Waiting for the Trade – Deadpool & Howard the Duck

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Fear Itself: Deadpool
and the Fearsome Four

by Christopher
Hastings and Brandon Montclare

collects Fear Itself:
Deadpool 1-3 and Fear Itself: Fearsome Four 1-4

 

Why I Bought This: I
was buying Fear Itself tie-in trades
from the discount bin of my favorite local comic store and this one had an
unusual team-up story, which can be fun when done well.

 

The Plot: When
Deadpool learns about the magic hammers in Fear
Itself
he decides to play a trick on D-list super-villain the Walrus.
Howard the Duck assembles an unlikely group of heroes in a bid to prevent the
Man-Thing from exploding since the Man-Thing normally absorbs fear to empower
his mystic energies.

Chapter 1 – Deadpool is selling home security systems when
he learns about the magic hammers falling from the sky. Suddenly some plumbers
get their van bazooka’d and a sledgehammer falls out. Deadpool takes the hammer
with him and starts gluing glitter decorations to it. Meanwhile the Walrus
blows up a monster truck show with a horde of bees in revenge for some slight.
Deadpool tracks Walrus down and drops his faux-hammer from the sky. Deadpool
then dresses as an “avatar of destruction” and approaches Walrus with a
mission. Meanwhile the plumbers realize they lost their hammer and say without
it some small town will be destroyed.

Chapter 2 – Deadpool has Walrus perform various pranks on
the citizens of the same small town the plumbers are concerned with. We learn
the plumbers are actually werewolf hunters and a coven of werewolves is set to
descend on the town tonight. Deadpool has Walrus rampage in broad daylight.
Deadpool then approaches the town fathers in his normal costume and offers to
save them from Walrus for a fee. Deadpool defeats Walrus but then when the
moonrises the faux-hammer becomes actually enchanted and the tables are turned.

Chapter 3 – Walrus pounds on Deadpool. Deadpool tries to
change back into the avatar costume but Walrus sees through it and pounds him
some more until Deadpool calls it quits. He tries to hitchhike out of town only
to run into the plumbers who tell Deadpool of the impending werewolf attack.
Deadpool and tries again and loses even worse. He then tells Walrus there is
safe of gold in some underground vault. When Walrus goes there the hammer loses
its magic without direct moonlight and Deadpool shoots him in the head with a
shotgun. Afterwards the townspeople attempt to pay Deadpool in gold but the
gold was stolen by the werewolves in the commotion (who weren’t seeking a
slaughter, just the gold).

Chapter 4 – In NYC Man-Thing is rampaging and killing
civilians by touching them which causes them to burst into flame if they feel
fear. Howard the Duck hires She-Hulk to help him track down Man-Thing,
explaining how Man-Thing’s powers work and that he may potentially explode with
the force of nuke given the fear-levels in the city. Kyle Richmond is back in
the Nighthawk identity as we gloss over the events of The Last Defenders Story where he had given it up to some SHIELD
agent. He also appears to be out of control with rage for no discernable reason
as he beats on some would be muggers. While flying by he sees She-Hulk, who was
one of his teammates in said Last
Defenders Story
and offers to help out. The heroes hear a commotion and a
mob of civilians is attacking the Frankenstein Monster. The heroes save the
monster and Howard invites Frankenstein to accompany them as the Fearsome Four.
Just then Man-Thing arrives and uses the Nexus of Realities to mutate the Four
into monsters.

Chapter 5 – We get a five-way monster fight until Man-Thing
shuffles off and the heroes revert to normal. Frankenstein gives his origin and
notes being recently captured by an unseen mad scientist and tasked to capture
Man-Thing for him. The unknown scientist is revealed to be Psycho Man, who
dispatches the heroes with ease. Man-Thing makes the save allowing the heroes
to rally but just as it looks like the battle is in hand, Man-Thing opens a
Nexus portal and the 1990s “New Fantastic Four” of Spider-man, Wolverine, Ghost
Rider and the Mr. Fixit grey Hulk pop out.

Chapter 6 – Psycho Man uses his emotion box on the New FF so
they will fight the Fearsome Four.  Spidey easily webs up Howard. Mr. Fixit
pummels She-Hulk. Ghost Rider sets Frankenstein on fire. But for no explainable
reason Nighthawk just beats the crap out of Wolverine and tosses him into
Spidey and then breaks Ghost Rider’s magic chain. This allows Frankenstein to
literally punch Ghost Rider’s head off. Mr. Fixit is still beating She-Hulk
until Man-Thing returns to engage him. The fight continues until Psycho Man
realizes Howard has version of the Ultimate Nullifier called the “No-Thing.” He
takes it from but when he presses the button it fizzles. Howard gets it back
and uses to incinerate Psycho Man and the New FF (although Psycho Man was
revealed to be a robot duplicate during the fight). Howard then tries to use it
on Man-Thing to put Man-Thing out of his misery but the device malfunctions
again as Man-Thing begins to burst into flame.

Chapter 7 – We get a flashback on how Howard acquired the
No-Thing. The device still won’t work so the heroes try getting physical with
Man-Thing. When that doesn’t work Howard has them jump into the Nexus to
confront their greatest fears. Each hero does so and triumphs and when they
reemerge from the Nexus their triumph over fear allows Man-Thing to harmlessly
disperse his excess fear-energy and the team disbands.

Critical Thoughts:
This is even worse than the main Fear
Itself
story. As a crossover it has nothing to do with the main story; and
its own merits it still pretty awful.

I have very little to say about Deadpool other than this is
the second trade of his I’ve read since his solo-popularity boom and clearly
the character’s brand of lunacy is just not my cup of tea. There’s a chuckle or
two here and there but not enough to make the price tag worthwhile.

The Fearsome Four story is the one I was more interested in
when I purchased this but that too is just a bad story. Howard the Duck is a
character that I’ve only seen once before in a throwaway Spider-man team up (and
also his bad 80s movie); but based on this story he’s another character I never
need to read about again.

I don’t blame this writer for throwing away The Last Defenders story as that too was
a bad story that few people read and it was clear 5-minutes after reading it
that no other writer would ever hold to the status quo it attempted to set up (The
short version is Kyle gives up the Nighthawk costume so he can fund a new
version of the Defenders made up of variations of the original team that some
prophecy said would become the greatest super-team of all time. The problem is
the variation is Hellstrom, She-Hulk and some Atlantean whose name I can’t even
remember; and clearly no other writer was ever going to use that line-up over
the A-list combination of Dr. Strange, Hulk and Namor). However, that doesn’t
explain why Kyle’s character is completely unrecognizable. The dude has never
been this savage or had the rage problems they show here whether in the original
Defenders series that ran from the
60’s – 80’s in which he was a mainstay to his more recent continuity
appearances in the Thunderbolts and
the aforementioned Last Defenders Story.
Indeed if they are going to make the character so different than his roots then
why not just leave the SHIELD agent Kyle gave the costume to in the identity
and then you could characterize him anyway you want.  Furthermore why in the hell can Kyle, who is
clearly D-list in every other appearance over 40 years, suddenly take Wolverine,
Spider-man and Ghost Rider in a fight?

Indeed while it’s always kind of fun to see the New FF, this
whole fight scene makes no sense. The Kyle scenes are the worst but by no means
the only plot hole here. Psycho Man has emotion manipulation not full on mind
control as a power, yet a few panels in he’s calling them minions as he barks
out orders and they just do what he says. Mr. Fixit pummels She-Hulk in their
fight, but the Fixit version of Hulk is far weaker than normal Hulk. He’s the
only version that ever lost a fight to the Thing, which means he should be
equal in strength to She-Hulk instead of totally outmatching her. Howard also
vaporizes them at the end of the fight, which even though Howard says its
alternate reality versions of the heroes, I still don’t see why that make its
acceptable instead of just returning them to their home reality.
 
The only hero handled with any depth in this is She-Hulk. (I
mean yes Howard has the big tormented moment of whether to kill his best friend
Man-Thing, but they way his dialogue is written you can’t really connect to
him). First of all her continuity is touched on throughout. She apparently has
a past association with Howard, and they also touch on her recent association
with Kyle. Ditto she knows Psycho Man from her days in the FF and gives this
team some tips on fighting him. On the personal level when we see her greatest
fear, it is she never wanted to be hero—she got her powers from a blood
transfusion, and yet she gets sucked into these cosmic world level stories
fairly often and hopes she can live up to the example of the other Avengers,
Fantastic Four and Defender heroes she’s met and not accidentally cause the
world to get blown up one day. Of the fears we see faced it’s the only one that
feels like an actual insight into the character. Still since I’m mostly
indifferent to She-Hulk that alone isn’t reason to recommend this story.

 

Grade E. I
suppose if you’re a fan of Deadpool, Howard the Duck or She-Hulk you might like
this more than I did. I only moderately care about the last of those three
characters. For as well as She Hulk is written that’s offset by how poorly Kyle
is handled or how the use of the New FF ultimately fails on every level as
well. Frankenstein also serves just no purpose at all in this story, which
feels like yet another missed opportunity.

Waiting for the Trade: Avengers

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Avengers: Fear
Itself.

by Brian Michael
Bendis, John Romita Jr., Mike Deodato & Chris Bachalo.

collects Avengers
13-17 and New Avengers 14-16.

 
Why I Bought This: As
I mentioned in my Fear Itself review
all of the tie-in trades were in the discount bin of my local comic shop, and I
decided to break my usual no event story rule (and in this case my no Bendis’
Avengers rule as well) and give it a try since the event was supposedly
Cap-centric.

 

The Plot: It
could best be described as the missing fight scenes from Fear Itself; plus Daredevil joining the New Avengers.

 Chapter 1 – We get a framing device of the Avengers being
interviewed for a book shortly after the events of Fear Itself. This leads to recollections of Red Hulk’s recent
joining of the team, Tony blathering of how the Avengers repairing Asgard will
inspire people, and Hawkeye flirting with Spider Woman.

Chapter 2 – Red Hulk fights a hammer-possessed Thing and
loses badly, after which Thing destroys Avengers Tower.

Chapter 3 – Hawkeye, Spider Woman, Ms Marvel and Captain
Marvel (v6.0) battle a hammer-possessed Hulk in South
America. Spider Woman in particular gets a big moment where she
has to fight Hulk one on one for a little while the other three recover. Ultimately
despite the Avengers best efforts the Hulk just keeps walking towards NYC.
Afterwards Hawkeye and Spider Woman have a romantic moment.

Chapter 4 – Cap is feeling down about Bucky’s death. Cap
gets a tip that Sinn is in some old Nazi castle in Sweden, so he takes female SHIELD
agents Sharon Carter, Maria Hill and Victor Hand with him to investigate but
instead they find Master Man (a Nazi with a more powerful version of the Super
Soldier serum that Cap’s been fighting off and on since WWII). Cap defeats him
and the castle blows up as we learn Sinn was never there, she just leaked the
info to set a trap for Steve.

Chapter 5 – Hawkeye’s squad from Chapter 3 arrives in NYC,
which is now in flames thanks to the Nazi Mech-Warrior exoskeletons. When Sinn
arrives Hawkeye shoots her through the neck with an arrow; but thanks to magic
that not only doesn’t kill her, it barely annoys her. Ms Marvel then engages
Sinn for awhile and just as Carol is blasted across the city, the New Avengers
arrive. They are still barely a match for Sinn, so Captain Marvel uses Kree
tech to send all of Tony’s former Iron Man suits in the rubble of Avengers
Tower after her too (with the Iron Patriot suit leading the way). Sinn is still
winning but when the two Avenger teams surround her Sinn chooses to teleport
away rather than continue the fight.

Chapter 6 – Switching over to the New Avengers Mockingbird reflects on a recent near death experience
that resulted in her getting a dose of the super soldier serum. When the Nazi
exoskeletons arrive in NYC, she thrills in the use of her new powers until Avengers Tower falls and makes her ashamed that
she was enjoying the battle.

Chapter 7 – We flashback to Wolverine beating Iron Fist in a
sparing session, after which Squirrel Girl is invited to fight and beats
Wolverine. We also see a little of her civilian college life before returning
to the present, where she fights her way through some of the Nazi exoskeletons
to get back to the mansion so she can babysit Luke Cage’s kid, while the New
Avengers go to work. After the Avengers leave a squadron of the Nazi-bots
surrounds the mansion and open fire on it.

Chapter 8 – In the framing sequence we get some
self-referential meta-snark about what type of hero belongs on the Avengers
before introducing Daredevil into the story. He singlehandedly takes down a
sh*t ton of the Nazi machines before Avengers
Tower falls. DD’s
super-hearing lets him know the Nazi’s plan to take out Avengers Mansion
next so he heads over their and saves Squirrel Girl and the baby, taking out at
least another dozen Nazi robots off-camera (we see the wreckage so we can get an
approximate count). Three weeks later Cage invites DD to join the New Avengers
team in thanks for saving his kid and he accepts, after which we get more of
the framing sequence to justify his decision.
Critical Thoughts: This
is better than the main Fear Itself
story, but then considering how poorly I graded that it’s not hard. The
action/fight scenes are generally very good–far better than in the usual
Bendis story. On the other hand this is full of some of the Bendis-isms that
make me hate most of his Avengers run: the talking heads, the placing of action
in the past tense, the poor characterization of Hawkeye, his tendency to show
not tell and his going to ridiculous lengths to make situations seem more
grave/impactful than they should be.

I’ll take it chapter by chapter. Chapter 1 is your typical
Bendis super hero talking head story in which no one actually attempts to solve
any crimes that make up at least 50-percent of the issues in his Avengers run. We also see Bendis’
continued characterization of Hawkeye as a man-whore despite his wife
(Mockingbird) recently returning from the dead, and his insistence that the
Jessica Drew Spider Woman is an interesting character worthy of being the focal
point of the title. In other words, nothing to see here.

Chapter 2 is a decent fight scene between Red Hulk and
Thing, helped by the fact that JRJR’s art is a good fit for this type of story.
But any good will it builds up is pissed away when Bendis has Jarvis call the
defeat of Red Hulk and fall of Avengers
Tower the worst day of
his life in serving the Avengers. Off the top of the head here are four days
that Jarvis would think of as worse: being hypnotized by Ultron and forced to
betray the team as the Crimson Cowl in the 60s; Being beaten half to death by
Mr. Hyde during Under Siege: a storyline in which Avengers Mansion was
destroyed for the first time (whereas Avengers Tower falling is at least the
fifth time the team has lost its headquarters) and several other members of the
team were hospitalized; The Avengers core members being killed during the
Onslaught crossover, after which the team was disbanded for a year; Bendis’ own
Avengers Disassembled story in which yet again the mansion was destroyed, four
members lost their lives (including main-stays Hawkeye and Vision)—made worse
by the fact the carnage was caused by one of the team’s other mainstays losing
her mind and the team disbanded for six months. But nope clearly this was a
much worse day than those, I mean a building fell down (again) and a dude who’d
been a member of the team for about one week was beaten in a fight. Even if Red
Hulk was missing and presumed dead at the time, the Jarvis comments are
supposedly part of the book interview that takes place after Fear Itself is over so he knows by now Red
Hulk’s not dead; and even if Red Hulk died in that fight, why would that be
worse than days when multiple team members with years of service died? That
sentence right there is everything wrong with Bendis’s writing. He just says
big things to show how grave the situation is that the story doesn’t actually earn
and that anyone with a cursory knowledge of continuity knows isn’t true.

Chapter 3 is probably the best chapter in the book. It’s a
very good fight scene with the heroes employing clear tactics even if is yet
again it is Spider Woman centric and continues the trend of the heroes being
completely ineffective in this story. I will say in the art Ms. Marvel and
Mockingbird are almost indistinguishable from each other in the book interview
scenes (something also present in Chapter 1 and beyond). There is another logic
gap here that is very typical Bendis, in which it implied the latest C.M.’s
teammates still don’t know what his powers are; which I just don’t buy that Cap
sends a team into the field without everyone knowing each other’s capabilities.
Of course this is hardly surprising since it seems Bendis can’t write a team
book without having one character whose powers are “whatever the hell Bendis
feels like pulling out his ass that day” (see Sentry). In fact a few months ago
I reviewed a Dark Avengers trade (by Bendis) where this new Captain Marvel
received a power upgrade from the Supreme Intelligence and yet I couldn’t tell
you what his powers were/are either before or after the upgrade because Bendis apparently
does not want to be hemmed in by firm details like that.

Chapter 4 – I’m always up for a Cap centric issue where he
battles one of his classic foes. Again JRJR’s art rocks here. That said Bendis
clearly has no knowledge of physics in this issue as apparently metal bounces
in the Marvel Universe now, since Cap jumps out a building, lands on his shield
and bounces in one motion (with the shield apparently glued/magnetically
attached to his feet) all the way up to the top of another building. I love Cap
as much as the next dude but that is some fairly inexplicable physics (and it
contradicts stories from Gru’s Cap run, in which he uses a vibranium shield to
break his fall from a plane, and notes his classic shield would not have been
able to absorb falling impact like that.)

Chapter 5 – The dynamic of Hawkeye’s squad is well-written
as is their fighting tactics. I HATE Bendis’ insistence in writing Hawkeye as a
casual killer as it contradicts everything about the character’s first 40-years
of appearances and we see Bendis do it again with him having Hawkeye take an
assassination style head shot at Sinn from the rooftops to kick-off the fight.

Chapter 6 – More continuity ignoring at the expense of a
favorite character of mine, in this case Mockingbird. Here she is exhilarated
to get the super soldier serum when she should be terrified. Mockingbird
started as a SHIELD scientist tasked to recreate the serum and as such is an
expert on the madness it causes without the vita-ray treatment. And this isn’t
arcane continuity; it was a key point in a story published less than a year
before this one in the Hawkeye and
Mockingbird
ongoing series/trade. (The one where Hawkeye also proclaimed
his enduring love for Mockingbird instead of trying to bang Spider Woman in
front of her). Also the serum seems to have given her ridiculous leaping
ability more akin to Spider-man than Cap.

Chapter 7 is about Squirrel Girl, an odd running joke of a
character that you wouldn’t expect to be carried over into the main Avengers title or an event story as a
better fighter than Wolverine. For that matter Wolverine beating Iron Fist
without using his claws in hand to hand combat seems off to me also, but screw
it I don’t care enough about Squirrel Girl to discuss this in-depth.

Finally Chapter 8 is way too self indulgent to even be a story. If you have to
bookend your story with three pages of justification on each side on why a
character belongs on the Avengers that is probably a sign he doesn’t really
belong there. Not that I care if Daredevil joins the New Avengers one way or
the other since they are all bunch of low-powered urban heroes anyway at this
point. I’ll add Bendis’s justifications are a total snake eating its own tale
since the examples he cites of how DD belongs are mostly other characters like
Wolverine and Luke Cage who don’t really belong that Bendis previously
shoe-horned into the series. Also the New
Avengers
chapters highlight another major flaw of the main crossover: which
is why are the Nazi exoskeletons steamrolling from DC through New York in the
main book if glorified acrobats like Mocking Bird and Daredevil can destroy
large numbers of them singlehandedly?

 

Grade: C. Some
good fight scenes and the JRJR art get this a passable grade for a discount
pick-up, but many Bendis’ bad tendencies are on display here as well. In
general the Avenger chapters are a
lot better than the New Avengers
chapters.

PS – Shameless Self Promotional Alert: For those who enjoy my Trade reviews here, feel free to check me out at Spiderman Crawlspace, where I am now the Venom ongoing series reviewer. My first two reviews there were posted earlier this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Fear Itself

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Fear Itself

by Matt Fraction and
Stuart Immonen

collects Fear Itself
1-7 and Fear Itself: Book of the Skull #1.

 

Why I Bought This: While
I tend to avoid the big crossovers, this one caught my interest because it came
out the summer of the Captain America and
Thor movies and seemed to be built
around those two characters in an intriguing way. In my post-Cap movie rush I decided I would buy
this eventually. Lo and behold about three months ago, my favorite local comic
shop moved all the Fear Itself tie-in
trades to the discount bin, so I used that as an excuse to buy this off Amazon
(and yes grabbed a few of the tie-ins from the local store too).
The Plot: The Red
Skull’s daughter Sinn gets her hand on an Asgardian hammer that she uses to
awaken Odin’s long lost brother The Serpent. They then deploy seven more
hammers to make super powered minions to fight alongside a Nazi army in an
attack on the Earth with an ultimate goal of overthrowing Asgard.

Chapter 0 – In the wake of the latest death of the Red
Skull, Sinn and Baron Zemo are unearthing one of his old Nazi fortresses where
they find an Atlantis Necrominicon. We get a flashback to 1942 when the Red
Skull was sacrificing Atlanteans to try to utilize the book’s magic to summon a
weapon. The Invaders stumble across the carnage the next day and Namor is not
happy. The mystic mumbo jumbo leads Red Skull to Antarctica
where he finds a hammer that he and his Nazis can’t lift. The Invaders arrive
and get attacked by a frost giant. Red Skull helps it and although the Invaders
kill it, the Skull tricks the Invaders into thinking it was his weapon summoned
by the book so they never see the magic hammer, which Skull hides for future
study. Back in the present Sinn determines the location of the flashback hammer
and teleports away from Zemo so she can retrieve it alone.

Chapter 1 – Cap (Steve Rogers, currently serving commander
of SHIELD while Bucky has the Cap identity) and Sharon Carter are monitoring a
political protest that breaks out into a riot, during which Steve gets hit in
the head with a brick. In Antarctica Sinn retrieves the hammers and transforms
into a Thor-like being, and claims to be “resurrected.” Back in NYC Cap talks
to the Avengers and is disappointed the riot was entirely man-made (i.e. no
mind control, magic spells, etc). In Broxton,
Oklahoma people are moving out
because of Asgard being there and the constant super villain fights it
attracts. Iron Man volunteers the Avengers to rebuild Asgard, which was destroyed
during the Siege crossover, as a way
of inspiring the common man. Meanwhile Odin is talking to the Watcher about the
return of Skaadi and a prophecy that she will kill an Asgardian. Thor shows up
and Odin is not happy with this whole Avengers rebuild Asgard plan since he
could fix it with a snap of his fingers. At the bottom of the ocean Sinn says
she is coming for her father. She kills some dragons and frees an old-man who
claims to be the rightful ruler of Asgard instead of the Red Skull giving us our
first clue that she is not Sinn anymore. Odin becomes aware of the Serpent’s
return. He orders the Asgardians off Earth. Thor asks for an explanation and
Odin pummels him, strips him of his hammer and takes him away in chains as the
Asgardians cross the Rainbow
Bridge. The Serpent
summons seven more hammers that land across the Earth. Meanwhile Cap frets that
“the gods have abandoned us.”

Chapter 2 – Odin imprisons Thor and tells his warriors how
the Serpent feeds on fear and will destroy the Earth growing in power as people
feel fear and then attack and destroy Asgard. His plan to stop that is to “raze
the Earth” before the Serpent can gain his full fear power and then go to war
with him and kill him. In NYC Juggernaut picks up a hammer. These hammers don’t
just empower their hosts but also possess them into other Serpent Asgardians.
(This explains that Sinn is now the host for Skaadi, mentioned in the last
chapter). Steve deploys the Avengers to hammer sites, while Reed takes the FF
to a hammer on Yancy Street
(Thing’s hometown). In Brazil,
Hulk picks up a hammer and transforms leaving Red She Hulk to run away. In
South Africa Titania picks up a hammer and tells Absorbing Man he has a hammer
waiting for him too. In the Pacific Ocean Attuma grabs a hammer. The Serpent
powers up some WWII-era Nazi war machines (think flying Robotech exoskeletons)
and the Nazi’s attack and destroy much of Washington
DC.

Chapter 3 – Bucky-Cap, Black Widow and Falcon respond to DC
and Bucky-Cap engages Sinn in battle. In Asgard, teen-Loki frees Thor from
jail. Absorbing Man finds his hammer in Dubai.
In Brazil Hulk defeats Red She Hulk and she reverts to Betty in hopes this will
snap the spell. Hulk is about to kill her when the Avengers (specifically
Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel v6.0) arrive for the save. In Yancy
Street Thing gets possessed by the hammer Reed was examining and then levels
the street. Thor learns of Odin’s plan to sacrifice the Earth to defeat the
Serpent and confronts him. Odin allows Thor to go back to fight alongside Earth
despite the prophecy that this will lead to his death. Back in DC Sinn kills
Bucky by ripping off his cyborg arm and beating him with it before stabbing him
through the heart with the hilt of her hammer.

Chapter 4 – We see glimpses of chaos around the world
including Juggernaut vs. the X-men in San Francisco
and Grey Gargoyle with a hammer stacking up bodies in Paris
while the Nazi war machines arrive in New
York. We see heroes mourning Bucky until the Avengers
big three reunite and Steve dons the Captain America costume again. The Serpent
receives his first mass fear power up and uses it to recreate his palace. The
big three separate with Thor taking the battle directly to the Serpent’s
palace, Cap leading the New Avengers against the Nazi war machines and Iron Man
trying to gain an audience with Odin, which he does by drinking alcohol at the
gates of Asgard. Thor gets to the Serpent’s throne and Serpent reveals their
kinship and tries to get Thor to turn against Odin. When Thor refuses he is
teleported back to NYC to face Hulk and Thing.

Chapter 5 – Thor does okay against Thing but Hulk is getting
some big hits on him. Sinn confronts Cap and gloats about killing Bucky. Odin tells
Tony he will not risk Asgard to help Earth, to which Tony replies he doesn’t
want help, he just wants to use Odin’s workshop to build weapons to counteract
the hammers. Thing attempts to kill Thor, which causes Thor to kill Thing in
self-defense. Thor then pummels Hulk with his hammer. Cap isn’t doing well
against Sinn and then the Serpent arrives to join her. The New Avengers attack
him but he casually sweeps them away with an energy wave. Cap throws his shield
at Serpent, who catches it and breaks it in half. He follows that up with a
massive energy explosion. We cut to the heroes waking back up and Spidey wants
to leave the battle to check on his family. Meanwhile Franklin finds Ben’s body and uses his
reality warp powers to resurrect him and free of the hammer influence. Thor
admits to Hulk that he could never beat him, although this may be a ruse, since
when Hulk presses the attack Thor blasts him with full force lightening and
hurls him into orbit (causing him to land in Transylvania).
Thor then promptly passes out from the effort. Spidey leaves as Cap tells
Hawkeye “We’re going to lose.”

Chapter 6 – The Avengers tend to Thor, and Cap splits the
teams with the main team taking Thor to Asgard for magic healing and the New
Avengers overseeing the evacuation of NYC. In Asgard Odin is addressing his
troops when Cap interrupts and orders him to heal Thor. Odin feels disrespected
but does it anyway, although he teleports the Avengers away. Cap thinks the
Avengers need a plan to evacuate the Earth as the Serpent levels up again.
Spidey finds Aunt May and they share a moment before he heads off back to war.
Odin gives Thor some magic armor and the Ragnarok Sword for round 2 while Tony
and Odin’s dwarves build a bunch of magic weapons. Cap, armed with a shot gun
of all things, sets up a last stand in Oklahoma since the Serpent has to
destroy the World Tree (which is in Okla. now) for the next phase of his plan.

Chapter 7 – Cap, now armed like the Punisher, is holding
back the Serpent’s army by himself. Tony returns and hands out his magic
weapons to Spidey, Black Widow, Iron Fist, Ms. Marvel, Wolverine, Hawkeye, Red
She-Hulk and Dr. Strange. The Serpent powers up again to what is presumably his
full power. The Asgardian-powered Avengers arrive to help Cap, and the citizens
of Broxton also vow their support. Thor engages the Serpent, who is now in
dragon form. The Serpent deflects Thor’s hammer when it is thrown at him and it
hits Cap, but the Ragnarok Sword draws blood. Cap meanwhile struggles to his
feet and becomes inspired by the Broxton militia showing up to help. Cap then
lifts Thor’s hammer to power up, and we can get an Avengers Assemble moment
that turns the tide against Sinn, Juggernaut and the Nazis. Thor continues to
stab the Serpent, while Hawkeye enjoys using magic arrows that don’t miss, and
Dr. Strange puts down Titania. Cap gets his chance to confront Sinn for killing
Bucky. Red She-Hulk defeats Attuma. Thor is still stabbing, while Odin prepares
to raze the Earth even the heroes seem to be doing damn well at this point.
Wolverine defeats Juggernaut. Odin and his army arrive on Earth just in time to
see Thor decapitate the Serpent, and the two fall from the sky together. With
the Serpent’s death the remaining evil hammers depart from those villains still
standing (Sinn, Absorbing Man and Grey Gargoyle). Odin clears away the rest of
the Serpent’s army, only for Thor to stagger forward and die in his arms. The
next day Odin takes Serpent’s body to the former extra-dimensional site of
Asgard for safe keeping and then seals off the Rainbow
Bridge leaving the entire Asgardian population
behind in Oklahoma.
There is a funeral for Thor.  Odin
reclaims and melts down the Asgardian weapon’s Tony made. Odin also repairs
Cap’s shield, infusing it with uru so it will be stronger than ever. And we
close with Cap giving one of his speeches vowing to rebuild Asgard, NYC and the
World.

 

Critical Thoughts: This
is a good example of why I skip most of the big event crossovers. This story is
riddled with problems. The biggest of which is Cap’s voice is all wrong. In no
instance is that worse than Cap saying, “We’re going to lose” at the end of
chapter five. Cap is the guy who always believes “Where there’s life there’s
hope.” Heck I can think of plenty of crossovers and even regular Avengers
stories where the threats are a lot more powerful on a universal scale than a
rogue Asgardian and some leftover Nazi tech: The Beyonder, Thanos and the
Infinity Gems, Korvac, most of Grandmasters’ and Immortal’s plots, Nebula with
the Infinity Union, etc. Heck in Infinity Gauntlet Cap witnesses the slaughter
of every hero on Earth under his command and still walks up to Thanos to tell
him, “As long as one man stands against you, you will never claim victory,”
which is a heck of lot more desperate a circumstance than Fear Itself, where the only casualty is Bucky—and yes I get Cap
would feel that loss keenly, but I still don’t see him losing hope over it.

Cap’s voice also comes off really wrong in chapter one. His
reaction to the Asgardians departing Earth is “the gods have abandoned us.” I
don’t buy for a second Cap sees the Asgardians as gods. (I think The Avengers film quote sums that up
nicely, “There’s only one God and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.”)
Does Cap respect Thor as a warrior and friend, absolutely. Does he see him as a
“god” after decade or more of working alongside him? Highly doubtful. And no
matter how he feels about Thor, does Cap have any reason to give two sh*ts
about Odin and the rest of the Asgardians? Not that I’ve seen in decades of
stories. Hell for much of continuity Asgard has been in a separate reality from
Earth with only Thor and Enchantress have any regular crossings back and forth,
so who cares if they go home? Especially since at this point in the story the
Serpent/crisis hasn’t even reared up yet? In fact I can’t think of a single
story where the Asgardians have defended the Earth. Where were they during the
countless Kree/Skrull/alien invasions, Thanos attacks, Red Skull cosmic cube
epsidoes, Galactus and Celestial arrivals and other planet-wide crisises the
heroes have thwarted on their own? So who cares if they leave now? Especially
Cap, who in 90-percent of the above cases has personally led the
Avengers/heroes of Earth to victory? I’ll add Cap didn’t show any of this
reverence for mythological pantheons during the “Olympus War” when he took on
Zeus in physical combat without a moment’s hesitation.

Speaking of things the characters should not care about in
this story, Tony drinks to get Odin’s attention. Take everything I said about
Batman unmasking to Green Lantern in my New 52 JLA review and multiply that by
50. Sure Tony breaking his sobriety is a big deal to the reader, but give me
one logical reason Odin would remotely give a crap. It’s entirely possible
given their physiology that Asgardians don’t even have a concept of what
alcoholism is. Even if they do, Odin pummels and imprisons his own son for
questioning him in this story and then mocks him for caring about frail
insignificant mortals. So Tony making an ass of himself and not being able to
hold his liquor challenges Odin’s viewpoint on the worthlessness of man how? Odin
states several times he is willing to “raze the Earth” thus by inference
killing 6-billion people, but one man taking a drink, that he takes seriously?

Also Tony breaks his sobriety and gets drunk but then as
soon as Odin shows up he’s like let’s design and build magic weapons despite my
long-standing aversion to magic and how it works. It’s amazing how getting
drunk not only doesn’t impair Tony’s critical thinking, it actually grants him
mastery of skills he’s never had before.

I’ll also add the details of the final battle are very
vague, both in details and choreography. We as readers are never told what
Tony’s new weapons do. If it’s just a strength power-up how does that put them
on even footing with the villains, most of whom lift 100-tons without hammers? Shouldn’t
that baseline mean if the villain is enhanced and Black Widow is enhanced then
you’re back to square one and she’s still incredibly outclassed.  Wolverine especially makes me say what the
hell is going on. Tony seemingly gives him uru claws and spikes that come out
of his skin. Just what the hell is Tony supposed to have built for Logan? A new skeleton? Gloves
to go over his existing claws? Second, his nails are already fictional
super-metal adamantium so how much of upgrade can fictional super-metal uru be?
Decades of Ultron stories have shown Thor’s uru hammer doesn’t make so much as
a dent in adamantium. Then Wolvie uses his new nails to beat Juggernaut; the
details of which occur off-panel because there is no way that can happen. Even
if Juggernaut isn’t magic hammer enhanced he’s immune to physical attacks as
both scores of X-men stories with Wolverine in them and a couple of Thor vs.
Juggernaut stories have shown.

And once we see how the final battle unfolds, you have to
ask, Why is Odin so scared of the Serpent? He defeated him once before when he
imprisoned him. He gives Thor the sword that defeats him this time, so
apparently he’s had it in his possession all along. The Serpent’s big move is
to morph into a giant snake (which if that is his true form then how are Odin
and him brothers?) which is more or less the same thing every major Thor
villain does that he and the Warriors of Asgard fight every 50 issues—the
Midgard Serpent and Seth are the two most obvious Thor examples, and you can
probably throw Set in their too. Yes, it is implied Odin fears Thor’s death
more than the destruction of Asgard and Earth based on this prophecy; but both
Odin and Thor have died more times than I can count so that’s still a fairly
weak motivation.

As a Cap fan this is a real uneven crossover as it is really
just a glorified Thor story, and Cap’s involvement is less than secondary,
which isn’t what the advertising made it look like. I mean sure one of Cap’s
villains in Sinn gets the first hammer, but then she gets possessed by Skaadi
so who cares. It could be anyone wielding that hammer, for all the difference
it makes. Then he doesn’t even get to take her down and avenge Bucky in the
final battle. She’s just someone Odin casually clears away after Thor falls
alongside rabble like Attuma. That just fails narrative 101: you have two major
heroes and two major villains in this story, and when you pair them off for the
grand battle, you don’t let each hero triumph individually over their own
villain?  Heck if this crossover was
designed to tie-in to the movies of those heroes why not just resurrect the Red
Skull for the 42nd time from whatever he died of this week and use
Cap’s actual nemesis instead of his daughter. Because the idea of the Red Skull
with Thor-like power is a lot more interesting than Sinn gets possessed and
teams up with a new character that will likely never be seen again.

I also want to say this story pokes holes in Marvel’s stated
crossover policy that a reader can buy just the main title and skip the tie-ins
and still get the full story. Because on that level the other hammers do
nothing. Absorbing Man and Titania grab a hammer and we never see them again
until the last three pages; ditto really everyone but Hulk and Thing who have
the fight with Thor.

I could keep going as this story is just cloaked in fail.
Who cares if the Avengers rebuild Asgard? I mean I can see how it’s a nice
gesture by Tony and Steve for Thor’s sake, but Tony insists this will inspire
the public. If am John Q. Public, why does the rebuilding of some mythic city
that’s already been floating over bumblefuck Oklahoma for several month inspire me?  There are probably a million other sci-fi
things Tony could do to aid the lives of actual human citizens that would be
more effective than that. Plus as Odin mentions he could fix the city with a
snap of his fingers. So why hasn’t he already? Does he like the scenic
qualities of living in rubble?

Then there is the Spider-man subplot. Why is it here? How is
it good to have your franchise character leave the fight and be the first hero to
accept the so-called inevitable defeat? Is he really the only hero with friends
and family to check on? How is he able to find Aunt May by swinging around
screaming her name during the evacuation of the 8 million people in New York? How dumb is
Aunt May not to realize he’s Peter in that scene? How hackneyed was the
dialogue for her to work “responsibility” into that conversation.

Why does Odin melt the weapons Tony built down? Even if he
doesn’t want to let the Avengers keep them, doesn’t he think maybe these would
be nice to keep in a vault for his own soldiers the next time Surtur or whoever
raids Asgard. In fact like most crossovers this story is remarkably consequence
free. NYC and Washington DC are destroyed in this story and yet
that’s glossed over in a page at the end, of yea we’ll rebuild. Thor and Bucky
did a speed record in returning from the dead after this story. The worst
offender is when Franklin
casually walks up and resurrects the Thing. That’s not just bad for this story;
it now means every FF story forever to come has no consequences because they
have a get out of jail free card living with them. (Also why the hell aren’t
the FF in this story after Thing gets possessed? Reed is with him when it
happens and then we never see Reed again, because apparently he doesn’t care
enough to call in the rest of the team/family and save his best friend and/or
help deal with the destruction of Manhattan—and also apparently they let their
6-year-old son wander the streets of New York alone in the middle of a major
disaster).

I’ll end my criticism by noting the story is filled with
snippets of conversation about real world issues, which is meant to somehow be
pithy and tie in to the mass fear thing but like most of the writing here
completely fails.

So do I have any positives? I liked seeing Cap go to town
with Thor’s hammer. Tom Defalco showed Cap could lift the hammer over two
decades ago, so it seemed like a big story where that comes into play for the
finale has been a long time coming, as it is a natural strategic surprise Cap
and Thor could pull off in a crisis. Unfortunately this story doesn’t deliver
what I’d want from that scene as not only does Cap with the hammer not win the
day, he doesn’t even beat the secondary villain Sinn on his own. In a related
positive note: the art, particularly the splash pages, look nice—none better
than when Cap lifts the hammer. Bucky’s death is also dramatically done. Sinn
rips off his arm and beats him with it. That’s something you hear in action
movies as a threat all the time but never actually see realized. I also liked
the prologue a lot probably because it was written by Ed Brubaker and not
Fraction, and thus tonally comes off a lot better than anything that follows.

Grade: E