As set ups go, Book Of The Skull is a pretty damn good one. Gearing themselves up for their big Fear Itself mega-event, Marvel uses this one-shot to lay down the who, what, where and why of the series. From what the House Of Ideas has let slip, Fear Itself centers on the God Of Fear who empowers villains he feels are worthy as well corrupting some less stable heroes to snap. Book Of Skull draws the outline of who the God Of Fear is and how that power has fallen to Earth. It’s a layered story involving Captain America, Bucky, Namor, Red Skull and, of course, the Nazis.
It seems that Sin will be a focal point of Fear Itself so Ed Brubaker concentrates on her in the present day as well as Red Skull in the forties. Sin has come back to her father’s desert stronghold in order to begin something that her father failed to do. Brubaker keeps us in the dark about what exactly that but does allow Sin to spin a tale written in a book covered by the skin of dead Atlanteans (Namor’s people). Jumping back to the forties we catch up with the Red Skull who has sacrificed several of the Atlanteans in order to call to Earth a power for the Nazis. Tracking the Skull is Captain America, Bucky and a really pissed off Prince Namor.
From there we get an action battle with a giant god-like monster and a final shot of some kind of hammer. How this all ties into Fear Itself isn’t clear but I’d be willing to bet the plan Sin is looking to execute has something to do with it. What I enjoyed the most about Book Of Skull is that Brubaker decided to inject a human element into it, as well as really making the story more than an average one-shot. He knows that nothing about Fear Itself will really be revealed here but at the same time he takes pride in the story being a solid jumping off point. Brubaker never lets one panel go to waste, each one builds on the one before.
In the end Book Of Skull doesn’t shed much light on Fear Itself outside of a big blue giant and a hammer. What comes next will probably launch on the actual first issue so technically you don’t really need this one-shot to understand anything about the upcoming series. Still, if you enjoy the art of completion like I do and you’re in the mood for a good comic book yarn, Book Of Skull is worth the price.
I really enjoyed the art from Scot Eaton, his Red Skull is just awesome, and you can actually feel his evil and anger coming off the page. He has a great style with shadow and especially with facial expressions. Brubaker’s writing demands emotional are and Scot Eaton nails it. While I’m still not looking forward to another event series from Marvel, I really was surprised at how good Book Of Skull was. If only Brubaker was handling the entire thing, I might be more excited about it.
The cover from Marko Djurdjevic is going on my Best Of 2011 list right now. Such a beautiful cover.