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Six Slices Of Terror: Graeme Looks At Some Fear Itself Tie-Ins

Graeme McMillan

So, last week I did lots of Flashpoint tie-ins, so I thought I’d play fair and read lots of Fear Itself tie-ins this week. Well, it was that, or give you my terrible joke in place of a real review of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #159 (“Peter Parker may be taking a long time to die in this “Death of Spider-Man” arc, but Brian Michael Bendis has successfully killed off one thing pretty quickly: Any interest I had left in this series.” Yeah, I know. But it’s Crap, let’s be honest). So: Let’s get fearfilled, shall we?

FEAR ITSELF: DEADPOOL #1: I’m sure I should like this more. God knows, playing Deadpool as Ambush Bug and making fun of Fear Itself has a lot of potential, and I like the repeated Doctor Who in-joke (In-jokes are cool) (See what I did there?), but after a fun start – I like the idea that families in the Marvel Universe would consider buying security systems to keep them protected from super-powered terrorists – it quickly turns into something that’s not got enough jokes to make it worth reading. Then again, I’ve never really thought Deadpool was anything more than Eh.

FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP #1: Oh, let’s be honest; it’s The Defenders. Why no-one at Marvel wanted to let it be called The Defenders, I don’t know, but nonetheless: Dr. Strange? Namor? The Silver Surfer? She-Hulk, subbing in for a Worthy-Hulk who’s off doing nothing in the main series? That’s totally the Defenders. As an opener, it’s slow but has potential, if potential that I worry is going to stay weighed down by the resolution presumably being handled in the main series at some point. A low Okay for now, though.

FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: If you want to know what’s wrong with Fear Itself as an event, you could do worse than pick up this issue. No-one really gets properly introduced, with the exception of Man-Thing – who isn’t even one of the titular four – and Nighthawk (who seems curiously out of character, with parodic Frank Miller Batman narration, but I’ve not really been keeping up with him recently, so maybe he’s been doing that for awhile), and the situation gets a lip service intro that just confuses matters even more than they already were. Why is everyone so afraid? Well, if you believe Howard the Duck, “the news has been pumping it into us for a good long while, but now it’s outta control…” although we don’t find out why. So, instead, you have characters who are essentially meaningless unless you knew them already running around trying to do something that doesn’t necessarily make sense because of something that doesn’t make sense either. Awful, in other words.

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #1, 2: One of my genuine surprises about Siege was that Siege: Embedded was one of the best things about it. After suffering through Civil War: Front Line and World War Hulk: Front Line, I thought, “Wait! Maybe they’ve got this “ground level tie-in” thing right, finally!” And then I read these two issues, and… They’re just a mess, with Speedball going undercover in an organization dedicated to hating him for… some reason (And then they find him out! But Miriam Sharpe, the woman whose son died in Civil War and who got Tony to side with George Bush and who, let’s be honest, no-one has actually thought about for years, saves him from a mob because, hey, everyone can get past their fear, right? Right?) in a garishly-illustrated, horrendously-written story, backed up with pointless two-pagers by Howard Chaykin – Seriously, he’s gone beyond phoning it in with these; he’s now texting his assistant to phone it in for him, it feels like – and apparently a random series of shorts with various Marvel characters dealing with the still-unexplained-in-the-main-series psychic fallout from the main series. And it’s all just there, with no shine or energy. It’s checklist comics, flat and Awful.

FEAR ITSELF: SPIDER-MAN #1,2 : Right up until the last page of the second issue, I was thinking to myself that this was the tie-in that was doing everything right. I felt engaged in the story, and it felt as if Chris Yost was doing far more heavy lifting explaining thing than anyone else (Showing what “The Fear” actually means on a human level – I really, really like the line “That’s one of the benefits of the mask. I can weep openly pretty discreetly,” for some reason – and managing to connect it to the Asgardians story from the main series, with Spider-Man asking himself “Is this what happens when the gods abandon Earth?” Which, you know, I’m glad someone is trying to tie everything together). Mike McKone’s art is great, as well, clear and bold and all in all, this feels like a great little mini… up until the last page of the second issue, when we get the teaser for the next page, and all of the small scale stuff that’s working beautifully gets thrown out in favor of seeing Spidey up against the Worthified Thing next issue. Now there‘s something to be afraid of: Watching someone make a tie-in work, only to get that solution wrenched out of their hands at the last moment in favor of one of many “The Worthified Thing vs. Hero X” stories that are going to appear in the next few months. That said, there two issues are Good.

FEAR ITSELF: YOUTH IN REVOLT #1: In comparison, this is just Awful, with Sean McKeever trying to fit way too much into the book at the cost of credibility and clarity: Of all the heroes Steve Rogers asks to lead a new Initiative, it’s one of the Slingers? And he manages to get an army of super-heroes together in how short a time? And they can all get to Washington DC even though the rest of the country is apparently a mess because of The Fear how? Still, it’s good to know that, despite everything going to hell, there’s still time for overly familiar soap operatics between generic superheroes that have no discernibly different personalities. And then – get this, we’ve never seen this before and especially not in The Home Front series – the regular people are so scared they turn on the superheroes! Shocking! Or, perhaps, just shockingly familiar, and filled with no characters that seem to be worth caring about.

One thing about reading all of these books together: You realize (a) how little there is to mine from what Fear Itself has given us so far (Apparently either “People are afraid and the superheroes have to stop them doing something bad” or “The Worthy have hammers and like to fight people”), which seems… odd, and wrong somehow. Shouldn’t the idea of a world gripped by fear, even if it is for reasons that make no sense yet – The mention of a “Fear Wave” that I thought was in Spider-Man seems to have been my imagination, brought on by the timeline of “The Fear,” weirdly enough – have some more weight and potential to it? I feel that, for all its claims of being a new Civil War, Fear Itself is like a bad photocopy of Blackest Night, but even more repetitive. But surely we’re going to get some kind of midway point reveal that will change everything, right? Right?

10 Responses to “ Six Slices Of Terror: Graeme Looks At Some Fear Itself Tie-Ins ”

  1. Just out of curiosity– if it’s a crossover about FEAR– are any of these trying to be horror comics? Isn’t the crossover-about-fear exactly when dudes should be busting out their best Alan-Moore-Swamp-Thing impression? (Those two issues set at the orphanage that Abbie goes to volunteer at, when the Demon shows up, which is not a high point for his Swamp Thing run, at all, but…?) Is anyone doing that?

  2. nope. nobody is doing that.

  3. Marvel Comics Haiku:

    If all you have is
    A hammer, everything looks
    Just like a nail.

  4. FI: DEADPOOL #1 – Even though you didn’t like it that much, your references make me want to pick it up, because Ambush Bug and Doctor Who are cool. (and I wish Jeff was watching the current season of the Doctor, because I’d love to hear you two discuss what’s going on in a podcast)
    FI: THE DEEP #1 – I picked this up because I’m an avowed Defenders fanboy, and because I thought I’d give the Fear Itself thing a further look on the strength of Journey Into Mystery (which is certainly the crown jewel of the whole event). I agree with your OK rating, mostly because the other characters were telling me that “even Namor’s scared! That’s bad!” rather than the comic conveying this with Namor in any compelling way. And the last page reveal with the Silver Surfer seemed tacked on to liven things up when the story started floundering.
    Still, I’ll give the 1st page text recap a VERY GOOD, because it perfectly summarized what this event is supposed to be about better than Fear Itself #1 or anything else I’ve read so far.
    FI: FEARSOME FOUR – Again this pushed my fanboy buttons. Man-Thing and Howard the Duck in the same book? When’s the last time that happened? 1974? And then they throw in Mike Kaluta, who I’m pleased as punch is doing pretty regular comic work lately. My devotion to picking up anything he’s doing is approaching John K(UK) Howard Chaykin levels. And everything, from the sublime to the mediocre, is enriched by having Kaluta draw it, right? No. I think this comic is so bad that it’s actually worse for his efforts. If he had drawn the entire book it might have been better, but the incongruity with the dull Kenneth Rocafort drawrings and those last pages with Simon Bisley (who oddly but aptly reverted from his current knobby, shaded style to his crazyass ’90’s painted grotesqueries) makes the whole thing a mess. And I can’t think of anyone less suited to recasting Nighthawk (he’s a *Defender*) as the Goddamn Batman as Kaluta. It’s like hiring Alfred Lord Tennyson to write the new Rambo movie. Oddly, I think roughly the same material could have been pulled off by some of those 1970’s Marvel stalwarts: Englehart or Moench or Gerber could have written this weird mix of characters and portrayed the fear driving the mob, if they had Sal Buscema drawing it, and made it work.
    And what’s with this sudden cross-pond fascination with Frankenstein’s Monster? Did he just now hit the public domain? Did his points on IMDb Pro jump up 1000%? Inquiring minds want to know.

  5. Why does everything turn italic halfway through? I read these reviews with Graeme and Jeff’s voices in my head, and I imagine Graeme delivering the last three reviews with extra intense emphasis.

  6. The failure of Fear Itself, at least to my mind, is not just the vagueness of the source of the fear, but the lack of clarity regarding the impending consequences. Are the people of Earth afraid of the Asgardians having ditched the planet? Those god damned gods caused a lot of problems (see Seige) and their departure should be looked upon favorably by the human race. Because in the Marvel U, the superheroes are the real “gods”.

    Is the fear driven by the plotline whereby Odin intends to destroy the Earth in order to save Asgard? Can’t be, because outside of Thor and the Asgardians, no one is aware of this impending doom.

    Is the fear driven by the return of the serpant (which seems so far to be nothing more than an old codger)? Again, only a handful of characters seem to be aware of the nature of the serpant’s existence.

    So, the fear seems to be some generalized, free floating anxiety that people that populate the story don’t seem to recognize. From a literary standpoint, as a reader, this fear fails to have any real impact on the story. It lacks tension. There should be an apprehension on the part of the reader that he/she shares with the characters, so as to relate to the characters’ situation.

    Maybe all will be revealed at the end, but if the reader isn’t engrossed in the mystery and the dilemma at the start of the story, who cares how it is ultimately resolved.

  7. @James Woodward. You’ve got STARSTRUCK DELUXE EDITION from IDW then? Because if you ain’t then you might want to start saving up!

  8. Fear Itself: awful.

    Flashpoint: awful.

    Superhero comics in 2011: awful.

    I’d hang it up, give it a few years, read some books about cats in suits trying to move heroin.

  9. Every review of this crossover I see has the same story to tell:

    “There’s no telling what’s actually going on here, or what the plot is supposed to be, or who’s doing what, when, and why.”

    When they actually release a book, y’know, with a story, let me know and I’ll consider buying it.

  10. I think James Woodward put it best above:

    If you’re a “fanboy”, and spend money on crap every week so you can gaze lovingly at scratchy drawings of characters you once loved based on some other work that some other creator did decades ago, well then . . .


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