Review: Fear Itself: The Home Front #2

Speedball gets a beatdown in Stamford, Jimmy Woo gets weird and Liz Allan suffers subway psychos.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Fear Itself: The Home Front #2

Although Iann Robinson laments how over-the-top Fear Itself is, I'd say that might hold true for Fear Itself: The Home Front, but in a different way.  At least in the main book, it's a straightforward enemy – evil gods and Nazis – and should be leading up to some straightforward big-time superhero battles.  This book, giving us four stories an issue, is more frustrating because in trying to give us a more layered take on the street-level reactions to the presence of superheroes and supervillains in the Marvel world, it tends to wind up being more obnoxious and pandering about it.

Only the first two stories in Fear Itself: The Home Front #2 continue from the first issue.  The main one involves ripping open the scars from Civil War as Robbie Baldwin, aka Speedball, has been going undercover to try and help out the people of Stamford, trying to make amends for the fact that his ridiculous reality-show New Warriors inadvertently set off the augmented Nitro and killed 600 people or so.  He's been working directly with the charity organization founded by Miriam Sharpe, the Figurehead Civilian who guilted Tony Stark into starting the whole Superhuman Registration Act mess in the first place.  Of course, once he gets discovered, the entire group of benevolent volunteers becomes a pack of bloodthirsty vengeful animals trying to murder him in the street.  In issue #2, he gets saved by Sharpe, then has to go out and fight crime, gets beat down, grabbed by more civvies who try to kill him with a plastic bag over his head, and then gets saved by Sharpe again.

Firstly, I'll admit a bias because anything that makes me think about Civil War tends to annoy me, since I hated that with a passion.  Secondly, while this aspires to be an examination of how anyone can ever hope to make up for a massively tragic mistake, Christos Gage's dialog tends to degenerate into unnatural political screeds and makes the whole exercise into a grating interpretation of what "the regular person" is supposed to be like.  We're supposed to find these people as sympathetic as the 9/11 families, but they just come off as self-righteous, misguided irritants instead.  No amount of photo-realistic art from Mike Mayhew making Sharpe look like Catherine Keener and and Speedball look like Ryan Gosling is going to make that chatter seem less forced.

Their whole deal is that they think nobody needs superheroes and they can save themselves from anything, but their plan to deal with escaped supervillains is to just let them do whatever they want and hope they pass through quickly and keep their rapes to a minimum. However, it does look like Sharpe is headed for a breakthrough realization about how stupid that is, so hopefully this story puts all the Civil War ghosts to bed for good once it wraps up and we can move on.

The other stories here are less notable.  Peter Milligan's Agents of Atlas don't really feel like the ones we've been reading about under Jeff Parker's run, as suddenly Jimmy Woo and Namora are a thing and apparently nobody told Elia Bonetti that even though Bob Grayson is a Uranian, he doesn't look like a green-headed alien. Woo is acting inconsistent and squirrelly, when that's never been his thing, and he's paranoid about evil infiltrators in Atlas?  The whole point of taking over Atlas was to root out all the corruption – why is this suddenly a surprise that there'd be creeps in this organization?  The whole thing just feels off, which makes me sad, because this is a team I love.

Howard Chaykin's gotten a page in both books – last issue's "Moment with J. Jonah Jameson" was pretty good, but a "Moment with the Purple Man" is less interesting, as he's basically just floating away during a prison break.  Nobody really wants to spend a moment with the Purple Man anyway.

Then the last story is basically a 'tense situation for a normal citizen' piece featuring Liz Allan, Harry Osborn's babymama, on a train out of the city when nutty things happen and a guy goes crazy with a knife because his brother might die – driving the point home that tense situations make normal people crazy, which could explain the savagery in the Speedball story, too.  It's a serviceable story from Corinna Bechko, but the punishingly ugly art from Lelio Bonaccorso makes it hard to get through at all.

This book's pretty inconsistent overall, and lamentably whenever Marvel tries to do a big 'common man perspective' angle, it just feels like a condescending "ripped from the headlines" gimmick instead of being at all illuminating.  Maybe that'll change someday.