Fear Itself #7 arrived last Wednesday, bringing Marvel's event series — which was announced last December and launched in April — to a climax, with multiple aftermath installments, including November's Fear Itself #7.1, #7.2 and #7.3, still to come.
The issue saw the debut of The Mighty — select Avengers enhanced by enchanted Asgardian armor and weaponry — plus Captain America wielding a rather recognizable object, a founder Avenger falling on the battlefield, and the final stand against The Serpent's Worthy.
For our latest installment of the monthly Facing Fear Q&A column with series writer Matt Fraction and editor/Marvel senior vice president of publishing Tom Brevoort, we discussed the timing of Thor's fate and the rise of Tanarus, choosing who would comprise The Mighty, crafting the book's big fight scene and the book's many other significant developments.
Much like how Fear Itself #7 was oversized, with the main story stretching out to 38 story pages, so was our conversation — so check back later in the week for more with Fraction and Brevoort on the series as a whole, fan reaction and the revelation of the original working title for the story.
Newsarama: Matt, Tom, thanks for joining us once again and congratulations on all seven issues of Fear Itself coming out on time — which, I believe, is the first time that's happened with a Marvel event series in recent memory?
Matt Fraction: In "living memory," I believe was how Tom phrased it. [Laughs.]
Tom Brevoort: We've got that going for us.
Fraction: We're like the kids who got perfect attendance. We came, we saw, we shipped on time.
Nrama: So obviously you guys always need to be focused on the proverbial "next big thing," but, especially for you Matt, now that all seven issues of Fear Itself are out there in the world, is there any feeling of catharsis or relief?
Fraction: Not that much, because for me it really ends with the #7.1, #7.2 and #7.3. To explain it to you in Star Wars, this is sort of like we've stopped the movie after the first guy tried to build up the Death Star in the trench and blew it. Luke has just switched off the targeting computer, and credits. We're not quite there yet.
I expect when the Point One, Point Two and Point Three issues are all out, and we have a chance to bury Bucky, to burn Thor, and for Tony and Odin to have their final showdown, then I'll feel like it's truly done, but at this point there's still a lot of stuff out there — the character stuff, the whole thing that brings people to these stories, that brought me to this story in the first place — kind of unanswered.
Brevoort: I'm honestly of two minds. Yes, we definitely still have the Point One, Point Two and Point Three that are coming out. By the same token, it's been a month since I sent #7 off to the printer, so it's like a comic that came out a decade ago for me. [Laughs.] My mind is so much into the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.
Fraction: When I was at the offices before the New York show, and you gave me a copy, I kind of couldn't believe that it actually existed. I don't know what that was. I kind of just kept... holding it. Then the most satisfying thing ever was to actually bring those kids up on stage at the Con and let them read it there. When we got the gasps — we were hearing reactions in real time, and it was sort of like, "Oh, this is how every Wednesday should be." It was incredibly gratifying, and I'm never going to have that experience again.
Nrama: So was it always the intention to deal with those story beats in separate aftermath issues, or was it ever the plan to encapsulate them within Fear Itself proper?
Fraction: I think last issues are really tough in these events, because it always feels that a third of the issue is a fight scene that wrapped up from the previous issue and then 20 pages of characters standing around talking about what it all meant. I could have written another issue of the entirety of these fights.
I wanted this issue to be the story of Fear Itself. I wanted this to be the story of Odin, Thor, Cap, the Serpent, and Sin, and get off the stage when it was done.
There are times when it works really well, but it always feels like the last issue is never the resolution. It's almost always aftermath. I wanted to establish as little status quo as possible.
Nrama: Just a couple of months ago we were talking about the major Thing/Hulk/Thor fight scene in Fear Itself #5, and here you've got a battle sequence that's twice as long with seven times as many players on the board. What was it like approaching that?
Fraction: It's pretty gonzo. Sort of like writing the end of The Wild Bunch — "f*ck, I don't know, everybody shows up and goes sh*thouse." But there were character beats throughout that we wanted to come to. I wanted a moment where we got to see [Red] She-Hulk have the time of her life with her big-ass sword. We needed to know when to cut back to Broxton, and that kind of everyman schlubby dude who kind of ends up being the moral axis of the book. We needed to drop the hammer, to knock Cap out. And I knew that schlubby guy was going to be the guy who helps Cap up, and Cap was going to think it was an Avenger, but it was just a regular guy. I didn't want the heroes to be the one to save us this time. This is a story about us saving the heroes.
I had the big story stuff, big character stuff, and little details that I wanted to get to. I knew that Odin had to have the army ready, and Odin had to arrive here for this to happen — it was very algebraic.
Nrama: And the schlubby dude, he's been appearing in the series since the first issue.
Fraction: Yeah, he pops up several times. We see him in the first issue at the start and then he locks his front door at the end; he gets bullied by the guys running the roadblocks, we see him with the militia.I said when the book got up and running, that Fear Itself is what happens when we need the superheroes to help and they can't help us; we have to help ourselves. So he kind of ended up being that lens for the book.
Nrama: The opening scene of the issue sees the official debut of The Mighty, which has been promoted for a while. We talked a few months back about the conversations that went into deciding who would comprise the members of The Worthy, but was the process of selecting The Mighty simpler? It seems a lot more direct.
Fraction: Yeah, that was way easier. There are also vestiges of some of the subplots I just simply did not have the geography for — Iron Fist and Ms. Marvel kind of found their way through here.
It's kind of our "Pick your Super-Avengers." "Who's your most Avenger-y of Avengers? Who would you most want to have transformed into Asgardian super-warriors to fight off Armageddon?"
Nrama: Since the weaponry and armor for The Mighty were really only used in one scene, did you end the issue wishing you had more time to explore these versions of the characters?
Fraction: Oh, sure. Totally. It's like taking the cool toys and making them cooler.
I get to play with that a little bit in Fear Itself #7.3 with the Iron Destroyers. But again, I wanted to leave red meat for the folks writing the tie-ins, I wanted to give people room to have cool moments and cool bits. Because really, what's important in that big melee, story-wise, is that the Avengers are overwhelmed until regular people join them. It's not a matter of getting every hero in the world on the board, it's a matter of getting regular people overcoming their fear.I will say this, She-Hulk keeps her sword. So we get to see the sword in Defenders #1. She-Hulk wouldn't give her sword back. [Laughs.]
Nrama: On the subject of weapons: Right in the middle of the book Cap picks up Thor's hammer. Matt, you've talked about a sense of symmetry in the series, so was it always the plan to follow Cap's shield getting shattered with him picking up the hammer?
Fraction: Yeah. Thor even comments at some point about there being symmetries and refrains and stuff like that. That was part of it.
It seemed perfect — he loses his shield, but he gains his hammer, and it's when the regular dude joins him and he remembers he's a man first and foremost.
Nrama: And though Cap has picked up Mjolnir before, since it's not something you see a lot, it's still an image that has heft, no pun intended.
Fraction: Yeah, exactly. It's a card you can't play too much.
Nrama: Thor falling is another crucial moment and the second hero death in the series. Since obviously Thor is a god and death means something different to him than event the rest of the Marvel Universe, can we expect to see his story continue in form in The Mighty Thor?
Fraction: We see in Mighty Thor #7 how Odin overthrew the Serpent the first time, and Thor appears in one panel as a baby. And then it's the Mighty Tanarus, and Tanarus' story in Tanarus' book; the story of Tanarus, God of Thunder.
Fear Itself #7.2 is Thor's funeral pyre. We see the Avengers and all of the mystical creatures of Asgard and all the other places, joining at his funeral pyre, as Sif, in her widow's armor, sets his body alight. Lots of fire coming, lots of magical flames.
Nrama: So was Thor's death and the coming of Tanarus as the new God of Thunder something always planned to be a part of Fear Itself, or more like the case with Bucky — where the notion that Bucky was going to die had been around for a while, and then it became apparent that the natural place for that to play out would be Fear Itself?
Fraction: I had been up for a couple of days, and was about to get on an airplane and emailed Tom — this was more than a year ago at this point — and there was kind of stuff missing from the end, there was weight missing. "What does this all mean?" The end felt light. I said, "What if this is the prophecy of Thor and the Serpent? What if Thor dies?" Send. And kind of immediately regretted it because at first blush I was worried it would look stunt-y.
[Brevoort] had responded, "That's interesting. Tell me about it." And we started to talk about it, and kind of realized, "Oh, wait. This totally makes sense for the story." And nobody would see it coming because I just got the book.
Brevoort: There were points when you were researching the various Norse myths, you had come across the actually mythological figure who is basically Tanarus.
Fraction: But his name was "Taranis." We were worried that it sounded too similar to the Hulk character Tyrannus. So I went tooling around for other variations that sounded dramatic.
Nrama: So will Tanarus be debuting soon?
Fraction: Yeah, #7.2. He's big and boisterous and make no mistake, #7.2 is a pretty important book.
Brevoort: It's a pretty book, too. Adam did a very nice job on it. You say "Adam Kubert," and you go, "of course he did," but it still bears repeating. And cool to see him draw all the Asgard stuff, all the Thor cast.
Fraction: It's one of those things where a writer writes it and you don't really think about how hard it is to draw: I wanted Sif to have a little chainmail veil. We see Sif in this black-and-red armor, her Widow's Armor, and it's made out of chainmail instead of lace, it's sort of a veil over her face with tiny chains. Goddamn, if Adam didn't draw every link — and her face behind it. It's some of the most astonishing rendering I've ever seen. It was so cool. I want her to wear it all the time, but everyone would murder me. The pencils alone — you can see her face behind a veil of chains. How hard is that to draw? How great is that?
Nrama: Going forward, are we going to see Captain America's shield with a crack in it in future comics, as indicated by the scene between him and Tony?
Fraction: In theory. I'm sure we'll forget about it in a couple of weeks.
Brevoort: It'll most likely be inconsistent. It's one of those things that probably you only really see it if you hold the shield in the right light at the right angle.
Fraction: So if he got his shield slabbed at CGC it'd be like a 9.8?
Brevoort: Yes. With restoration now.
Fraction: In fairness, these are the guys that made Thor's hammer. They're pretty good at their job.Past installments of Newsarama's Facing Fear column:
- FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #6
- FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #5
- FACING FEAR: Q&A with Fraction & Brevoort on FEAR ITSELF #4
- 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