Fear is bubbling below the surface of the Marvel Universe. People are downtrodden, angry, and outright scared. The first issue of the new Marvel event, Fear Itself, makes no more than an allusion of reference to the fear of the chosen superheros who will be tested throughout this series. The center of the fearful undercurrent of this debut issue is within the hearts of the people and this fear is reflective of our own real-world troubles. The American economy is in recession. Times are hard and work is scarce. The American people are torn over polarized ideals and frustration has reached the breaking point.
The beginning scene shows Steve Rogers in a situation that, unfortunately, he cannot just punch in the face to solve. He desperately tries to calm rioters in New York. But the harsh realization eventually seeps in – this isn’t the America that he fought for so many years ago. The people are different. The ideals are different. And these citizens won’t blindly listen to him because he is no longer their unquestionable symbol of hope and justice.
Steve’s internal struggle is palpable, but yet he is not the main character of focus for this issue. Thor’s struggle is his torn alliance between the gods and men. The Asgardian palace in Oklahoma, a symbol of unity between the gods and men, has been destroyed from the battle with Norman Osborn (for the back story on this event read Marvel’s past initiative, Siege). Thor’s ally and fellow Avenger, Tony Stark, steps forward with a plan to rectify two problems with one proposed project funded by Stark Resilient (Tony’s latest multimillion dollar company). The idea is simple: put the American people to work rebuilding the castle of the gods. This gesture is meant to be one of peace, but Odin, Thor’s own father and the all-father of the Norse gods, sees red over the whole ordeal. In his fury he begins to make decisions that set in motion the process of turning the MU on its head.
Concurrently, on the edge of the globe the events from the prologue issue continue: Sin has found the Hammer. Her dream becomes prophesy as she activates it and is reborn as something more than the mortal daughter of the Red Skull. Sin has become Skadi, a figure from Norse Mythology who is determined to fulfill the prophesy to regain Odin’s throne for her father.
A lot is packed into this kick-off issue. So much information was thrown at the reader, that in my initial read I found myself underwhelmed by it all. There was a great fight between Thor and Odin, where Thor essentially got spanked, and that was rather cool – but it took some reflection before I realized the depth of this issue. After another quick read and some time to let it all sink in I’ve changed my mind. This first issue of Fear Itself truly sets a vast platform for the rest of the initiative to unfold.
While readers are taking in the large amounts of information in this issue, they will also be visually stimulated by the art. Stuart Immonen’s art combined with Laura Martin’s colors is spectacular. The artwork helps to bring readers into the story instead of drawing their attention from it.
I was also impressed by the fact that there wasn’t reference after reference to impossible prior-event knowledge. Odin’s castle was destroyed by Norman Osborn in a past storyline. Once you get that tidbit of info, the rest is rather easy to understand. While readers might get overwhelmed by the amount of plot-setup that happens in this issue, they should not be intimidated by lack of understanding of the MU.
Overall Fraction has a hit and miss history in my book. This might just be a hit. I’ll certainly be reading as many of the titles as I can afford. That being said, be assured that you should also just be able to read the core seven issues in the Fear Itself series and be just fine.
For a printable list of comics directly included in the Fear Itself line as well as their scheduled release dates click here: http://marvel.com/comic_books/listcomics/comic_event/302/fear_itself?print=1