ADVANCE REVIEW: Fear Itself #1

Fear Itself #1 - Marvel Comics
Fear Itself #1
 
Written by Matt Fraction
Art by Stuart Immonen & Wade von Grawbadger
Colors by Laura Martin
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos

$3.99 / 56 pages

On Sale this Wednesday, April 6.

It's been nearly three months since Fear Itself was announced to the world. After weeks of speculation and a whole lot of hammer related promos, the premiere issue of Marvel Comics' 2011 event hits comics shops this Wednesday. We've been given an advance copy of Fear Itself #1 written by Matt Fraction, with art from Stuart Immonen and are here today to give the scoop and answer those two eternal questions on any comics fans mind:

"Is it any good?" and "Should I buy it?"

Before we dive into my review, just wanted to set the stage upfront .  I will not be spoiling any specific plot points in this review.  I don't want to ruin the story for anyone, so I will be speaking about the story in general terms. 

Going into Fear Itself, I had a few questions and concerns.  First, Marvel presented the story as a parallel to some depressing current events.  In Fear Itself, the world struggles with terrorism and a down economy, probably a given since the climate of the Marvel U closely mirrors our own reality. My immediate thought was, "But I don't want to read about that in my comics, I like comics to get away from the real world."  My second question/concern was around the involvement of Thor and the Asgardian gods, who appear central to the story. While I read a lot of Marvel books, I don't read Thor.  Would I be able to dive into Fear Itself and not have to know a ton of what's been going on in the pages of Thor? And finally, Matt Fraction spoke about the epicness of this story and his approach to deliver action.  Could this live up to that hype? Well, after reading Fear Itself #1, let's just say that my personal fears about the book have been put to rest.

As Fear Itself #1 begins, Fraction does a fantastic job of setting the stage for this tale.  Through several scenes early on in the book, Fraction is able to explain what is going in the world such as the economy and the other problems we face and accurately place them into the Marvel Universe.  At no point was I brought down by the fact that the world we live in is a complicated place, filled with scary things.  It's just how it is and I was pleased to see that concept be handled not with a heavy hand, rather just as a statement of fact.  I was easily placed into the mindset of a person in the Marvel Universe and how the realities of the world around them affect even the most common man, as well as the super heroes.

The challenge with the first issue of a series like this is that there's a lot the creators need to accomplish. They need to set the stage and build the world that the story will exist in as well as provide the needed exposition to bring a reader up to speed. Fear Itself #1 tackles that challenge with the exact right amount of balance between exposition and storytelling.  At no moment was it unclear to me what the story of this comic is.  Sure, you need to have a general knowledge of the Marvel Universe, but beyond that we're introduced to characters and their motivations in way that not only brings us up to speed but ignited the spark to kick off the story.  We're introduced to the beginnings of the villains and their motivation for what will ultimately become the point of conflict for the story.  What I was most impressed by was that I didn't feel as if I had to work to understand what was happening within the story.  The events flowed in a natural way, with ease for the reader which completely maximized the enjoyment of the issue.

First issues often lack a major plot point or "WOW" moment because it is so early in the story and the pieces are being placed on the board to be played with.  That said, there were several moments within the book that provided that kick of excitement to get my interest for the rest of the series.  As we've seen already in the Fear Itself: Book of the Skull Prelude, the character of Sin (the new Red Skull), is the main catalyst for the conflict, and I'll be honest with you,  anytime there are Nazi's involved in a story, it's exciting.  I have really enjoyed the legacy element of this story, tying in events of the past that are conceivable to have occurred without rewriting history in a way that would upset long time readers.  Additionally, in the promotional materials for Fear Itself, we've seen the beginnings of a conflict between Thor and his father Odin.  That conflict was the main source of action within this first issue.  While I would rate the level of excitement and "WOW" within this first issue at around a 6 (out of 10), that's not a dig against the action. Rather it felt, to me, the right amount of tension, conflict and action to get me excited for what's to come. A little bit of a taste, if you will.  Additionally there were a few "Oooooh" moments that did get me to pause my reading just to soak in what just happened.

As we often do, I'm focusing a lot of time on the story but any review of any issue of Fear Itself would be incomplete without highlighting the art.  Why? Because the art is freaking amazing.  We've been raving about Stuart Immonen for a few years now as he's delivered some great work in the pages of Ultimate Spider-Man and the Avengers books, but with Fear Itself he's really taken it up a notch.  With so many characters and places within this book, Immonen is able to present every moment with stunning clarity and mastery that it's almost deceptive. From awe inspiring super heroes, to legendary gods, to average people on the street, Immonen draws each subject as if their central to the story.  No line on the page is unnecessary and every panel serves it's purpose beautifully.  Multiple 2 page spreads, splash pages, quiet panel moments, this comic has it all and the storytelling flow is one of the most elegant I've seen in a long time.  We've heard a lot of hyperbole about Immonen's work on Fear Itself from those involved, and I have to say, it's all validated.  Fear Itself is clear to catapult Immonen into comic book artist super stardom. For example, I can't say that I've every felt the weight of Thor's hammer Mjolnir visually before, but after experiencing Immonen's take on it, I realize the mastery of his art where even what could be considered a prop (albeit an important one) has both physical and emotional representative weight to the story.  Absolutely stunning.  The creative team is elevated even higher with Immonen's continued collaboration with Wade von Grawbadger on inks and the addition of Laura Martin on colors and Chris Eliopoulos on letters, who again show us why they're some of the best the comic book industry has to offer.  It's almost not even fair how talented this creative team is and everyone is at their A-Game and it's absolutely a joy to take in each page.

Now where do we stand with those all important questions that every comic fan has on his or her mind when discussing Fear Itself?  If it isn't apparent already then I'll lay it out for you. Simply put, yes it's good and yes you should buy it. In this first issue we not only get a taste of the scale of this story and some great moments that will promise to enterain, but it sets the stage for what looks to be an action-packed, grand tale. Fraction and Immonen deliver on the promise of a huge, epic story that is exactly the kind that comic books are made for. 

 
Story: 5 / Art: 5 / Overall: 5
(out of 5)

Comments

  1. @ron, if you make this your POTW, you can just use this review! I’m so jazzed to read this. Is it still like 56 pages?

  2. Wow.  I might actually pick this up.

  3. @warmachine15  I do have the pick this week, if this book is it, I’ll follow up with a more specific review (not avoiding spoilers etc)

  4. Wow, a perfect review! Just go ahead and admit you guys like pretty much everything Marvel puts out. Jeez.

  5. Yeah how dare a writer for a comic book site like comic books! Haha nice write up Ron.

  6. How many pages is this issue?

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s 56 pages. 

  8. my biggest hesitancy is if i just read the main series will i get the story? There is no way i can (or want to) buy all of those crossovers. Nice advance review….i’m def considering this now. 

  9. @FormerPoetLaureate  Yeah, I know. remember their glowing review of Sentry: Fallen Sun?

  10. 56 pages is great. Nice review @Ron. I’m looking forward to this.

  11. Great review Ron.  I can’t wait to pick this up.

  12. I’m strangely not excited for this. Hope I’m surprised this wednesday!

  13. @FormerPoetLaureate  The guys were pretty harsh on Civil War and World War Hulk.

  14. @FormerPoetLaureate  @RoiVampire  And Secret Invasion and literally hundreds of other Marvel books.

  15. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Based on talking to Fraction in the Fear Itself press calls several weeks back, I think it’s safe to stick to the main title. Just pick the tie-ins that look compelling to you. He said it requires no previous Thor knowledge, and he seemed really intent about that. No bullshit. 

  16. Interesting that the first issue is 56 pages. Praction is defintiely a long form storyteller–I’ve struggled with almost all of his titles monthly but loved his work in trade. 56 pages of a Fraction story will almost definitely “set the hook” for me better than a single issue. Haven’t been this excited for an event in some time. Definitely going to make it feel like summer really is almost here! I can ignore the haters, I read superhero comics almost everyday and have been reading big event books since I was a kid. Let’s do this!

  17. Great review Ron, still not interested to buy it though.

    Quick question though: Wouldn’t it be a bit cheating to make this a POTW review (or 2nd review of the same title) if you already have an advanced copy? I mean, last week for example, if I read Detective Comics last week for having an advanced copy it would be kinda pointless to consider anyother books POTW material cause I read such an amazing issue.

    Just curious is all.

  18. @TheNextChampion  We get advanced copies quite often. It doesn’t effect the Pick of the Week, you still have to read and consider all the books.

  19. @Paul: Because you will already get a strong opinion on that particular book if you read it before everything else. If a book is amazing then you’ll, subconciously I might add, already have a notion for the rest of the pile.

    I did it once a couple of months ago by getting only one book for the week and waiting to get the rest the next (cause I forgot to add them to my pullbin). Anyways, because I only read that issue that week, and it was a great book (I believe it was Chew) it already was far and away the best thing I would’ve read before touching the other books.

    So you say it has no predetermination but I would love to know seriously how many times the site got advanced issues and how many times it became POTW.

  20. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    You can’t….you can’t read 8 to 14 books simultaneously. It’s not humanly possible. You have to read them one at a time. So one’s always going to be first. And you might take breaks in between. 

  21. @TheNextChampion  There’s no way to give you that data as we don’t keep it. But we’ve been doing this for over ten years, we kind of have the POW process thing down at this point.

  22. @conor: All I was asking was if there is a trend of advanced copies of books in relation to pick of the week. I’m shocked there is no data on that since you are the resident fact checker on this site.

    @Paul: I read like that all the time, don’t tell me out of the hundreds of thousands of comic readers there aren’t a lot of readers like that.

  23. @Paul: I’m sorry but also this; how quick is it now a days to read any particular issue of anything? Unless it’s written by Alan Moore it can take a good 2-3mins to read a single issue.

  24. @TheNextChampion  There’s no data on that because there’s no reason to keep it because there isn’t a trend. Like I said, we’ve been doing this for 10+ year; 3+ years professionally. We know what we’re doing.

    Fear Itself #1 may be the Pick this week but it won’t be because Ron read it first, it would be because he loved it a lot. Or it might not be the Pick because he’ll read something he loved more. We’ll find out in two days.

  25. Also…..also (damn lack of edit function!)

    You guys did an advanced review of Scott Pilgrim vol. 5 and a few days later made it Book of the Month. Now I know you guys adore that series but I have to think you guys made it immediately book of the month right after you finished reading it.

  26. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    It’s a vast conspiracy of celebrating things we like. 

  27. @TheNextChampion  That’s right – I did: because Scott Pilgrim Vol. 5 was the best trade I read that month. (And the month before and after.) That was immediately apparent upon closing the book. We get A LOT of advanced trades that you never hear about because they aren’t all that good. Just because you read it first doesn’t mean you’ll think it’s best.

    AGAIN, we’ve been doing this a long time and we know what we’re doing.

  28. @TNC Do you really usually read an issue in 2-3 minutes!?  Do you look at the art at all?

  29. @TheNextChampion  –2-3 minutes? Seriously? I used to breeze through my comics like that. Never enjoyed a one of them. Take your time, Enjoy them a little. Get your $4 worth. You might have fun!

    I think the guys have proven over the years that the only bias they have is towards good comics and what they personally enjoy. In this day and age of carefully scripted “word of mouth” advertising and paid advertisement bloggers, that kind of impartiality is gold. 

    @PaulMontgomery  –thanks for that clarification. I’m sure it was mentioned in some of the previous posts, but in all honesty i had no intention of considering this event until this here review…

  30. @gobo/Wally: okay maybe it takes me 5mins to read a book. I’m a fast reader and I enjoy the art just as much! Its not like I flip the comic like a coloring book and ignore the craft of the artist. When I saw panels/pages of Fracavilla’s work in ‘Tec I knew right away it was gorgeous.

  31. This is one strange agruement…  I’m looking forward to Fear Itself but thinking I better read it last because don’t want to give it the unfair advantage. 

  32. Lovely review. I was intending on picking this up but now I find I’m actually a little excited for it. The art looks simply stunning on the previews I’ve seen!

  33. @TNC – Even 5 minutes is crazy fast, IMHO.

    I think it was Robert Kirkman in the Walking Dead letter column who said that if you’re reading a book that fast, you’re not giving it it’s proper due. Not my words, his. Just saying.

    I know there are people who speed read. But especially with comic books, to me that is the perfect way to lose the intended impact and nuance of a book. It’s not just a matter of also looking at the art. It’s about letting the story play out and breathe as it takes place. Certain books are written and drawn in ways to either make the story speed up or slow down. And a lot of the time, that’s when the really impactful stuff happens and resonates with the reader.

    I know we’re all different, and appreciate different aspects of the books and stories. So I’m not going to say anyone is exactly reading their books wrong. Just that I have a hard time imagining people having the same experience with a book that took me 15-20 min to read when they read it in 3 minutes. To me, reading that fast can’t be much more than simply wanting to find out what happens as fast as possible. 

    Just my own personal preference. But I like to totally immerse myself in the world of the book I’m reading. I hear all the characters speaking in my head as it would sound if it was taking place as a tv show or film. If there is an especially impactful moment, I usually let it sink in. And if I read a book that really hits home for me. I usually put down the book and wait a bit til I read the next. It’s all about mindset and tone for me. I have to properly transition. And if something is really good, I like having that feeling linger a while. And here’s the really crazy thing. I usually read my books over the course of 2-4 days!

    I’m sure, TNC, my reading habits sound just as crazy to you as yours do to me. Like I said, we’re all different in our own ways. And all that matters is whatever you do, work for you. Which all goes back to your original conversation with the i-guys about the POTW. They don’t exactly read their books in the same manner as you or I. Just cuz reading a book early to you would influence your opinions, that doesn’t make it the same for everyone else.

  34. Oh, and Ron. Well done. You’ve succeeded in getting me up for this series. You should get a job working for a company selling comics. 😉

  35. @TheNextChampion  If anything the LAST book you read is going to be more likely a POTW because it is freshest in your memory.

  36. @ResurrectionFlan  Or it could have the opposite effect as well.  The ending book of a mediocre stack, at times, has tarnished my experience because I didn’t care for the books that week.

  37. Why, it’s almost as if everyone reads differently. Some might even draw the conclusion that it’s not that big a deal. Those people are quitters.

  38. Ron’s review doesn’t impact me either way, really – I expect him to like this book! LOL I am going to look at this and I might buy it. I have a light week. Typically I buy a trade on light weeks, but since this in only $3.99, I can afford to do both. Civil War and World War Hulk kinda scared me off from Marvel event books, but Fraction is good, so I may roll the dice.

  39. @ResurrectionFan: Not nessicarally, cause a good amount of time the last book in my pile is not POTW. Usually I read my books from ‘least anticipated’ to ‘most anticipated’ so two weeks ago Batman INC was the last book I read but FF ended up my pick.

    @j206: Hey I’m not judging on how fast or slow someone reads a book. Again I just happen to be a fast reader, but I am certainly not ‘speed’ reading or just reading it as fast as possible. Plus if I had time, like you, I would read comics in days instead of a couple of hours….but I don’t have that type of time so I can’t.

  40. An excellent review of a very fine superhero book, nice one Ron. The spoiler-free nature of the assessment is commendable.

  41. I just read this- and it’s official.

    I am Sick of Fraction’s almost obsessive need for real world parables.

    Enough.

    I like a sophistcated story I can relate though- but if I wanted evening news commentary
    I would watch the news.

    Comics are escapism and fantastic possibilities, at least Marvel comics main titles are-
    Fraction either forgets that or doesn’t give a damn.

    That doesn’t mean that the Marvel U can’t refelct certain elements hey I’m the guy
    that’s sick of giant space dinosaurs as a “great romp”

    But give it a rest-

    And the dialgoue- the forced conflict between Tony and Steve- the greatest generation comments, Steve’s struggle wth “this modern world”  it’s done – over move on
    He’s been out of ice for awhle and many writers have left the uso longing captain amerca behind.

    All in all – I just stopped reading this issue b/c I was frustrated?  or bored?

    I can’t decide which.