11
Aug
2011
Chris' Comics Corner
Fear Itself and Detective Comics
Chris
Fear Itself #5
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Stuart Immonen

While Fear Itself hasn't been the cup of tea of every comics reviewer out there, I for one have been thoroughly enjoying this event right from the start. I've enjoyed both the events and pace of the main series as well as the numerous tie in issues that have done an excellent job of adding to the story and fleshing out details rather than just rehashing plot points and derailing ongoing story lines as is so often the case with event tie ins. But let's focus on this issue that takes us into the endgame of Marvel's big summer event. Things are pretty dire. The Serpent has reached full power, Odin and the Asgardians are ready to destroy the planet to ensure their own safety, and the Avengers have barely been able to slow down the Serpents acolytes much less take a run at the big guy himself.

Some have criticized Fraction's debut event series for lacking heart and emotional resonance. And while the balance between action and characterization definitely swings more to the action side (and this issue is no exception), I think it's unfair to call this series hollow or heartless. What resonates throughout these pages is a feeling of growing despair and, well fear, as the Steve Rogers is well aware that he and his forces are still getting their asses handed to them by a force of what amounts to 'roided up henchmen. Fraction does a great job, especially in this issue of showing us what a super human war would look like. The heroes are throwing everything they have at this problem and it's still not enough. But in spite of all that they continue to fight, and the awful decisions/desperate measures some take to win shows just how dire the situation has become, how well Fraction really does understand these characters, and just how determined they are to win.

Stuart Immonen continues to impress. The fight between Thor and the possessed Hulk and Thing is definitely the visual highlight of this issue. We've seen Immonen's iconic takes on these characters but now we really get so see him let loose with them in a take no prisoners action sequence. Believe me when I say that this fight is brutal and Immonen just nails it.

I usually stick to discussing just script and pencils in these reviews and I mean it as no sign of disrespect to the many other talented people whose expert work produces these comics, it's just about saving space on the reviews. However I would be utterly remiss not to mention the colors of Laura Marttin and Milla & Mollinar. Their work adds so much to the story in terms of setting the mood and making the characters and action sequences just jump off the page. It is to their credit that Fear Itself is one of the most visually appealing books on the shelves.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-Is there any way in hell we could get the whole creative team behind this book to reunite for some sort of Tony Stark/Odin team-up miniseries. I will pay absurd amounts of money for it.

-Thor vs. Thing and Hulk "And him I liked. But you? You were always a giant pain in the ass."

-"I'll be damned. Avengers Assemble."


Detective Comics #881
Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Pencilers: Jock, Francesco Francavilla

Here it is, the final issue of Scott Snyder's brilliant run on Detective Comics and the end of one of the longest running volumes of a comic series. So how was the final issue that Snyder promised would bring together all the various threads of his run? Very, very good, but not perfect.

Snyder's run on Detective Comics has been about The Gordon family as much as it has been about Dick Grayson facing the worst that Gotham has to throw at him. So it is fitting that both Dick and the Gordons face their worst nightmare in this conclusion and it is all wrapped up into one very dark and twisted package. Snyder continues to display his incomparable talent for scripting stories that are dark, suspenseful, and disturbing. Snyder has an excellent handle on the voices of all of his main players and each of them in turn gets their chance to shine. The issue ends with Dick making a semblance of peace about the nature of Gotham city and his role in it, putting a nice bow on the threads Snyder has been weaving since day one. Snyder also leaves a few nice lingering and decidedly creepy questions in the readers mind that serve perfectly as an unsettling ending or as crumbs for another writer to pick up on later down the road.

Jock and Francessco Francavilla split art duties this issue and although they have their own unique styles, their work meshes together surprisingly well. Both artists are very adept at handling dark and creepy and do so in their own unique ways. They both have contributed so much to the ongoing run of this book that to exclude one of them would have been a disservice to both the artist and the fans. Francavilla's layouts continue to impress and he was the perfect choice to handle the creepiness of the verbal showdown between James Gordon Jr. and Barbara Gordon which essentially amounts to an extended conversation. Gordon Jr.'s creepiness and menace needed to be conveyed through posture, body language, and choice of angles, and Francavilla nails every item on that check list. The more frenzied, action oriented sequences of the book are handled by Jock whose grittier, sketchier style meshes perfectly with the brutal, realistic, and cringe worthy fight scenes that his pages entail.

The only blemish on an otherwise perfect finish to a perfect run is the sheer number of pages that amount to James Gordon Jr. monologuing. While his dialogue is fascinating, in character, and sufficiently creepy, it lasts just a bit too long. I feel like if more pages had been devoted to the characters tracing his bread crumbs rather than listening to him or talking to him on the phone, this would have been a completely masterful finish.

Grade: A-

Notes:

-The scene with the blanket was really, really disturbing, but kudos to Snyder for showing that Barbara Gordon is never to be underestimated.

-Dick is becoming more like Bruce everyday based on how he eventually tracks down his prey.

-I like how Tim has played a consistent supporting role throughout this series letting Dick maintain the spotlight without taking away from his own competency as a super hero.

-That ending panel was sufficiently creepy.

-Read this book.
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