Fear Itself #1

(This review spoils nothing past what has been written in Marvel solicitations and talked about in interviews with the creators.)

Comic readers have been moaning about event fatigue and event burnout, wallet starvation, and other such maladies due to the prolific promotion of event-based comic book stories of late. Matt Fraction and Stuart Immonen provide a metaphor for those fans in the form of citizens Bill and Darlene and their family, as they pack up their car and leave Broxton, Oklahoma in a scene from this newest Marvel event, which you can catch in preview form on CBR. Speeding away from Broxton as others arrive on the scene, the family doesn't look back, and instead flees from this event before it envelops them.

What is happening at Broxton is a massive press conference, announcing something the likes of which has never been seen before. As Fraction has laid out in his work on "Invincible Iron Man," Stark Resilient (Tony Stark's latest corporate iteration) is going to help the Asgardians rebuild their city, their home. Doing so will not only benefit the Asgardians, set right the wrong set upon them by Norman Osborn, but also provide thousands of jobs to those in and around Broxton. Stark calls upon the Avengers to stand by his side for the announcement, encouraging his teammates to "make it an event because we can't punch recession."

That event brings uneasy feelings to bear from Odin towards his son and his son's allies. Those uneasy feelings manifest here and sow seeds from this issue to the rest of the story set to blossom over the course of "Fear Itself." Odin's ill-will parallels the reveal of Sin (daughter of the Red Skull) as she is reborn as Skadi, the daughter of Thiazi. Fraction adds other Norse myth tidbits throughout this issue. Odin is provided ample opportunity to rue the apparent return of the Serpent, who, following Norse mythology, would be Jörmungand. This issue is also resplendent with ethereal visions of Yggdrasil, marvelously rendered by Stuart Immonen and spectacularly colored by Laura Martin.

Although this story is heavy with Asgardian lore, Fraction gives the reader a peek into the mind of Sin/Skadi as she sets upon her quest. As she hefts the hammer - a weapon of unspeakable violence - we realize that her quest will not be interrupted until the prophecy is fulfilled. In doing so, Fraction elucidates that Sin is so much more than the Red Skull now, and her quest is much more than she ever imagined.

Immonen's art sparkles throughout this issue, and he is given a vast range of subjects to draw over the forty-four pages of story, from undersea dragons to grenade-hurling Nazis. Immonen's storytelling is top notch, with characters framed dynamically in panels for emotional and dramatic effect. He also makes some nice choices of leaving panels open, such as when Bill and Darlene put the pedal to the metal to get the heck out of Broxton.

This is the first issue of a seven-part series (much larger, once tie-ins are tacked on) that is set to alter the Marvel Universe. Given that this is just the first issue, Fraction and Immonen do a great job accomplishing what they set out to do: alter the universe. The end of this issue leaves the Marvel Universe, particularly Thor and his allies in the Avengers, in a much different place than this issue opened with. Fraction weaves this story into the goings-on in the Marvel Universe - past and present - while letting this story fill these pages. Readers of other Marvel titles will certainly gain a little more from this story in the form of comic book winks and nods. New readers finding their way to this book fresh will be no worse for the adventure.

This book opens cleanly. Everything you need to enjoy the story is right here. There is no mind-numbing recollection of events leading to this point. This story starts with a burgeoning riot and escalates from there.

Marvel played their cards right in scheduling this book out. The Marvel media machine has been spewing forth Thor and Captain America imagery at every turn, whether in the form of covers of issues set to release in July, posters from the feature films each hero is starring in this summer, or some new comic book special featuring Thor or Cap. This story takes foes of both heroes, mashes them up and delivers something brand new that is promised to be quite fearsome.

This first issue, however, shows that the fear is less embodied in the foes and much more present in the world around the heroes of this story. The world around these heroes is starting to lose its tenuous grip on sanity, which is how this issue opens. Immonen and Fraction wasted no time getting this story set in motion, and, if this first offering is any indication, the next six issues ought to be stunning.

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