After eleven issues, we reach the end. But much like the series as a whole, the finale is a bumpy ride. Not truly paying off the build up, but not really a right sendoff. The Fearless’ final installment at least closes the chapter on Fear Itself even if it ends on a “to be continued” moment.
Looking back on the series, it has been an uneven journey. Starting strong the series quickly descended into filler issues of pointless fighting. Compounded by unnecessary flashbacks and a loss of focus on Sin and you’d assume the whole venture was a failure. But the series did bring a lot of solid characterization for Valkyrie and lived up to the concept of touring the Marvel Universe. It may not have worked all the time, but in hindsight it was a more accomplished endeavor than the event it spun out of.
However this issue doesn’t deliver on the epic confrontation that has been building from day one. This is mainly due to the fact that Sin is inside the Final Sleeper and is no longer a character, but an obstacle to be overcome. Sin is now a boss fight as the narrative only really picks up after she has been defeated. Without a personality and interaction with Valkyrie the conflict is flat. But the writing team’s handling of Sin isn’t the only reason the issue fails to deliver. The plans Crossbones handed Dr. Strange have come in to play in a major way. But their predictable outcome lessens any real threat in the book. Even the heroic return of Valkyrior doesn’t hit the right buttons, as it was all too easy. Dr. Strange is, yet again, a deus ex machine. It doesn’t make you happy to see Valkyrie return, in fact it just creates a sense of apathy. The writing team tries to throw in an emotional beat about Valkyrie sacrificing her chance at love in the afterlife, but it does little to sell her resurrection.
Crossbones is perhaps the only part of the whole issue that works. His new motivations are somewhat out of character from previous depictions in this series but his devotion to Sin is quite sweet and he does get some of the better dialogue of the book. The book also succeeds in giving both Sin and Valkyrie new directions. As the battle finishes and the dust settles, the writing team leave the issue on a thematic high. Both Sin and Valkyrie have put their father figures and past motivations to bed. They have moved on to better things. Valkyrie’s new direction is a comic book waiting to happen and gives the character a new role within the Marvel Universe. As for Sin she is given D.O.A to command and it is nice to see that both Crossbones and Hellstrom have surrounded her. The future of villainy seems alive and kicking.
Like a lot of the recent issues, the art from Mark Bagley and Paul Pelletier has become indistinguishable. Neither outdoes the other, but also they don’t deliver anything visually interesting. This is quite a feat as the book is littered with big money shots; The Valkyrior returning, Dr. Strange resurrecting Valkyrie and The Final Sleeper being defeated. The artwork is solid, both artists delivering clear, frenetic action and detailed and emotive characters, but there is something lacking. This is due to the fact that nothing here hasn’t been seen before. However, Bagley’s layouts are more interesting than usual for the series. Bagley’s opening layout gives the sense that the fear wave is all encompassing and his soft edges on the afterlife scene have the required effect. The familiarity of the situation has lessened the impact of the art and both Bagley and Pelletier do a fine job but they never really hit the heights of previous issues.
So the series ends on mediocrity, which has been the only consistent tone of the whole project. Never realizing the potential it had in the first issue, but never really falling into an unreadable mess. Whereas Valkyrie has had a distinct push, Sin has not. Crossbones comes across as the most entertaining character of the series, as he once again becomes the most interesting thing in the narrative. The ending descended into predictability and the get out of jail free card that is Dr. Strange drained the threat out of the big bad. Although the issue ends on a high, which is only due to the intriguing potential of Sin and Valykrie’s new directions. The issue highlights the problems the series has had as a whole and now it’s all over there is a sense of relief rather than satisfaction.