***You guessed it! Major spoilers for last week's Fear Itself #4 follow!***Following the major events of June's Fear Itself #3 — ending with a thoroughly impaled Bucky Barnes — last week's Fear Itself #4 doesn't let up, taking just enough time to mourn the former Captain America before launching into several new major developments.
In the issue, Steve Rogers returns to his familiar mantle of Captain America, Tony Stark sacrifices his sobriety to Odin, and the Serpent reveals some inconvenient truths to Thor — like that he's Odin's brother and the rightful king of Asgard.
At the midway point of the Marvel series, things aren't looking great for our heroes, so for the latest installment of our Facing Fear column with writer Matt Fraction and series editor (and Marvel senior vice president of publishing) Tom Brevoort we discuss the pressing issues — like Thor's hat, Cap's helmet and Iron Man's bottle of booze — plus get an idea of what's coming next. (Hint: A fight. A big one.)
Newsarama: Matt, Tom, there were quite a few big developments in Fear Itself #4 and let's start with…
Matt Fraction: Thor's hat falling out of the portal on page 1?
Tom Brevoort: It took more coordination to get that to happen than you would imagine.
Fraction: Grown men make their living worrying about things like, "Wait a second, we have to have Thor's hat falling."
Nrama: You have to respect that attention to detail. But actually, the first thing on my list was seeing Steve Rogers back in the classic Captain America uniform for the first time in a good while. Obviously we knew it was coming for the last few months, but we weren't sure exactly when — how long was that moment planned as one of the big story beats of Fear Itself?
Fraction: We knew Ed [Brubaker] and Steve [McNiven]'s Cap book was launching in July; that's been on the plate as long as Fear Itself has, if not longer.
Brevoort: It all kind of sloshes around at this point, but generally speaking, it was all around the same kind of timing.
Fraction: We knew that with the movie that July would be big for Cap, one way or the other.
Brevoort: From a very early point, it was always planted within Fear Itself that we would make that transition, especially since, like with Invincible Iron Man, we wanted the new Cap book to be entry-friendly for people who are simply walking out of the film, and not have to be enmeshed in the crazy Marvel Universe of it all that Fear Itself represents. So this was kind of a way to eat our cake and have it too; still make that transition moment from not-Cap to Cap a big deal and a big moment, and do it in a big place with a lot of eyeballs on it, while still having a nice, clean entry point for the new Cap #1.
Fraction: Once we had the Bucky moment it kind of became vital to bookend it with this. There's a sort of symmetry to the book. When Dark Asgard arises, we start to run backwards in a way from where we've been. One Cap falling and another getting up made sense, especially with what happened to poor old dead-as-f*ck forever Bucky Barnes last issue.
Nrama: How long has it actually been since we've seen the big three together, with them all in their most recognizable forms?
Fraction: It's been a while.
Brevoort: I guess we saw him in the Cap costume in Siege. But apart from Siege, you really have to go back to before "Avengers: Disassembled. "
Iron Man was in the ol' clunker armor, though, in Siege. So this is the first time you had them all really in their prime together in one place in a long, long time.
Nrama: In the issue, a little bit of reaction to Bucky's death is shown — the scene with the big three, Nick Fury and Black Widow — but not a whole lot of focus on that, and I know it's not going to be dealt with in Captain America at least for a bit for the reasons already mentioned.
Fraction: There's a war on. We wanted to keep the drumbeat going, and it keeps getting faster and bigger as we race towards the end, and that meant not taking pause to bury the dead, and not having a maudlin goodbye scene, but that wartime tragedy of when somebody falls on the battlefield, and you have to keep moving.
Nrama: But will we see some of that fallout from Bucky's death anywhere?
Brevoort: You'll see it after Fear Itself proper wraps up. There are going to be one or two epilogue books after Fear Itself proper, much like Civil War: The Confession and a few others we've done in the past. The one Ed is writing will be very Cap-centric and will focus on Bucky's funeral, the feelings of Steve, and Natasha, and Fury, and all the other characters that were involved, and really bring it back to the Ed/Cap world, because at that point, events will slow down enough, the war will be over, and it's time to lick your wounds and bury your wounded, take stock of your life and move on.
Nrama: Then another major development in the issue is seeing Tony Stark take a drink for the first time in years as his sacrifice to Odin. Even though it's being done in the issue as a strategic move, that's obviously a major card to play with the character. Was the intention basically to show just how desperate things had gotten, that this is what Tony has to resort to?
Fraction: Yeah, almost exactly. We're not screwing around, and it is desperate times, and there are desperate measures, misguided or truthful though they may be. Nothing is sacred anymore, and the big three all come out of this profoundly changed, and profoundly wounded and affected by it. This is where Tony sustains his injury — self-inflicted. It is a big part of the next calendar year of Iron Man. It doesn't stay a battlefield secret for very long.
Nrama: Which bring to mind your Invincible Iron Man tie-in issues to Fear Itself, set in Paris among the Grey Gargoyle's rampant destruction. Reading those issues, it seems like they're almost a deliberate response to the kind of throwaway destruction often seen in these types of event books. Was that the goal?
Fraction: That's all kind of relative. Ultimately, if you talk to somebody that has lost a friend or a family member in a real catastrophe, your comic is going to feel pretty silly.
It's more the nature of the story that's going on in Iron Man, which is, the man of science has to deal with a miracle. I don't want to give away the ending, and I can't really answer your question without talking about the whole story — I don't want to talk about where it's going, or how we get there, or what happens as a result.
"What would scare Tony Stark?" That's sort of been the theme of my book from the first page, but with regards to Fear Itself, rather than another villain blowing up another city and another punch-up, I wanted him to really have to look in the face of an inexplicable, magical event, and come to turns with it. And he's reacted by completely losing his sh*t and going back on the sauce. He can justify it anyway he wants. "It's OK, don't worry! I'll jump in the briar patch!"
Nrama: Then we've got the Serpent's revelations about his relationship with Odin and his purported position as the rightful king of Asgard. Assuming he's to be taken at his word (and I don't know if we should be making that assumption), it seems like there are bigger issues here that are probably going to reverberate for a while after Fear Itself in The Mighty Thor, correct?
Fraction: Yes, absolutely. The whole blanket upon which the Asgardian corner of the great Marvel picnic has been built it sort of shaken and flipped by all this, and people are going to be left wondering — "When was Odin telling the truth? When was Odin lying? How long has he been lying?" Not to put too fine a point on it, but "What happens when gods have a crisis on faith?" What happens when the one, fixed immovable object in the Norse firmament moves? We will continue to explore the repercussion of this, and what is and isn't the true story will be argued about for a long time.
Nrama: Moving to questions submitted by readers on Facebook, it seems like a lot of people were wondering about the fact that Captain America was wearing a helmet in the issue, with the suspicion that it may have something to do with making him look more like how he does in the movie.
Brevoort: If we wanted to make him look more like he did in the movie, we would just make him look like he does in the movie. It's actually kind of closer to the helmet that [Bryan] Hitch gave him in [Captain America: Reborn], and a couple of other places. I don't think there's much more to it than, "Cap can have gear."
Fraction: I was more weirded out by seeing him with the heavy machine gun. Then I thought, "I suppose that makes sense."
It certainly wasn't in the script, it was just Stuart [Immonen] designing the character to be appropriately combat-ready. How dare Cap want to protect his head!
Brevoort: It's sort of a reflection of the level of cynicism that long-time comic readers kind of build up. Any move that we make in any story is scrutinized, and having motives attributed to it that very often don't have anything to do with the actual motives for doing this — or there really even being motives, per se. This wasn't something we gave a great deal of thought to.
Fraction: It's one of those things like Thor's helmet on that first page. It's a detail. There's a bit in #5 or #6 where for the first time I remember seeing it, Thor uses the wrist strap as a wrist strap, and we see the hammer on his wrist. It's just one of those practical art moments: "Oh wait, how is he going to hold the hammer when he's not flying?" "Oh, there's a little strap guy right there, look at that."
Nrama: On a similar note, Rex Felix asks, "Where did Iron Man get a bottle of booze with a picture of Iron Man on it?"
Fraction: That is a [Fear Itself colorist] Laura Martin touch that we caught too late in the production process. It'll be patched for the trade. It's actually a bottle of booze he got a couple of issues back in Invincible Iron Man. Laura was being magnificent Laura, but hadn't read Iron Man, and didn't know that the bottle of hooch was actually canon.
Nrama: Merchandising a bottle of booze with your face on it is probably not the smartest move for an alcoholic.
Fraction: "What could possibly go wrong?"
Nrama: Another Facebook question: Taimur Dar, determined question-asker no matter the social network, asks, "With the Serpent revealing himself as Odin's brother/Thor's uncle, curious if the Serpent is meant to be Vili or Vé from actual Norse myth, or a completely new/different brother of Odin?"
Fraction: Yes and no, as much as any of the Marvel Norse stuff is. What the true story of this guy is, what the true history is, and what Odin knows and has been hiding, and what Odin has done, has stained and influenced all of the other stories. Certain motifs repeat itself in the Serpent's tale throughout all of the other Norse myths, and Marvel Norse myths. Is he Jörmungandr? No, he's not the son of Loki or any of that stuff, but is it perhaps the inkling of where the Jörmungandr came from? Sure, why not.
Nrama: Are any of the Worthy based on established mythological characters?
Fraction: No. Those are all pretty deliberately made up.
Brevoort: We threw a whole bunch of consonants together.
Nrama: Here's one aimed squarely at you, Matt, from John Tacujan: "Does your process for writing an 'event' comic differ from your usual pace for writing a series?"
Brevoort: I would think if nothing else, there's more re-writing.
Fraction: I don't have one-man summits to go over my Thor plans, or whatever. It's very different, and it's a lot more work-intensive, and there are a lot more eyes on it. A lot of moving parts.
The tail end of #4 is where it really started to get tricky. Now there are enough moving parts everywhere that coordinating stuff really became kind of an issue.
It's much bigger. It's much, much, much bigger.
Nrama: Fear Itself #5 is out next month, and if I'm able to decode that last page and the teaser correctly, it looks like there might be a fight coming.
Brevoort: You can read between the lines, you can puzzle that out, you can figure it. It's there, it's a little subtle, but if you really scrutinize it and read it closely, you might have an inkling.
Fraction: It's like a letter from the Zodiac Killer. "What does it mean?"
I love how big Stuart draws Thor's hammer. He's added a couple of pounds to it. Stuart draws the hammer larger than anybody else, which I think is kind of awesome.Next issue is called "Brawl!" and in it, there's a brawl. A couple of months ago Tom asked on Twitter about Marvel fight comics — that was him throwing up the smokescreen for me doing research. I had my favorites, and Tom had his, and I asked Ralph Macchio for his suggestions, and kind of did a survey of great Marvel fight comics as homework for Fear Itself #5, which was a lot of fun. And a ridiculous way to make a living. Brevoort: Hopefully the next time someone asks the question Fear Itself #5 will be on that list. Nrama: And a big fight issue seems like a little bit of a change of pace for you, Matt, so that must have been a lot of fun to get to do.
Fraction: Yeah. Every issue there's been a night where I wanted to call Tom in the morning and ask for more pages. I could have written 60 pages of the fight scene. I just wanted to keep going and going and going with the fights. It's a hint of what really should have been 800 pages of knock-down drag-out.
Nrama: Marvel just released a Fear Itself teaser called "The Mighty" — do we see that in issue #5?
Brevoort: That's further down the line. But it's coming. There's only three issues left!Previous installments of Newsarama's Facing Fear Q&A column:
- FACING FEAR: Fraction, Brubaker & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #3
- FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #2
- FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #1