by Matt Fraction (writer), Stuart Immonen (pencils), Wade von Grawbadger (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: The Worthy are chosen and the world breaks into chaos.

The Review: You know, it bodes well for an event when the second issue builds upon the first and is, in fact, possibly even better.  It’s all too common for series to have a slam-bang first issue, only to follow it up with water-treading and a loss of direction.  That’s not the case here.  In fact, Fraction’s focus is even tighter this time out and what we get is things getting taken up a level.  Events are bigger, the comic gets a little louder, and the tension gets higher.  Shit hits the fan this month more than the last, while promising even more in the issues to come.  In other words, it’s great pacing all around.

Also, Fraction takes what could be a boring issue structure (focusing on each character as he/she picks up a hammer and is transformed) and uses it to his advantage; jumping from Worthy to Worthy allows Fraction to emphasize the global impact of this event, making the story feel far more expansive.  This is paired with a truly excellent use of textboxes, which carry little snatches of panicked newscasts.  It leads to a sense of desperation and pandemonium, enhanced by the fact that we’re only getting fragments of broadcasts and not anything comprehensive.  Hence, a sense of chaos is created, helping to legitimize the threat of the Serpent and the Worthy.

In focusing on the Worthy, outside of the opening scene in Asgard (probably the only mediocre portion of the issue), Fraction makes the Avengers and the superheroes in general nothing more than a background presence.  Hence, when he has the newscasts, the world, crying out for the Avengers, or Steve Rogers calling for his comrades to no avail, it feels all the  more powerful.  The superhero community, reduced to such a minor presence amidst Fraction’s chaos of globetrotting and panicked fragmented newscasts, seems suddenly impotent.

The emotional reactions that this conjures up, I think, cuts to the heart of what Fraction was saying, about Fear Itself’s building off of the current turmoil and uncertainty in America in particular.  When Rogers calls out to no one and the world is falling to pieces, there’s a gut feeling of relevance, that this panic and fear is real and superheroes, by comparison, are only a bunch of dudes running around in spandex, now faced with something that’s out of their league.  For Fraction to be able to create these emotions in the reader is pretty impressive, given that we are dealing with a Norse god and a bunch of dudes with hammers.

The art, as expected, is vibrant, lively, detailed, and just what we’ve come to expect out of a big Marvel event.  It’s growing increasingly clear that Stuart Immonen was the perfect choice for this type of story and, if anything, it was probably overdue.  The characters look great, the Worthy look awesome, and there’s a really impressive double-page spread stuffed with content.  It’s a comic that, in appearance, is both comfortably likable and epic in scope.

Conclusion: I realize that events elicit some pretty strong negative reactions in people these days, but this is really quite good and deserves a look from even the staunchest event-hater.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans