Fear Itself: The Deep #1

Story by
Art by
Lee Garbett, David Meikis
Colors by
John Rauch
Letters by
Joe Caramagna
Cover by
Marvel Comics

Or, if you prefer - "Fear Itself: The Defenders" (and wow, it's come to something when Marvel thinks calling a book "Defenders" is going to hurt its chances of selling). With Attuma transformed into Nerkkod by his enchanted hammer, New Atlantis has fallen and Namor has abandoned his home seeking help to regain it. Helping out? His old friends, the Defenders. Sort of.

What we actually get is a modern interpretation of the team. Namor, Strange and (eventually) the Silver Surfer join forces with Lyra (one of the She-Hulks) and Loa filling the Hulk and Namora roles respectively. As with the original Defenders, the mix of characters is largely arbitrary, although Bunn smartly draws on their shared history as the main reason for the core group's assemblage, meaning he can just about get away with it.

There are parts of the story that are less convincing, though. Attempting to deal with the lack of X-Men with a throwaway line is fine, but destroying New Atlantis - without any mention of Utopia, which New Atlantis is supporting - is an omission that can't help but stand out. The X-Men are dealing with something more important than Attuma? Fine. The X-Men are dealing with something more important than their nation sinking into the sea? Er, sorry, but no.

The core of the story is, of course, Namor, and in that sense the character is being taken to interesting new areas, though not ones which entirely work. Although it's part of the story that Namor has lost his nerve, it's difficult to accept this characterization in light of his recent one-note arrogance. The image of him sitting in a bar, dejected, is certainly one that has impact, but asking for help should be beyond his capabilities. Similarly, the scene of him cowering in fear mid-battle would have been a better surprise had his character not already been undermined by that point in the issue.

As a tie-in, it's inessential, at best. Hammer falls on bad villain. Bad villain gets worse. "Fear Itself" logo slapped on front. You can expect to read a few miniseries with that particular plot in the next few months, and right now there's nothing to suggest that "The Deep" will be anything more interesting.

Any Defenders fans who notice that this is aimed at them will probably enjoy seeing the characters back together again (even if there's little chance for the newer members to make their presence felt), and Lee Garbett's artwork is largely clear and enjoyable, so aside from Namor's characterization, there's little to criticize. Nor is there anything to distinguish it, though, and alongside so many tie-ins, well, that's a problem that it seems too late to fix.

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