So far, Fear Itself has essentially been a Michael Bay movie. Stuff got loud, stuff blew up, big machines are blasting the shit out of everything in major cities, stuff only makes sense if you shrug it off and characters are negligible. It wasn't until the first issue of Fear Itself: Spider-Man that I was even able to glom onto the concept that there's supposed to be some kind of big fear-aura permeating New York City and driving the citizens out of their gourds with terror. Now, in #2, Chris Yost really ratchets up that tension to help us truly understand what's happening on the ground floor of Marvel's big event – the foundation that the big ka-booms are building on.
The ongoing pastiche of panic among the people of New York bleeds into Peter Parker's own constant heart-pounding fear of failure, tying directly into the recent "nobody dies" nervous breakdown he's seemed to have in Amazing Spider-Man (yes! some part of Fear Itself is actually taking note of continuity!), creating this palpable sense of impending doom weighing on everybody's shoulders. It doesn't help that Spidey has blacked out, only to wake up to find himself being eaten by rats. Lots and lots of rats. Spider-Man is being eaten by rats. Skeeve Central! Yeesh!
It's all a part of a fight with that poor sap named Vermin, a fight neither of them seems to want to engage in, but since they're both so fried with fear that they feel they have to smack each other around. Although Spidey pulls it out, his zipping around New York includes the concern that he probably now has rabies. Ain't that a bite in the ass? Don't answer that, as he probably still has a rat tooth lodged in there.
Some might think the 'god, I'm afraid, so afraid' mantra comes off as heavy-handed, but that's what this whole story is supposed to be about. It's bad enough to be scared – well and truly scared – for a few moments in a fight-or-flight situation, but imagine if that feeling, intense as if your life was being threatened in that very second, just never went away. It was constantly there, at that level, even if you were just sitting on a bench doing nothing. That's the feeling Yost manages to get across here, helping us to understand why everybody's such a crazy-go-nuts jagoff in all the other books.
Now, I'm relatively new to the Spider-titles of today and thus I don't have a lot of experience seeing my beloved J. Jonah Jameson as the mayor of New York in his post-Bugle life, but if they've established a Batman/Gordon kind of rapport as shown here, except with Gordon in this case making sure to cuss Batman out for as long as he's in his face, I'll be pleased as punch. It works great, as JJJ refuses to acknowledge being scared – such is the strength of his will. Give this man a Green Lantern ring, and lose the Hitler 'stache. As much as I like the silly notion that Jameson refuses to let that Nazi prick dictate acceptable facial hair, it just needs to go. Unless it ties into all these Nazis attacking. Hot damn, if JJJ shows up in DC and takes command of the Nazi hordes because they think he's Hitler, it'll more than justify itself.
But I digress. When the three storylines about the accidental gunman, the desperate pregnant woman and harried reporter converge in a church, this becomes an illustration of the role faith can play in overcoming that constant fear of loss and the unknown. And that, along with every other illustration in this issue, is something Mike McKone handles well throughout. That rat-eating sequence in particular is just so damn chilling it'll make your skin crawl.
All in all, Fear Itself: Spider-Man seems to be the only book in this big event series so far that's really doing its job – making us feel that fear in which the rest of Marvel's earth is completely drowned. Every one of these mega-events tends to need its tie-ins to fill in the glaring blanks, and for Fear Itself, this is it.