by Matt Fraction (writer), Stuart Immonen (penciller), Wade von Grawbadger (inker), Laura Martin & Larry Molinar (colorists), and Chris Eliopoulos (letterer)

The Story: A major Marvel hero dies at the hands of Skadi/Sin, the final member of the Worthy is chosen, and Thor tries to escape prison and rush to Midgard’s aid.

The Review: I’ve really been enjoying Fear Itself thus far, but I’ve been pretty honest in saying that the sub-text and tone of the story was often more interesting than the hammer-laden story itself.  I’ve really loved that inclusion of desperation and anxiety that has made the book feel relevant, current, and a surprisingly smart read.

So yeah, cue my disappointment when Fraction basically forgets about that sub-text altogether this month, instead focusing on the Worthy stomping about with their hammers and a crapload of action scenes.  It’s not a bad comic in itself, but certainly a letdown given what we’ve been getting, as the book immediately becomes less nuanced and a whole lot simpler.  It’s dangerously close to going from being a book that’s a reflection of the times, to being “just another” superhero comic event.

There’s a lot of fighting, yes, but things also seem to move slowly.  Thor’s inevitable escape from Asgard seems a little more long-winded than it needed to be, for example.  In other cases, pre-event hype hurts the book: the identity of the last member of the Worthy, crowned this month, has been known for quite some time now.  I mean, even the book’s cover more or less gives it away.

On the other hand, there are definitely things to like about the issue.  The ending, for example, is very well plotted and sequenced and delivers the “shit just got real” effect that was clearly intended, particularly given the deceased characters’ identity and his/her last words.  Things definitely feel a lot more dangerous and the superhero community, and the world itself, continues to look vulnerable and truly in danger, not an easy feat in superhero comics.   While some might have predicted it, the death is nonetheless one that’ll hit home for a lot of readers, as it should.

The end result is one that shows much of what the last page of last month’s issue told.  That is, it emphasizes the powerlessness of the Marvel Universe’s heroes in the face of this threat.  From the Hulk running rampant and tossing Betty around, to the major Marvel characters who die and transform to join the Worthy, to a pitiful last stand late in the issue, the point is driven home.

Fraction also does amusing work with kid Loki’s dialogue.  He continues to be a lovable character here and is fast becoming Marvel’s Damien Wayne, to me anyway.  I guess it’s a good sign that Fraction writes him well, given that Fraction was the one responsible for the character’s creation.

And of course, Stuart Immonen’s art continues to be a real pleasure to look at.  Action scenes are comfortably handled, and everything carries that trademark Immonen look that is both likably cartoony and appreciably big-budget.  It’s a nice balance that Immonen rides in every issue he illustrates and one that distinguishes Fear Itself from most other events.

Conclusion: Not on the same level as previous months, and I honestly preferred Flashpoint this week, but still a decently good time with one hell of a cliffhanger.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans