For those living under a rock, Captain America died recently in issue #25 of his own series. Fallen Son aims to examine the implications of his death in the wider Marvel Universe. Purportedly, each issue deals with a different emotion related to death. The series' constant is writer Jeph Loeb. However, the artists and characters featured are not. This issue features the artistic talents of Ed McGuiness and focuses on the anger that the Mighty and New Avenger teams feel.
The Mighty Avengers are in pursuit of the supervillain, Tiger Shark. Iron Man is initially absent from the strike force. He mentions to Ms. Marvel how Wolverine caused a problem earlier on the Helicarrier (see Fallen Son #1 for the full details). Concurrently, the New Avengers are preparing for a poker game with the Thing at the Sanctum Sanctorum. The Thing warmly greets Wong. Dr. Strange is in his astral form.
The Mighty Avengers discuss the path chosen by their New counterparts. Some members remain wary about capturing their friends. However, Ares displays a confident front. The uneasy conversation is broken by the appearance of Tiger Shark. Ms. Marvel yells out "Avengers Assemble!" Back at the Sanctum Sanctorum, the Thing exchanges pleasantries with Luke Cage and attempts to converse with Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Spider-Man is in a dour mood over Captain America's death. The poker game begins with the Thing's signature phrase "It's Clobberin' Time!"
Ms. Marvel leads the charge against Tiger Shark. The Wasp and the Black Widow provide back-up. They face off against the sea monsters that Tiger Shark has gained control of. Black Widow mentions that the Sentry is absent due to a therapy session. Ares and Wonder Man begin to beat back the monsters. The poker game begins back at the Sanctum Sanctorum. Iron Fist mentions that he is covering for his teammates. The Thing mercilessly teases Spider-Woman while a saddened Spider-Man looks on. Spider-Woman does not take the Thing's insults well and Spider-Man has to calm her down. Luke Cage wearily announces that they should just play.
The battle with Tiger Shark continues. Ms. Marvel goes head to head with the dangerous villain. His latest scheme is only to prove that he isn't second-rate and can stand up to an A-class team such as the Mighty Avengers. At the same moment, Spider-Man brings up Captain America's death to the assembled poker players. Everyone else seems to want to focus on the poker game. Spider-Man, obviously in a deep funk, folds.
Wonder Man's battle with a sea monster gets him swallowed up. The Wasp has a plan to get him back. Black Widow provides fire support. The Wasp fires her sting blasts at the monster's eye. Severely irritated, Wonder Man uses the opportunity to pry open the monster's jaws and escape. Several Young Avengers (including Patriot and Hawkeye) try to sneak out but catch the eye of Luke Cage. They exchange heated retorts. Iron Fist convinces Luke that they will be safe from danger. He wants Luke to forgive the youthful retorts of Patriot and just let it go. They've been through a rough year.
The Black Widow is in trouble. Her assault leaves her about to be crushed by one of the sea monster's gigantic clawed feet. The Sentry arrives in the nick of time to grab and throw the sea monster far away from the battle scene. He exchanges some witty repartee with Black Widow. The Sanctum Sanctorum poker game receives a new guest: Wolverine. He makes a motion to sit at the table and be dealt in. However, Spider-Man replies by saying the empty chair is for Steve Rogers. Wolverine peers at Spider-Man and says he won't be here. Captain America is truly dead. Wolverine saw the body. When Spider-Man refuses to believe, Wolverine tries to convince him otherwise. Spider-Man breaks down and angrily grabs Wolverine out of the chair and tells him to shut up.
Ms. Marvel's throw-down with Tiger Shark continues. She angrily denounces the villain's latest bid for legitimacy. She ferociously pounds on the overmatched Tiger Shark. Black Widow looks on with awe in her face. A similar sequence plays out between Spider-Man and Wolverine. It ends with Wolverine pointing his sheathed claws at Spider-Man's face.
Ms. Marvel's beat-down of Tiger Shark is interrupted by Namor. He uses a horn to send the monsters back to the depths of the sea. He denounces the revenge filled outburst of Ms. Marvel saying that it won't help to salve the impact of Captain America's death. Namor hurriedly leaves, telling the Mighty Avengers not to interfere with Tiger Shark's justice. Ares asks Ms. Marvel if they won. She replies yes but is obviously not convinced. Meanwhile, the Thing manages to end the conflict between Wolverine and Spider- Man. Spider-Man goes to head home, obviously still dejected. Wolverine wants to follow him home to make sure Spidey will be alright. Luke Cage gives his consent. The card game resumes, albeit with a lingering tension in the air.
Jeph Loeb is anything but a status-quo writer. We can not say that he is going through the motions. However, this issue of Fallen Son falls far short of having any sort of lasting impact for the reader. The plot gimmick of the mini-series is that each issue is one step of the grieving process after a death. This issue apparently deals with anger. But it really doesn't - at least not in a focused and thoughtful way. Instead, the Mighty Avengers and New Avenger's anger issues are portrayed in a childish light. Captain America would be disappointed.
The format of the issue gets the reader initially excited. Nearly every page is equally devoted to the scenes taking place between each team. However, Jeph Loeb conveniently makes the developments that take place roughly consistent. This is despite the fact that the Mighty team is taking down a super-villain while the New team plays a friendly game of poker. The believability of similar scenarios taking place in two completely different settings strikes as unbelievable, even for a superhero book. And let us not forget that each team has different characters with diverse personalities. Is Loeb suggesting that the character archetypes are so bland on each team to be interchangeable? I certainly hope not. And I would expect Brian Michael Bendis to disagree as well, considering he is writing both titles.
The biggest problem is that Loeb is using his characters to fit the style and substance of his story. The character interactions already seem pre-defined by Loeb's approach. This is partly die to the sequencing of the panels on each page. However, Loeb also does not account for the fact that neither scenario is terribly interesting. Anger in a battle scene is something we have seen time and time again in Marvel titles. The fact that Ms. Marvel viciously punches out Tiger Shark should not be considered anything new. These guys have super-strength for crying out loud. Furthermore, the Spider-Man/Wolverine throw-down was terribly forced. You'd think Logan would have some sympathy for Spider-Man. And you would also expect Spider-Man to be happier, as he is portrayed in New Avengers by Bendis. This is another example of Loeb's story getting in the way of established characterization and continuity.
Admittedly, Anger is a tough emotion to capture. However, we have seen Loeb capture its essence in the past. Therefore, it is somewhat shocking that Fallen Son contains no real emotional resonance or backbone. We get a series of scenes that depict characters throwing temper tantrums. Readers looking for an analysis of anger on par with Peter David's run on the Incredible Hulk will be sorely disappointed. Nothing really happens in this story and not in a good way.
Ed McGuinness's art is entirely competent but lends nothing to the overall story. It doesn't really capture the mood that Loeb's script calls for. In fact, issue one's artist, Leinil Francis Yu, would have been more suited to this type of story. There is nothing wrong with McGuiness's characters and backgrounds. It is just that McGuinness is not really suited to drawing a dark and grim story. He fares better in the big battle which is the crux of the Mighty Avengers' plot but woefully falls short of providing the necessary environment for the poker game that takes place for the New Avengers.
Nothing terribly interesting was done in this issue. Loeb's contention that anger was a central theme in this story proved to be inaccurate. There was very little emotional substance to the issue. In addition, Spider-Man's dark attitude is in stark contrast to how he is normally depicted in Bendis's New Avengers title.