Please hammer don’t hurt ‘em!!
That’s pretty much all I could think of at the end of Fear Itself #1, the inaugural issue of the umpteenth Marvel “World Changing Event”. There’s so much that doesn’t work here that it’s hard to try and figure out exactly what the point is. A friend said it felt like Marvel’s version of Sinestro Wars, which I agree with. The only difference is that we’re talking hammers of fear instead of rings. Fear Itself feels slapped together, like a bunch of loose ideas that have no real connection. I’m sure there’s a point to all of this but the way Fear Itself #1 unfolds, it reads as if nobody at Marvel is sure of what it is.
The story unfolds during a riot in lower Manhattan over, of all things, what’s to be done with Ground Zero. Right from the opening the head scratching begins. Why now would Marvel bring up something like the fallen Twin Towers to try and introduce how the world is teetering on the edge of collapse? It feels forced and, in a way, tacky. From there we’re dragged through a particularly self-righteous Tony Stark as he decides he will single handedly jump start the economy by hiring people to rebuild Asgard, which lies in ruin thanks to the battle during Siege.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull’s daughter Sin has located the Hammer Of Fear, which her father apparently wasn’t evil enough to wield (go figure that out). When she touches it, the daughter of the All Father Of Fear, who lives at the bottom of the sea protected by dragons, possesses her. Back at the future Asgard site, Odin, who has returned for no reason other than this series, decides to be a dick, beats up Thor and forces all the Gods to head back to their own world. The issue ends with All Father Of Fear dropping what appear to be meteors all around the Earth. Rumor has it these are all different hammers of fear, which will be given to chosen bad guys. See! You can’t not say “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em”.
The end of Fear Itself leaves the reader just about as confused as the heroes. Why was the Red Skull not evil enough to wield the hammer? Why does the normally narcissistic Tony Stark suddenly decide to help the common man? For that matter, why did Marvel suddenly jump into politics? Did Odin leave because he was afraid and why is he being such a prick to Thor? I realize the first issue of any series usually leaves more questions then answers, but Fear Itself lacks a base. Even the worst of the event series runs has a build up, something in the overall Universe that moves fans into ready position for whatever Marvel or DC is cooking up. Fear Itself just dropped out of the sky, with the possible exception of the overly rushed entrance of Odin in Thor and Sin in Captain America.
The art from Stuart Immonen is solid but nothing special. I love the way he draws Sin and most of the “dark” side of the issue, but the heroes feel like the story, rushed. Especially the entire riot intro, which features a Steve Rogers whose face looks alarmingly like that of the dad from The Incredibles. Overall Immonen does a nice job of bringing the action to life but it never transcends into anything besides decent comic book art. I may be eating crow by the time Fear Itself wraps up, but for now the big event series of 2011 is a mess.