Friday, April 8, 2011

Comic Book Review: Fear Itself #1

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III

There was a time I enjoyed reading Marvel Comics’ numerous event storylines, but since Brian Michael Bendis’ delivered the lukewarm Secret Invasion and Siege sagas, I’ve been hesitant to get back into the fold and even considered the possibility of giving up collecting altogether. For one thing, it’s getting pretty expensive to collect comic books in particular given the soaring prices these days, and unlike DC’s campaign to “Hold down the line at 2.99” an issue, Marvel isn’t showing any signs of letting up. True, they’ve got the marketing power to show for it, and with two of their biggest and arguably most popular characters in the Avengers roster getting movie treatments this year, there’s no surprise why their books aren’t budging price wise. The times are hard enough as it is, and as my interest in the books wanes even further, out comes Fear Itself, Marvel’s newest epic to come out of the woodwork that promises to deliver a high impact superhero story while tackling the numerous issues and concerns plaguing our world as it is today. After picking it up last Wednesday and reading it through, Does it deliver to that promise, or is it just another event chugged down by the House of Ideas to get more people interested in the Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger movies? Read on and find out the answer.

Fear Itself #1
Written By: Matt Fraction
Illustrated By: Stuart Immonen
Cover By: Steve McNiven

Truth be told, I can probably consider the first issue of Fear Itself one of the best Marvel crossover books I’ve read since 2006’s Civil War, and that’s saying a lot in itself already. I was speaking the truth when I mentioned I was hesitant to pick up this title and devote myself to its seven issue long run, but after sitting down and getting around to read it from cover to cover, I found that actually enjoyed the pitch of the saga, majority of which focuses on a prophecy that concerns not only Thor, Odin, and the rest of the Asgardians, but humanity and, by extension, the superhero community as well (particularly Steve Rogers and The Avengers), as they are caught right in the middle of the crossfire set about by the impending danger to come. Tackling writing duties is the ever-talented Matt Fraction, whom I am relieved to find at the helm of this event. Ever since he stunned me with his run on The Invincible Iron Man, I’ve come to respect the man’s ability to tell a superhero story that’s certainly beyond this world, but also manages to ground itself by portraying characters at their most humane moments. He’s also worked up quite the rep with his run on Thor, so it’s certainly no surprise he was given free reign to work up a story involving the Thunder God’s world and that of the entire Marvel Universe.

I won’t be spoiling the key moments of this issue, but it’s safe to say that Fraction has gotten my full attention with the major plot he’s charted off and gotten into full swing. After the events of Siege laid waste to the mortal incarnation of Asgard on Earth, Thor accepts Iron Man/ Tony Stark’s proposal to build a new version of the legendary Norse kingdom at the heart of Broxton, Oklahoma. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with the idea. Fear and paranoia over the Gods’ presence on mortal soil has caused many Americans to question the idea, further agitated by the ever present economic crisis that has yet to be resolved and is still being felt by thousands. At the same time, the recently resurrected Odin has foreseen the coming of a prophecy that will deal a great blow to his people, and he resolves to bring them to and rebuild his kingdom back in Asgard-Space, a decision that his son Thor does not take kindly to. The inevitable argument between Father and Son soon turns to a full blown clash, and as soon as the victor emerges, another problem surfaces, with all outlooks pointing to a grim situation at hand for our remaining heroes on Earth.

Talented a storyteller as he is, Matt Fraction couldn’t have gotten this promising story off to a good start without the help of a good artist, and that’s exactly what he gets when Marvel partnered him up with Stuart Immonen, who’s no stranger to drawing heroes and stories that demand great visuals. His work on New Avengers in the past few years have caught my eye, and it certainly makes it easier to the eye to see that his work on Fear Itself is probably one of his greatest if not the best I’ve seen out of him by far. It’s comparable to Oliviel Coipel’s work on Siege, but it’s a bit more relaxed and toned down, which doesn’t really matter to me at all. There are moments of inconsistency in the book, but that can be overlooked with the great action moments the guy delivers here, especially on the one and two page spreads, and there are a few good ones to take and see here. I’m glad he was commissioned by the big guys to take on this project, and this may just be the break he needs to get people talking about his illustrative prowess.

All in all, I’m quite relieved and actually thankful that I got to read and pick up Fear Itself #1. It certainly doesn’t capture the epic feeling I felt from a Marvel crossover such as Civil War, but it does the job right the first time around by presenting a superhero tale ripe with the right amount of fear, tension, and paranoia to make a worthy superhero tale worth investing seven issues on. The fact that they’re trying to bring real life issues and social concerns into the book is bold, but somehow it works for the most part, especially with the way the American people observe the situation going on between them and the Asgardian people. Anyone who's invested in Secret Invasion and Siege may have been tuckered out by the hype those mediocre events delivered, but you can rest assured that this one will make things worthwhile for an excellent action piece. Make no mistake however, this is still considered a springboard for anybody jumping into the Cap and Thor movie bandwagon, but it also makes use of the characters well enough to make comic veterans interested and amused by what’s to come. So far everything’s off to a good start, and let’s hope the ride doesn’t get bumpy from here on out.

Rating - 8/10

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