by Nick Spencer (writer), Ariel Olivetti (artist), and Joe Caramagna (letterer)

The Story: Iron Fist, War Machine, and the Immortal Weapons are summoned to the Eighth City, where another hammer has fallen.

The Review: Is there any Marvel title suffering more of an identity crisis?  After last month’s debacle, an out-of-nowhere Fear Itself tie-in only serves to gum up the works further.

But really, while it makes us take an utterly ill-timed detour from the current Palmer Addley arc, which still had yet to really go anywhere, I don’t think Fear Itself is to blame for this rather strange comic.  Rather, it’s Nick Spencer’s bizarre idea to focus this issue entirely on the world of Iron Fist and the Immortal Weapons.  Indeed, while we see Rand, much of this book is spent in the Eighth City with new bad guy Sun Wukong, the Monkey King.  Meanwhile, poor Rhodey isn’t in this comic for more than a couple of pages, his presence feeling completely unnecessary and done out of obligation.

It’s hard not to be angry with Spencer here.  People who purchased this book wanted a War Machine comic, not an Iron Fist book.  Many readers probably aren’t even familiar with the canceled Iron Fist comic.  How hard would it have been for Spencer to write a serviceable Fear Itself Rhodey comic?  I mean, he’s even in DC during the Blitzkrieg.  But no, instead, he’s whisked off as an afterthought to a mystical kung-fu story.

And really, it’s hard to even tell the nature of that story, since this entire issue is completely set-up.  The story barely gets off the starting blocks here.  We see the hammer land in the Eighth City, Wukong beats down a few demons, and Iron Fist and War Machine get teleported.  Outside of a single page montage, we don’t see the Immortal Weapons at all.  There’s really nothing here to get attached to.  Danny and Rhodey also spend so little time together, that we don’t even get any real character interaction between the two.

The art certainly doesn’t help either.  I’ll be blunt: I’m not an Ariel Olivetti fan.  I find his artwork unnatural and stiff and his CG backgrounds horrendous.  As always, the backgrounds here are either none existent, or slightly manipulated photographs, which leads to the comic occasionally feeling like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with illustrated characters superimposed over photographs masked with various computer effects.  Olivetti’s work just doesn’t feel natural to me, and as a result, it’s hard to really get into the book or the characters portrayed.

The bottom-line is that after reading this comic, I think Spencer could write a good Iron Fist comic.  The problem though, is that this isn’t an Iron Fist comic, so not only is this an awkward read, but it’s also aware of it’s not really being an Iron Fist book, meaning that Rhodey and Fear Itself are around too, which only leads to a comic that’s even more awkward.

Conclusion:  Spencer writes really good comics.  Morning Glories is fantastic.  THUNDER Agents is fantastic.  His Fear Itself tie in for Secret Avengers, the first issue of which came out this week as well, was surprising in just how good it really was.  So what the hell is the problem here?  Once again, it feels like Spencer is flailing.

Grade: D+

-Alex Evans