World War II in the Marvel Universe must have been absurd. On the side of the Axis Powers we have, among others, a man with a pink bag on his head and a man whose entire skull is exposed and blood red. Then, on the Allies, we have a naked man in green panties, a robot continually on fire and a dude decked out in the colors of the American flag. I’m not sure, amidst the horrors of war, which would be scarier. Wait, I know — the superheroes. Bright red skeleton men would be expected.
Ed Brubaker seems to be embracing the silliness of the Marvel Universe’s psedo-reality shtick, resisting the urge to keep events grounded and mundane. Which is funny, because Brubaker has historically been a crime guy, so it’s been fun watching him branch out into comic book crazines as in Captain America: Reborn. He gives us the goods immediately in Fear Itself: Book of the Skull — on Page 2, we have languished Nazi robots. Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter, gleefully shrieks that she’s a far worse villain than her dad. Then there’s a book whose cover is bound in the skin of dead Atlanteans. And, in a flashback, Red Skull remarks that he “exterminated a gypsy tribe for the secret dead language carved into their backs at birth.”
I love comics.
Fear Itself: Book of the Skull cuts between Sin and Baron Zemo seeking the aforementioned Atlantean skin book to carry on for her father while, in the past, we get an idea of what Red Skull was looking for. Then Captain America, Bucky and Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner fight Nazis and a conjured Frost Giant. Unfortunately, I don’t know if one needs to read this chapter in order to appreciate the upcoming Fear Itself event, but I’m sure it will appeal to readers who want to know every facet of the story. As long as the main series is self-contained enough, I’ll be happy.
Despite Brubaker’s writing, Captain America stuff feels requisite, as if it was decided that there needed to be superheroes in the story to make readers pick it up. The main thrust of the book is Sin and Baron Zemo, which is fine and entertaining in the same way that stuff like Thunderbolts and Secret Six are entertaining. Watching supervillains interact is always fun because their alliances are always uneasy. This would have benefitted from sticking with the villains’ perspectives (I presume we’ll have enough of that in the main series) and left the heroes as minor characters.
I’d hardly call it a must-read, but Fear Itself: Book of the Skull is a suitable book to whet the appetite if of those chomping at the bit for Fear Itself to go into full swing in a couple of weeks.