The review is in...and it's not pretty.
Credits & Solicit Info:
FEAR ITSELF: BOOK OF THE SKULL #1
Written by ED BRUBAKER
Pencils by SCOT EATON
Cover by MARKO DJURDJEVIC
Variant Cover by JOE QUESADA
Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull #1, from Eisner Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker and artist Scot Eaton! FEAR ITSELF IS HERE...and the secrets of its origin will crack the very foundation of the Marvel Universe! Captain America and Namor have thwarted the Red Skull before – but when an ancient secret is forgotten, did they doom the Marvel Universe? Sin, the Skull's daughter, knows the truth and, this March, the cards are all laid out on the table as the shocking revelations behind 2011's most anticipated comics event are revealed, only in Fear Itself: Book Of The Skull #1!"
Book of the Skull is the prologue chapter to Marvel's newest event Fear Itself. Written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Scot Eaton, the issue's purpose is to introduce a couple of Fear Itself plot elements into the Marvel Universe for the upcoming event and tie them into Captain America's continuity. While Brubaker and Eaton succeed in accomplishing their objective, they do so in the blandest, most boring way possible.
The comic begins with Sin, the disfigured daughter of the Red Skull, cashing in on a favor owed to her by Baron Zemo to find one of her father's hidden lairs. Zemo tracks it down and helps her fight a couple of Nazi robot drones on their way to an evil book with evil things written inside. Sin and Zemo's dialogue throughout the six page sequence follows a basic pattern in which Zemo explains what he's currently doing on the panel while Sin crazily gives Zemo (and the reader) background to their situation while emphasizing how crazy she is. To be blunt, it's a pathetic exchange and lacks any of the quality that most readers expect from an Eisner Award winning writer.
Book of the Skull then enters a prolonged flashback featuring Captain America, Namor and Bucky chasing the Red Skull as the villain attempts to unleash an arcane weapon using evil arcane magic during the height of World War II. Atlanteans are crucified, frost giants are unleashed and Nazis are punched in the face. The story and dialogue during the flashback is a little more tolerable but still lacks any strong quality behind it. Bucky's dialogue, in particular, features more than a few cringeworthy lines. I understand that the dialogue is supposed to hearken back to old Invaders stories. However, it's hard to take a book seriously when one of main characters threatens to give Nazi stormtroopers a knuckle sandwich. Eventually, the story ends with the shocking development that the weapon sought after by both the Red Skull and Sin is a hammer similar to Thor's Mjolnir, a surprise basically given away by Fear Itself's marketing campaign.
Scot Eaton's art is serviceable but nothing spectacular. It's hurt by lackluster coloring that emphasized dull colors used to indicate that parts of the comic took place in the past and lettering that seems a bit too big for the panels. The illustrations lack any energy or excitement, which only exacerbates the sheer boringness of the comic. I suppose Eaton should be congratulated for matching the tone of Brubaker's writing. His flat and dull art compliments Brubaker's unimaginative writing.
It's hard to believe that Marvel actually felt fit to attach this joke of a comic to their first event in over a year. It's a wretchedly meaningless prologue that's even more disappointing when considering that the writer of the book has shown a firm handle on all the characters featured in the book. Whatever hype Marvel had built up over the last few months for Fear Itself was utterly wasted on this event. In fact, the only bright side I could find in this comic is that neither the writer nor the illustrator of this book will be involved with the main Fear Itself series. If this is the hook that Marvel plans to use on readers to get them interested in Fear Itself, I'll take a pass and save some money.
Review by: BlueStreak