Writer: Matt Fraction
Art: Stuart Immonen & Laura Martin
Matt C: During the lead up to Marvel’s event book for 2011 I steered clear of plot details as the creative team was enough to sell me on the first issue at the very least. As such, I’ve never been entirely sure what Fear Itself would be about and I have to say that while this was an impressive debut I’m still not really clear where it’s heading (which is not a criticism, in case it reads as such). Rather than go for the easily digestible, high-concept pitches of Marvel’s tentpole series of the last few years (Siege, Secret Invasion, Civil War), describing Fear Itself would take more than a simple one-liner. It sees an ancient Asgardian foe resurface with as yet unknown plans in a series that has Fraction cleverly tapping into what he (and many others) see as the prevailing mood of the global community: one of fear and uncertainty. It’s not as simple as that though, as it also encompasses various elements the writer has been working on in his ongoing series (Invincible Iron Man and Thor primarily) along with plot threads that Ed Brubaker has been focusing on in Captain America. So we see how Sin sets things in motion but more so we witness Thor and the newly resurrected (against his wishes) Odin clash over the future of Asgard.
An opening scene that brings into play a recent real world event (although it refrains from being too obvious it shouldn't be to hard to figure out what it is) sets the tone for the rest of the issue, and Fraction does what he does best by approaching the superhero paradigm with intelligence, wit and an ideal blend of drama and spectacle. He employs plenty of subtext too which in itself is an impressive feat for such a high profile series, indicating – assuming he can keep it up – that this may just turn out to be something a little different from the norm. It certainly looks like he’s capable of juggling such a large scale event with multiple characters, but then if you look at his previous work (from Casanova to Invincible Iron Man) he’s never really had a problem on that front. Unsurprisingly, the emphasis is on certain characters (Iron Man, Thor and Cap in particular) but several other individuals make their mark, and there’s no doubting after some terrific scenery-chewing that he knows how to utilize Odin.
Along with Fraction’s scripting skills, the other key factor in this issue’s success is the draftsmanship of Stuart Immonen. He’s been on the scene for a few years now, and if you cast your eyes over some of the work he’s produced what really stands out is just how adaptable he is. From Superman: Secret Identity to Nextwave to Moving Pictures, he’s shown he can be amazingly versatile, and he does it once again here by tackling the ‘widescreen’ style so favoured by this kind of series without missing a beat. He also punctuates the more extravagant action scenes with several affecting human moments, which again shows that we may dealing with an event full of heart as well as action. Laura Martin brings her considerable skill us a colourist to the table, adding a layer of beauty onto an already great looking book.
It’s early days, and event books in the past have promised much at the start only to fail to deliver when they conclude, but there’s a definite sense here that Fraction is willing to push the rather strict boundaries inherent in such projects as much as he can to ensure we get something a bit more meaty and not so predictable for our money. I still may not know where he’s going with Fear Itself but I’m definitely keen to find out. 8/10