It's stunning, really, that it took the very last issue of a 12-issue limited series about the aftermath of a seven-issue mega-event, stretching until the beginning of the next mega-event, to finally see the most powerful moment in the entirety of Fear Itself. You know, something we should've seen a lot more of if there was supposed to be a massive aura of fear blanketing the world. Something that justified the name. We get that glimpse in Fear Itself: The Fearless #12, the finale of what appeared to be Valkyrie's last stand.
In the face of Sin having gathered all the evil hammers and merged them into The Serpent's Destroyer armor along with herself, she's blasting out a massive, relentless wave of fear. And on the second page, two panels are stunningly moving. So much so that they prevented me from being able to turn the page for quite some time, as I couldn't stop thinking about how powerfully this came across.
Captain America, unable to stop himself from cowering behind his shield in fear, even though he knows better and is struggling against what his own emotions are doing to him. Wow. The more I look at these panels, rendered so well by either Paul Pelletier or Mark Bagley, the more weirdly misty-eyed I get at the sight.
This is the kind of thing I expected to see when I first heard about Fear Itself, and kept waiting for and never really got as it slowly, painfully unfolded over so many moons. Chris Yost wrote Fear Itself: Spider-Man, the best part of the whole endeavor and the only tie-in that had any sense of this fear aura, and since he has a story credit here alongside Matt Fraction and scripter Cullen Bunn, one has to think this moment is his doing. This is just a hint of what Fear Itself could've been, and why so many of us were entirely disappointed with it.
However, The Fearless has been fairly solid since the protracted game of "hammer tag" between Valkyrie and Sin ended and the real stuff began to build up to fulfill Valkyrie's long-standing death wish so that she might be reunited with her long-dead love Sigmund. At the end of #11, she had her neck snapped in battle, and all seems to be lost… save for perhaps the most unlikely hero of all – Crossbones. It seems Sin's nihilistic scorched earth plan doesn't sit well with him, and he just realized it, so he sticks a knife in the side of her grand master plan, allowing Dr. Strange the ability to bring Valkyrie back from the dead to kick all sorts of ass. And ass she does kick – ushering the Valkyrior back into the realm of Midgard with a vengeance, in spectacularly heroic fashion, complete with a long, triumphant Asgardian-style speech about how it's her destiny to kick as much ass as she's kicking.
For as stunned as I was by that small Captain America moment, this has really been a compelling character study of Brunnhilde, the oft-overlooked Valkyrie, and by all rights, it should put her on the top tier of Marvel's female heroes – but sadly, their top tier still rarely includes an actual solo title for any of them. Still, she's the female Thor, and she doesn't have an awful name like Thor Woman or She-Thor. One has to wonder if more or less people would've read this series if it didn't have the Fear Itself name, and was just a Valkyrie series.
Thankfully, judging by the set-up at the end of this book, it would seem that there's plenty of grist for a book of her own, and maybe the FI moniker will have been able to juice interest a bit. It seems Brunnhilde is a bit lost as to what to do, now that she's fulfilled her oath to the Allfather and has realized the reunion with Sigmund would come with the price of never knowing serenity – it seems the afterlife isn't kind to a Valkyrie – and thus no longer wishes for her end to come. So the Allmother decides to send her to Midgard to recruit eight new members of the Valkyrior to replace those that have had to sacrifice themselves to make sure the hammers are never to return again.
Let's hope that series comes to pass, as it's certainly one I'd read – especially if Bunn or Yost are at the helm. Hell, maybe Marvel can make an event out of launching 52 new female-led books all at once. Some of them have got to stick with that kind of publicity, right? Write your congressman! Or maybe just Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso.
In the meantime, you could do worse than reading Fear Itself: The Fearless when it comes out in trade. It's one of the best things about the entire event that can now, mercifully, be put to rest for good.