We here at Crave Online have beaten up on Fear Itself regularly and with great zeal, since it was a big turgid mess and all. However, the series sprawling out of it have been fairly interesting. First, there's the intriguing Battle Scars, which honestly doesn't seem to have much to do with the concept of last year's big Marvel event. Rather, it's more like a "back door spin-off," with its plot origins shoehorned into the end of Fear Itself – kinda like how NCIS launched from JAG. Then there's also the 12-issue series Fear Itself: The Fearless, which promised to raise Valkyrie's profile toward the top tier. It's been a mixed bag so far, but in The Fearless #9, things finally start to come into focus beyond the mediocre "hammer tag" that's filled most of the previous issues.
The plot has been pretty simple – after "The Serpent War," all the big evil magic hammers have been scattered around the globe, and it's become a race between Valkyrie and Sin, the Red Skull's evil daughter who released The Serpent to begin with, to gather them up. Valkyrie feels its her sacred duty to return them to Asgard, while Sin, of course, has some evil plan. Cullen Bunn has been scripting a story he devised with Matt Fraction and Chris Yost, and so far, it's been slow going, despite being mostly action oriented, as they run around the globe finding hammers, and occasionally running into each other and contesting for one. Valkyrie has the added frustration of disobeying direct orders from Captain America about doing what she's doing, so she tends to have to fight her friends to do her job. Compelling enough to keep me buying each new issue, but not particularly exciting.
With #9, things become more clear. Sin apparently wants to use the hammers to wake up some giant mystical robot to kill a lot of things, calling it The Serpent's grand plan. However, they've enlisted the help of Daimon Hellstrom to interpret some of the mystical texts and, considering that Hellstrom and Dr. Strange are magic good guy buddies over in Venom right now, it's only a matter of time before Hellstrom reveals himself as an infiltrator. Amazing how much clout the "son of Satan" schtick can get him with bad guys.
What's more involving is Valkyrie's side of the deal. We've gotten snippets of her history in Asgard, her relationship with Odin, and how weary she's grown of immortality in previous issues, and now we (and Sin) learn that her goal is likely to end her long run as part of the Valkyrior by sacrificing her soul to "banish the hammers for all time." Now we know why this has been dragged out to 12 issues – this could very well be Valkyrie's swan song. Does it make sense for Marvel to spend 12 issues bumping Valkyrie up towards the upper echelon only to kill her off in the end, especially for a company which tends to really hurt for high-profile female characters (at least characters who can support their own book)? Not particularly – even less so if she dies as a footnote to a lame event book. However, all that meta stuff aside, you can't help but feel for Brunnhilde here.
Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier team up for the art this issue, and despite their talents, they can't help but be a bit inconsistent, but when they're on, they can really bring some emotion to the work. That ability of Bagley's is part of what kept me interested in Ultimate Spider-Man for as long as I was, even if I'm not anymore. He gets a bit same-facey, but those faces are generally full of emotive expression.
We've still got three more issues to go to see how this all shakes out. Will it be a fond, honorable farewell to one of the best Defenders, or will they flip the script and instead bring the long-dead love that Valkyrie's eager to join in Valhalla back to life and let her find some happiness? Or will Sin wake up the big robot and we'll have to deal with 2 Fear 2 Itself: Fear Itselfer? I don't know, but they've got a hook to bring me back.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.5/10