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Friday, August 12, 2011

Is 'Fear Itself' Living Up to Expectations?

Does Fear Itself have the depth it seemed to promise when teased last December?

As Marvel’s summer event winds down, I wondered after issue #5, is Fear Itself a big enough story?

I don’t think so. There doesn’t seem to be enough meat to the story to warrant a seemingly endless number of crossovers and minis that are beginning to feel repetitive. We’re five months in and, while the book contains a formidable antagonist for the entire Marvel U, the story is not as dense and layered as it needs to be.

A forgotten evil has arisen and turned seven villains and heroes into his avatars of destruction who then tear across the planet. Really, there isn’t much more to Matt Fraction’s mini-series than that. Unfortunately, when an event comes along we expect more substance. I was expecting, when the action seemed to kick into high gear with the last issue, that issue #5 would present some surprise or turning point for the book. But now it seems to have become a bombastic action piece with little heart to it (there’s been some, but not enough to pull readers in emotionally).

Fear Itself does not appear to be the game-
changer that readers might have expected.

I think one of the problems is that back in December, when Marvel began teasing the event, it seemed that it would be as big in ideas as it was in scope. While it has been a big story in the sense that every character in the Marvel U has been affected, it has only been superficially for the most part. “The story should be relatable to where we are today,” said Fraction when he spoke about the mini for the first time. “Like the best of all Marvel’s best stuff, it’s something that speaks to the world we live in.”

Sure, “Bucky” Barnes died and we’ve learned that Odin may not be the true All-Father, but do you remember the teasers? Spider-Man standing in front of the televisions as the news reported the gloom and doom of the real world—the state of the economy and the safety of America appeared to be the backdrop of the series. For all intents and purposes, Fear Itself looked to be an event more akin to Marvel’s Civil War than anything else.

Fear Itself #1 unfolded slowly, seemingly to put all of the key players in place. Once issue #2 came along, and the Worthy were granted their hammers, it was clear that the world was in for a beating. Three issues later and the heroes have finally come face to face with the main baddie, the Serpent, and the battle is anticlimactic. There are two issues left and I can’t imagine that I will be cheering when the good guys turn it around and take down the villain.

While the Serpent is clearly one seriously bad dude, he still hasn’t had that villainous moment where you think “Wow—that guy is evil.” He’s engulfed the planet in death, destruction and fear, but he hasn’t had the defining scene where he does something unthinkable.

While I don’t think of Fear Itself as a failure, and it still has two issues left, it’s beginning to feel a bit empty five months in. The crossovers only bring to light to the fact that there is little texture to the main story. There have been some gems to be had in the supporting stories though. The Invincible Iron Man issues featuring Iron Man versus the Worthy-fied Grey Gargoyle, Nick Spencer’s character-driven work on Secret Avengers, and Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers stories featuring Spider-Woman and Mockingbird respectively, have all been excellent.

Two issues remain and there is a great deal of ground to cover if Fraction wants readers to become invested in the series’ outcome. I fear it may be too late.

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