Fluff Itself: Graeme Gets Into Marvel's Summer Event Book

I really meant to write capsule reviews, honestly; I got mailed the first two weeks of Flashpoint tie-ins, and thought "That would make a good post," and then I started writing about Fear Itself and got into a bit of a rant. So Flashpoint will come tomorrow, and instead, here's me getting carried away about Marvel's big summer event book. FEAR ITSELF #3: Maybe I was far too into the whole DC mindset last week when this came out - In a week like last week, I really didn't feel like I had any choice but to dive into the DC mindset; they really won the comics internet last week, didn't they? - but... I can't be the only person who sped through this issue, got to the end and thought "This is it?", can I?

Ignoring the fact that everyone in the entire world saw Bucky's death coming - and, in case you hadn't, Bucky even makes a point of announcing it midway through the issue when he says "What, you want to grow old and retire?"; there's winking at the reader, and there's flipping them off, and I'm genuinely not sure which this was. Also, Bucky's death was one of the variant covers for the issue, released online before the issue actually came out - thereby spoiling the one "surprise" in the issue, it has to be pointed out: Nothing interesting really happened in this issue. We got lots of what should be filler material (That Hulk scene? Seriously, what was the point?), and four pages retreading last issue's "transformation into the Worthy" scenes, only this time, it's the Thing! And he can speak English, unlike the Hulk! And... Oh, I give up.

Unless you really, really care about Marvel minutae, this is a pointless series that's so amazingly self-satisfied that it can't see its own irrelevance. Bucky's death aside, the major event of the issue is apparently "The Thing destroys Yancy Street!" Well... yes, but so what? The importance of Yancy Street isn't explained anywhere in the book, so it's meaningless, four pages that just seem like the other Worthy transformations and have no other impact. Everywhere else, characters tell you how important everything is ("Sir, we... you're masterminding a global response to a cataclysm of unknown size and escalating intensity"), but it's all weightless, a feeling not helped by characters who change their minds purely because the plot demands it (#1: Odin is pissed at Thor, pissed at the humans and leave Earth. #2: Odin gives a speech about why the Earth is screwed and how Asgard won't get involved. #3: Odin lets Thor escape, go back to Earth to save the day and even gives him his hammer - "Here. You'll need this. You can't say your father never gave you anything," he says, another smirky moment by Fraction that utterly undercuts whatever drama he was going for - and... why, exactly? Well, because Thor says "I wanna go" and Fraction needs him to rejoin the Avengers next issue. It's just ridiculous).

Also: This is the end of the third issue - essentially halfway through the series - and I still don't feel like we've really had anything explained to us beyond "There's this guy that Odin is scared of, and he's back, and he's turning everyone into monsters with his magic hammers, and so that should stop." Why is the series called Fear Itself? I have no idea (That's not true, the tie-ins suggest there's some kind of "fear wave" going around, but that's not been mentioned anywhere in this series). Who is the villain, and what does he want? Similarly, no real idea. Why is he turning people into monsters with magic hammers? Again: Who knows. I'm all for mad ideas and moving past talky comics, but shouldn't we have had some explanations by now? Or, failing that, more interesting things happening?

(I know, I know: That's what the crossovers are for. Each issue ends with a handy key: "Follow The Thing's rampage in Fear Itself: Spider-Man #3" because, you know, having the core series do something with the bad guys it's spent so many pages introducing would just be old-fashioned. I wonder what this will read like as a collection: "Hey! The Hulk's gone bad! I can't wait to see what happens next! Wait. Why doesn't he show up again? Oh, never mind! The Thing has gone bad too! Man, I can't wait until he... Hang on, he's gone as well. What's with all these Nazis? Stop showing me the Nazis!")

In so many ways, this feels like it's a parody of an event comic instead of the real thing. Fraction seems to be writing the whole thing ironically, inserting completely out-of-place dialogue in places that jolts you out of the experience and points out how stupid things are, and the plot just careers from event to event without any momentum. Really, truly Awful, and only saved from being Crap by the fact that Stuart Immonen and Laura Martin make it look far, far more beautiful than it has any right to be.