I have reviewed the core series Marvel’s 2011 cross-company crossover called “FEARITSELF” a few days ago, and I even reviewed the first issue of its spin-off (the Fearless) with more to come. As I’ve somewhat promised, I was going to cover some of my favorite tie-ins to that (received mixed reviews by DC fans) series. I’ve said that several tie-ins would prove to be a worthy companion to that series while I admit that some prove unnecessary. Being as Thor was the prime character, any comic fan would know that The Avengers would definitely be involved. The “Fear Itself” tie in with the Avengers series has been published in Avengers numbers 13-17 and has been titled “Bliztkrieg U.S.A.” as it deals mostly with the battles against the heralds of the forgotten Asgardian god called the Serpent.
The story arc has been written by Brian Michael Bendis (Scarlet) and illustrated by John Romita Jr. and Chris Bachalo who take turns on the penciling duties of the tie-in. Keep in mind, this story occurs during a time of uncertainty, a time when the ranks of the Avengers are constantly changing and some members even doubt their worth as members of the famed team. The stories are directly tied into the premise of “Fear Itself”, so some chapters have direct and indirect implications to the twists and turns of the core series. I liked the way Bendis did the way the stories were told, and they do have one unifying theme to satisfy both the needs of the core series and the spirit of the team.
The Avengers are now realizing the need for a united front after the events of “Siege”, the recent Infinity Gems melee and “Secret Invasion”. They resolve to work together with the gods of asgard (though Odin could repair the realm with ease) to rebuild Asgard and to assure the public that their heroes are as strong as ever. Bendis uses a different style in telling the story; we see the heroes as if they are being interviewed by someone who is writing a book. We see the heroes, (Jarvis their butler even has his moments) tell their own side of the stories, their fears, their issues and even their discomforts. It makes the issues quite clever, as the reader experiences something as if the dialogue had broken into the fourth wall. (much like in “Scarlet” almost)
What does it mean to be an Avenger? Do you earn it or do you just walk up and ask to become one? Does a team define you or do you define the team? Being an Avenger is not a right but a privilege as Stark often says, and yet, Rogers always said you find yourself as one. Thor always said that being an Avenger involves destiny and character, and Hercules loves the camaraderie that comes from it. Bendis may have similar themes to his story but he adds a different twist to it all. We all know the damage the Red Hulk had done in the pages of the “Hulk”, we all know what happened to the original Spider-Woman who has been uncovered as a former Shield and Hydra double-agent, Captain America had suffered a major loss and even the sentinel of liberty has to discover the true meaning of “Avengers”, which leads to the final confrontation with Skadi before the climactic finale in “Fear Itself“ # 7.
The writing gives different and yet similar views of the battle. There are truly noteworthy pieces in the 5-issue story arc and none stood out more than the story of Red Hulk and Spider-woman. These two are members that no one expected to be able to pull their own weight because of their past and yet, here they are, earning the right to be called an “Avenger”. The Red Hulk with power rivaling the original green Hulk’s takes on a losing battle against Angrir (the Fantastic Four’s The Thing empowered with wicked Asgardian power). The battle was for Avengers Tower, and it was quick, intense and brutal. Romita always knew how to make a crazy fight scene and I could feel the impact of the blows. Red Hulk’s story embodied sacrifice as a part of being an Avenger.
Issue 15, Spider-Woman finds herself at impossible odds when a small team had been dispatched to take on the Hulk, empowered by the spirit of Nul. (the strongest incarnation of the Hulk to date). The stakes were just as high in Brazil, as Jessica Drew found her true calling. Yes, a stronger team should’ve been dispatched to face a Hulk of this nature, but Spider-woman took him on by herself with no chance of victory. She wanted to buy time so children could be evacuated. Bachalo drew the panels to mimic the atmosphere of a newspaper. He makes the panels look dirty, gritty and almost noirish. Veteran Avenger Steve Rogers in issue 16 is reminded of the duty and responsibility of being a member. After the events of Fear Itself # 3, Rogers allowed his emotions to take hold, unbecoming of Captain America and nearly loses something very important in a struggle in his hunt for Sin. Newbie member, the Kree warrior called The Protector defines the need for resourcefulness during a battle as he takes measures that would make Stark green with envy. I also loved the way Hawkeye and Ms. Marvel took a chance.
Be that as it may, the interviews of the heroes that sense of friendship; they bicker, they banter, they kid around, they pick on each other and sometimes hurt each other‘s feelings, and sometimes they even flirt. I liked the way Spidey and Wolverine added some nice touches as Logan appear to be the only one smoking and getting drunk while Parker makes fun of himself. I mean, there is a mild flirtation going on here, all the while, the Avengers are fighting a common threat. Beneath all the action and intense thrills, the 5-issue arc showed a lot of personality. I guess one thing that kinda hurts the arc is that it somehow gives the impression that the team had already survived the attack of the Serpent, since they seem to talk about everything in the past tense.
So what does it mean to be an Avenger? I guess if you put it all together, it is being ‘human’ and finding the means to stick to a principle. Then, perhaps, it is the true meaning of being an Avenger. They’re not just a bunch of powerful heroes who decide to band together one day and call themselves a team (like DC‘s flagship team title). They earn the title and they live it.
Remember….”the ranks are ever-changing, the power remains supreme….” Why you say? Because they are first and foremost, Men and Women. Men and women with hearts and human beings with flaws. But they become heroes because the need has arisen. It just turned out that way. Being an Avenger is not about powers but rather, it is about the choices one make. Remember how this storyline went when you go see the 2012 Hollywood interpretation of "Avengers"....
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes? Why are the Avengers ever given this billing? The Marvel Universe seems to see them as the premier super-team even when there is no stability in their ranks. They’ve been more scrutinized when Steve Rogers made them the core group as when they are the new Global enforcement division (similar to S.H.I.E.L.D.) Brian Michael Bendis together with Chris Bachalo and legendary John Romita Jr. are poised to give the definition of Avengers … more
Published simultaneously to Fear Itself, this story arc defines the meaning of the word "Avenger'. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, with art by Chris Bachalo and John Romita Jr. Covers are done by Alan Davis and Mark Farmer. It covers Avengers issue #'s 13-17