Last week saw the release of Marvel’s new event book, FEAR ITSELF. I’m not much of a Brian Bendis fan anymore and I’ve been dying to see some of the newer writers at Marvel get a shot at one of these event books. On the top of my list were Jonathan Hickman and Matt Fraction. So I was psyched to see Matt Fraction getting his chance with FI. This week also saw the release of the FI tie-in FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT. The fifth issue of Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung’s AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE hit shelves. And to keep you from thinking I’m just a huge Marvel fanboy, I’ll also review THE BOYS #53.
FEAR ITSELF #1 $3.99 (Writer: Matt Fraction, Artist: Stuart Immonen): I know the first issue of FI was good because, even with an oversized page count, I was so upset it was over when I reached the last page. This is the first issue, so there’s a lot of set-up here, but it’s certainly not short on action as we get an Asgardian smackdown and a massacre of Nazis. Immonen’s arguably the best artist working in comics right now, sadly he’s been paired with Brian Bendis for a while now, so I haven’t seen any of his work since he left Ultimate Spider-man and I subsequently dropped the title from my pull list. Immonen’s work here is gorgeous. He’s second to none when it comes to pencilling action. His panels appear to have more movement than some animated series. His facial expressions range from utterly hilarious (Steve Rogers annoyed with Volstagg) to truly menacing (the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, killing everyone in her path). Fear Itself is a perfect pairing of writer and artist, and issue one gives me high hopes for the series.
FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #1 $3.99 (Writers: Various, Artists: Various): I had no plans to pick up this anthology tie-in title, but I flipped to the table of contents, saw the first two stories featured Speedball and the Agents of Atlas, and felt obligated to buy it. The main feature, taking up about half of the page count, is a strong Speedball story by Christos Gage and Mike Mayhew. Gage uses a combination of traditional narration and Twitter messages to tell the story. The narration shows Speedball’s remorse for the events that occurred in Stamford, CT at the beginning of Civil War, while the tweets reveal how much Speedball is still loathed by a large section of the public. The tweets as a storytelling device don’t always work perfectly, but it is effective at displaying the fear and hate seeping into the Marvel Universe. Mayhew’s art is stellar here. He has a rare photo-realistic style that doesn’t feel stagnant or overly photo-referenced.
The Agents of Atlas story is the first time I’ve ever seen these characters written by anyone other than Jeff Parker, so initially it was a bit jarring. That’s not to say Peter Milligan does a bad job, he’s written quirky characters like this before in his brilliant run with Mike Allred on X-Force/X-Statix, but the voices of these heroes feel just slightly off. Maybe that’s intentional though, as almost all of the members of Atlas are on-edge. Possibly because of that, a lot of the humor that Parker brought to the Agents is gone here. There is one really compelling element in the story involving Jimmy Woo and his acclimation to modern day (or lack thereof) that gives the Atlas leader much more depth as a character.
The other two stories featured in Fear Itself: The Home Front really aren’t worth talking about. A Fear Itself checklist would’ve been preferable to Howard Chaykin’s one-page J. Jonah Jameson story. And Jim McCann’s story about the residents of Broxton is quite forgettable.
AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE #5 $3.99 (Writer: Allan Heinberg, Artist: Jim Cheung): Avengers: TCC #4 ended with the return of the founder of the Young Avengers, Iron Lad. Iron Lad is the teenage Kang the Conqueror, and so the entrance of Iron Lad to the story also means the entrance of time travel. Time travel always makes for tricky storytelling, so when it’s done well, it should be recognized. And Heinberg makes great use of time travel in this issue. The Young Avengers travel back to the time of possibly the worst Avengers story ever told, AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED. Heinberg does tweak continuity with this adventure, but he does so very cleverly. Jim Cheung’s art is stunning as usual. Heinberg’s script gives Cheung plenty to work with, as the issue opens in the midst of a huge battle and then switches gears to some hugely emotional moments. The release schedule of Avengers: TCC has been frustrating but every issue has been full of top-notch storytelling from both writer and artist.
THE BOYS #53 $3.99 (Writer: Garth Ennis, Artist: John McCrea): The Boys is often a mixed bag. Ennis likes to put his characters in truly over-the-top scenarios. Sometimes it works and sometimes it’s cringe-worthy. The Boys #53 has a little bit of both. This issue is told almost entirely in flashback, as Mallory fills Hughie in on his experience with superheroes in Germany during World War II. Ennis knows how to write war stories and all the military dialogue is quite good. But Ennis’s WWII heroes (two clearly based on Captain America and Bucky) are just too grossly incompetent. I like Ennis’s pessimistic take on what a world with superheroes would actually be like, but if he just toned it down just a notch or two, it would be so much more effective. There’s one bit involving an unsanctioned recon mission involving the flying supes that’s smartly written. John McCrea is by far the worst of The Boys three rotating pencillers, but this issue happens to be the best he’s illustrated thus far.
Blog-A-Day: Day 2