Captain America is still dead. After a brief interlude with Hawkeye (seen in Fallen Son #3, Fallen Son: Spider-Man follows up on the events depicted in the Avengers issue. This time around, Loeb tackles the fourth stage of the grieving process - depression. Naturally, Spider-Man, clad in his black costume, is the perfect choice for such an endeavor. Or is he?
It is a dark, rainy night. Peter Parker is standing over Uncle Ben's grave, pondering his fate in life. The narration states that many people close to Peter have unfortunately died while he was Spider-Man. The list includes his parents, Uncle Ben, Harry Osborn, Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, and now Captain America. Peter wonders if it is even possible to be a superhero in such an environment of death.
Peter's thoughts are interrupted by his Spider-sense. He leaps across several graves to find the Rhino. Without waiting for the Rhino to explain, Spider-Man mercilessly pummels the surprised villain. His thoughts remain with Captain America. Some webbing to the face enrages Rhino. Graves topple as the super-powered pair battle away. Rhino becomes distraught as a one particular grave crumbles away.
With a renewed sense of purpose, the Rhino strikes back at Spider-Man. All he wanted was to be left alone. The grave that was destroyed was the Rhino's mother. Spider-Man is remorseful but can't express it to the raging Rhino. Wolverine lurks in the shadows. He pops his claws in preparation for battle.
The Rhino rampage triggers a flashback in Spider-Man's mind. He is back in his red and blue costume at the mercy of the Hulk. Before the Hulk/Rhino can kill Spider-Man, Captain America leaps to his rescue. Spider-Man remembers the pure heroics of Steve Rogers. Spider-Man's remembrance of Captain America gains him a new sense of purpose as he pounds Rhino's gut and webs his face (Captain America smashes the Hulk in his vision). Finally, Spider-Man stands over a beaten Rhino and wonders how the superhero community will live on without Captain America. He has a warm memory of Captain America after he defeated the Hulk.
Wolverine steps out of the shadows. Spider-Man wonders why the feral mutant followed him all this way. He makes motions to leave Wolverine (they had a fight in Fallen Son #2). However, Wolverine follows him onto a skyscraper. Wolverine tries to console Spider-Man. Peter goes through a horrific flashback of Gwen being dropped to her death. Wolverine mentions to Spider-Man that Captain America refused to resurrect the Avengers if the other members did not accept Spider-Man. Spider-Man is shocked but professes disbelief (Wolverine was the last one recruited to the New Avengers squad).
Wolverine counters by saying he knows what Spider-Man is going through. He says that the grieving process goes faster each time but it will always stick with you. The emotional pain can be excruciating at times. Wolverine and Spider-Man come to the implicit agreement that life will get better. Spider-Man leaves, having a better appreciation for Wolverine.
David Finch joins Jeph Loeb for this issue. Finch has been maligned in the past for delaying titles due to his meticulous attention to detail. However, this particular issue proves that the final result is a thing of gritty beauty. Finch's rendition of Spider-Man is befitting of the character. Finch has Spider-Man in all his familiar poses and ably depicts how the strength and grace behind Spider-Man's fighting style. Similarly, Finch understands the utter monstrosity in a character such as the Rhino. The hyper-realistic expressions used by Finch create a terror that is hard not to gape at.
Finch's stellar work is best used by Loeb's script. The settings are tailor made to Finch's style and artistic aplomb. One gets the feeling that Finch is only continuing what he did on the recently re-launched Moon Knight title. This is certainly not a bad thing. I would love to see this artist on a monthly Spider-Man title, providing he can keep up with the workload and not delay it.
Unfortunately, Loeb's script does not deliver the goods. First, Spider-Man is not depicted as he is in the New Avengers title. Ordinarily this is not a deal-breaker for me. However, in this continuity conscious world that we live in, such a drastic change in character must be explained somehow. I would've liked some sort of indication of when the events of this issue take place in relation to New Avengers #27. No explanation given for Spider-Man's drastic reversal of behavior means that the reader is forced to choose between two vastly different depictions. Ultimately, Bendis's depiction came first so Loeb (whether he rightly deserves it or not) looks like he refuses to follow what came before him.
One of Loeb's inspirations for taking on the mini-series was the death of his son, Sam. I profess not to know what it is like to lose such a close loved one. With all due respect, I respect that Loeb is able to try to sort out his feelings through the superhero medium. Yet Fallen Son: Spider-Man, as well as some of the other entries in this title, don't really pack quite the emotional wallop I was expecting. Spider-Man may be depressed but he comes off as a jerk for not apologizing to the Rhino. Wolverine's mentoring of Spider-Man is a nice gesture but seems incredibly out of character. The old problem of rigidly fitting a story onto the characters crops up for Loeb.
Fallen Son is an ambitious effort on the part of Marvel and Loeb. I commend them for wanting to celebrate and examine the impact of Captain America's death on the Marvel Universe (and by extension the devoted readers of said titles). Unfortunately, Loeb has proven, so far, to be the wrong choice of writer for this project.
The webs given for this issue are solely for Finch's gorgeous artwork. Once again, Loeb's script screams of going through the motions. The reader never really understands why Spider-Man is so depressed. In addition, the imaginary sequences involving the Hulk and Captain America are so bizarre that they go beyond the usual bounds of horridness in a comic book.