By Matt Fraction, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger & Laura Martin
Marvel's summer event that effectively combines elements of their Captain America and Thor franchises (just in time for the movies) continues, this time setting up the centerpiece of the narrative in unveiling the identities of four of the seven characters dubbed "The Worthy" while hinting at the remainder. Meanwhile, Thor finds himself in big trouble upon the Asgardians' return to the original home of Asgard, the Avengers embark across the globe, and the Red Skull's daughter Sin, now super-powered and named Skadi, begins a wave of attacks.
The ambitiousness of the talents involved is clear with this second issue, and I find myself pulled in to the narrative despite my initial misgivings. Matt Fraction does a good job of introducing "The Worthy" here, giving space to each character's discovery of their particular hammer. Of special enjoyment is a certain Green Goliath's union with his hammer, and his clever new title that echoes recent developments with the character and his otherworldly associations. I counted two surprises among the four characters granted a hammer here, and I'm hoping Fraction will employ those characters' histories to full effect in later stories. (Hint: A battle with She-Hulk would come in handy.) And the others? Well, one of the Worthy is unveiled, sloppily, on both the cover and in the previews of crossovers to the story in the back of the issue, but appears nowhere in the issue itself. Another's impending contact with a hammer is hinted in this story, and on that preview page, but nobody knows if that event will actually occur.
Right now, all appear to be solid choices, and it's interesting that only one of those unveiled so far has been classified a "hero"--by comic fans, anyway--during his entire time in Marvel's pantheon of characters (although a second will join him next month, if next issue's title, as spoiled at the end of this issue, is any indicator). My only worry is that I get the feeling from the previews at issue's end that at least one of the Worthy will not be unveiled in this series but instead in one of the tertiary crossovers, and that's bad form, pure and simple. But I could be wrong--I've been before. (Hey, remember the days when the Worthy--excepting that last, shocking member--would've been unveiled over six pages--or twelve, max--in the middle of an issue like this? Sigh.)
If there is a weakness to this issue, it's that all we're getting is a story's middle this month. The hammers that began their fall to Earth last month find their owners, or some of them do; the Avengers get sent out to keep the peace; and Skadi starts an invasion. It's well-textured, but still there's no clear beginning, middle or end--it's all middle! Superbly illustrated (by Immonen & Von Grawbadger), lushly colored (by Laura Martin) middle, yes, but the book only appears to be a cog in the greater event with no internal structure of its own. Even still, this second installment of Fear Itself has its share of excitement and big moments that make it worth a read.
Quick Verdict: Read It.