Fear And Loathing in the Marvel Universe.

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While the competition has been relaunching their universe to great reviews, the Marvel Universe is engulfed in its latest company-wide crossover, Fear Itself, unfolding in a seven issue limited series.  After five issues (and around 70 issues of tie-ins) the Asgardian god of fear, the Serpent, has rocked nearly every character Marvel has to offer.  Invincible Iron Man and The Mighty Thor writer Matt Fraction has done an excellent job with the story of Odin’s long forgotten brother, the true exiled King of Asgard.

When Fear Itself began in April, I was hesitant to commit to a crossover this large.  The last time Marvel told a story of this magnitude was Secret Invasion, and while the main story was fantastic, creating repercussions that are still affecting characters today, a lot of the tie-ins had little or nothing to do with the main story.  But, being the loyal fanboy that I am, I decided to roll the dice and give Fear Itself a chance.  Much to my surprise, not only have the tie-ins been relevant to the narrative, but they’ve also showcased some great creative teams on other “B-list” titles. 

Kieron Gillen’s Journey Into Mystery, which follows the “heroic” exploits of the god of mischief, Loki, has been one of the best written titles, period, and Doug Braithwaite’s art does a spectacular job bringing Asgard to life.  If not for the crossover, I never would have given this book a chance.  Another standout has been Herc, from co-authors Greg Pak and Fred VanLente.  The idea of a powerless Hercules has been interesting and complex, far more entertaining than some of the Herc stories I’ve read over the years.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been a few misses, though.  Black Panther: The Man Without Fear has been less than enjoyable (and this is coming from a BIG-TIME Black Panther fan that has nearly every title), and to be honest, the story of the Hate-Monger’s return could easily have been told without the Fear Itself banner across the top.  Attempting to tie it in to the overall narrative feels disingenuous.

But despite all of the excellent storytelling, and the anticipation of the outcome and how it will affect some of Marvel’s major characters, I have one major complaint: Wolverine.

Look, I realize that he’s a major money maker, and arguably the most popular Marvel character, but completely messing up continuity just to tell several Wolvie stories seems like a bad investment of resources.  Follow me, if you can.  In The New Avengers #15, Wolverine appears in New York with several of his fellow teammates at the time of the Serpent’s attack on the city.  In The Avengers #14 (a different group of Avengers, FYI) he is seen as a witness to Sin’s blitzkrieg on Avenger’s Tower.  Meanwhile, in Fear Itself: Uncanny X-Force, we find Wolverine, along with Archangel and Deadpool, at the secret X-Force base in Colorado, viewing viewing footage of the blitzkrieg attacks.  And as if that’s not enough, in Fear Itself: Wolverine, he and his current love interest Melita try to save New York City from a series of bombs that were hijacked from a helicarrier.

Seriously, I want this guy’s frequent-flyer miles, because the dude gets around.

So while Fear Itself has brought us some great stories, along with resurrection of such title as Alpha Flight and Ghost Rider, I’m still trying to figure out how Wolverine manages to fit all of these activities, in all of these locations, into one cataclysmic event.  At least they managed to keep him out of the San Franciso-based Uncanny X-Men!  Keeping track of this guy is like trying to read a Hunter S. Thompson novel!

Aside from this continuity issue, Fear Itself has been Marvel’s best crossover since Civil War, and I feel it’s been money well spent… mostly.  Don’t be afraid to pick it up before it hits trade paperback!




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