“Stories end. Stories begin.” That phrase is used more than once in “Fear Itself” #7.2 and sums up the entirety of the issue. Ostensibly one of three epilogue issues for “Fear Itself,” this one focusing on the aftermath of Thor’s death during his fight with the Serpent, it doesn’t so much end that story as it begins another. If anything, this comic is more a prologue to the stories that begin in “The Mighty Thor” #8 and “Journey into Mystery” #631 than an epilogue to “Fear Itself,” since everything new in it helps establish the new status quo, not provide closure on Thor’s death. The question: should any of us have expected anything different?
Events at Marvel, going back to “Civil War,” have not been stories that begin and end; they have been transitory stories that lead from one status quo to another. “Civil War” led to “The Initiative,” which led to “Secret Invasion,” which led to “Dark Reign,” which led to “Siege,” which led to “The Heroic Age,” which led to “Fear Itself,” which is leading to something else. At the end of each event is some sort of change that prompts a new status quo in the Marvel Universe until the next event changes the status quo again. Except, instead of that happening in the pages of “Fear Itself,” for the Thor-centric corner of the Marvel Universe, they happen in this issue and there’s not much else to it.
The sentiments behind the issue are interesting in a metafictional way, with Matt Fraction recognizing that the demands of serialized superhero comics at a corporate level necessitate that no stories ever truly end. However, the recognition of that fact doesn’t excuse this comic being nothing more than a bridge from one status quo to another with little story of value underneath. The new rulers of Asgard are introduced along with the new God of Thunder who has always been the God of Thunder. Both developments are presented and remain unexplored. This is not a story, it’s a delivery system with the promise that a story is coming if you keep reading.
Adam Kubert’s art matches the writing: it conveys what happens while lacking craft or depth most of the time. His style is much more simple and blocky than usual, growing progressively less detailed and competently composed throughout the issue. There are moments of stunning art when a singular, ‘important’ image is called for like the reveal of the new leaders of Asgard. When multiple characters are called for, they become half-formed specs that look like they belong in the distant background of a drawing of a legion of characters instead of being the focal points of panels.
What makes “Fear Itself” #7.2 feel so empty and lacking in story is that its sole function is to introduce plot points that, should you pick up “The Mighty Thor” #8 or “Journey into Mystery” #631, will no doubt be recapped. The manner in which they’re introduced here are not more interesting or entertaining than reading a two-sentence recap of what happened. That’s the biggest failure of this comic: it’s nothing more than 20 pages of epilogue that’s really a two-sentence prologue for another story. “Stories end. Stories begin.” None are actually told here.