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

The Story: Thor fights for his life against the Worthified Hulk and Thing, Cap grapples with Sin, and Tony Stark cuts a deal with Odin.

What’s Good: Do you like big, explosive, set-piece action sequences?  Well, if you’re picking up a big summer event from either of the big two, somewhere deep inside you, the answer should be yes.  Fear Itself #5 is possibly the issue that most delivers on this front thus far.  The fights are big, exciting, and important.  At some level, seeing Thor rumble with Thing and Hulk is the sort of pure fun that superhero comics are made of, or at least have lodged deep in their core.  All the superhero punching leads to an energetic, fast-paced read.

Certainly, this is helped along by Stuart Immonen’s pencils and Laura Martin’s vibrant colors.  Immonen’s art is by its nature dynamic and quick-witted, which lends itself well to an issue like this.  Honestly, I think that Immonen may very well be the best thing about Fear Itself, thus far.  It’s great to seeing an artist of his particular style getting a spot on Marvel’s biggest stage and he’s really capitalized on the opportunity by being remarkably consistent from issue to issue.

There’s also a really cool moment involving the Serpent, what that really garners an “oh no you didn’t!” reaction.  The Serpent may not be the most developed baddie in many respects, but he’s certainly a legit one.

What’s Not So Good: Unfortunately, this felt like a very transitional issue.  I remember in an interview leading up to Fear Itself, Fraction stated that he aimed to have each issue culminate with a major occurrence.  Thus far, he’s really delivered on that promise.  However, that’s not really the case this month.  The Serpent’s action that I mentioned above doesn’t seem quite big enough to be the “big moment” for the entire issue, and Steve Rogers possibly admitting defeat isn’t really a huge development, given how down the superheroes have been from the get-go.  This issue simply lacks that big climax that changes the game.

While would never be a positive thing for any issue of Fear Itself, it becomes especially damaging in an action-oriented installment like this one.  The result is an issue that, with all of its punching, ends up feeling a bit light and superficial and hence, kind of forgettable.

There are some specific instances of failings on Fraction’s part as well.  Most glaringly, Fraction makes hideous use of Franklin Richards in the battle between Thor and Ben Grimm.  Fraction basically uses Franklin’s massive, but sort of ill defined, powers as a deus machina fix-all and a get out of jail free card that feels incredibly cheap.  It’s really lazy writing.

There’s also a problem related to timing in this issue.  Fraction spends some time detailing Odin and Tony’s discussion, but it’ll certainly prove frustrating for readers who are also following Fraction’s Invincible Iron Man, where this discussion, and its ramifications, already played out last month.  While I’m sure that many reading Fear Itself are not reading Invincible Iron Man, there had to be a better way of doing this than simply retreading what was covered in a prior comic book, particularly when you consider that both Fear Itself and Invincible Iron Man are written by the same guy.

Conclusion: Not awful, but certainly the weakest issue of Fear Itself thus far.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans