Friday, October 28, 2011

New Comics!: The "Fear Itself" Edition

Fear Itself #7:  OK, so, first:  The other day, I was going through my collection and ran across the recent "Avengers" issues where they fight the Hood after he steals the Infinity Gems.  I found myself instantly thinking, "Um, wouldn't now be a good time to go get them?"  "Siege" was such a great event because it built on years of story lines, such as "Civil War," "Secret Invasion," etc.  As such, it had a plot that didn't feel manufactured just for the event.  Everyone had watched Norman Osborn consolidate his power over a period of years.  We didn't just suddenly find him in charge of U.S. security.  Moreover, the ending of the event made sense.  The Sentry died and Norman Osborn went to jail.  The death of the Sentry felt pretty permanent, since he was a minor enough character to merit a long-lasting death.  Although you knew Norman would eventually free himself from jail, he at least was going to have to spend some time there cooling his jets.  The problem with the Infinity Gems story and "Fear Itself," however, is that they're random, discrete events that come and go.  As such, when you're reading the latest iteration of this sort of story, it's incredibly frustrating that the previous ones seemingly didn't happen.  Why didn't Cap say, "Hey, Tony, didn't we have the power to control reality a few months ago?"  The answer is that, unlike "Siege," "Fear Itself" doesn't build off previous events, so it's like the Inifinity Gems story never happened.  As such, when I saw the Infinity Gems issues, it was just a reminder of why this mini-series fell totally flat.  Despite assurances to the contrary, it was all meant to be temporary.

Turning to the issue at hand, as "Fear Itself" issues go, this one actually isn't bad.  It had some really great moments, like Cap picking up Thor's hammer, which even my Fraction-hating self had to admit was pretty cool, and an amped-up Widow screaming "Who's next?!"  I thought it was clever that the weapons Tony created went to eight Avengers, creating his own Worthy to combat the Serpent's.  (How bad-ass did Spidey look?)  I also liked how Odin banned the gods from Asgard, creating his own private memorial in which he alone will dwell.  The story ended as Fraction essentially told us it was going to end, with Thor sacrificing his life to stop the Serpent.  End scene.

This series, as we all understood it, was about tying together Captain America and Thor to take advantage of interest in the comics that came from their movies this summer.  So, Marvel does that by killing them?  As I expected would happen after the events of issue #3, I ended this series wondering how quickly it will all be retconned.  How long before artists stop drawing the crack in Cap's shield?  (It doesn't appear in his new series, which we're lead to believe happens after "Fear Itself.")  We already don't see anyone referring to a destroyed New York, Las Vegas, Paris, or Washington in the series that have moved past "Fear Itself."  (Manhattan doesn't suddenly go boom in the middle of "Spider-Island.")  How long before Thor (and hopefully Bucky) is resurrected?  How long before the various series Marvel is launching in the wake of "Fear Itself" are canceled?  I'm pretty sure that Sin will quickly get over her desire to dominate the Universe, because, unless she's going to gain the power of the Worthy again, it's not like she's all that powerful.  After "The Fearless," she's probably just going to be Sin again, with an occasional passing reference to her former deity-hood.

In other words, how long before this series is as meaningless as Fraction promised us it wouldn't be?  To my mind, at the end of the day, it was a colossal failure of imagination compounded by a marketing department run completely wild.  It hijacked almost every Marvel series I read and not a single one was better for it.  The fact that they're giving us three epilogues AND a maxi-series?  Unbelievable, actually.  Please, please Marvel, give us at least two or three years before you try doing so again.

Fear Itself:  The Home Front #7:  OK, I've been pretty down on the latest installments of this series, but this one isn't too bad.  Gage pulls out a decent ending to the Speedball story.  I actually got a little misty eyed over the conversation he had with Meredith, given that it seems to put the events of Stamford (the first time) firmly behind him.  The "Citizens of Broxton, OK" story was also good.  I had already read the adventures of, "Rick.  Just Rick." in "Fear Itself" #7 and found it to be one of the few moments of actual emotion in the entire series.  I enjoyed seeing a little more what went into his thought process here.  The faux Young Avengers story and the "Another Moment With..." story were as terrible as they've always been, but at least we get two decent stories in this issue (possibly for the first time). 

Fear Itself:  Youth in Revolt #6:  This title was one of the better "Fear Itself" tie-in series, particularly among the series created just for the event.  I liked how McKeever showed a group of ambivalent and/or wounded young heroes struggling with their insecurities and troubles to try to help people.  McKeever also made them make real decisions in the face of tough challenges, rather than giving them some easy way to resolve their immediate problems (such as Hardball having to take lives in Vegas to save the city and Prodigy having to allow Thor Girl to be arrested in order to quiet the mobs).  However, this issue unfortunately undoes some of that good work.

Throughout the series, I was confused why exactly the authorities tortured Thor Girl when she was in their custody.  McKeever seemed to be hinting at some larger plot where aspects of the government were supporting the Serpent (or using the chaos he was causing to advance their own secret agenda).  However, he never really went anywhere with that plot.  In the end, it wound up being a relevant point, because this whole issue turns on how Thor Girl holds Prodigy personally responsible for her imprisonment and, in her effort to get vengeance, winds up taking on the assembled superheroes.  McKeever portrays Thor Girl as almost completely irrational here, so it's hard to exactly feel sympathetic for her, even if understood what she was saying when she was saying it.  He also uses her departure as the deus ex machina needed to save the heroes stuck underground.  It's unfortunate, because it detracts from the sense he had built for most of the series that actions would have consequences.  Similarly, we see Hardball face no real repercussions for killing people in Vegas; in fact, McKeever seems to back away a bit form that event, having Hardball comment that few people died.  Conversely, Prodigy, who always seemed the coolest character of the bunch, gets pretty summarily dismissed, despite his efforts to hold the line during the entire conflict.

It's an unfortunate weak ending to a good mini-series I thought held a lot of promise and would serve as a staging ground for some of the more promising characters.  I'll keep my eyes open for them the next few months, because I don't want this series to fade into the background like the rest of "Fear Itself" will.

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