by Matt Fraction (writer), Giuseppe Camuncoli (art), Frank D’Armata (colors)

The Story: With Asgard under siege, Thor battles his imposter while Freyja steps down to challenge Karnilla.

The Review: This issue reminded quite a bit of Fear Itself’s failings.  There were a lot of really big things that occurred in this issue, a lot of big events that should’ve had me nailed to my seat.  The siege of Asgard!  Thor vs. Ulik!  Freyja vs. the Queen of the Norns!  Thor killing the Demogorge!  If there’s one thing Fraction gets, it’s epic scale, and he’s shown that time and again throughout his run on Thor.

The problem though, is that scale and good ideas alone aren’t enough.  They need to be developed, character-work must be done, motivations must be explored.  Put simply, despite the big events occurring on the page, Fraction really hasn’t given much of a reason to care.

Part of this is certainly due to Fraction’s leaving Karnilla and Ulik horridly underdeveloped.  They’ve been nothing more than stock villains with broad, generic goals.  Their places in the plot could’ve been occupied by pretty much any other villain.  So when Freyja and Thor battle them, it’s hard to really care all that much.  Even Fraction himself, in the narration of the book, acknowledges that there’s essentially nothing fueling Thor’s hatred for Ulik.  The villains have failed to distinguish themselves or their motivations and they have minimal ties to any of the heroes.  There’s no emotional investment for readers when it comes to the central conflict.

And really, there’s nothing special about the trolls’ siege of Asgard as well.  It’s just a mob of trolls laying siege to Asgardia’s walls.  Nothing unique, nothing special, nothing interesting about it.  Fraction does nothing to lead us to believe that they might succeed.

Worse still, with the  villains already so half-baked, the fight scenes are ridiculously truncated.  Thor fights Ulik for all of perhaps five panels, while Freyja dispatches Karnilla in around 2-3.  Both fights are completely one-sided with the bad guys never even remotely posing a threat.  Seeing a decently sized story-arc spent building up to these fights, only to have them end in such an abbreviated and lopsided fashion is the definition of anticlimactic.

And hey, remember how Thor was going to kill the demogorge?  Again, that’s dealt with in one splash page and a couple of panels.  Woo-freaking hoo.

So we’re basically left with a comic where Fraction throws what should be cool stuff onto the page, but all the conflicts are underdeveloped and there’s never even the slightest bit of tension for the heroes.  The villains and the central conflicts are so undercooked that this ends up being a shallow issue that lacks sincerity or, indeed, much of a heart at all.  It’s entirely surface-level

Not helping matters is Camuncoli.  His art is by no means bad, but it does not stand up to Pasqual Ferry’s work on the rest of the arc.  And really, is there anything worse than having an artist draw every issue of a story-arc….save the last one?  Frank D’Armata does much to smooth out Camuncoli’s art, but still, characters can be a bit too squarish, layouts a little too packed, and at times, the work feels a bit more rushed than Camuncoli’s prior work on, say, Amazing Spider-Man.

I did however enjoy Fraction’s having Loki narrate the issue as a bedtime story for Asgardian children, but I also recognize this as a futile attempt by Fraction to give the story a significance and a heart that just isn’t there.

Oh, and no matter how Fraction tries to swing it by giving Kelda a happy ending, it doesn’t changed the fact that she got unceremoniously brained by a rock.

Conclusion: I love Thor.  I’ve picked up all the issues since JMS started his run.  This may be my last issue for a while, which should tell you all you need to know.

Grade: C-

-Alex Evans