Two-Bit Fears: As we now enter into Fear Itself with the Avengers, I figured I should follow suit with what the other reviewers have done and list some of my fears for your… amusement?
Fear #1 – Comic Book Events. I’m not kidding around. I was dreading reviewing this book. Just fyi, I’m not getting any Fear Itself related books besides this one, so if I inadvertedly miss out on something because it happened somewhere else, now you know why.
What? You wanted some real psychological stuff? We got three more of these, so chill.
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Penciler: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Townsend, Mendoza, Vey, & Faucher
Colorist: Chris Bachalo
Letterist: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Alan Davis, Mark Famer, and Javier Rodriguez
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD, MAYBE***
Plot: The Avengers sit down and recount the events in both Fear Itself #1 and #2, namely, their press conference announcing their intentions to rebuild Asgard and Skadi’s attack on the Capitol (which is referred to in the Marvel universe as Blitzkrieg U.S.A.). Hawkeye and Spider-Woman begin to develop a romance.
The Good: Right off the bat, let’s talk about Chris Bachalo. He is a polarizing artist, to be sure, and while some may strongly dislike his highly detailed artwork, I dig it. I liked it in Dark Reign: The Sinister Spider-man and the most recent X-Men arc, and it was arguably the only redeeming thing about SHED in ASM. It’s definitely the highlight here. His designs are absolutely gorgeous.
Some have said that his art excels particularly in backgrounds. The way this issue is set up, the Avengers are often standing against blank or simple backgrounds except for important shots. This works to Bachalo’s advantage, as the focus is then placed on the characters themselves.
The cover art is good. Nothing special and rather generic, to be honest. We’ve seen the shot of the heroes on the ground left for dead many times over.
The Bad: Brace yourselves.
First of all, as framing device for this tale, Bendis has the Avengers give interviews in the style of… an illustrated oral history (even Thor says this explicitly). If you’ve picked up Avengers or New Avengers, then you’ll be familiar with the Oral History of the Avengers. It was a neat idea at first, but like with anything else the man does, it ran way too long. As if that wasn’t enough, we now have a story that is EXCLUSIVELY an oral history with some flashbacks breaking up their narrative.
If that’s your cup of tea, great. It’s not necessarily mine. It took me a while to figure out that it was taking place at the beginning of Avengers history (since Janet Van Dyne and Quicksilver are interviewed as well) but then it jumps back and forth in the timeline (Steve Rogers is in his Cap uniform and then in his Secret Avengers get-up, and then there’s bearded Thor). We also get the impression that this is taking place shortly after Fear Itself #2 (after Skadi attacks the Capitol). My question here is: why are the Avengers wasting time talking about stuff instead of putting a stop to her? This is clearly not taking place completely after whatever the conclusion of Fear Itself ends up being, so I’m just kinda baffled at this.
The way Bendis is approaching this event, it feels as if the Avengers title is more of a companion book to the Fear Itself mini—in my opinion, that mini should’ve been an Avengers arc in their own title, except that would’ve meant Bendis and not Matt Fraction would’ve written it, and I don’t suppose it would’ve been okay for Fraction to take over the title just for this arc.
As for the flashback portions, it’s not that bad. Rulk is being setup as an essential part of the team, which is fine by me, as I’ve grown to like the character and enjoyed the focus on his redemption in the Infinity Gems arc, but that’s just it: we just had an arc dedicated to Red Hulk’s redemption and place in the Avengers! Why do we need another one when the first one did a good job of it?
The Ugly: Here’s the big one.
In this issue, we get the first seeds of the budding romance between Clint Barton and Jessica Drew. Jessica Drew joins Natasha Romanoff, Wanda Maximoff, Bobby Morse, Karla Sofen, and Janet Van Dyne in Hawkeye’s long list of romances with fellow team members. Even here, it already looks like it’s NOT going to end well, with Ms. Marvel worried that a bad break-up will cause Spider-Woman to leave the team and subsquently go to a dark place (by the way, Carol said Hawkeye never leaves the team, when, in fact, he has before, back when he led the Thunderbolts). I mentioned in a previous review that I wish Jessica would score some personal victories to help her self-esteem. I wanna echo the same sentiment here, as I think she’s heading into another downward spiral of bad characterization.
On the other hand, what’s up with Hawkeye? First of all, wasn’t he going blind? Hawkeye: Blindspot isn’t even over yet. Does that take place before or after Fear Itself? Sigh. Speaking of that mini and also the canceled Hawkeye and Mockingbird ongoing and the Widowmaker mini, wasn’t Clint trying to patch things up with Mockingbird (who, last time I checked, was dying over in New Avengers)? I guess what I’m trying to get at is that a)Bendis doesn’t care about other people’s continuity and b)Bendis doesn’t care about his OWN continuity.
You say, “Two-Bit, continuity is not the be-all-end-all anchor in comics.” You’re right and I’ve argued that point before (although it’s not like we’re talking about obscure 40-year-old stories; this is stuff that was published in the last year). Let’s judge the comic on its own merits. I don’t see any redeeming factor in this subplot. It can’t possibly end well and it will only damage both characters in the long run.
Also to note, I follow a few comic book enthusiasts on Twitter. I happened to catch an analogy that opened my eyes and pretty much summed up this issue: Bendis is writing Ultimate Spider-man, but with the Avengers. And that is terrible.
Friendly-Neighborhood Spider-moment: When Red Hulk and Noh-Varr eat whole uncooked eggs, Spider-man heaves in his mask. Wow. Isn’t that EXACTLY what all Spidey fans want to see their favorite hero do? At least his slurping sodas during his interviews were okay.
Verdict: I didn’t hate this issue upon initial reading, but I didn’t love it either. As I pondered upon what score to give it, I asked myself, “Can I in good conscience recommend this issue to anyone?” The answer to that is no, not even for Christ Bachalo’s artwork. Thus this issue gets my lowest score yet, 1.5 Eggs out of 5.
~My Two Cents