Fear Itself #5
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, and Laura Martin
This issue has a little bit of everything in it. There are hammers, action, drama, hammers, horrible jokes, family dynamics, hammers, poorly thought out villains, scene’s we’ve seen in other books, and more hammers! Now, there are some fair judgements to draw out of that, like how horrible the jokes could be. Or which family dynamics are prevalent in a book where a room full of people ignored the corpse of Bucky sitting in the middle of the room…come to think of it, that would tackle drama too. So is this another flawed edition of Fear Itself, or did Fraction overcome some of his larger obstacles to put out an enjoyable issue?
The answer is….kinda. Fraction is able to draw attention to his strengths throughout the issue with scenes like the Thor fight, and pretty much anything involving The Thing. At the same time, a lot of the dialogue is just brutal, lots of puns, lots of eye rolling humor…things that as a fan of Fraction’s I know he can do better at, and as a fan of his am disappointed to see him pull off. Sin sounds like a generic villain exposition for the sake of it, Captain America doesn’t sound at all like Captain America, and really, Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man get the best dialogue handling. Did I mention Iron Man? His scene in this book, a lone one, is once again showing us his encounter with Odin that we saw several weeks ago in his own book. That kinda hurts as last issue already set up that he was meeting with Odin, and then Iron Man a few weeks ago showed us the gist, so why did we need more recap here?
I expected after last issue that the fight between Thor, Hulk, and Thing would steal the show in this issue, and while it does, it’s not for the reasons I anticipated. Instead of the fight being some epic slugfest the likes of which fandom will never forget, it’s actually pretty small and spaced across the issue. The lack of exposure to it makes the scenes we see that much more important, and thankfully Fraction doesn’t completely dismember the dialogue amongst these three world shattering gladiators. Now, on the one hand, this means we just get a highlight reel from the fight that was used to sell this issue as opposed to actually seeing it, but on the other, I could easily be misinterpreting this fight and it really just is a handful of pages of big time action moments all at once. Thor finally takes the gloves of with this fight relatively early on, and unlike Tony with a bottle, or Steve with a gun, this one works for me. Thor is a warrior who does not want to face his allies, even if they are possessed. But first and foremost, he’s a warrior, and a warrior makes the hard decisions in the heat of battle. Against foes as invincible as he is, Thor does not fight for a knockout of a submission, he spends the vast majority of the fight in a ‘to the death’ mindset. Arguably the best Thor work that Frac has turned in.
The Serpent stuff was horrific. I get that they’re shooting for big epic moments, but there’s no drama to any of it. Steve versus Sin has a wealth of unmet potential after her slaughtering of Bucky, but it’s a lot of Steve goading her with bad lines while hiding behind his shield. Sin talks like a generic villain, yet there are occasional mentions that she is, in fact, the Serpent’s daughter, while Cap reminds us that she’s the Red Skull’s daughter. Then there’s The Serpent and his megalomaniac monologue of doom, thankfully it’s short, but my God, it feels like he’s the anticlimactic villain at the end of an action movie who just talks and talks and you don’t care and you just want someone to get hit. Thankfully, hitting ensues for a single panel before he adds “I can’t lose” to his already incredible repertoire of “monologuing”, “giant hammers”, and “retcon origin of importance”. That’s when we get the most ‘iconic’ moment of the issue, something I’ve seen happy in the Ultimate books and even the Avengers cartoon, hell, I remember it happening back when Mark Waid wrote the back in the late 90’s. What is it? That’s a spoiler, but it lacks the emotional impact that it should give us. Not because it’s been done before, but because it’s done with a horrible one liner and a generic action pose, and then followed up with a weak selling and him reminding us about “I can’t lose”.
Now, Stuart Immonen does a great job here, he’s the best thing about this issue, even if he does draw the stupid helmet on Cap. As has become a recurring theme on this series, it looks a lot better than it reads, and the facial expressions do far more to sell the impact and drama of the story than any of the writing. There’s a lot of cool things in this issue, from the character work on the heroes and villains, to the sheer level of detail put into the backgrounds. Anybody who tries to say this book doesn’t visually set the tone is a dirty liar, because it looks like armageddon in New York. The action scene is especially good looking, the Thor fight I mean, it looks brutal, and Thor’s face sells his rage from start to finish. The Thunder God looks pissed off, and it makes the fight look that much more intense.
There are some good points to this issue, but it’s still a mess. The issue is the measure of its big moments and little else, as Fraction seems unable to do anything else in this particular issue. Not even saying he does things wrong, this issue is literally just big moment after big moment with the moments of rest being preludes to big moments later in the issue. I understand the mindset behind penning an issue that doesn’t give you a chance to catch your breath, but this is just ridiculous. I had to go through the issue four times just to actually catch it all, so much went down that I was honestly forgetting some of the big moments by the end of the issue. They just didn’t feel that important when you considered that there were other, bigger moments, just pages later.
So yeah, lots of big moments and big action, awesome art, but zero emotional impact. A completely unnecessary use of Tony Stark, a nice cameo by my favorite kids in Marvel, and tons of carnage. Just not a lot of plot.
Tags: Captain America, Fear Itself, Hulk, matt fraction, Reviews, Stuart Immonen, The Thing, The Worthy, Thor