I feel like every week I go to the store, everything I buy is a tie in to Fear Itself. Not that it's totally a bad thing, or a totally unexpected thing, but there's a part of me that wishes there was some variety in my buy pile. Fortunately, the majority of my Fear Itself tie-ins have been really good, even if they haven't been getting the press they deserve. Let's see if we can do something about that tonight, shall we?
The Underrated Tie-In:
Fear Itself: The Home Front
Writer: Christos Gage, Fred Van Lente, Howard Chaykin, Si Spurrier
Artist: Mike Mayhew, Alessandro Vitti, Edgar Delgado, Jason Latour
Let me get this outta the way up front: I'm a sucker for these kinds of stories.
Sure, the big books have all the crazy awesome action, the memorable scenes, and generally set the tone for the line, but it's these man-on-the-street books that really hit home for me. It grounds the fantastical and makes it all that much more believable for me. The Home Front hits on all cylinders and is, in many ways, more interesting that the core book.
Ostensibly an anthology following various heroes dealing with this new onset of fear, the book is really all about Speedball's redemption. And it's awesome. Starting in Stamford, before moving throughout the country, the book follows noone's favorite kinetic hero has he attempts to help normal citizens in places the brightly colored crowd doesn't normally hang out, like Missouri or Newfoundland, and in doing show proves just how awesome a hero he really is.
I was surprised as anyone, I'll tell you what.
In a lot of ways, this book reads like a sequel to 2006's Civil War tie-in, Frontline. In that series we saw Speedball at his lowest ebb, blamed for the destruction in Stamford, seemingly powerless, and self-hating. By the end of that series, the once fun-loving hero became a gothic joke of a hero, Penance, who, with an X-Treme! spikey costume, derived his powers from pain. It was an interesting direction for the character, to say the least.
Five years later, things seem to be primed for a character reversal. In the pages of Avengers Academy, we've seen Penance retired and replaced with a new, fragile -egoed Speedball. Thankfully not the bouncy airhead he once was, this new iteration of the character still seeks redemption, but this time without the walking Iron Maiden costume. Still, with all the development he's gotten over the years, he still hasn't done that one thing to show that he's learned his lesson. Enter The Home Front and Speedball's final lesson on being a true hero.
Speedball aside, the book does offer some neat insight to the denizens of the forgotten corners of the Marvel Universe during this latest crossover. From checking in with the Agents of Atlas and Cardiac to Mr. Fear and American Eagle, the book does it's best to leave no stone unturned.
In this latest issue, they've begun a short storyline involving some of my favorite young heroes - Thunderstrike, Amadeus Cho, and Power Man (X-23 and Spider-girl who I'm indifferent to) - written by one of my favorite writers (Paging Mr. Fred Van Lente) in which they are apparently going to be fighting Lovecraftian Samurai Warrior Sharks from the Deep. Insert your own superlative here. Needless to say, I'm pretty excited for it.
It's not a perfect book (few anthologies are), but it's a pretty damn good one that reads as a great companion to the main book. If your a fan of obscure Marvel, or just looking for a hero acting like a hero, you should totes check this book out. It's fun, intriguing, and makes Speedball interesting. And really, that's saying something.