Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Fear Itself and Blackest Night, A Saving Grace

A non-mainstream hero has his mythology expanded upon as an ancient enemy unleashes variants of the hero's signature weapon. No, this is not DC's hugely successful blockbuster Blackest Night, it is Marvel's upcoming event called Fear Itself.

One of these things is just like the other.

DC (more specfically Geoff Johns) took Green Lantern and created a total of eight new Lantern Corps and wove a Lord of the Rings-esque mythology around the character, who beforehand was largely unknown to the general public. Now with his increased popularity and visibility, Green Lantern has a movie out this summer, as well as a few new books being added to his line (Emerald Warriors and Red Lantern Corps).
Marvel is clearly aiming to mimic that forumla for success. Usually big cross-over events involve all of the most popular characters gathering for an epic-scale battle, but after Johns wrote an event starring a B-list character who earned A-list dollars, that formula looks to be getting a change.

As can be understood from the initial press releases teasing Fear Itself, the God of Fear has been unleashed and his awakening has uncovered eight magical hammers on Earth, all of which must be weilded by someone who is deemed "worthy." And in the center of all this craziness is Thor. The story has taken obvious cues from Blackest Night. It's clear they replaced Nekron with the God of Fear, the rings with hammers, and Green Lantern with Thor. To even go one further, all of the Black Lanterns made every character confront their most tortured memories of those they lost. Marvel is taking a direct, more obvious route by making each character confront what they personally fear the most.

The God of Fear and Nekon. Notice any similarities?

Marvel and DC imitating each other is nothing new, but what is more notable is the character-centric formula. For years fans have complained about "event fatigue" with one big battle coming after another and all claiming to have the same high stakes that will change the universe, but usually in their execution manage to fall flat (Secret Invasion, Final Crisis). Changing the scope of the story to focus and expand upon one single character instead of having a large mass of costumed heroes all clamoring for a moment in the spotlight allows for a more nuanced and heartfelt story. Just think of the wildly popular TV show Lost. Each episode focused on a single character, all the while expanding on the mysteries of the island. "Emotions" and "feelings" are strange words to describe a huge comic book event involving super heroes and villains fighting each other, but it is that unique aspect - causing readers to "feel" instead of become over-stimulated by action sequences - that might be the saving grace of event books.

If Marvel can do what Lost and Blackest Night did, and that is introduce some fresh mythology for Thor and keep the story grounded on his character, then fans might be in for a treat when Fear Itself hits shelves. If anything, a change in the format of events is most definitely welcome.

And I will be damned if everyone who picks up a hammer doesn't wind up in a Thor-inspired costume just like a selection of fan-favorites all got a Lantern outfit.

Storm would look good in Thor's helmet, right?

Followup Note: The subject of this article is not about how Marvel is copying DC, rather how event comics are changing for the better by using a refreshing, character-centric forumla as seen in Blackest Night by Geoff Johns.


  1. Yes this is def a Blackest Night rip. Prolly not going to read it but keep me abreast if it turns out to actually be good. I've never really been a Thor fan but I will say i saw the movie preview and I'm super stoked about it. Hope it's as good as it looks.

  2. Wouldn't this whole excercise be more compelling when Fear Itself is actually out, and you can compare the two works, as opposed to comparing an exsting work to some promotional talk and preview images about another work?

    I know the Internet loves a rush to judgment, but this seems premature.

  3. @Daving D. - That's a fair assessment. These are just my personal thoughts on how Marvel and DC do event comics and seem to mirror each other. This has been going on for years.

    Like when Batman and Captain America both "died" and had to fight their way through the past to get back to the future. And when the DC universe had a war with OMAC sleeper agents, the Marvel universe had a war with Skrull sleeper agents. The list goes on.

    The story points for Fear Itself have been out for a while, so I'm not speculating on those. Nor am I judging Fear Itself for anything; you are right in saying that would be hard since it's not actually out yet.

    I was commenting on the shift in event comics and how they are taking on a more personal nature. Marvel obviously wants to shine the spotlight on Thor in lieu of his big summer movie, and what better way to do it than to put him at the forefront of Fear Itself, just like Green Lantern was for Blackest Night? I am interested to see how Fear Itself plays out and when it's over I'll be sure to do a followup. ;)

  4. "The story points for Fear Itself have been out for a while, so I'm not speculating on those. Nor am I judging Fear Itself for anything; you are right in saying that would be hard since it's not actually out yet."

    I don't agree that the story points have been laid out for a while, in fact, we barely know what it is about. So actually, at this point when so little is known about Fear Itself, to so matter-of-factly suggest that Marvel is mimicing the formula of Blackest Night seems premature.

    Maybe you didn't intend to prejudge, but I think declaring the not yet published Fear Itself a derivative work following a formula is judgmental, as it presumes that Fraction is not just telling the story, but rather following someone else's roadmap, trying to duplicate their success. I think that is judgmental. And it is judgment prior to investigation, as it is not available to be read. Heck, the whole thing is likely not even written yet.