Monday, April 11, 2011

Fear Itself, First Impressions...

I just finished reading the Book of the Skull & the first issue of Fear Itself warming me up for yet another summer filled with comic book events. I've been forcing myself to resist most spoilers and in the process knew almost nothing about the plot of this story before reading these 2 issues. My instincts and gut reaction to the 'hype" of Fear Itself was.."Ok Marvel is just making a Cross-over that will capitalize on two of their properties making their way to film this summer…Let hurry up and put out an event that showcases both Captain America and Thor." And to be honest… that is partly true. But as I read on and dug deeper into this, I found that Matt Fraction has woven a very interesting event, with huge depth and a back-story that doesn't need to be shoehorned into continuity like other cross-overs seem to suffer from.

The general plot: taken from wiki… (few minor spoilers)

During World War II, the Red Skull on orders of Adolf Hitler performs a ritual which causes the Hammer of Skadi (which belonged to the Asgardian goddess Skadi) to fall to Earth where it lands in Antarctica. Traveling to Antarctica, the Red Skull finds the hammer but is unable to lift it. Red Skull has Adolf Hitler's Thule Society seal it away and put it under their guard. Many years later, Red Skull's daughter Sin with the help of Baron Zemo retrieves the Book of the Skull that contains the location of the hammer.

While Tony Stark holds a press conference with the Avengers by his side to announce that his company Stark Resilient will help rebuild Asgard in the wake of the Siege, Sin uncovers the Hammer of Skadi. Upon lifting the hammer Sin becomes Skadi and frees her father, the god of fear from an underwater prison. (The two appear loosely based upon Skadi and her father Thiazi of Norse Viking mythology) Odin, aware of the return of the god of fear, commands his people to return to the Asgardian plane, against the protests of Thor, whom he has chained and dragged against his will.

What's unique about this cross-over event in the larger scope of the Marvel Universe? First it says, maybe Odin isn't the Highfather. This shakes the Norse god's history to the core and seems to have scared or deeply angered Odin. Thor's world is shattered, too. All he has ever know is a lie. His father is not who he says he is. Then you have Captain America... the daughter of his greatest enemy, a true greater threat than the Red Skull, has the Power of a GOD! The Avengers worst possible nightmare. And to top it all, fear makes them stronger. What will happen next?

Before this, I've had very little experience with Matt Fraction. I'd say most have said good things about him. But, It took me a while to warm up to his Thor book with Pascal Ferry. I'm starting to come around. But if there was ever a creative team member to latch me onto an event… it’s the pencils of Stuart Immonen. Stuart Immonen is easily one of my top 5 favorite artists… of all time. I was a fan back in the days he drew Superman, then drew Nextwave, Ultimate X-men, & Ultimate Spider-man, and most recently New Avengers to name a few. If you want to hook me… put this man on a book. The pages of Fear Itself were worth the cover price alone. He is the perfect blend of photo realism and cartoonish action. The man is just my ideal comic artist.

Again, I feel like Marvel knows how to make a cross-over work. This plot felt developed and logical, even if it was to bank on the 2 upcoming Marvel movies. I have genuine intrigue as to the ramifications of Odin being scared of not only the presence of this new "god" as well as the appearance of the Watcher. Thor is imprisoned and the rest of Earth's heroes are stuck with the feeling of dread. Knowing something bad is coming and some of the most powerful have fled out of fear. I plan on writing a bit of my initial reaction on DC's Flashpoint in the next few days, but If I just compare what little I understand is going on… Marvel really makes you feel like this is an important story and has an impact on what is going on in their day to day comics. I feel like I can buy just the "Fear Itself books" and I don’t' need 30 some books to comprehend a universe of stories. I'm a hardcore DC fan. I enjoyed Blackest Night… but Siege was so much cleaner. It was 4 issues and it wrapped up an arch so beautifully. Kudos to Marvel for hooking me on simplicity and great art & story telling. I'm really liking Fear Itself and it has my vote for event of the summer!


  1. Super agree that Marvel's been doing a better job of condensing their event books than DC has. Yes, there are tie-ins. And some are quite good. But you really only need to read those 4 issues of Siege to get the story of Siege.

    I have no idea which of the 14 tie-in minis are essential to the Flashpoint story. I'm just going to do my best to buy only the ones with the most interesting-looking creative teams/concepts. Doing 14 tie-in minis almost puts me off of the whole thing, though.

    At least when Age of Apocalypse or House of M reshaped the world, they suspended the regular books, for the most part. (and they were both kept to well under 14 titles)

    I want to enjoy Flashpoint as a Geoff Johns/Andy Kubert jam but I'm a little reticent with the way they've lined up the tie-in books.

    I'm comfortable with the Fear Itself model where there's an optional "Home Front" tie-in and outside of that, if you have any interest in how Fear Itself affects your favorite characters, it either ties into books you're already reading, or you pick up the minis that feature those characters. I'll be getting Fearsome Four just because a book featuring Man-Thing, She-Hulk and Howard the Duck pretty much has my name on it. Same with Youth in Revolt, since I'm invested in the Young Allies and Avengers Initiative characters and am a fan of writer Sean McKeever.

    Incidentally, Fear Itself: Home Front #1 was a good read but in no way essential to Fear Itself. Which is fine because it's existence is just to give you some additial perspective, if you want it, and that perspective was well-crafted. The Speedball story is beautifully drawn and does a wonderful job of working alongside the events of Fear Itself while also giving you a heartbreaking story about Speedball and how the rest of the world sees him in the wake of the Stamford explosion. Some really quality character exploration there and plays up some more of the scary mob mentality stuff that Fear Itself #1 touched upon.

    The Agents of Atlas story looks to maybe bring in some more background on the World War II efforts to summon Skadi and The Serpent, there was a cute 1 page Mayor J. Jonah Jameson story with JJ doing what JJ does best. Then it wrapped up with a short story focusing on the residents of Broxton, OK and how all the attention behind the Asgardians and the kind of tourism that brings to a small town like that would effect the citizens who live there.

    Good stuff but unessential, though it gives you the option of enriching your reading experience if you so wish.

    I hope I can get off just as easily with Flashpoint but I don't know. I know Robb has some stuff he wants to say about Flashpoint so I'll let him get to that when he can and in the meantime, I'll have to take a look at those 14 tie-ins and decide exactly which ones I feel like I reeeally want to keep up with.

  2. I hate to be that guy, but you honestly find this interesting and feel like it will have a genuine lasting impact? I am sorry but for the latter Marvel's events are the pinnacle of the illusion of change. Right now all the effects of House of M (and even Avengers Dissembled) are being washed away, only the death of Bill Foster still remains from Civil War, and the same goes for Jan with Secret Invasion. I mean do you expect this event to be any different?

    As for my former point I get the feeling you may end up disappointed as the book goes on. During all the promotion for the book they made little mention of the Asgard connection but when on and on about this being about the fears that fill our everyday lives. This is just Civil War all over again, and if they couldn't handle such a simple concept such as freedom vs. security how do you think they will handle the nature of fear. Hell the previews have already give rise to questionable future events like Canada turning fascist.

    Plus let's be honest Fraction may not be the best choice to helm an event, his one prior credit of note was X-men Utopia crossover which just fell apart at the end after an issue or two of padding.

    Also Tracie I think you are taking the wrong view with Flashpoint. Now as a X-Men and Claremont fan I have issues with Bob Harras, but I think he realized something. Lately with these event everyone has been worried too much about is this or that "essential". We have basically forced ourselves to have an assigned reading list for our hobby, which when you realize that it seems a little stupid. But what I think Harras is doing with Flashpoint is having nothing outside the main title be "essential" and if you want to skip the event all together it won't spill over into any your ongoings. It is an event that has no pressure to it, you read as much as you want to read. And that is what makes the tie-ins interesting to me, none of them are key to understanding to main story and are there solely for fun. Like I don't feel a need to buy the Canterbury Cricket I am getting it because it sounds awesome. Hell I am only really getting Flashpoint itself since I am looking forward to the Cyborg bits. Flashpoint is the first event I have been around for that doesn't feel like I am being forced to buy more than I really want just because something is "essential".

  3. I hope you're right about Flashpoint. I'm just going by the solicitation text right now but a number of them SOUND pretty important to what's going on (particularly World of Flashpoint, Lois Lane, Project Superman and Kid Flash Lost) and just based on previous crossovers like Blackest Night, Final Crisis and Infinite Crisis, a lot of important bits of story were told outside of the core book.

    As for your earlier point about the events of recent Marvel crossovers not being long-lasting, that may just be open to how long you consider long-lasting to be and how extensive you expect the changes.

    The events of Disassembled, House of M, Civil War and Secret Invasion are still being felt in the books (even if some books are starting to see certain people returning from death and the like). Nothing's ever permanent, everything's fluid. So long as it's interesting/entertaining and obeys some sort of internal logic, I'm okay with whatever comics want to throw at me.

    If Fear Itself wants to give a bunch of people giant hammers to swing at my favorite superheroes, that sounds like a thing I want to read. If Matt Fraction wants to explore themes about fear and the media, he is a smart man and I'd like to hear what he has to say while superpeople are swinging giant hammers at other superpeople.

    I didn't come away from Utopia with the same feelings you did and Fraction's stellar work on Iron Man buys him a lot of credit with me. Fear Itself #1 was a strong opener and I'm excited to see what the next 6 issues have in store.

  4. The problem for me is when most media tries discuss any type of philosophical, political, or intellectual concept is that very rarely do the creators give their audience enough credit. In turn everything comes off as over simplistic with no actually dialogue being sparked, usually with one side being reduced to nothing more than strawman argument. With Fear Itself Marvel side-stepped the meat of the event during promotion, super hammer swinging, in order to make the event seem more cerebral and highbrow than frankly it is.

    Also from my understanding several titles end up forming their own little bubbles like Lois Lane, Wonder Woman, and Hal Jordan focusing on European War while Aquaman and Deathstroke focus on the conflict at sea. Project Superman just seems awesome and honestly just has been intrigued so much. As for World I just don't know about that title at first it seemed like a survey course but now. Either way I want it because of Traci 13. Also from what I have been hearing Kid Flash Lost may actually be the set-up for the long coming Kid Flash ongoing.