Fear Itself #2 has the misfortune of being a 22-page comic that follows a double-sized first issue, so by mere logic there will be less happening in the sophomore issue. Plus, while reading "event comics," it's easy to fall into the trap of expecting world-shaking revelations and epic disasters in each issue. Which is stupid -- this is the second issue of a seven-issue series. Despite the price tag, let's not fault our creators for thoughtfully avoiding the pacing of a Michael Bay film.
After all, we're still in the first act of the story, as Matt Fraction's script continues to build tension, adding one more major story element: the Worthy, the followers of the God of Fear. As such, most of the issue mainly consists of select superheroes and supervillains finding hammers and being taken over by evil gods, which is more interesting than it sounds. Fraction could have simply written a couple pages of quick flashes of Juggernaut, Hulk and other bruisers coming upon hammers, but instead he gives them each a little scene -- Bruce Banner and Betty Ross on a brooding vacation (but not a vacation from brooding), Titania and Absorbing Man running their South African diamond mine (!) -- all effectively sketch the characters out before making them chess pieces to move around the narrative board until our heroes punch/explode them. Only Attuma gets shortchanged, but who cares about that guy?
As a quick aside, I just realized: The Worthy are basically the Apokalips to Asgard's New Genesis. Which, mythology aside, feels right, considering that, before he went to DC, Jack Kirby meant for the New Gods to take over for the Asgardians after a Ragnarök type event.
The superheroes that we're supposed to be rooting for are bit players in this issue, but we're starting to get a taste of their major conflicts. Thor, the only god willing to point out that Odin's being a bit of a dick right now, has been put into cosmic time-out. On Earth, Steve Rogers and His Howlin' Avengers -- already feeling forsaken by the Asgardians -- are now being spread thin by all these hammers flying into the planet. Meanwhile, we just keep hearing news reports of everything going wrong with the world, peppered with words like "catastrophe," "injured," "casualties" and so on. Fraction lays on the confluence of crises nice and thick, creating the urgency of all the world's problems coming to a head.
Stuart Immonen renders all of this beautifully, drawing some amazing images like the double-page spread where Odin leads the Asgardians across space, ground forming under his feet as he walks like some Norse Space Moses. More high-profile artists dream of being able to render both planets forming in the cosmic space of the World Tree and the debris-laden streets of hammer-struck New York City with the same amount of deftness. And then, Nazi battle mechs.
By the end of issue two, it seems like Fraction, Immonen and company have thrust us from the first act into the second. The third issue will surely deliver on all the superhero action the first two issues have been leading up to, but so far the setup has been compelling on its own.
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