‘Fallen Son’ Rises Above
I've found myself curiously moved by Jeph Loeb's Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America one-shots, the third issue of which hit stands next week. It's not that I wasn't disheartened to hear of Cap's death, just that in the grand scheme of things there are bigger tragedies with which to burden myself (and let's be honest, no one is ever REALLY dead in the Marvel universe). Nevertheless, as I was reading what is meant to be a series of issues that each approach one of the five stages of grief--denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance--I was surprised by how potently Loeb had tapped into them.
So I started reading up on it, and soon discovered that Jeph Loeb himself lost his seventeen-year-old son Sam to cancer in 2005--the impetus, he told Newsarama, for the series' title. Here's an excerpt of the interview:
"Unfortunately, due to the death of my own son, I knew a little too much about these stages...My intention and I believe everyone involved in this agrees, was to give the readers a sense of the loss that was being felt in the Marvel Universe. No matter what happens in future storylines, right now, right at this very moment, the people who are in this story whose lives were touched by the most beloved character (in my humble opinion) in the Marvel Universe are feeling something."
The media onslaught that precipitated and followed Captain America #25 in my opinion soured the milk on the importance of the event. Rather than reflect on Marvel's decision to kill one of its most significant characters, fans were force-fed the news until it was collectively dismissed (at least among readers I know) as a cheap publicity stunt worthy of Paris Hilton.
Now for the first time really, Cap's death has been placed in perspective. Fallen Son is not about shaping the Marvel Universe until the next big House of M or Civil War "changes everything." It's about grounding the event and taking a moment to examine the effects of loss, which Loeb has experienced all too personally.
While the Wolverine issue tackled denial and the Avengers issue anger, next week's will center around Cap himself and represent bargaining. The idea, as I understand it, is to explore whether he is really dead--as in the idea of a Captain America living beyond the life of Steve Rogers. Now in a literal sense, this means that someone like MVP could eventually don the costume and shield and carry on in Cap's name. But as with any loss, this carries the implications of not wanting to let go of something once it's gone, and also not wanting to accept any sort of replacement. I have no doubt we'll see fans who find the idea of another Cap insulting, so I expect the issue to address that sentiment head-on.
It's the human--or should I say mutant--condition that makes these books so compelling. In the wake of one of the most shameful comic publicity blitzes I've seen in recent memory, Loeb has crafted a very personal story that anyone can relate to, whether or not they're a fan of Captain America or even comic books. I know I'll be reading, and not because I read it on the cover of USA Today.