(Panini Books)

THESE two volumes present differing views of the world-shattering events of Marvel’s latest crossover event, and as such sit neatly together in terms of a complete reading experience, offering perspectives from the midst of the main action and also from the view of the everyman affected by what initially appears to be the end of the world…

The Fear Itself storyline centres largely on the three leading Avengers – Thor, Iron Man and the former Captain America Steve Rogers (not coincidentally also the stars of some of comics company’s biggest movies of recent years) – and the devastating toll which events take upon them individually and as part of the wider Marvel Universe…

The challenge they face comes in the form of the apocalyptic Serpent, brother to Norse All-Father Odin and the embodiment of fear. His arrival is heralded by seven mystic hammers falling to Earth from outer space. These weapons are subsequently wielded by some of the most powerful beings on the planet, including Juggernaut, the Hulk, the Thing, Absorbing Man, Titania and Attuma, who are transformed into The Worthy, the Serpent’s emissaries who are tasked with wreaking destruction and rampant paranoia across the globe…

In a bid to save the Norse gods’ home of Asgard, Odin resolves to implement a literal scorched Earth policy which will wipe out our planet at the same time as destroying the Serpent and his followers, until a plea for leniency from Thor and his allies prompts him to offer his support for a last-ditch battle against their foes. But will the price of victory prove too high?

Writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen weave a tale which builds on the sense of growing fear across the Marvel Universe before exploding in widescreen action sequences, while still giving room for strong character beats and stand-out little moments of brilliance.

Have no doubts, the consequences of Fear Itself are set to resonate throughout the MU for a long time to come, not least as a result of the high-profile deaths and transformations it prompted, but it also works as a stand-alone story profiling Marvel’s finest in what could be one of their greatest battles.

There are obviously links between the main series and other Marvel titles, and obviously reading every tie-in would provide a much richer reading experience, but these don’t actually prevent the casual reader from enjoying the core storyline in the main collection.

However, if you wanted to explore the wider implications of events in the wake of The Worthy’s actions, then they are covered in the spin-off series Fear Itself: The Home Front, which looks at the consequences for the ordinary citizens of the MU, while also focusing on lesser characters like Robbie (Speedball) Baldwin, the Agents of Atlas, and a host of teen heroes including X-23, Spider-Girl, Power Man and Thunderstrike.

The decision to touch on how a comics company’s summer crossover events impact on the man on the street is a good one, and ensures the human element is never lost amidst the drama of warring gods, super-soldiers and armoured avengers, which adds weight to the bigger picture.

Following up on previous “world-changing” events like House of M, Civil War and World War Hulk is never easy, but Fear Itself actually succeeds in offering a blockbuster epic which initially appears to be a game-changer for the Marvel heroes. Exactly how the aftermath of the series pans out will be interesting to follow in the months to come.