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Fear Itself: It’s Not Good When the Cross-Over is Better Than the Event

I’ve finished reading Fear Itself and it’s left me in a confused state.  I’m on the record as not liking Marvel’s Event Template of having a mini-series that consists mainly of battles and snapshots of what’s going on in books that are crossing over into the Event– especially when we all know a lot of the crossover books are rubbish and a cash grab.  Alas, Marvel’s trained its fan base to buy events and not much else… and as long as management is focused almost exclusively on the quarterly revenue estimates, they’re not likely to step back and let things grow organically like they need to.

Fear Itself suffers from what I call “Blackest Night Syndrome.”  Blackest Night started out strong and then fell off a bit as it suffered from being turned into a cross over Event.  Fear Itself is a Thor/Iron Man cross over that got turned into an Event and suffers for it.  The first issue started out very promisingly with a slow burn and signs of ill portent.  Shortly thereafter, it fell into “hey look, there’s a lot of really big monsters, a couple good guys got possessed and the obligatory death of a hero.”  And another death that will be wiped away in a month or two, with a semi-ending that exists mostly to launch some more books.  The device of Iron Man getting his armor blessed by Odin falls apart when it gets extended to creating weapons for the rest of the Avengers.  Oh, sure – Stark builds himself a magical hi-tech armor and then it’s just medieval weapons for the Avengers?  And Wolverine’s claws are now made of uru and blessed by Odin?  *Cough* Weak. *Cough* Event *Cough* Mandated *Cough* Writing *Cough*

Boring.  Tame.  A couple nice moments, but overall, kind of meh.  Too much of the mini-series was a round up of various fight scenes.

On the other hand, the Iron Man title was really well done.  Tony Stark sacrificing his sobriety (and thus, his dignity) to Odin could have gone very wrong, but it worked.  Stark boozing with the dwarves and making weapons was inspired, and also something that could have been a disaster with another writer.  The overall plot arc of the book is moved forward with Pepper tangling with the possessed Grey Gargoyle in Paris.  I was very happy with the Iron Man sequence, but it leads to two problems:

Problem #1:  That Matt Fraction could write such a good sequence for Iron Man, leaves me a little bitter that he had to write the Fear Itself mini-series, instead of just focusing on the totally Asgardian  side of the adventure in Thor.  A level of emotional depth was lost in the Cliff Notes structure of who’s fighting who and Thor got the short end of the deal, there.  Farming out the battles to the framing sequence and other titles cheapened the story and I feel a little cheated, having seen what could have been.

Problem #2: In classic Marvel fashion, you’ve now got another volume for the bookshelf that’s completely out of context without the Event trade paperback right next to it.  At least with Dark Reign, Fraction managed to cordon Iron Man off as a chase sequence.  All you really needed to know was that Osbourne had gained control of SHIELD and is after Stark.  Iron Man: Fear Itself ends with a “to be concluded” in Fear Itself #7.  Another instance of Marvel’s fixation on monthly sales at the expense of potential evergreen income in the book trade and a big ‘ole “screw you, punk” to anyone who’d prefer to read these stories in book form.  It’s even worse over in Captain America, where a major character dies in Fear Itself and anyone picking up the book format is going to be all kinds of puzzled.

Oh, well.  At least this won’t be quite as convoluted to read in book form as Secret Invasion.

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