By Ben Morse
WARNING: READ FEAR ITSELF #3 BEFORE READING THIS STORY—SPOILERS AHEAD!
The fourth issue of FEAR ITSELF saw glimmers of hope amidst the torrent of suffering with the return of two great heroes, but also the sacrifice of a third and a God of Fear reborn at full power.
Thrown back to Earth from Asgard and subsequently denied haven in his former home of Broxton, Oklahoma, Thor rejoined his fellow Avengers even as they mourned the death of Bucky Barnes. The fall of his protégé proved the final motivation Steve Rogers needed to reclaim the mantel of Captain America and leap back into battle.
Meanwhile, Thor confronted The Serpent, now restored to full power by the fear engulfing the world. The Thunder God battled through his foe’s guard and confronted the mastermind of the world’s woes, only to be confronted with possible revelations about this threat’s origins.
Iron Man took to the former earthly site of Asgard and petitioned an audience with Odin, giving up his long-held sobriety as a sacrificial offering in hopes of getting the Allfather’s attention. The Asgardian patriarch broke from his plans to raze Midgard long enough to consider Tony Stark’s offer.
Finally, evicted by The Serpent from his lair, Thor found himself face-to-faces with the two most powerful Worthy: The Thing and The Hulk.
We’re joined once more by FEAR ITSELF Matt Fraction to go over these latest twists, turns and major character moments.
Marvel.com: What has happened to Broxton since we last saw the town in FEAR ITSELF #1?
Matt Fraction: They've taken to the ramparts, obviously. It's not their first rodeo; they know that when the big folks in magical costumes start to scrap it's their windows that get blown out, their homes that get leveled.
Add that to the general fear, doubt, and paranoia that the Serpent's presence on Earth has fostered and you get a society of fences and walls and barricades. After the Martin Luther King assassination in 1968, groups of armed citizens barricaded the roads going in to Overland Park, Kansas, which is right next door to my dear old Kansas City, Missouri; it's where the idea came from, and I'm sure there were other towns just like it, full of people so scared by what's going on in the world around them they'd physically barricade the inroads to their communities and arm themselves against imagined hordes.
Marvel.com: The Asgardians’ alienation of Broxton is an element you’ve been exploring over in THE MIGHTY THOR as well—do these two views of it dovetail or are you looking at separate aspects?
Matt Fraction: I hope they dovetail together; the arc that kicks off THE MIGHTY THOR previews the attitudes to come in FEAR ITSELF. And while they definitely are different facets, they're a part of the same protective xenophobia that's hard to disagree with on some levels.
Marvel.com: Though we know The Serpent is the God of Fear, what is his precise relationship with fear? How does it sustain him and how does he use it as a weapon?
Matt Fraction: I dunno that he's "The God of Fear"—that's Phobos, isn't it?—so much as A God that feeds on fear the way others thrive on faith or awe or wonder and, similarly, evoke the same. It's a kind of symbiotic relationship in my mind: the gods need what they inspire to thrive and become [godlier]. Some gods need reverence, some wonder, some fear. Like Old Testament, split-your-baby-in-half, plague-of-locusts, wife-into-salt, terror.
Marvel.com: Will we ever get the full story of Odin’s first defeat of The Serpent?
Matt Fraction: You'll get to see an awful lot of the whole bloody affair in THE MIGHTY THOR #7, which marks Pasqual Ferry's magnificent return to the title.
Marvel.com: We a microcosm of reactions to Bucky’s death here with Nick Fury, Iron Man, Black Widow and Thor, but how has the rest of the world and the Avengers responded to the event? Even though it occurred in the midst of a major battle, is it common knowledge that he died?
Matt Fraction: You'll see aspects of how the Avengers react in FEAR ITSELF and far more in the other relevant tie-ins; and yes, it's known that Cap fell in battle. We get to see some reaction to that in INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, for example.
Marvel.com: I love the background bit where Nick Fury is comforting Black Widow as Thor and Iron Man talk—was this in the script or a touch Stuart Immonen added?
FIXED: THOR turns to IRON MAN now. IN THE BACK, NICK hugs NATASHA as she falls apart. A quiet moment because they don’t think anyone is looking.
THOR You smell of GARBAGE and ROTTEN FISH.
IRON MAN Threw up inside the suit.
IRON MAN (small) Paris was a nightmare.
ON NICK, holding NATASHA in a half-hug still.
NICK This whole damn PLANET is a nightmare, Stark. We need YOU
THREE out there fighting the good fight, dammit.
Marvel.com: In this series, in CAPTAIN AMERICA and elsewhere, Steve Rogers has been struggling with the idea he must become Cap again for some time. When we see him here, he’s suited up and ready to go. In your mind, did anything take place between Bucky’s death and here that finally gave him that last nudge or is Steve just the kind of guy who knows when it’s time?
Matt Fraction: Of course—he realized that Bucky died again and he blames himself again. He should never have stayed behind that desk no matter how much good he was doing there. Or so he thinks, anyway.
Marvel.com: Once he does decide to become Cap again, how easily does Steve snap back to making plans and giving orders as he does here?
Matt Fraction: It's who he is! And who he has been. He's the vanguard of the free world.
Marvel.com: Is Thor’s prophecy of sacrificing his own life to kill The Serpent then taking nine steps before he falls something established or did you come up with it?
Matt Fraction: Hah. No, I didn't come up with it.
It's very very old continuity—like, from around 1200AD.
Marvel.com: That “AWAKEN” is one of if not the coolest sound effects I’ve ever seen. How important is letterer Chris Eliopoulos to this book?
Matt Fraction: Massively important. Massively. And he's as massively talented as he is patient. He's the binding polymer of FEAR ITSELF. From font selection to his Workman-esque balloon scales, Chris has been nothing less than amazing for FEAR ITSELF.
Marvel.com: Is Captain America smiling as he, Iron Man and Thor leap into action?
Matt Fraction: Maybe a little.
Marvel.com: How much of a difference does having Steve in the game make for the Avengers?
Matt Fraction: I think it's a huge momentum shift for them, or so they hope. We'll see how that pans out next issue but, right now, it's as if their second wind just put on the stars-and-stripes and leapt into the action with a machine gun.
Marvel.com: How did Tony determine that ending his sobriety would be the “sacrifice” he would need to summon Odin?
Matt Fraction: I think it was an act of faith whether he'd ever recognize it or not.
Marvel.com: Did Cap and Thor know this is what Tony had in mind?
Matt Fraction: No. No, absolutely not. He pilots one of the most lethal instruments of technology man has ever conceived. The last thing they want or expect is Tony Stark ripped to the gills and screaming at lights in the desert.
Each of our heroes has to make a sacrifice. This was Tony's. Nobody comes away clean.
Marvel.com: How hard was it for Tony to do what he did? On the flipside, was there some relief in for him in giving into this long-held temptation?
Matt Fraction: We get into that in THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #506.
I don't know that "relief" is the right word at all. That would be the response of a sane person.
Marvel.com: Is this the first we’re hearing of The Serpent and Odin being brothers? Does The Serpent mean that literally? Does Thor believe him?
Matt Fraction: It's been hinted at. Does he? Maybe. Is he telling the truth? Is he just trying get into Thor's head? To make Thor afraid? And does it work? What would it mean to the entirety of Norse cosmology if it were true? Why would Odin hide the fact? How would Odin behave if it was true and if it were coming to light?
I asked myself this stuff a lot.
Marvel.com: Does Thor consider taking the Serpent’s bargain for even a moment?
Matt Fraction: No. Never.
Marvel.com: Given the explosive cliffhanger we end on, what do we have to look forward to next month?
Matt Fraction: The issue is called "Brawl."
FEAR ITSELF #5 comes at you on August 10, 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!