While the main "Fear Itself" story tromps across the Marvel Universe landscape, Attuma (now wielding the hammer under the moniker of Nerkkod) is splashing under the surface, delivering a special brand of fear. A loosely knit band of defenders, including Loa, Namor, Dr. Strange, Lyra, and Silver Surfer is trying to put an end to the undersea terror in this tie-in to "Fear Itself."
Cullen Bunn’s story seems prescribed, following the instructions handed to him for a Marvel miniseries once he agreed to write this. This issue features a fight with the minor foes, some level of victory for the heroes, then a revelation that they still have a massive threat waiting for them. There’s not much room for surprise here, but Bunn does try to drop a few surprises on the readers, including Silver Surfer trying to one-up Tyrak the Terrible and Loa’s choice in the heat of battle.
Maybe this is simply testimony to where I am with regards to the “Fear Itself” event, or maybe the story truly has slowed down to the point where this issue just serves as filler. Things happen in this issue, but the events lack closure or resonance. The threat never felt overbearing, and the heroes do little to make it seem otherwise.
Lee Garbett’s figures are nicely drawn, heroically built, and wonderfully expressive, but some of his layout choices and storytelling decisions leave a little to be desired. Granted, not every panel can be a money shot. Sometimes, characters are going to need to be presented awkwardly for story’s sake. Throwing in an undersea environment only further complicates things. But this issue wasn't the very best that Garbett has to offer. When there are panels without bubbles, waves, seaweed, or undersea debris, Garbett fills the backgrounds nicely, adding detail and depth, giving the heroes and villains in this issue more than just “stuff” behind them. One or two different choices in framing would have made a huge difference, though. Strange refers to “merging two mystic entities," but the way the panel is set up, I could only distinguish one “entity.”
The final issue, promising a dramatic confrontation with Attuma, might pique my interest. I’m hoping so because, on the surface, there’s no concept from Marvel (save the Champions) that I want to like as much as the Defenders. Of course I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the conclusion of the fourth issue deliver a banner stating, “Concluded in ‘Fear Itself’ #7” or some such.
Until then, I say bring on Attuma, set these characters loose for a knockdown, drag-out fight, and give readers something to get riled about. Or not. We’ll know soon enough.