"Fear Itself" reaches out and touches the regular Marvel books, specifically the Avengers line of titles, starting right here and right now. This issue is not a must-read-in-order-to-know-what-happens-next book, but it is a fine example of how tie-ins and crossovers can and should enhance the main story.
Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo do their very best to fill the pages of this issue, but at the end of the issue, once that back cover is closed, it's a twenty-one page story. I know, I know, everyone complains about the story length in every comic for the price and blah blah blah. Still, this is "Avengers." It has a high enough circulation and readership where it could - and should - be one of the most approachable titles on the rack today. Going by heft alone, this issue doesn't quite carry the same weight as some other comics tagged with the same price.
Emotionally, however, this comic motions for you to come closer. It waits until your ear is low enough to hear the whisper and then it tells you a secret. This issue is the harbinger of change.
Bridging the gap between what this series has been to this point and what it will be; Bendis fills this issue with the "Oral History of the Avengers." This time, however, those text pieces from the back of the issue are spread throughout this issue, illustrated by talking heads reminiscent of the interstitials in "The Office" or any of the hundreds of dozens of reality and pseudo-reality shows on television today.
The net effect is that this issue provides some history for the team, some definition of interactions for the team members, and a portent of what is to come. Bendis has been praised and/or chided for his knack for writing talking heads and this issue gives him the opportunity to prove to "Avengers" readers just how effective talking heads can be in character development and plot construction. The characters here - including some very welcome surprises from Avengers lore - are entertaining and in character. This is a nice sample for readers who happen across this issue and decide Thor on the cover is enough to warrant parting with four bucks.
Bachalo's art helps keep the story upbeat despite the obvious darker tones that threaten to creep in. Most of the issue is set up in twelve panel grid pages, giving just enough room for detail, emotion, and mood. Every so often, at critical junctures - points in the story where the music would reach a crescendo were this on-screen - Bachalo breaks pattern and drives the story across a page, or a spread, making the tale larger than the lives we get a peek into.
I've enjoyed the "Oral History" pages and I quite like this issue. There's no denying that this issue is more set-up than delivery, but the set-up presented here is enjoyable in its own right. Now, I'm dialed in for the delivery. "Fear Itself" is here and it seems ready to make an impression upon the legend of the Avengers. This is going to be good.