While I can appreciate that a death-defying fight for your life may bring out a side of a person that is rarely (if ever) seen, I was a bit stumped by the number of scenes that struck me as out of character in this fifth issue of "Fear Itself." From Captain America telling his opponent to consider relocation to the nether-realm, to Thor calling someone else a "pain in the ass," this issue has a few moments that are great, powerful, character-testing moments, but Matt Fraction takes them just a little off center.
Maybe I'm missing the mark completely, and Fraction's intent is to show just how bewildered and exhausted these heroes are through these scenes, but those scenes gave me pause. Spider-Man also has a moment of un-Spider-Man-like dialogue, which Fraction uses Captain America to call out; but that one is the least off-base of the lot.
The issue itself – the fight against Sin /Skadi and the Serpent and Thor's epic battle against Hulk/Nul and Thing/Angrir – moves so briskly that a second reading of this issue almost seems like a requirement, just to ensure that nothing was missed on first pass. This is one of (if not the) most frenetic issue of the series and a lot happens. By "a lot" I mean there is much fighting, a hero falls in battle, a mighty weapon is rent asunder, a foe is seemingly vanquished, and Tony Stark gets belligerent with Odin. But that "lot" doesn't move this story to an exceptionally different place than where everyone was on the first page. There are loud bangs and crashes, but it's mostly from set-up for the big battle.
Through it all, the Wade Von Grawbadger-inked Stuart Immonen art is strong enough to carry the tale on its own, as evidenced by the panels where the characters speak in runes. The language is not immediately decipherable without a guide, but the intent of their message is crystal clear. Laura Martin and Milla Molinar lend an assist on the imagery by bathing the story is a rainbow of hues. The electric blue lightning emanating from Thor's hammer as he strikes Nul is a thing of beauty in and of itself, but that is only one panel. Immonen puts some Kirby crackle down for Martin and Molinar to color and the rest of the book in between is a stunning visual spectacle.
As far as this series is concerned, this is a down issue. The upside to that is that, even as a down issue, this is wildly fun, explosively entertaining story. There's two issues left of this series, and from the looks of what is left undone, those two are going to be doozies.