This issue we finally get something from the Valkyrie side of the narrative, which is on par with the first issue of the series. Bunn, Yost and Fraction give the reader an intimate character moment that works, whilst building the pace as we rush to the series’ crescendo.
For the first time in a while, the flashback is actually entertaining. It still has the mandatory hints of plot points that will be relevant by the end of the issue, but instead of just ramming them down the reader’s throat, they are framed within a fun and playful action scene. There is always a sense of fun when The Invaders are involved and this little prologue doesn’t disappoint. Blazing Skull and Spitfire’s tiny conversation is a highlight, as his overtly sexualized remarks don’t go down well with the speedster. It almost seems like a small trailer for an Invaders series that’ll never be made, which is a tragedy. But to refrain from turning this review into an Invaders love-in, the flashback also offers up the alluring Enchantress. A character who’s criminally underused, but is startlingly effective here. Channeling the essence of Emma Frost, The Enchantress throws out her opinions on humanity and Odin, whilst delivering some more backstory to Valkyrie. It’s a solid opening to the issue.
The issue only gets better from there. The promised slugfest between Valkyrie and The Thing is turned on its head. What we get instead is a measured emotional moment for both the characters. The Thing’s reason for giving the hammer to Val is typically Ben Grimm. It may not be the most original character beat, but it’s delivered with conviction that reminds us why we enjoy Mr. Grimm in the first place. But it isn’t all emo declarations of the nature of guilt, as Valeria pops up to give Valkyrie’s section a bit of humor. She brings a smile as she reassures her Uncle (“I can handle daddy”) and it actually doesn’t seem out of place in the otherwise somber scene.
But as this is The Fearless, Valkyrie is only one aspect of this story. Crossbones and Sin continue their quest, with all violent gusto they can muster. As always Crossbones is a joy to read, self-assured in his ability to cause destruction. His assault on the raft with his grotesque new friends the D.O.A, is a solid action scene that throws in a few little things for the fans. We find out what happened to Titania after Fear itself and Marvel Vs Capcom fans will be happy as even Shuma-Gorath gets a mention. Readers of the Thunderbolts get something as well as Songbird, Mach-V and Luke Cage join the battle. Crossbones VS Cage will no doubt be something they’ll enjoy. But it’s not all about the siege of the Raft as we do get to see the sultry Sin (can someone with a red skull head be sultry?) carry on her plans in the final moments of the book. The cliff-hanger is more of a nice visual than an actual wow moment, but it does the job.
As for the art Pelletier continues to be the consistently more engaging artist. The opening flashback showcases his talents efficiently. The Nazis sneer in the most sinister of ways, Enchantress is a graceful beauty and the action is top notch. It’s fast paced and bombastic, as the Invaders go head to head with some giant robots. Valkyrie’s intervention is gorgeously depicted as Pelletier gives her and the battle a sense of devastating weight. He even manages to make Sin seem almost regal in the final pages. With the highlight being the kiss between her and Crossbones. It is this quality that he brings to the book that makes you wish he was drawing it all.
With that in mind it’s hard to say that Bagley isn’t needed. But even though he usually does astounding work on other books, this one is starting to look rushed like his work on DC’s weekly Trinity title. Although the scene between Thing and Valkyrie is perfectly fine, it is the dialogue that sells it and the art seems far too static. Also in light of Pelletier’s action scene, Bagley’s just doesn’t compare. It seems airy and lifeless with hollow violence punctuating the scene. Luke’s arrival panel seems off as the character seems to be floating even though his feet are planted to the ground. It’s just rushed and doesn’t stand up against the last couple of issues.
But apart from Bagley’s contribution the book seems to be back on track. All thoughts of Valkyrie being inadequate as a character, when it comes to shouldering a starring role in a comic, have subsided. A joyous opening flashback, a somber character scene, a chaotic island siege and a villain victorious merge together to deliver an entertaining slice of superhero fun. But even with problems this book is a far cry from the problematic previous issues.
WRITING: 4.5 / ART: 3 / OVERALL: 3.75