Marvel Comics’ Fear Itself panel at the FanExpo Canada convention in Toronto saw writer Matt Fraction tease fans with a quick summary of upcoming events, starting with the sixth issue in the seven-part series. “I think the pie fight starts at the end of issue six,” Fraction quipped to the audience. “Thor goes home, Cap goes home and everybody braces for the final issue. We’re in the third act. Thor and Odin have a pretty big scene together and everybody braces for what the Serpent is up to — and the Serpent is up to even more in this issue!”
Despite his obvious excitement about the series, Fraction admitted that he’s been looking forward to moving beyond the event. “I started a list because I caught myself saying again and again, ‘When I’m done with Fear Itself, I’m gonna –‘” The contents of said list, however, the writer kept to himself.
The announcement that Alpha Flight will continue as an ongoing series got a big round of applause from those in attendance. “Alpha Flight embarks on a wonderful new career of being outlawed,” joked Fred Van Lente, the series co-writer. “We’ve got Taskmaster showing up, we’ve got Wolverine and other characters journeying north to find out what’s going on with Alpha Flight. We learn that Alpha flight’s actually a member of a super, super team called The Commonwealth of Heroes. I’m very excited about writing those characters — I love them a lot and it’s going to be a good time.”
Shattered Heroes and “Fear Itself” 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 were also discussed. “I have a personal bug-a-boo, I suppose, about events where it feels like half the last issue is characters standing around talking about what it all meant,” Fraction offered, with regards to the three-issue epilogue. “We couldn’t handle what it meant to Cap, what it meant to Asgard, what it meant to Tony in the pages that we had for the final issue. This is the beginning of the reconstruction. This is the character-driven stuff. The stuff that we didn’t have room for or just logically didn’t make sense. Bucky’s funeral is what Ed (Brubaker) is doing, which would have been wildly inappropriate for me to do to begin with. You don’t need to call time-out on a world war to bury people.”
This led to a member of the audience inquiring about the decision to off the sidekick, which Fraction explained wasn’t something he came up with on his own, explaining that Ed Brubaker was going to kill Bucky at the end of “Gulag,” the storyline running in “Captain America” during “Fear Itself.”
“When ‘Fear Itself’ started, we did a retreat where I was kind of pitching it all,” Fraction said. “The thing about Blitzkrieg USA is, we’ve never seen Cap fight a modern war on US soil and I wanted it to be in DC so it was it American institutional icons and things like that. This is where we get the taste of how big this is. And Ed, in his very Ed way, turned and said, ‘Yeah, this is where the Red Skull kills Bucky.'”
To his surprise, Fraction immediately loved the idea. “You do that, and it is the all-time greatest Captain America story. Put it up in the rafters. No one is going to ever touch it. You are Frank Miller on ‘Daredevil’ if you have the Red Skull kill Bucky when you’re done with Bucky.” Brubaker protested, citing the character’s popularity, but Fraction’s enthusiasm eventually won out. “‘When it’s time, that’s how you got to go. That’s how it’s got to end.’ I don’t think Ed realized he’d said it out loud, or if he did he immediately regretted it because I sort of dove on it and said, ‘Yes! I’m doing it! It’s done! No take-backs!'”
“There’s an issue of Bucky on a plane frantically racing to DC somewhere that will just remain unpublished. But, yeah — originally ‘Gulag’ was going to be the end of the Winter Soldier, cuing up Ed’s work on ‘Captain America’ #1. Luckily, ‘Fear Itself’ was happening at the same time and it was one of those moments where it all worked. Ed saw a moment to contribute to the greater good of the Marvel Universe. He is one of my dearest friends, one of my oldest friends in comics and certainly is a big part of the reason I’m at Marvel. It was an amazing solid that a friend did for another friend. Ed just saw that it would make ‘Fear Itself’ stronger. In conclusion: it’s all Ed’s fault.”