With the fourth issue of the main series, "Fear Itself" is at the turning point of the story. Will this be a memorable story? Or a spark of an event as easily forgotten as the fireworks that made you "Oooo!" and "Aaah!" this past weekend (presuming, of course, that you saw some Canada Day or Independence Day fireworks)?
In this issue, Thor returns to a fearful Earth. The people of Broxton who once welcomed the son of Odin with open arms, homes, and hearts now greet their one-time hero with threats, torches, and pointed guns. Mindless violence, looting, and mayhem are awash across the Earth and Jormundgandr – the so-called Serpent of Asgardian lore – encourages the violence and terror, gaining strength from mankind's mindless embrace of violence and fear.
Matt Fraction uses this issue to try and elevate the story. He adds in more fear, more violence, more conflict, and in doing so has seemingly put all of the chess pieces on the board. (To think it only took four issues of the main series and a number of ancillary installments.) Getting to this point, the story resumes its big screen entertainment, but it still does not give us enough pages of action as we only get snippets of the battles we want to see: Captain America versus Skadi; Thor against well, that would be telling, so let's just say "two somebodies" surely to be spoiled by the time you read this review; and Tony Stark sharing a bottle with Odin. Yes, you read that right.
These scenes are all set up here, but there is no delivery, no immediate gratification. This works great in teasing more, but it also leaves an empty feeling. Four bucks is a lot to shell out for some wonderfully drawn set-up. I'm not going to hammer this point much more than to say that the last page left me wanting more – now. Before then, however, there are a number of other scenes that each were set up to be worthy of a cliffhanger splash page.
Speaking of the wonderfully drawn, Stuart Immonen does some beautiful things with the art in this book, such as the spread depicting the chaos and strife eminent across the world. This spread starts out as a simple collection of eight panels, but those eight panels are surrounded by portraits of a weak (but growing stronger) Serpent and his foe, the haughty Odin. In that framing sequence, each calls upon their minions to boost their power and brace for battle against the other. Immonen doesn't stop there, dishing out visually spectacular details throughout this book. The scene in British Columbia is chilling and haunting. While Immonen delivers the details of the boy's fishing accouterments, it is the surrounding visuals of the deceased Atlanteans that sell the horror of the moment.
Laura Martin's colors wash the whole book in a wide range of emotions, but not the rainbow emotional spectrum comic book readers have come to expect in the last few years. Martin plays up the natural lighting of the scenes, wringing additional effect from the layouts and expressions Immonen places upon this issue's pages.
In Thor's return to action alongside old allies, Eliopoulos does his best impression of John Workman. Stark's calling out of Odin had me re-checking the lettering credit of this issue and Steve Rogers belting out the Avengers battle cry made me triple check. It's a nice homage to one of comicdom's most underrated legends.
Lest I forget, Fraction gives us a Vader-Luke moment, sort of. It's a scene that we're all familiar with, throughout mythology (and yes, that includes the modern myth of "Star Wars"). You know the scene I'm talking about, "Due to our genetic connection, you should join me and we can end this destructive conflict." It is a gripping scene that plays with the prophecy of the Norse gods that Thor clings to in this issue, but once more, it is simply left hanging.
I'd like to see more in the three remaining issues of "Fear Itself." Rather than a page pointing me to three other titles for pieces of the story started here, finish what was begun here. Give me some closure. Just, please, make sure it is as stunningly drawn, and wonderfully delivered as some of these teasers.