REVIEW: Marvel’s Fear Itself #4

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We’re at the midway point of both Marvel’s Fear Itself and DC Comics’s Flashpoint. Each series has its share of strengths and weaknesses, but after four issues of Fear Itself it’s becoming difficult to envision a satisfying conclusion. We’ve seen a lot of worldwide carnage and destruction. Heroes like the Hulk and the Thing were corrupted by the Serpent, and Bucky Barnes, the current Captain America, was killed. Much of the impact of these events is just missing however. The series has an incredible number of tie-ins and mini-series telling different aspects of the story, but without having read them, the main series has at times seemed like a set of recap pages. Fear Itself #4 is an improvement, but where things have gone and how they have developed leaves something to be desired.

Spoilers for the issue and series will follow.

PTB: It appears Bucky is indeed dead, again. A recent interview with Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker even mentioned Brubaker had planned for this to happen in his Captain America run(s), and I can’t help but wonder how you feel about this. I jumped on to Brubaker’s Captain America much later than you. While I enjoyed it, I bailed at Captain America: Reborn. It was clear Steve was always coming back, but I feel like it was handled terribly from a publishing and story perspective. Is this more of the same in your eyes?

KevinMLD: I thought the way it was handled was pathetic. Barnes hadn’t even really been one of the featured character in Fear Itself to date. It was a hollow death. You can argue that’s how real life works, but comics aren’t real life. Say what you will about Geoff Johns, but that dude knows how to kill a character. He always makes sure to put a strong focus on the condemned in the lead up to their death to make sure that when the end hits you definitely care. If you’re someone who didn’t read Brubaker’s Captain America run, there was NO reason for you to care about Bucky’s death. It’s really disappointing and a waste. I’m not saying Marvel couldn’t or shouldn’t kill off Bucky. He just should have gotten a better send off.

PTB: Agreed. I know in a big “event” comic like this we aren’t going to get much of the emotional impact of a character death, but I did appreciate seeing the Black Widow’s reaction. It was short, but the somber tone of much of the heroes interaction that followed helped.

KevinMLD: I don’t agree. Lazy writers can’t find time to give a moment like this emotional resonance in an event title. Grant Morrison did more to make the Martian Manhunter’s death resonate in one panel featuring his funeral in Final Crisis than Fraction has done in two issues here. If there’s no payoff for a death, then there was no point to it.

PTB: Fraction’s interviews aside, when one major architect (to use Marvel’s term) has been responsible for Bucky’s resurrection and ascendance as Captain America having his ultimate demise written by someone else outside of the Captain America title feels a little empty. I wonder if some of the decision making here was a result of looking back to Civil War and the decision to kill Steve Rogers in the pages of Captain America #25 rather than in the Civil War series itself.

KevinMLD: If Rogers had died at the end of Civil War in the main series, at least it would have been in a title that heavily featured him. Barnes basically shows up and gets killed by a third tier/unknown character carrying an imitation Thor hammer.

PTB: Ending the issue with Thor set to face a hammer-weilding team of the Hulk and the Thing doesn’t really appeal to me. It’s a way to pit powerful heroes against one another, but I honestly thought that was something Marvel was trying to get away from after Civil War and the murky days of Dark Reign where heroes were fighting other heroes. Granted Hulk and Thing are possessed, it just doesn’t leave me waiting with bated breath for Fear Itself #5.

KevinMLD: I’m still waiting for the Fear Itself series that was advertised to start. The one featuring characters facing their fears and trying to overcome them. What does Thor fear? Fighting the Hulk and the Thing while they’re carrying fake moljinordorjfiro hammers?

PTB: The series is certainly far different from what the teaser ads suggested. We do see that the Serpent was using the increased level of fear around the world to power himself up. It’s almost like Blackest Night with the meter of Black Lantern energy building up to 100%. A similar thing happens conceptually here, just without the text “Fear Levels Rising!” anywhere on the page.

KevinMLD: I definitely had Blackest Night flashbacks during this issue. Especially when they showed the kid on the dock in Canada and it seemed like bodies were suddenly rising.

PTB: When that happens, the Serpent’s fortress appears in Antarctica, which immediately catches my attention, but then we don’t see much of it beyond Thor taking out some frost giants and quickly getting face to face with the Serpent. I’m sure they’ll come back to it, but an assault on an antarctic villain base is appealing to me! I know it’s far more silly than looking forward to Hulk and Thing versus Thor, but that’s what I want to see.

The Serpent also take on a younger appearance which is an interesting way of showing how much power he has amassed. Although I feel like showing the de-aged Serpent on the cover before readers have any idea who it is takes something away, especially with the powerful image of the Captain America cowl in Steve Rogers hand that it shares the cover with. Identifying him as Odin’s brother who claims to be the rightful king of Asgard is interesting, but I really want him to have a name. I know something as ubiquitous as The Serpent should make him seem more ominous, but I feel like now that we’ve heard his story not having a name diminishes him in some way. We’ve got all these cryptic Norse names for all of his agents, but he’s just the Serpent. I guess I just want him to be more tied to that mythology. It also makes me wonder if maybe that’s not really who he is.

KevinMLD: It’s definitely odd that he has no name. And the prophesy involving Thor giving his life to stop the Serpent, is that new? Is Marvel about to kill Thor… again?

PTB: I did like the acknowledgement of the Thor crashing to Earth at the hands of his elders over and over.

KevinMLD: This was an odd moment of humor in an otherwise humorless series. Especially considering we see Tony Stark give up his sobriety. How did Stark even know how to get to the new Asgard anyway?

PTB: Stark returned to Asgard’s former site on Earth outside of Broxton, Oklahoma. Odin then came to him. Another moment that I enjoyed was Sin gleefully watching Steve Rogers enter the battle in Manhattan and relishing that prospect of killing Captain America twice. That drove home the Bucky situation more than anything.

The story is obviously building to a climax, but i don’t like that it seems you need to read the tie-ins to get the whole story as references are made (particularly in issue #3) for where to go to read what’s missing. I will say that Fear Itself #4 did a better job of handling references to those tie-ins. The framing pages with Odin and the Serpent were well done and I think the choice of having an overview of what’s happening around the Marvel Universe is far more appealing than shifting the setting all around the globe for a page at a time. The single panel of Cyclops squaring off against a fear infused Juggernaut with no specific dialogue other than the voice over of Odin and the Serpent was a step in the right direction.

Read more about Marvel’s Fear Itself on MyLatestDistraction,
and follow each issue of the series here:

Fear Itself #3 / Fear Itself #5

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