Six Slices Of Terror: Graeme Looks At Some Fear Itself Tie-Ins

So, last week I did lots of Flashpoint tie-ins, so I thought I'd play fair and read lots of Fear Itself tie-ins this week. Well, it was that, or give you my terrible joke in place of a real review of ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #159 ("Peter Parker may be taking a long time to die in this "Death of Spider-Man" arc, but Brian Michael Bendis has successfully killed off one thing pretty quickly: Any interest I had left in this series." Yeah, I know. But it's Crap, let's be honest). So: Let's get fearfilled, shall we? FEAR ITSELF: DEADPOOL #1: I'm sure I should like this more. God knows, playing Deadpool as Ambush Bug and making fun of Fear Itself has a lot of potential, and I like the repeated Doctor Who in-joke (In-jokes are cool) (See what I did there?), but after a fun start - I like the idea that families in the Marvel Universe would consider buying security systems to keep them protected from super-powered terrorists - it quickly turns into something that's not got enough jokes to make it worth reading. Then again, I've never really thought Deadpool was anything more than Eh.

FEAR ITSELF: THE DEEP #1: Oh, let's be honest; it's The Defenders. Why no-one at Marvel wanted to let it be called The Defenders, I don't know, but nonetheless: Dr. Strange? Namor? The Silver Surfer? She-Hulk, subbing in for a Worthy-Hulk who's off doing nothing in the main series? That's totally the Defenders. As an opener, it's slow but has potential, if potential that I worry is going to stay weighed down by the resolution presumably being handled in the main series at some point. A low Okay for now, though.

FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1: If you want to know what's wrong with Fear Itself as an event, you could do worse than pick up this issue. No-one really gets properly introduced, with the exception of Man-Thing - who isn't even one of the titular four - and Nighthawk (who seems curiously out of character, with parodic Frank Miller Batman narration, but I've not really been keeping up with him recently, so maybe he's been doing that for awhile), and the situation gets a lip service intro that just confuses matters even more than they already were. Why is everyone so afraid? Well, if you believe Howard the Duck, "the news has been pumping it into us for a good long while, but now it's outta control..." although we don't find out why. So, instead, you have characters who are essentially meaningless unless you knew them already running around trying to do something that doesn't necessarily make sense because of something that doesn't make sense either. Awful, in other words.

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #1, 2: One of my genuine surprises about Siege was that Siege: Embedded was one of the best things about it. After suffering through Civil War: Front Line and World War Hulk: Front Line, I thought, "Wait! Maybe they've got this "ground level tie-in" thing right, finally!" And then I read these two issues, and... They're just a mess, with Speedball going undercover in an organization dedicated to hating him for... some reason (And then they find him out! But Miriam Sharpe, the woman whose son died in Civil War and who got Tony to side with George Bush and who, let's be honest, no-one has actually thought about for years, saves him from a mob because, hey, everyone can get past their fear, right? Right?) in a garishly-illustrated, horrendously-written story, backed up with pointless two-pagers by Howard Chaykin - Seriously, he's gone beyond phoning it in with these; he's now texting his assistant to phone it in for him, it feels like - and apparently a random series of shorts with various Marvel characters dealing with the still-unexplained-in-the-main-series psychic fallout from the main series. And it's all just there, with no shine or energy. It's checklist comics, flat and Awful.

FEAR ITSELF: SPIDER-MAN #1,2 : Right up until the last page of the second issue, I was thinking to myself that this was the tie-in that was doing everything right. I felt engaged in the story, and it felt as if Chris Yost was doing far more heavy lifting explaining thing than anyone else (Showing what "The Fear" actually means on a human level - I really, really like the line "That's one of the benefits of the mask. I can weep openly pretty discreetly," for some reason - and managing to connect it to the Asgardians story from the main series, with Spider-Man asking himself "Is this what happens when the gods abandon Earth?" Which, you know, I'm glad someone is trying to tie everything together). Mike McKone's art is great, as well, clear and bold and all in all, this feels like a great little mini... up until the last page of the second issue, when we get the teaser for the next page, and all of the small scale stuff that's working beautifully gets thrown out in favor of seeing Spidey up against the Worthified Thing next issue. Now there's something to be afraid of: Watching someone make a tie-in work, only to get that solution wrenched out of their hands at the last moment in favor of one of many "The Worthified Thing vs. Hero X" stories that are going to appear in the next few months. That said, there two issues are Good.

FEAR ITSELF: YOUTH IN REVOLT #1: In comparison, this is just Awful, with Sean McKeever trying to fit way too much into the book at the cost of credibility and clarity: Of all the heroes Steve Rogers asks to lead a new Initiative, it's one of the Slingers? And he manages to get an army of super-heroes together in how short a time? And they can all get to Washington DC even though the rest of the country is apparently a mess because of The Fear how? Still, it's good to know that, despite everything going to hell, there's still time for overly familiar soap operatics between generic superheroes that have no discernibly different personalities. And then - get this, we've never seen this before and especially not in The Home Front series - the regular people are so scared they turn on the superheroes! Shocking! Or, perhaps, just shockingly familiar, and filled with no characters that seem to be worth caring about.

One thing about reading all of these books together: You realize (a) how little there is to mine from what Fear Itself has given us so far (Apparently either "People are afraid and the superheroes have to stop them doing something bad" or "The Worthy have hammers and like to fight people"), which seems... odd, and wrong somehow. Shouldn't the idea of a world gripped by fear, even if it is for reasons that make no sense yet - The mention of a "Fear Wave" that I thought was in Spider-Man seems to have been my imagination, brought on by the timeline of "The Fear," weirdly enough - have some more weight and potential to it? I feel that, for all its claims of being a new Civil War, Fear Itself is like a bad photocopy of Blackest Night, but even more repetitive. But surely we're going to get some kind of midway point reveal that will change everything, right? Right?