Fear Itself #4
Written by Matt fraction
Art by Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by George Marston
Four issues in to Fear Itself, and each one has delivered something. From the arrival of the Worthy, to the subversion of heroes like the Hulk and Ben Grimm, and last issue's death of Bucky Barnes, the one thing that can be counted on is Matt Fraction and company's willingness to rock the boat. Unlike Brian Bendis's recent Marvel events, which read more like slow builds toward a big moment, Fraction's opus hits often, and does its best to hit hard. While some aspects such as the death of Captain America, and the identities of the Worthy were telegraphed in advance, there are plenty of less hyped scenes, such as what some may consider Tony Stark's ultimate sacrifice, that honestly shake the foundations of the Marvel Universe.
Perhaps the most winning aspect of Fear Itself is its sense of momentum. Every page moves forward, every scene is an escalation of the one before, and very little of the book wastes time. Sometimes it may come off as callous- the scene where several of Marvel's biggest names mourn the death of Bucky Barnes moves rather briskly- but that swiftness only underscores the urgency, and, yes, the fear that grips the main players of this story. Further, Fraction uses each beat in these scenes to great magnitude. Seeing even the usually tacit Black Widow fly off the handle at Tony Stark and Nick Fury over the corpse of her dead lover certainly drives the point home. War is hell, and in Fear Itself, Hell is Earth.
Further, the series signals a return to sweeping heroics; exactly the kind of the we all might've expected under the "Heroic Age" banner from some time ago. With Thor willing to lay down his life in service to humanity, even as the promise of immortality is taken from him, Steve Rogers lifting a shield that carries with it a burden he never thought he'd have to bear twice, and Iron Man desperately giving up the thing he values most in life all with no promise of victory is a stark reminder of why these characters are heroes, not just to the people around them, but to the readers and dreamers who look up to them. We are reminded that while the conflicts that threaten our way of life may seem to be waged by those high above us, we must rely on ourselves to find the answers.
Stuart Immonen, with his usual inker Wade von Grawbadger, lays down a frenetic energy in his linework that absolutely compliments Fraction's breakneck script, often conveying with a single panel the sort of scenes that many artists would require a page to set while never losing his trademark cleanliness. Laura Martin proves, again, why she is Marvel's go-to colorist for these high profile titles, injecting every page with mood, atmosphere, and clarity.
Some may scoff at the idea of an event comic carrying any actual weight, either from a story perspective, or an emotional one, but even those reading only the main title of Fear Itself might feel something. Sure, many of the major beats may seem beholden to shock value for effect, but it's the little moments that stand out. The rage and desperation on Tony Stark's face as he prepares to give everything for humanity, the slump of Steve Rogers's shoulders as he readies himself to take the field of battle, and the set of Thor's jaw as he storms the Serpent's palace are the kind of reminders it sometimes takes to remind us that our heroes aren't defined by their powers or their costumes, but their actions, their determination, and even their weakness. Fear Itself endeavors to remind the long suffering Marvel fandom that no, their heroes aren't dead, and what's more, they're still capable of being the men we all thought they were.FACEBOOK and TWITTER!