By Jim Beard
It’s not only war that makes for strange bedfellows; the incredible emotion of fear can lead even stranger alliances. In the new FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR limited series spinning out from the Fear Itself event, lurks the macabre Man-Thing and the only four quirky heroes brave—or foolish—enough to face him!
“The world is a scary place, especially in the Marvel Universe and most especially during Fear Itself,” FEARSOME FOUR writer Brandon Montclare says. “And Man-Thing, he's drawn to fear like a moth to a flame. So with all the terror out there, Man-Thing is overloaded. He's about to go supernova.
“The Fearsome Four have come together to stop Man-Thing, or die trying. And while doing so they each have to face their own very personal and very unique fears. Howard the Duck, She-Hulk, Nighthawk, and Frankenstein are pretty different; but each in his or her own way is a monster, a freak, a person with a dark side. They're all outsiders, so while some have done the team thing before, there's going to be tension. This story can only happen with these four characters. The Fantastic Four were the world's greatest heroes. The Fearsome Four have an explosive situation to deal with, and whether they'll defuse it or set if off is a big part of the story.”
The writer himself stands as a new face in the hallowed halls of Marvel Universe, but he’s slipped easily into the unique groove and relishes his role on this project.
“Working with Marvel continues to be an awesome experience,” reports Montclare. “I'm very grateful to editors Mark Paniccia and John Denning [who] have been enormously supportive in general, and specifically [in] wrangling a supporting role in an event as huge as Fear Itself, [which] requires a lot of back-and-forth. With four issues of FEARSOME FOUR, the format is a lot longer and the lead characters are a little bigger, so as a new writer it's validating. I want to repay that to Marvel and their readers. It was a thrill to write, so I hope it's a thrill to read.”
|FEAR ITSELF: FEARSOME FOUR #1 cover by Michael Wm Kaluta|
With characters as diverse as Howard the Duck, She-Hulk, Nighthawk and the towering Frankenstein Monster, Montclare’s focused on what makes each one not only tick but also what makes them great. This gifted the writer with both challenges and immense satisfaction.
“They're all cool to write,” he says. “They're more than one slot below the A-list, but they've all been kicking around for a while because they're good concepts that have been well-executed by past creative teams. She-Hulk was the most intimidating because that character has had a lot of ace writers recently, going back to the Dan Slott stuff, of which I was an avid reader. Frankenstein's Monster, however, was the biggest ‘challenge.’ I like the classic monster influence that's really pervasive when it comes to that character in Marvel or elsewhere, but I also wanted to mix in some of his high romantic roots. That's a very odd mash-up, but he's a patchwork man so I figured the clash of styles could produce some memorable moments.
“Nighthawk is the one I'm most jazzed about—the most ‘satisfying.’ The bad seed that flowered into FEARSOME FOUR was actually a pitch for a solo Nighthawk story. He's changed, but it's a logical evolution of the character under the unique situation of Fear Itself. And it's not at all a radical change, just what would happen to a guy like Nighthawk if fear pushed him over the edge. And not to leave Howard the Duck out of it, writing his parts was surprisingly natural. He talks too much, which is easy for any writer. And he's funniest when you play him straight, which is easy for me.”
And what of the monstrous Man-Thing, the lynchpin of FEARSOME FOUR? How does he make the transition here from his recent appearances in THUNDERBOLTS?
“Man-Thing has recently been much more active with the Marvel heroes,” confirms Montclare. “FEARSOME FOUR is an extension of that: the potential consequences of having such a powerful, primal force introduced to the super powered world.”
Amazingly, the surprises in the series do not limit themselves to the characters and situations. In fact, Montclare’s joined by a stunning selection of artists, some of them quite well-known to followers of the bizarre and the eclectic.
“The main story is being drawn by Ryan Bodenheim, whose name is on the rise after doing Red Mass from Mars with Jonathan Hickman, and more recently Halcyon,” notes the writer. “But FEARSOME FOUR is also set up so we get a quick glimpse of the world through the eyes of each of the team members. So every issue will have a six or seven-page segment by a second artist.
“Cover artist and living legend Michael Wm Kaluta will also be doing the special segment in issue #1. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Just below the icy waterline the one-and-only Simon Bisley is lurking. Down in the depths below also lurks artist Henry Flint of Judge Dredd and Haunted Tank fame. It's a monstrously amazing group of guys that people will never forget.”
For more on Fear Itself, visit the official event page