by Nick Spencer (writer), Scot Eaton (penciller), Jaime Mendoza & Rick Ketcham (inkers), Frank D’Armata (colorist), and Dave Lanphear (letterer)

The Story: Beast infiltrates congress in the midst of the blitzkrieg as he attempts to rescue an old friend.

The Review: Event tie-in issues are often a rough job.  It’s always a struggle for the writer to manage to tell a good, self-inclusive story while also paying attention to, and advancing the interests of, the story of another comic.  It’s a difficult task, but judging from this issue, Nick Spencer is completely up for it.

Taken as a part of a Fear Itself, Spencer does a really good job of encapsulating everything that is meant to make Fear Itself feel relevant in 2011.  It fully captures the feel of a desperate America, down on its luck and struggling against massive odds and, well, fear and anxiety.  There’s a constant, nerve-racking climate to the book and a real anxiety to it all that goes beyond the giant Nazi robots shooting up Congress.  Spencer manages to make the story feel very real on an emotional level while also making the absolute most of his Capitol Hill setting.  Things are very “in the present,” and when Spencer has congressman Lenny Gary call for solidarity and courage and has him draw on American’s history, it feels powerful instead of cheesy and can be linked as easily to those robots as to current social issues and anxieties.

And that’s really the meat of the story: that powerful, emotional core.  Spencer does an excellent job of showcasing the friendship between Beast and Lenny.  It’s instantly clear that the two care a great deal about each other and have a huge amount of history.  This makes it all the  more stunning, and awesome, when Spencer pulls a few curtains and delivers some major twists about Lenny midway through the issue.  I won’t spoil it, but things get very cool, very fast.

While this issue is largely focused on Beast, Spencer also gets the chance to write Ant-Man and War Machine.  He does a solid job with Ant-Man, who manages to be both humorous and annoying.  In other words, Spencer has a strong hold on the character’s voice.

As far as the art goes, Scot Eaton delivers an incredibly polished, detailed, and “high budget” performance.  The pure mayhem of the Blitzkrieg is as well-portrayed as the emotion on Beast and Lenny’s faces.  It’s solid work.  The only thing that may have held it back a little is Frank D’Armata’s colors, which were a little too glossy for my tastes.

Conclusion: Everything a good tie-in should be.  Solid character-work, a message that’s powerful but not cheesy or sappy, and a really good representation of everything Fear Itself should be about.  Very well done, and hopefully more than enough to keep a few Brubaker fans on-board for the time being.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans