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Fear Itself

Tuesday Q&A: Fear Itself

Editors Tom Brevoort and Lauren Sankovitch brace for the big finale and tackle what comes next

By Chris Arrant

Fear Itself has proven to be a test of wills, courage and plain resourcefulness for the heroes trying to stave off the Serpent’s attacks.

Thor learned dark family secrets. Iron Man sacrificed his sobriety. Captain America retook his mantel after seeing his successor gunned down.

On October 19, it all comes to a head as FEAR ITSELF #7 hits stands and shows our heroes committing it all for one last, best stand against the Asgardian God of Fear.

Marvel’s Senior Vice President – Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has been guiding this event from creation to completion with associate editor Lauren Sankovitch ably assisting. Heading into the finale, we spoke to the pair about what’s to come even after the dust settles.

FEAR ITSELF #7 cover by Steve McNiven

Marvel.com: These last two issues of FEAR ITSELF really showed our heroes at their lowest: Bucky dead, Cap’s shield broken, Thor being carried off the battlefield, and Steve Rogers reaching out to the general public to take up arms against the Serpent. How does this compare to the tough spots the Avengers have been in before, and how do they approach it differently given the circumstances?

Tom Brevoort: It’s a bit of a cliché to say that this is the toughest battle the heroes have ever faced because, on some level, every battle is the toughest battle that they face that week. But thematically, what we wanted to do was to put all of our primary heroes, particularly the Avengers’ core three, into a massive vice and then start squeezing, to see what would happen, to see what would pop first. So this is a different sort of pressure than we’ve seen these guys under before. Cap is forced into the role of General rather than the more comfortable position of soldier, being forced at least at the outset to operate behind the lines and direct the battle, rather than waging it. Tony Stark needs to grapple with a situation that is at once mystical and divine, and test his belief in an ordered, rational universe of scientific law and quantifiable structure. And Thor needs to deal not only with his typical familial conflicts writ large, but also with the fact that everything he’s been told his whole life possibly being a lie, a deception, and having to struggle against fate itself.

Marvel.com: The last issue really shows Steve Rogers pushed to the limits; we’ve seen him in some precarious scenarios, but never as General leading a grassroots last line of defense. Can you talk about the planning and thought that went into this moment, and what led to it?

FEAR ITSELF #7 preview art by Stuart Immonen

Tom Brevoort: The point of view of the man on the street is vitally important to FEAR ITSELF—it’s no coincidence that we gave both the riot in issue #1 and then the extended look at conditions in Broxton in a suffering economy so much screen time at the outset. So while this is a conflict of cosmic, godly proportions, it one that resonates all the way back down the line to the man on the street; that’s where the Serpent’s power stems from, and thematically, that’s where the heart of our story lies. I don’t think that Cap sees there being any difference between himself and the common man, other than the luck of his position and his skills and training. He doesn’t separate himself or put himself onto any kind of a pedestal. To him, there’s no real difference between the Avengers and the people they fight for.

Marvel.com: FEAR ITSELF #7 doesn’t come out until October 19, but can you give us some hints or clues about what happens in the big finish?

Tom Brevoort: The very first thing that I’d point out is that FEAR ITSELF #7 is massive, with 54 pages of all-new material finishing out the series in spectacular fashion, as well as teeing up a number of the projects that will be spinning out of it, such as FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS, BATTLE SCARS, INCREDIBLE HULK and DEFENDERS. So there’s a lot of bang for your buck. On the story side, you’ll get to see the Mighty in action; you’ll get to see Two-Gun Cap, and Thor’s last stand.

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #7 preview art by Alessandro Vitti

Marvel.com: Previous event series like Civil War, Secret Invasion and Siege seemed to also transport the Marvel Universe into a new era; how would you describe what Fear Itself sets up, and does this mean it’s the end of the Heroic Age?

Tom Brevoort: No, Fear Itself isn’t the end of the Heroic Age so much as it is the tempering of the Heroic Age—the crucible that it needs to go through. And at the end of the day, it’s less the world at large that’s changed by the events of Fear Itself as it is the characters; not only Thor, Cap and Iron Man, but The Hulk and The Thing and Spider-Man and a number of others as well. So we won’t be seeing a massive change to the everyday status quo of the Marvel Universe, but we will be seeing an awful lot of personal fall-out as a result of it, as well as some elements beginning to come bubbling to the surface that nobody was even aware were out there.

Marvel.com: It seems Stuart Immonen sits at the pinnacle of his career right now, delivering top-notch work. Can you tell us about the different pressures Stuart faces drawing an event series than just a “regular” issue of NEW AVENGERS, and how he’s risen to the challenge?

Tom Brevoort: More than anything else, it’s just more characters and the expectation is greater. It’s the most white-hot spotlight that an artist can be standing in, doing one of these big event series. But Stuart is a total pro, and did not only career-defining work on FEAR ITSELF, but also proved his extreme professionalism by delivering it all slap-bang on schedule: nine issues’ worth of pages in seven months’ time.

Marvel.com: Looking back through this and previous events made me realize that colorist Laura Martin and letterer Chris Eliopoulos have been your go-to team for books going all the way back to SECRET INVASION. What makes them the ideal people to bring in for Marvel’s big series of the year time and time again?

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #7 preview art by Alessandro Vitti

Tom Brevoort: Not taking anything away from any of our other fine colorists or letterers, but they’re the best of the best, and can be relied upon to perform in the clutch like a championship team, and deliver work of the highest level of quality the first time out of the box. They know what they’re doing, and they do it so well, their craftsmanship becomes almost invisible to the untrained eye.

Marvel.com: The final issue of FEAR ITSELF ships on the same week that a sequel of sorts, FEARLESS, also begins. For people already looking forward to that new #1, what should they pay special attention to in the final weeks of Fear Itself?

Tom Brevoort: Really it’s FEAR ITSELF #7 that sets the stage for FEAR ITSELF: THE FEARLESS. But for the more industrious readers, the story that Nick Spencer and Scot Eaton did in SECRET AVENGERS #14 is pretty critical reading in terms of setting up at least one important aspect of FEARLESS.

Marvel.com: Although #7 is the series’ finale, you have three Point issues showing what’s next. How would you describe how they fit in with the main seven-issue arc and what’s coming next with FEARLESS and BATTLE SCARS?

Tom Brevoort: FEAR ITSELF #7.1, #7.2 and #7.3 are very much aftermath/epilogue issues, each one in turn focusing on Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, and recalibrating their experiences in Fear Itself in order to segue them back into their own home titles. So in #7.1, you’ll see Ed Brubaker dealing with the death of Bucky and how that will impact on Cap’s own series, in #7.2 you’ll see the aftermath of the battle for the Asgardians and where that leaves all of them, and #7.3 will very much be about Iron Man’s fall off the wagon in the midst of the event, and how that will affect his life moving ahead.

Marvel.com: Over in FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT, the lead story concerns Speedball’s efforts in Fear Itself. Can you talk about the path he’s walked to get here, and what awaits him in the next issue?

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #7 preview art by Pablo Raimondi

Lauren Sankovitch: As we’ve all seen, Speedball has had what you might call an arduous time getting to his current position. He was hated almost universally as the face of superhuman irresponsibility and callowness and is still recovering from the immense physical and psychological damage done from prolonged self-mutilation. He has matured quite a bit from his New Warriors days and, while he has every reason to be jaded and frustrated with his lot, Robbie has actively worked to not only better himself but to help those around him, starting with the students at the Avengers Academy and now with the people of Stamford, Connecticut. As you’ve already seen from the spectacular last page splash of issue #5, the Sisters of Sin are in town and, much like Speedball’s encounter with Nitro in CIVIL WAR, they don’t care how many people they hurt.

Marvel.com: It’s not over yet—what’s coming up at the end of the series?

Lauren Sankovitch: For Robbie, it’s about redemption, about being worthy of calling himself a hero again. In facing off with the Sisters of Sin, though, it could be the Stamford disaster all over again. Speedball’s really going to have to come to serious terms with his past to come out the other side of this and even he isn’t sure he’s ready for it.

Marvel.com: The self-contained shorts in this series have been eye-opening; what can people look forward to in the final issues?

Lauren Sankovitch:  We’ve been really fortunate to have a huge sampling of talent from across the creator-verse for these shorts. In issue #6 we peek in on our favorite down-on-their-luck super team, the Great Lakes Avengers, as they become the most feared team in all of Milwaukee, brought to you by Elliott Kalan and Ty Templeton. And in issue #7, from the minds of Brian Clevinger and Pablo Raimondi, we return to the city of Broxton, Oklahoma, now under siege by the Serpent’s forces and see how ordinary people can do extraordinary things in service to others.

FEAR ITSELF: THE HOME FRONT #7 preview art by Pablo Raimondi

Marvel.com: Meanwhile in FEAR ITSELF: YOUTH IN REVOLT you have some teenage heroes trying to make a difference in the war against The Serpent and Skadi. Can you talk about the importance of highlighting these younger heroes in this big conflict?

Lauren Sankovitch: As anyone can attest, the Marvel Universe is chockfull of teen heroes trying to make a name for themselves. With the AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE, we were introduced to a slew of new faces, many of them younger, and since the book ended, I’ve always been curious as to what those kids have been up to. We had all of these teams in place around the country already; wouldn’t it be cool to have a reason to get them back in the spotlight and punching some baddies? Being younger and more inexperienced than your Thors, Caps, and Iron Mans, many of these kids aren’t career crime fighters, or haven’t been doing it long enough to really know what to expect with the bad stuff starts raining down in force. Their actions and reactions while under immense pressure run the gamut from incredibly noble to downright cowardly. It’s extremely interesting to play with these young heroes as you can really give them a real world flavor and provide some surprising insights.

Marvel.com: Speaking of insights, in the last issue they fought each other rather than fighting The Serpent. What’s coming up in the finale?

Lauren Sankovitch: Oh, definitely more brawling.

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