For 2011 Marvel is giving us Fear Itself as its event arc. As both a main title and also a number of crossover stories, it is set to pan out across the whole Marvel Universe and (as per a recent interview with the Fear Itself panel) will set the tone for the next few years.
There have been many teasers in the recent weeks, with all of the Marvel titles displaying double page spreads of sneak shots into what is to come and so in anticipation of this we are presented with the Fear Itself prologue, Book of the Skull.
Written by Ed Brubaker and pencilled by Scot Eaton the story opens around Baron Zemo and Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter. This is also to set the scene for the whole arc as Sin is the main antagonist for the entire event. In what appears to be a fraught partnership the two are searching for a lair of the Red Skull to remove a very special item. Sin knows this to be the key to a phenomenal amount of power and like any good super villain she will stop at nothing. It’s short, it’s punchy but it puts a great deal in place for the reader, especially for those who have no idea of the characters involved.
This was the case entirely for me. My knowledge limit is that Baron Zemo was the original leader of the Thunderbolts and I had no idea who Sin really was, although the passing resemblance and the cover art did give things away. To this end it made for a slightly diluted opening, as I have no history and prior knowledge to base anything on. Flaw or strength, I’m not really sure yet as I have no preconceived ideas for the story to live up to.
What Brubaker does then is takes a step back in time to when the Red Skull was creating this scenario. I’m not going to spoil anything by giving the content away but you do witness the combination of Cap, Bucky and Namor in pursuit of the Red Skull. The characters personalities and actions really shine through and Brubaker has done a fantastic job - his pedigree shows. The Red Skull being the consummate Nazi complete with undying loyalty and devotion to the Fuhrer; Captain America and Bucky being the ever good duo and Namor with his resolute fighting spirit and temper.
The story holds you and draws you in but at the same time leaves rather large holes for you to peer into and question. It works well as this is simply a teaser in itself.
My criticism would be that no matter how well the story has been written, or how well it has been illustrated, I am still left with an overwhelming feeling that even though it has looked pretty and read well, I still have absolutely no idea of what is going on with the arc. I know that there is a huge tie in with Thor. I know that Odin will be brought into disrepute. I even know that we will see a new Ghost Rider (whether or not this is a part of the bigger whole I’m not sure) but all of this I gained from taking a look around the internet. I’ve found more of a buzz there than created in this issue. I still think it’s going to be big although I’m not sure it will compare to previous world breaking arcs like Civil War or M-Day, however I am very happy to wait and see and (hopefully) be proved wrong.
Matt Puddy knows no fear...