I’m kind of curious about what Marvel is thinking now that Fear Itself is almost over. I’ll get to my review of issue #4 in a second, but I wanted to ponder the notion of how Marvel will deal with the failure thus far of their big summer event series. Is there panic in the halls of the House of Ideas? Is Joe Quesada making his short list of people to blame this on? Is Matt Fraction seeing if there is an opening at Image or Dark Horse? Publicly, they might not say anything, but privately, this has to be quite a blow to Marvel’s sizable ego. The company that rejuvenated comics has released Sinestro Corps with hammers and made it boring. Nice move guys.
This brings us to Fear Itself #4. The most frustrating thing about this issue is that nothing happens, at all. The issue is entirely exposition and set up. I’d get angry but really, that’s been the problem with Fear Itself since it hit the shelves. Marvel raised the stakes so incredibly high and they delivered on nothing. Odin is working to destroy the Earth so he can kill an evil powered by the fear of mankind. Thor is at odds with his father. The Hulk, The Thing and The Juggernaut are all possessed by evil and are brandishing the ultimate form of destruction. All of this is going down and absolutely none of it comes across at all in Fear Itself. I have not seen an event with such potential be so disastrously handled in many years. This makes House Of M and Dark Reign seem like Marvel’s original Secret Wars or DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths.
Fear Itself #4 starts with Thor being hurdled back to Earth by Odin, who has become a fan of genocide for no reason. Then the Serpent gives a long-winded speech while Fraction uses two full pages to get everybody back up to speed. Most of the rest of the issue is strictly exposition, amounting to little more than “So this is what’s going on”. The most flagrant sin made by writer Matt Fraction is how he takes three huge moments and makes them seem like an afterthought. First is Bucky’s death. Bucky is dead, the man who filled in for Captain America, the boy who fought by Steve Rogers side is dead and you feel nothing about it. Why, because Fraction uses that scene to give us a lengthy explanation from Thor about Odin and a prophecy concerning himself. Bucky’s body lies there while people shoot the shit. It’s so badly done I actually forgot Bucky was even there.
The second epic fail is the reinstatement of Steve Rogers as Captain America. We have all been waiting for this since Rogers was killed and here it is. The death of Bucky Barnes has driven Steve Rogers to take up the mantle again. We should be cheering and hooting and instead, it’s just a moment, nothing special about it. Finally, the scene where Steve Rogers, in full uniform, is leaping into action with Thor and Iron Man by his side flops like so much dead weight. It’s even drawn way too brightly and cartoonish. It’s baffling that Fraction or his editors would allow such great moments to be wasted, but they do. I also loved the desperation move of having Tony Stark drink again in order to summon a meeting with Odin. What? How does that work? Is Odin the Asgardian equivalent of little pink elephants? Marvel can try and inject all the deep meaning they want to but the scene comes off as funny, which I‘m pretty sure wasn’t the idea.
At the end of Fear Itself #4, we learn that The Serpent is really Odin’s pissed off brother that nobody knew about. The final panel is Thor attacking the possessed Hulk and Thing. That’s it, it ends there and readers will be left with a feeling that somebody over in the Marvel offices owes them money. Stuart Immonen does some really nice work here. He manages to translate, through his art, the fear that Fraction can’t translate through the written word. Immonen can get great scenes done within small panels and really goes for the gold in the bigger work. If Fraction understood scale and tension the way Immonen does, Fear Itself may not be the unbelievable mess it is. At this point, I don’t care what happens to the Marvel Universe, I just want Fear Itself to be over.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 3.5/10 (For the Art)