Monday, April 11, 2011

Fear Itself #1 Review

Seeing as I wrote up a primer on Fear Itself last week, I figured it was probably worth spotlighting the first issue of the event with a good ol'fashioned review.  Hit the jump for my review of Fear Itself #1.

Fear Itself #1, written by Matt Fraction with art by Stuart Immonen
Marvel's event for the year, Fear Itself, starts here with a excellent opening issue.  While primarily a setup issue designed to introduce the characters involved, debut the new villain and setup the mystery of his grudge with Odin, Matt Fraction balanced the typically dull setup story and avoided the pitfalls many others struggle to overcome in this type of story with some excellent characterization, especially with regards to Odin, and enough action to keep everyone entertained. 

Sin finds the hammer her father, the Red Skull, hid away during WWII.
The basic story is what the build up and promotional material has stated - Sin discovers a mystic hammer hidden away during World War II by her father, the Red Skull, becomes empowered much like Thor with his hammer and goes on to unleash the ancient Asgardian God of Fear, the Serpent, who may or may not be the true All Father of Asgard.  

This is all prefaced by Fraction showing the current climate of the people of America - primarily one in a state of fear.  Fear for their jobs, fear of losing their homes, and so on.  He shows this with real world problems dropped in the Marvel world, such as showing a riot breaking out in downtown New York over protests on what ot do with the World Trade Center site and with families having homes foreclosed and being forced to move in Broxton, where Asgard is currently located.  

These real world references can typically be jarring or feel hamfisted and out of place or, more often than not, just plain insulting in the context of a world with super heroes and super science and what not.  Fraction keeps it tasteful and it helps set the stage for a story that is supposed to revolve around the concept of fear, which made these some great introductory scenes to the story that were easy to relate to and things in which the reader, in most cases, will be at least aware of, if not familiar with in some way. 

The Serpent makes his big debut.
As for the Serpent, not much known about him yet.  Despite being imprisoned for millenia, he's relatively calm and collected upon being freed by Sin, who is sharing/possessed by the Asgardian, Skadi (even Sin didn't know if she was in full control or not, so this could be more like the Donald Blake/Thor give and take type of dual persona in action).  He wants revenge on Odin and the Asgardians, but is content to build his army and bide his time before rushing a confrontation with the "All Father".  He did summon more hammers to empower The Worthy, but they went to random locations around the globe and not much else was shown about them or even hints at who would wield them.

All the best gods have daddy issues.
Like I said, mostly setup stuff, right?  Well, that's where Odin comes in to liven things up.  Odin really stole the show here.  He had several excellent moments, many of which Ken featured in the Moments of the Week, once he realized that the Serpent had been freed.  I honesty couldn't pick a favourite of the two major moments if you asked me, but, for reference, they were his one sided conversation with the Watcher and, later, his fight with Thor.

I haven't read any of the most recent appearances of Odin since he came back under Fraction's watch over in Thor, but he looks to be in full control of the Odinforce and easily disables Thor.  I absolutely loved seeing him simply command Mjolnir to 'drop' before laying a beatdown on his most favoured son and then ordering all of the Asgardians to return to their proper home and leaving Earth. 

To us, it looks like Odin is afraid of the Serpent or possibly does not want his secret shame of not being the true All Father to become known to all, but there appears to be more to this.  Even the Serpent makes a comment about Odin leaving Earth, making me wonder if there is some power the Serpent holds that is related to being Earth bound or maybe the fear will not be able to spread to them in Asgard proper?  Whatever it ends up being, it was well written and Odin was easily the best part of this issue, from a character and action standpoint, and I look forward to seeing more of him in future issues.

Asgard abandons Earth to fend for itself at the end of Fear Itself.
At this point, I would be remiss not to mention the absolutely stunning artwork by Stuart Immonen.  I've loved his work for many years now and it is remarkable the amount of growth in his work can be seen just looking at this compared to his Nextwave work and I loved his Nextwave art!  He has really come into his own and it was like he treated this issue like his own personal highlight reel.  Whether it was action sequences with Thor vs Odin or the tried, tested and true drawing a bazillion characters on screen at once or just simple character moments where facial expressions make or break that scene, this issue had them all and Immonen just put on a clinic. 

Verdict - Must Read.  With no big lead in or giant line wide push setting up the event like Secret Invasion, Siege or even Civil War had coming into it, Fraction and Immonen had a lot to do to sell people on this event in the first issue while making it stand on its own  and entertain in its own right.  They accomplished this is spades.  Excellent first issue that showed this was a story driven event at its core more so than an idea or concept ballooned up to make a few bucks. 

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Pat said...

I'm not here to bash or anything. But this sounds very similar to the current Green Lantern mythos. Maybe its just the whole Fear = Serpent thing. It does sound interesting don't get me wrong, just seems borrowed.

Kevin said...

Glad to have you back Kirk. I've missed your reviews and glad your feeling better.

I am considering giving Fear Itself #1 a try because I have heard such a mixed opinion on the book. It looks like what Siege should have been *better*

Space Jawa said...

Here's the real question - can Fraction end the event without dropping the ball by the time the last issue is over?

Bill said...

I was not a must read and that's coming from a big fraction fan , the real world crisis and fears felt very very forced and awkward making fractions writing feel amateurish . I was expecting something better then riot at wallstreet or generic " damn you Tony stark I'm bankrupt why didn't you help" This to me would make a check only because of the Odin speech and art

Ken Boehm said...

"Here's the real question - can Fraction end the event without dropping the ball by the time the last issue is over?"

I'd love for this to be different but his runs on Uncanny X-Men and Iron Man have been so lifeless save for a few issues that I just don't have confidence in the guy. And on top of that Marvel's events since House of M have had pretty weak endings, so there's some hurdles to jump over to succeed. But he's got possibly the best artist in Marvel's stable working with him, if Immonen can't lift the book up through rough patches no one can.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I liked Fear Itself but fell just short of loving it. Too many cinematic moments, like a page worth of zooming into our planet, or the cutaway to a space monitoring station when the hammers fell. Stuff like that made it feel like a Michael Bay flick to me. Comics rarely cut to the man on the street for two panels of exposition. That's a movie device, so interesting to see it used here.

But I still did like the issue, the Odin scenes were dominant. Who'd have thought this might be his event...?

Midnight Monk said...

I liked the first issues as it yet again solidfy Steve as being a guy who live in his own box and doesn't understand when things are bad.

Whats surprised me were the Odin bits though, I get he was mad about the whole resurrection of himself and loki but not bailing when he knew a threat was coming was kind disgraceful if you ask me

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