Thursday, September 15, 2011
Fear Itself #6 - Awesome Grows Balls
Do you know what I fear? You know, besides running out of booze and weed? I fear a comic book series that has been so awesome turning to shit. When a comic series has been so awesome, few things are more tragic than seeing it take a gut-wrenching decline. It's more painful than watching a full season of the Jersey Shore. It's happened before. Ultimate Marvel is the poster boy for diving head first into a river of shit, setting itself on fire, and then pissing itself out into a smoldering heap of suck so bad that it would turn a black hole inside out. For a story as big as Fear Itself, the potential for that kind of downfall is definitely there. It hasn't happened yet, but it has only a few issues left with which to avoid this fate.
As much as I fear comics turning to shit, I love it when they surprise me with their awesome. I admit that I wasn't all that excited about Fear Itself when I first heard about it. That or my dealer just sold me some shitty ecstasy. But I gave it a chance because I haven't read a genuinely awesome Marvel event since Civil War. So far, it's delivered in ways you could only match with a Russian mail-order bride that's into S&M. It has a basic foundation, but on top of it Matt Fraction has build a solid pillar of awesome that affects characters from all across the Marvel Universe. The Serpent, Odin, Asgard, and all the godly elements that make Christian conservatives shit themselves is wonderfully balanced. There's a lot of action, but just enough heart. So with Fear Itself #6 being the penultimate issue, I'm excited and anxious to see how it pans out.
Fear Itself #5 defined itself as a knock-down, dragged out bar fight in which the beer was spiked with PCP. It had Captain American fighting Sin, Thor fighting Hulk and the Serpent, and the rest of the Avengers just looking for something to fight themselves so they wouldn't miss out on the fun. In the midst of this fighting, Odin continues to act like a total douche-bag by hanging humanity out to dry and hiding like a little bitch while his son flexes his god-like balls by taking on the Serpent. It was a pretty brutal issue and one that was a little mindless at times. However, it still worked and left the next issue with plenty to live up to.
At the beginning of Fear Itself #6, the fighting ceases and the Avengers are left scrambling for some Xanax. After taking on the Serpent and his hammer-wielding minions, Thor has taking a greater pounding than President Obama's approval rating. As a god of Asgard, he's supposed to be a heavy hitter. If he's the one falling in battle, then that's a clear sign that the Avengers aren't just fucked. They divinely fucked in ways only possible with god-like powers. Their only chance to save his holy ass it to haul it back to Asgard. You know, the place where Odin is hiding behind like a little bitch. So yeah, that's pretty fucked.
Captain America takes a small group of Avengers that includes Hawkeye and Miss Marvel to Asgard, leaving the rest of the Avengers to stay behind and guard what's left of the world (which ain't much). They arrive in Asgard to see Odin assembling an army of god-like figures. But it's not to liberate Earth from the Serpent. Heavens no, that might actually make him less of a dick. This army is solely to protect Asgard from the Serpent once he's done fucking over Earth. Odin is not pleased with non-Asgardians hauling his son's injured body into his domain. Steve Rogers makes it clear that there are in infinite number of fucks that he does not give. That earns him a holy bitch-slap, but to Odin's credit he does take his son to a place where he can rest. So he cares about his son, but he's still douche-bag.
With Odin making it clear that they're not welcome in Asgard, Captain America leads the rest of the Avengers back to Earth. Once he's back, he goes emo in a way that hasn't been seen on an American patriot since the final episode of 24. He has no faith in Asgard's ability to assist them. Not with Odin being such a tool. He also has no faith in anyone on Earth being able to stop the Serpent. For a guy that didn't surrender to the Nazis, that says a lot. Then again the Nazis just believed they were gods. The Serpent actually is a god. Cap starts musing over how they need to evacuate Earth. It's incredibly fucked up when it's impossible to tell if he's being sarcastic.
While Cap is turning into a walking Anne Rice novel, the Serpent is having what can only be described as an unholy orgasm. He's done such a great job of terrifying the shit out of the world that he has enough power to stick his dick in a black hole just for kicks. He's like Mike The Situation only he's actually as powerful as he believes he is. He talks to Sin about how the end is near and not in the way you hear schizophrenics bitch about when they're off their meds preaching on a street corner. He's actually gained enough fear to begin his assault on Asgard. So remember all those obscenely powerful minions of his that he sent magic hammers to? He basically summons them to his side so they can begin kicking some godly ass.
In the midst of all this gods acting like assholes and heroes acting like whiney bitches, it's easy to forget the personal impact that Fear Itself has had. It isn't just about gods kicking the everloving shit out of each other, although that is a major appeal. The Serpent has been all about scaring the shit out of ordinary people. So what about those ordinary people? Well in the midst of all this fighting, Spider-Man (the one that made a deal with the devil and not the one that got replaced by a fucking 13-year-old) breaks off from the rest of the Avengers to find his Aunt May. He eventually finds her in a crowd of people that is still in the process of shitting their collective pants in fear. But she's able to give him a nice pep talk, reminding him that he has a responsibility to not be a pussy like Odin. He also lies to her face and says that Peter Parker is okay, but I guess that's besides the point.
This kind of scene is like the antithesis of what was so dominant in the last issue. This goes beyond the destruction incurred by all this fighting and strikes at the personal effect that all this fear is having. It isn't just that people are getting their shit destroyed and their cell phones are working. It's more that their greatest fears are essentially ass-fucking them and they don't know how to clench their butts tight enough. So the personal touch works beautifully, especially at this point when the heroes of Earth are catching their collective breath and trying to ignore the pain in their asses from the beating it took.
We return to Asgard where Thor is in the process of healing. Along the way, his father is by his bedside and for the first time in this entire event he isn't acting like a total dick. That's right. Odin actually shows a little compassion here. Never mind that he's the one who threw his son back to Earth where he got his ass kicked. This time he does actually explain himself. He admits that the Serpent is his brother. He's so powerful that even the mighty All-Father couldn't beat him. The best he could do was contain him, but he ended up slaughtering a billion souls in order to do so. Okay, it's a dick move, but it's not like the Serpent wouldn't have fucked them over any worse. So knowing that Thor won't let Earth die, he does probably the second nicest thing he's done yet. He gives Thor his armor and the Odinsword which he used to slay the Serpent before. It's something that sure would have come in handy the first time, but better late than never I guess.
Like the scene with Spider-Man and his Aunt May, this is another solid personal scene that shows Odin not being an asshole. We also get a sense that he's not doing this just because he can. He really does fear the Serpent and he's done his best to protect what he loves, even if it means lying and being a douche. People do strange things for shit they love. Just ask John Hinkley. But most importantly, it gives Thor another reason to defeat the Serpent and it gives him the tools to do so.
It isn't just touching family moments that make up every movie that ever played on the Hallmark channel. We finally get to catch up with Tony Stark as well. Last we left him, he was getting shit-faced drunk as a way of calling Odin out. I'm not sure what the logic is behind it, but last I checked you don't need to have a logical premise to get shit-faced drunk. Somehow Tony's liquor retention made it so Odin let him use his workshop. Once there, Tony did what he did best (after having three-ways with supermodels of course). He built awesome shit that blows other shit up. He's been mixing Asgardian power with Stark technology. It's like mixing ecstasy with meth. It's a lethal combination and you may wake up with your pants around your ankles and a very sore asshole.
The end result is a new arsenal of badass weapons. He's prepared to distribute these weapons to all of Earth's mightiest heroes as they prepare to face the business end of the Serpent's unholy dick. If that weren't badass enough, Iron Man is prepared to throw himself in a vat of liquid uru so that he has the kind of toughness that you only see in Viagra commercials. It's ballsy, but when a fear-fueled god is fucking up your shit throwing yourself into a vat of liquid metal actually makes sense.
Back on Earth, the Serpent has gathered every one of his overly powered minions. Armed with their hammers and the kind of swagger you only see in old MC Hammer music videos, they're prepared to begin their assault on Asgard. So how does Captain America, the Avengers, and the terrified people of the world respond? They gather old rifles, ride up to the ruins of Asgard in pick-up trucks, and prepare to go Alamo on their ass. Yeah, the Alamo didn't end all that well for the Americans, but it's still pretty badass. We're left to assume they would just rather get slaughtered than be scared to death by the Serpent's shit. Again, it sounds irrational, but it makes a lot of sense. It also has Captain America being a badass again after being such a pussy early on. It's a great way to end the issue. Whenever an iconic hero's balls descend a little lower, it's like when a nerd gets a blow-job. It's a beautiful thing.
In every major event, there's a calm before the final battle. The stage has to be set for the big performance at the end and comics are no exception. Whereas the last issue was an orgy of violence with gods engaging in the kind of dick-measuring contests that brought down buildings, this issue had Earth's mightiest heroes picking up the pieces and preparing for a final showdown against the Serpent. In the process, Odin actually comes off as less of a douche-bag. We even get a chance to catch up with Tony Stark, who was pretty much ignored in the last issue. We even get a touch of the more personal elements with Spider-Man catching up with Aunt May. It's the kind of storytelling that nicely balances out the sheer insanity of such an unholy brawl like the one that transpired in Fear Itself #5. Alone they're okay, but together they make a great event even more awesome.
I'm not Buddhist, but I enjoy balance in my comics. I was a little concerned after the last issue that the rest of Fear Itself would be one big slaughter. Like a party at Charlie Sheen's house, there would be no logic to it. However, Matt Fraction was able to weave some personal elements into the story and prepare the Avengers for the big confrontation with the Serpent. As nice as these elements are, they lack details at certain points. We don't find out how Tony's Asgardian weapons will make much a difference against the Serpent. There's some explanation about the history of the Serpent and Odin, but it feels glossed over. There appears to be so much more going on here than, but it isn't fleshed out. Everything else is like a cold bear and a football game. It just works.
With one issue left, I'm very close to calling Fear Itself the kind of success that you can proudly stick your dick in without crying in shame. It's a story full of action and this particular issue gives it some much needed heart. Your eyes won't be gangbanged with unmitigated violence. Instead they'll be slowly teased and gently blown as the story evolves and flows. Now the final showdown is set and if you're not excited about it then you need to cut the beta blockers out of your diet. Fear Itself #6 gets a final score of 4.5 out of 5. Marvel is on the cusp of doing something special and they didn't even need to relaunch their whole fucking library to do it! For that, Fear Itself deserves all the awesome it gets. Nuff said!