|Fear Itself #2 preview art by Stuart Immonen|
By Ben Morse
WARNING: READ FEAR ITSELF #1 BEFORE READING THIS STORY—SPOILERS AHEAD!
After months of anticipation, FEAR ITSELF did not just kick off with a bang; it sprang to life with several bangs and then a sonic boom or two for good measure.
Even as tension amongst led to a riot in New York City that left even Steve Rogers at his wit’s end and the Avengers scrambling for a solution, Sin, daughter of the Red Skull, journeyed to Antarctica to unearth an artifact her father long sought: a mysterious mystical hammer that transformed the aspiring anarchist into the mysterious Skadi.
Meanwhile, Thor brought his teammates to Broxton, Oklahoma where Iron Ma announced an ambitious plan to rebuild Asgard and jumpstart the local economy in the process. Not everybody proved happy to see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, as Odin—following a one-sided confrontation with The Watcher—lashed out at his mighty son and chided the Thunder God for his continued association with mortals.
Deep beneath the Pacific Ocean, Skadi discovered the imprisoned Serpent, a self-proclaimed All-Father, who then summoned his “Worthy” and brought seven more hammers crashing down to Earth. Sensing and responding to this return, Odin stripped Thor of his own mystic mallet, Mjolnir, and dragged him in chains along with the rest of his people back to the prior location of Asgard as the Avengers watched on, a sense of dread washing over as they knew this to be only the beginning.
Along with artist Stuart Immonen, inker Wade Von Grawbadger, colorist Laura Martin and the rest of the FEAR ITSELF creative team, writer Matt Fraction will steer the entire Marvel Universe to mythological levels of terror and excitement over the next seven months; we caught up with him to dissect the first issue.
|Fear Itself #2 preview art by Stuart Immonen|
Marvel.com: You open the issue and the series with a riot that felt very much like it was set in the “real world”—were you intending for the issue they’re arguing over to be something in specific?
Matt Fraction: I don't ever identify the debate as being about anything in particular—and in my mind it wasn't ever about any one particular issue. It could easily be about building a memorial where Doc Ock's giant robots demolished a hospital or something in the first issue of Dan Slott's solo-AMAZING SPIDER-MAN run, y'know? What was important to me was showing some debate happening where any hope of intelligent and reason discourse was long dead, and people were simply shouting “Yes!” and “No!” at each other. [A concern was] dating the story too terribly much with a time-specific reference. Anyway to me it was about the state of discourse and reason rather than any particular issue—the idea that we get so wrapped up in screaming we're not really listening too much anymore.
Marvel.com: Steve Rogers’ line about “It’s democracy” in response to the initial protest seems like a very profound insight into his character. What do you think it says about him?
Matt Fraction: Steve's seen us at our best and worst, y'know? He understands that raised voices and passion is a part of the process. I don't think he realizes how far we've gone, though. It's in his character to give us the benefit of the doubt; I think that makes him a touch out of touch.
|Fear Itself #2 preview art by Stuart Immonen|
Marvel.com: You’re been writing Iron Man and Thor regularly for a bit now, but this is your first real go at Steve Rogers—how did it feel?
Matt Fraction: It's interesting, because—[and] we'll see this more clearly in issue #2— he's feeling like he's got a muzzle on. The scene on top of Avengers Tower I could feel him making fists with his toes down in his boots he was so antsy. Steve isn't Captain America exactly and the situation very much calls for Captain America. Or who Captain America was, anyway.
Marvel.com: Was it a challenge at all to write both sides of the issue equally as far as the opening scene and keep Steve and Sharon neutral as well? How hard is it to put your own social or political views a bit off to the side on things like this?
Matt Fraction: Well like I said, I was more interested in the arguing, rather than specifying what the arguing was about beyond someone wanting to build something and someone else not liking the idea for some reason. And I think my beliefs were all on the page there in Steve and Sharon. It's what democracy can look like. It's also what the start of a riot can look like.
Marvel.com: How was Sin selected for the role she plays here? It’s quite a promotion. How closely have you been working with Ed Brubaker to groom her for this and for how long?
Matt Fraction: Ed was the one that set her on her way. We realized it was a chance to tie the past and the present together, and to push her forward, to extend and celebrate her father's legacy. Sin becoming The Red Skull was Ed; me turning The Red Skull into Skadi was an organic outgrowth of his amazing work.
Marvel.com: What makes Sin arguably more dangerous than her father?
Matt Fraction: Well she's kind of a deity now. Also she's still alive. And she's done next to nothing to earn this enormous rush of power—she's the ultimate trust-fund kid. She's got all of the perks and none of the discipline that doing the work brings. So there's a degree of recklessness to her, of impatience and impertinence that her father didn't necessarily have.
|Fear Itself #1 cover by Steve McNiven|
Marvel.com: When Sin becomes one of the Worthy, how much of her free will does she retain? What does the process do to people?
Matt Fraction: It's a seduction, of sorts. An intoxication.
Marvel.com: How important is the scene of regular people in Broxton and their plight to the larger story?
Matt Fraction: It was one of those moments where you get super heroes doing all this super hero stuff but we'd so clearly planted our feet in the appearance of the real world so it just felt disingenuous to not address it. It's great Tony Stark invented the Iron Man. How about you invent a power source that'll free us from dependence on fossil fuels? We've got unstable molecules but no cure for malaria. I'm sure infant hunger stats are the same in the Marvel Universe as they are for us. I'm sure that Sue Richards' earning potential in the Marvel Universe is capped at the same 75% of what a man makes in a comparable job that it is in the real world. We're trying to tell a super hero story against a backdrop that reflects the times, so I wanted to show what it's like, just for a second, to live in this world of titans.
I think it was Slott that started to refer to "the Legoverse" in terms of how often we knock buildings over. FEAR ITSELF is framed by the people that live in those buildings.
Marvel.com: At various points in his history in the Marvel Universe, Odin has been the benevolent All-Father, the raging god and lots of other stuff in between; he’s close to the latter end of the spectrum here, but where would you say he is coming from and why is he acting the way he does here?
|Fear Itself #1 variant cover by Stuart Immonen|
Matt Fraction: I've been playing at this stuff since I brought Odin back: the anger, the petulance, the frustration and tension he feels. Partially, I just enjoy the old guy when he's at his most cantankerous. And, as FEAR ITSELF will reveal, he thought he got away with it. Odin thought the prophecy was wrong; as long as he was in limbo, as long as he was in his tomb and at rest, then he figured he'd escaped what's coming in FEAR ITSELF. The subtext behind his disposition since returning has been based on knowing that FEAR ITSELF was on its way. Odin wanted to be dead because that meant the prophecy was wrong. And when Thor brought him back and Asgard has fallen and Balder was gone he knew he didn't escape at all.
What prophecy? More will be revealed as Odin addresses his people in the opening pages of FEAR ITSELF #2.
Marvel.com: What is your take on the relationship between Odin and Thor?
Matt Fraction: I think my take on their relationship is very much at the heart of FEAR ITSELF. And FEAR ITSELF changes that relationship in some very real ways.
Marvel.com: What can you tell us about The Serpent and how this character came to be? How did you develop the already impressively extensive mythology behind him?
Matt Fraction: There's a commonality to the serpent as icon in lots of different cultures and societies and myths throughout history; I thought it'd be interesting if it was because of one literal monster, one serpent, who so terrified the world that we've been warning each other away from serpents ever since. The rest will be revealed. It came very quickly after that.
Nine hammers, nine worlds, nine steps.
Marvel.com: Does this fight between Odin and Thor represent a larger struggle or is it just a father and son having it out?
|Fear Itself #2 cover by Steve McNiven|
Matt Fraction: It's Odin's last gasp and last chance to control Thor. To Thor? It's another loud, over-the-top, argument. To Odin, it's everything. Why is it so important to him that Thor does what he says? Keep reading.
Marvel.com: The heroes of the Marvel Universe went for years with Thor and company based in Asgard, so why is their departure here so ominous?
Marvel.com: Ominous is good. It means bad stuff is coming.
Marvel.com: Any hints as to The Serpent’s plans?
Matt Fraction: First off: reincarnate—if that's even the word—the Worthy. Second: this nine-man army is going to war with our world.
Marvel.com: What’s coming up next issue?
Matt Fraction: The Worthy. The scramble. And Blitzkrieg USA, baby.
FEAR ITSELF #2 comes at you on May 4, and we’ll be back here with Matt to analyze the issue. Also be sure to visit the Fear Itself event page for all the latest info!