In “Avengers” #13, the title intersected with “Fear Itself” and also began the incorporation of “The Oral History of the Avengers” feature that’s been running as a back-up in “Avengers” and “New Avengers” since their relaunch just over a year ago. It’s an interesting way to approach the event tie-in issues, one that lends more weight to what happens than traditional storytelling. By placing the events of these issues within the context of “The Oral History,” they already seem bigger and more important, which is definitely the case with the battle between the Red Hulk and what has become of the Thing now that he is one of the ‘Worthy.’
This issue is a fairly simple fight comic: two powerhouses wailing on one another with comments from Avengers peppered throughout to add to the drama. By having characters like Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Hawkeye, and Spider-Man talk about how important and big this fight was, how it was when the Red Hulk won them all over, it makes what happens about that even more. It’s a little cheap and hamfisted in trying to get the point across, but it’s still effective most of the time.
What doesn’t hurt is having John Romita, Jr., Klaus Janson, and Dean White illustrating the fight between the two behemoths. The first shot of the Thing in his new state, carrying a hammer down the street is breathtaking. He doesn’t look ‘evil’ yet, simply altered and strange. His face has a slightly warped look and the reverse of the orange and black adds to the strangeness. When he and the Red Hulk fight, there’s such weight behind every blow; Romita is so good at making powerful characters seem powerful when they fight, like every punch should destroy a block and, when one of them just takes it, it’s surprising.
While interesting, the structure of the issue doesn’t work entirely. The reintroduction of the “Oral History” framing device is a little clunky as are some of the interjections. The fight between the Thing and the Red Hulk never seems to go far enough either. What we get is good, but it doesn’t reach the epic proportions that the Avengers talk about. The payoff moment where the Red Hulk ‘proves’ himself falls flat in execution and doesn’t accomplish what it’s supposed to.
Devoting an entire issue to a fight like this might not have worked as well as it did without the art team this issue has. No one draws two big guys smacking one another around as well as John Romita, Jr., especially when it comes to showing the effects of a prolonged fight on the face of a character. The Red Hulk’s hamburger face does the best job at selling the Worthy Thing’s abilities and just how dangerous he is. The use of the talking heads “Oral History of the Avengers” as a framing device is effective on the whole and is a clever way to handle these “Fear Itself” tie-in issues. Sometimes, the technique is a little forced and is more telling than showing, though.
“Avengers” #14 does what a good event tie-in should: it tells a story unique to the title that manages to expand upon the main story of the event. A whole issue of the newly Worthy Thing and the Red Hulk fighting in Manhattan fits the bill.