The teaser on the final page got a reactionary eyebrow raise out of me when I read "The Hammer That Fell on Yancy Street." Yes, I was actually intrigued by the end of a comic.
This book is enjoyable and it certainly seems like it is going to get even better with the issues yet to come. This issue, however, puts hammers in the hands of "The Worthy." Many of those characters have been teased in publicity imagery and house ads for this series, but that doesn't lessen the impact (in the case of the story - literally) that these characters have in this issue. To avoid spoiling the "whos" of the hammer-hefters (in case you avoided it to this point) I'll simply tell you this: this issue brings the pain. Kuurth, breaker of stone; Nul, breaker of worlds; Skirn, breaker of men; and Nerkkod, breaker of oceans all are deemed worthy to hold high a hammer. Beyond those four, we have seen that the Grey Gargoyle was also deemed worthy and one other hammer is found on Yancy Street. That leaves two of the eight hammers yet to be found and claimed.
In light of this development, Odin declares Midgard a lost cause and prepares to raze the Earth in order to save it. Odin's own people see this course of action to be one of fear and a sign of retreat. Thor lends his voice to those concerns and is deemed traitorous. In two fell swoops, Matt Fraction puts the heroes in dire straits and raises the level of threat to inspirational levels. The Serpent is commanding the Worthy to do his bidding, and his bidding is "punish and terrify every single living thing you can."
The first issue completely spoiled my inner comic fan, setting the bar for this series high. Thankfully this second issue matches that task, and while it moves more quickly than the previous issue and carries a significant quantity of exposition, it packs an uncanny amount of drama in between the covers. This issue, like the previous, is very enjoyable, filled with big screen comic wonderfulness. This is a summer, box-fan, read-it-on-the-floor comic.
This issue's exposition literally hops around the world (and then some) in the quest to spread the seeds of fear and the roots for this story far and wide. In choosing this path, Fraction delivers a story that shows how quickly and completely chaos is seizing the world and how futile clutching to sanity proves to be. The heroes won't be facing a single, unified evil. Instead they're going to be stretched thin, fighting foes, themselves, and the unexpected. Between, around, and over the main story, Fraction fills the issue with cacophony that threatens to drown out or overwhelm the crux of the story.
As much as I cringe when I see the sheer quantity of issues tagged for the other summer event series, I simply cannot get enough of this one. So much so that I'm seriously considering nabbing most (if not all) of the supporting material. The main story seems strong enough to continue to stand on its own, but Marvel provides teasers for more "Fear Itself" action in ongoing titles on the final page of this issue. The fantastic part of this is that the story doesn't even seem to have really hit its stride yet. The pieces are still being placed upon the board. The characters are being brought in and the major conflict is yet to come.
I just realized that I did a whole review and didn't even mention Stuart Immonen's incredible art. Immonen is one of the modern masters of the comic book story who manages to make things appear much easier than they are. His art is deceptively simple, but painstakingly detailed in the method that simplicity is employed.
Immonen, like George Perez, is able to cram a massive amount of story into a simple panel that takes up less than a quarter of a page, but it all looks so elegant and clean. Those tighter panels make the larger panels seem like splash pages by comparison and the splash pages, therefore, seem like panoramic posters. "Fear Itself" is a gorgeous book that features art that matches the story beat for beat. Oh, and it happens to be a pretty darn enjoyable event comic too.