By Kevin Mahadeo with Jim Beard
FDR told us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. But for Robbie Baldwin, the hero known as Speedball, an angry mob from Stamford with nothing but vengeance on its mind seems pretty terrifying as well—and he has to face just that in the upcoming limited series FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT beginning this April.
The lead story of the seven-issue series sees writer Christos Gage and artist Mike Mayhew following Speedball’s continuing quest for personal redemption he has sought since his role in the tragedy that kicked off Civil War.
"This actually harkens back to the first of these types of project, CIVIL WAR: FRONT LINE, which [had] a story in it following Speedball as he deals with the repercussions of the Stamford disaster [and] we'll actually be revisiting that here," explains Gage. "In the first issue, we'll see that Speedball has been secretly, in disguise, going back to Stamford regularly as a civilian and getting involved with charity work to try and atone for what he feels is his responsibility for the people that died there. He
|FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #1 cover by Marko Djurdjevic|
happens to be there at a time when the affects of Fear Itself start to take hold and that leads to a very charged set of circumstances."
Those circumstances find the hero's identity revealed to the populace of Stamford and their reaction, unsurprisingly, leads to some serious conflict. Gage says that we’ll not only get some insight into Speedball's views, but on how the regular citizens of the Marvel Universe see things as well. He teases that not everyone immediately hates the hero; some people befriended Robbie while in his alter ego and their reactions to the discovery of his real identity make for interesting emotional conflicts.
Gage also promises that the series does not take place solely in one location. As Fear Itself constitutes a Marvel Universe event, THE HOME FRONT starts in Stamford but extends out into all areas of the world.
"I don't want to get into how, but in the AVENGERS ACADEMY book you have Hank Pym's infinite Avengers Mansion with its dimensional doors," hints the writer. "So that should give you an idea of how we'll be looking at a variety of different locations throughout the Marvel Universe. [Speedball] starts off in Stamford but [the story] ends up becoming global just because the Fear Itself event has a global scale. He still remains the focal point as events that happen in Stamford lead him to go to various other locales and try to help against the rising tide of fear and other things that are happening."
Mike Mayhew adds his skills to the title, and Gage assures there’s nothing to fear there, as the artist’s pencils fit the tone of the title perfectly.
"His style is very realistic and very real world,” Gage comments. “I think it brings a verisimilitude to everything. If you're creating a story in which the focus is on regular people, Mike can make you believe those people live and breathe. The way he conveys Robbie out of costume, I thought he really captured him. And he can draw Speedball in his costume with the kinetic
|Speedball in happier times|
energy effect and make it look really great. The thing about Mike is that when you see his characters, you believe that they just seem real."
The series marks an important chapter in Speedball's continuing emotional healing. Gage already chronicles the character's journey monthly in the pages of AVENGERS ACADEMY and plans to continue Robbie's recovery in HOME FRONT.
"Immediately after Stamford, [Speedball] became Penance, [and] I would say he was very affected by it and probably expressing something close to post-traumatic stress,” he notes. “He took all of it upon himself. He personally blamed himself, as the public did. As time has gone by and Speedball got help from Doc Samson and other people, he has come to have a more healthy view of what he did. He's certainly still consumed with guilt and it's something that he carries with him. You can't just flip a switch and change your suit and go back to being the guy you were before something like that. We're all affected by our experiences, good and bad. So, hopefully he'll come out at the end and figure out a way to live with it and go forward with his life."
|The Agents of Atlas|
Backing up the lead story in the first four issues, writer Peter Milligan and artist Elia Bonetti bring in Jimmy Woo and the Agents of Atlas for a spy story investigating the growing tide fear.
"Primarily it'll be Jimmy Woo and some of his old comrades, including Namora, with whom he has a much more intense relationship than we've seen before,” says Milligan. “The story's in the form of a detective or spy drama as Woo pursues various clues and is affected by the growing sense of fear and unease that's gripping the world.
"Jimmy Woo's investigation takes him close to the heart of what is happening in the world. But this has terrible and unforeseen implications for Jimmy Woo, and maybe even the Atlas Foundation."
FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT begins in April.