guess it’s more badass this way?
Either way, the general idea of Thor slaying a dragon is cool. And he does, killing the Serpent in the end and winning the day. With the Serpent dead, all the hammers leave the Worthy and (I assume) the villains revert back to normal. There’s only one scene of Cap trying to get Sin to say something…but other than that, nothing is done with the villains to show any remorse or any other possible emotions. The good guys win, end of story.
Though there is one cool moment where a regular citizen of Broxton helps Cap to his feet.
The guy appeared in Fear Itself #1, and I guess his story arc is that Captain America has inspired him to rush headlong into a giant superhero fight, endangering his own life and risking the stability of the wife and kid he left behind. I dunno. All the guy really does is help Captain America to his feet, at which point Captain America declares “We’re all Avengers” and picks up Thor’s hammer.
See what I meant about catch phrases?
But the victory is bittersweet, because in the end Thor dies. There’s no real explanation for his death. I guess slaying the dragon just took a lot out of him. There was some prophecy about Thor having to sacrifice his life to defeat the Serpent…but that prophecy only ever existed in Fear Itself. The Serpent and that prophecy are direct creations of writer Matt Fraction and this comic book. He didn’t take some ancient Norse myth and incorporate it into the story. He made up the prophecy specifically to kill Thor because Big Event comics need a superhero death in them.
FOR SOME REASON!
I think it’s safe to say that all comic book fans at this point just roll their eyes at the superhero deaths in these comics. Are we supposed to be taking them seriously? They mean so very, very little. Wasp’s death in Secret Invasion was practically an after thought. And Thor’s death here is treated so flatly. Nobody even really mourns him. They just build a funeral pyre…but then don’t even light it!? What? Nope, they don’t. They just show Thor’s body lying down in a funeral position, with his hammer in his hands, and the Avengers talking about lighting a fire for his viking send off.
Then they don’t show it on page.
There are a few other wrapping up moments, like Bucky’s one-panel funeral and Tony Stark having the dwarves rebuild Cap’s shield. But none of these moments get any time to breath or show any depth of character. In the end, Captain America sums everything up.
That actually sums up Fear Itself nicely. It was basically one big fight-scene comic. The new bad guy shows up, threatens the world, and the Avengers rally together to stop him. There are some set backs along the way, but then there are always set backs in fiction. That’s what makes it a story. Thor and Bucky died for no apparent reason other than the ‘necessity’ of deaths in a Big Event comic. But I don’t think anybody expects them to stay dead. That’s just silly. Thor is in The Avengers movie next spring, and Thor 2 is in pre-production. He’ll be back within a year. Bucky may take a bit longer, but his death was still meaningless.
Just like Fear Itself – unless you’re looking for a nice, big, bombastic beat’em up. Then it’s a good read.