Marvel was on a role with event books, having revitalized the concept with House of M in 2005. While there were certainly ups and downs, generally they succeeded in telling at minimum a descent story while evolving the status quo, albeit with some hiccups. Fear Itself however failed on every front, telling a pointless story that amounted to action figures smashing together while botching the premise, introducing pointless changes and publishing an overwhelming list of tie-ins. There’s a reason why no one talks about Fear Itself, let alone remembers it.
Fear Itself, written by Matt Fraction with art by Stuart Immomen, published across seven issues in 2011, followed Marvel’s last event, Siege. This was a Thor-centric story, featuring an ancient Asgardian villain invading Earth. Despite disappointing readers, their was an interesting premise beneath the nonsense. During WWII, the Red Skull performed an ancient ritual, causing a hammer to fall from the sky, landing in Antarctica. Unable to lift it, Skull had it entombed and guarded. In present day, his daughter Sin (who looks like Red Skull, her face burned and scarred), finds the hammer, lifting it. It transforms her into Skadi, Herald of the Serpent. She swims to the bottom of the ocean, battling through dragons to free her father, the Serpent, Cul, Odin’s brother, imprisoned there millennia ago by Odin.
The Avengers are in the decimated Asgard, still in Broxton OK, helping rebuild. Odin, sensing his brother’s escape, takes the Asgardians and leaves Earth, despite Thor’s protests. Thor is imprisoned by his father for disobeying. Seven hammers fall to Earth around the world. Hulk, Juggernaut, Titania, Attuma, Absorbing Man, Thing and Grey Gargoyle find the hammers, transforming into the Worthy, the Serpents generals. Though you’d need to read tie-in books to see the last three. The Avengers fight the Serpent’s army as they assault the White House. Bucky, currently Captain America, is killed by Skadi.
Cap, who has been Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., resumes the mantle while Thor is sent back to Earth. Thor battles Thing and Hulk, killing the former and knocking the latter around the globe before collapsing from exhaustion. Don’t worry, Thing didn’t die, Franklin Richards (son of Mr. Fantastic and Sue Storm) resuscitates him, returning him to normal. Iron Man goes to the ruins of Asgard in Broxton, drinking a bottle of liquor, sacrificing his sobriety to Odin. Odin grants him access to his armory, allowing Stark to make weapons to fight the Serpent.
Cap and the Avengers take the weakened Thor back to Asgard so Odin can heal him. Odin expels them from Asgard, giving them one last chance to fight before his army invades and razes Earth. The Avengers fight the Serpent, losing again. The Serpent destroys Cap’s shield, because that hasn’t happened before. Thor, healed and wearing his father’s armor and bearing the Odinsword, Ragnarok, returns to Earth. Odin helps Iron Man create weapons for the Avengers to battle the Worthy. Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Iron Fist, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and Red She-Hulk (Betty Ross) were outfitted with the weapons while Cap wielded Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer, not for the first time). Action figures smash, fight fight, heroes win, yay. Thor slayed the Serpent, falling in battle himself. Don’t worry, he got better.
A funeral was held in Asgard/Broxton for Thor while Odin took his brother back to Asgard, sealing the gates, leaving the rest of the Asgardians trapped on Earth. Bucky was buried, though he was secretly alive, becoming an undercover operative again, the weapons were melted, because they would never need those again, and Cap’s shield was restored. A bunch of crappy series were teased after. Sin, no longer Skadi, went about looking for the eight hammers in The Fearless. Hulk and Banner separated, also Battle Scars (not sure what it was about), The Defenders had a series again, briefly, and AvX was teased.
The concept of having more hammers was interesting, though failed to shine through due to the general poor quality of the series. Fraction continued hammering (pun!) the same story beats repeated across the seven issues, making the entire series feel bloated. Marvel teased the series as the hero’s worst fears coming true. While it was touched upon in tie-ins (Iron Man vs Grey Gargoyle in his book was descent), it was awkwardly shoehorned in at various points, like when Spider-Man ran off to find Aunt May. A bait and switch, something Marvel does often. As for the tie-ins, there were 115 issues (I counted), excluding follow-ups. Fear Itself is not only a bad story, it has no bearing on Marvel U. as a whole. There’s no point to reading it, or reading about it… though you were total right for reading this.
Fear Itself let you down? Like the idea despite the execution? Comment below!
Just when I thought I was nearly finished.