As a result of Norman Osborn’s assault during the Siege event, Asgard is in ruins. Given that the past few years have taken the Marvel universe down some darker paths (what with super heroes fighting each other, aliens creating mistrust and attempting invasions, and finally a known criminal and murderer being handed government control), we were promised a new direction and a return to heroes being heroes. However, it seems that the Heroic Age is somewhat short lived, as now begin the next event, Fear Itself.
We open to a scene in lower Manhattan, where a crowd has gathered in protest. Based on the snippets of conversation we are provided, it would seem that writer Matt Fraction is basing this particular conflict off of the controversy surrounding the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Of course, none of these events are referenced themselves, but with half the crowd talking about the right to build “it” and the other half talking about a “sacred site” and “[discrediting] the memory of everyone who died”, it’s not too hard to guess where he is heading.
In the middle of it all stands Sharon Carter and Steve Rogers. While Carter sees it as chaos, Cap claims it is democracy, as the protestors are simply voicing their opinions. Of course, within a few panels it quickly falls apart and a riot ensues. In the midst of all the violence, a reporter tries to squeeze an answer out of the former Captain America, but before he can even begin to try and talk sense into the crowd, he is hit with a brick, momentarily stunning him. Back on his feet, Steve tries to tell Sharon they need to stop the riot, but Sharon only asks how, referring not to this isolated incident, but the fear and unrest the public feels in general (or so I believe).
Meanwhile, Sin, the daughter of the original Red Skull, has used her father’s journal to discover a hidden base located in Antarctica. It seems R.S. has left a select group of Nazis to defend the base and the “prize” it was built around. How are they still alive? Super science (I wish they was more to that answer, I really do). They are to kill anyone who attempts to enter, which in no way slows Sin and her crew down.
Inside the base is a hammer that no one else has been able to lift. Sin summarizes a dream she had in which she killed Captain America with a hammer and became queen of the world. On the handle of the hammer are runes, which when translated read, “And he who shall be worthy will wield the hammer of Skadi.” Apparently, the Norse gods were pretty big on hammers. Sin reaches out and in a flash, she is transformed into Skadi! With this accomplished, she claims that her “Father” is next.
Back in Manhattan, the Avengers are recapping the riot from earlier. It seems there was no villain or evil intent behind it, just the actions of people who are scared. Tony Stark suggests doing something to give the people hope again and his idea is to rebuild a home for the Asgardian gods on Earth. However, the citizens of Broxton, Oklahoma (where Asgard in ruins after the events of Siege) are going through hard times, with some losing their homes and jobs, and they are not too happy to hear the gods are getting special treatment. One man warns his neighbor to start locking his doors at night because of what anger and fear will make people do.
Shortly after (we’re not given an exact time), Iron Man (and the rest of the Avengers) presents his plan to rebuild at a press conference outside the fallen Asgard. Up above, Odin and Uatu, the Watcher, watch the proceedings. Odin, apparently aware of Skadi’s awakening, begins to rant to Uatu about the final prophecy and his failure, and even begins to insult the Watcher. Thor comes to see his father, but Odin is uninterested in help from the Avengers. He feels the gods should remain in Asgard-space and when Thor attempts to convince him of the important of the relation between man and gods, Odin throws him to the ground. He insists their magic is all they need to rebuild and makes Thor chose if he is on the side of man or the gods, to which Thor replies “Man.”
Meanwhile, Sin goes to the Marianas Trench in her search for “Father”. While Skadi may be guiding her action, Sin remains aware of what she does and in control of her thoughts. She fights through a wave of undersea creatures, before arriving at a seal with a serpent on it. Breaking through the seal, Sin finds an old man, claiming to be the real All-Father.
Back at Asgard, Odin senses the return of “The Serpent”. Inside, the Avengers celebrate with the gods (I suppose regarding the rebuilding? They just all happen to be there), when Heimdall also begins to panic at the Serpent’s return. Odin issues the order to gather to the World Tree and return to Asgard-Space, but Thor objects. Again, the two attack each other, causing Odin to take Mjolnir! Odin continues to beat Thor into submission, while the rest of the gods quietly follow him back to the Asgard-Space (making good on his word earlier, he rebuilds the rainbow bridge with only a thought). The Serpent knows that his escape did not go unnoticed and begins to make plans to bring the fight to Odin. To do so, he summons The Worthy, causing more hammers from deep in space to drop to Earth (in the Pacific Ocean, Brazil, China, and Manhattan, with a few others not depicted)
The issue closes on two rather ominous scenes. In Broxton, one of the men who stayed behind sees one of the hammers falls. He enters his home and locks his door, again portraying this idea of fear and uncertainty this series is supposed to be about. At the fallen Asgard, Spidey asks Cap what has just happened. His reply: “The gods have left us, Spider-Man. We’re on our own.”
So here we are again…another year, another cross over event that will go on for more than half a year. Perhaps that’s a bit cynical, but when some of your tie-ins run the entire course of the event, the writers lose significant time to tell their own, independent stories. But we’re here to discuss this issue, so let’s look at what we have!
Based on my first time going through this issue, I had a lot of hope for this series. While the issue is pretty light on action, it does do a good job setting the story up. It establishes the key players and it gets the story going at a good clip. If you have a passing familiarity with your Avengers outside of Spidey, then you should be able to enjoy what’s been presented so far: There’s nothing in it that’s too out there that you can’t pick it up as you. I don’t want to spoil anything (or let my opinion of the series as a whole distort this review), so I will keep to what we have so far.
Based on what has been presented so far, I do feel as though the sense of fear is there under the surface. Nothing too spectacular, but between the scenes and the dialogue, I think Matt Fraction does a decent job of setting that up in these early stages. However, as I stated earlier, this is supposed to be The Heroic Age. I do feel as though this is really the opposite of the effect Marvel was going for earlier in the year (especially in some of the following issues when The Worthy start appearing). Perhaps the outcome of the series will change all that, but for now, that return to the hopeful and inspiring image is not really present here.
I will also say that I was a bit surprised by Odin’s characterization in this issue. Granted, I only really know what was shown in the movie, but here he acts like a belligerent drunk for most of the issue, shouting insults at The Watcher, and then beating on Thor in two separate scenes. Perhaps this is just my ignorance of the character, but this seems to be a bit of an odd reaction for a supposedly noble god.
Another thing, and this was brought up by a friend of mine, but The Watcher appears to be showing up everywhere these days! My friend had mentioned that back in the ‘80s, the editors at Marvel tried to only use for the most important of events. And yet, here he is in this issue, just watching the Avengers give their press conference. Perhaps if he had been used later in series, or even later this issue, his appearance would have a better impact. However, as it stands now, it feels a bit like lazy writing. Whenever one of these big events happen, it seems the writers want us as the readers to really believe it’s going to have a lasting impact on the Marvel universe. But instead of letting the events speak for themselves (or heck, even letting the FANS decide), they throw in Uatu so that it seems more important.
As for the art, I am a little conflicted. I really do like Stuart Immonen’s work, I really do (Nextwave is one of my favorite series ever), but I do wonder if his tone is right for this series. It’s not BAD or anything like that, but I feel it works better for a more light-hearted tone really. I also feel as though some of the inks on the final pages are a little off, in particular on the last page featuring the Serpent. But despite these objections, I do like the art in this issue.
Do I believe that the events of this issue will have a lasting effect? Not particularly, no. Again, maybe this is just cynicism, but from what we have seen from these events so far it will affect a few stories as it happens, then it will get a casual mention for the next couple of months, and then it will be forgotten. I also wish Marvel wouldn’t get so excited and post so many images of stories following the event while the series is still going on. I know part of it is marketing and getting the fans excited, but it also ruins what’s to come and other elements of the story.
This was a hard one to rate. The story moves along nicely and does prepare the reader for the coming event, but I didn’t feel nearly as excited for this series as I did after the first issue of Civil War or Secret Invasion. The issue itself isn’t bad, but I do wish a bit more detail was given to the villains of the series. There’s not much explanation given to The Serpent, or what his story is (beyond his claims to be the REAL All-Father), but it is still early. A final score of 3 webs.