Fantastic one-off obscure character spotlight!
Where "companion" titles to the main crossover events of the past few years (Civil War / WWH Front Line, Siege Embedded, etc) have been so-so or outright bad... this anthology title is REALLY succeeding. I'm enjoying this title more than I'm enjoying the core "Fear Itself" title; and that REALLY says something. Much of this is due to the great strength of Christos Gage's Speedball storyline that's serialized throughout this title's entire 7 issues. But it's not just that; each issue also has 3 other stories; 1 sequentialized, one a one-off featuring some obscure character, and the last being a one-page feature by Howard Chaykin giving various people's different POV of various events that have occurred in the main title. The Speedball story has been EXCELLENT, some of the prior one-offs have been quite good, and the Agents of Atlas Story that ran for the first 4 issues was alright.
This issue starts off a new feature that will run the final 3 issues, featuring a new teenage super team consisting of X-23, Amadeus Cho, Spider-Girl, Power Man and Thunderstrike. Not much happens in the first part of this story, but writer Fred Van Lente gives each of the characters a strong voice (helped in no small part to his having been pivotal in the development of both Amadeus Cho and Power Man; but he's adept at the other characters as well). Even if the overall story of this feature doesn't get much bigger than this, it's at least capable and a fun little read for Fred Van Lente's witty banter.
Howard Chaykin's "A moment with..." feature in this issue is the best so far (not saying much, as, while I'm always happy for new work from Chaykin, the previous installments of this feature have been mostly pointless). This issue's focus on Mr. Fear is well done and feels worthwhile; though ultimately feels like a ripoff of Scarecrow's scenes in Blackest Night.
This issue's one-off solo story really shines. Si Spurrier's American Eagle story is very well crafted and holds some of the most realistic depictions of modern Native American culture I've come across in the media outside of a Sherman Alexie novel. The art style of the story is a VERY strong fit; reminiscent of the art in "Scalped". This story accomplishes very much in very little space, and it is a huge breath of fresh air. Again, like with the Cardiac story a few issues back... I'd love to see more stories of this character from these creators.
This anthology has been a very strong book overall, and this is the strongest overall issue yet. It's so good that it's a terrible pity that it's only an event tie-in that will soon be over. Its strengths have come from its creators and not from the mood of "Fear Itself" laced throughout all the stories. If Marvel could launch a new volume of "Marvel Comics Presents" this strong, I would be thrilled, and it would probably become one of my favorite titles. Get this book's editor Lauren Sankovitch on that, STAT.