Book of Doom: Fallen Son #2: New Avengers

It’s the Legion of Doom’s weekly roundtable review – The Book of Doom – and this week, for the first in what will hopefully be a regular feature of the Book of Doom, we’ve got a special guest – Matt from Another Damn Comic Blog. This week’s selection is the second in the “Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America” series, entitled “Anger,” which stars The Avengers.

I loved the first issue, so I had high expectations coming into this story. I’ve been very disappointed with Jeph Loeb lately, but #1 was so good that I thought maybe he was rushing through his other work to focus his attention on this series.

Issue #2 left me with mixed feelings. It wasn’t as good as issue #1, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was bad, because #1 was so good. I liked the approach Loeb took – one team of Avengers deals with their anger over Captain America’s death by taking it out on “the bad guys,” while the other team takes out their anger on each other. One is overt expressions of anger, the other is more subtle.

The problem with this situation is that, in order for the character arc to work, the players had to realize that they were letting their anger get the best of them, and they had to get a handle on it and redeem themselves. That happened with the New Avengers. But the situation with the Mighty Avengers fell flat for several reasons.

First off, they were battling sea monsters. Losing control is less apparent with giant dragons and octopodes than it would be with some powerless street thug, who could easily be beaten far beyond his ability to defend himself or retaliate. It’s much harder for the reader to cast the necessary judgment on the attackers if the victims can’t do much to express a relatable degree of pain or helplessness. If not for a little bit of forced dialog and Namor’s sermon, it would have been completely lost on me that the Mighty Avengers were taking their anger out on anything, much less even feeling angry. It was just absolutely the wrong scenario to communicate their anger had consumed them. So what we were left with was a mundane, disconnected battle paired with a card game. Had the battle been more profound, the contrast between the two situations might have worked better. As it was, I felt bored.

Disappointment aside, I do have to give props for one fantastic piece of subtle storytelling – the type of thing that makes me give every little decision the benefit of the doubt. It’s no mistake that, in the last panel, Spider-Woman’s mask is off. Whether that’s Loeb’s handiwork or a contribution of Ed McGuinness, that was a profound decision, given the context of that particular wardrobe detail and what it came to symbolize throughout the story. If nothing else, great work on that last panel, gents.

Here’s what the rest of the posse had to say…

Doom Deloiuse:

For the last thirty seconds, I’ve been considering to send that in as my full review of this issue. Jeph Loeb has given up, I think. Seriously, folks, if you argue that he’s not just phoning in 90% of his stuff, I’ll be glad to swing by your place of residence and beat you to death with a tire iron. Saying that would just be wrong. I’ll give you one thing: The first issue of Fallen Son was great. This one? Not so much. The Avengers are angry! Oh, no! Also, telling the stories of both Avenger teams side-by-side is a poor choice. The New Avengers are playing poker! The Mighty Avengers are fighting more giant stupid creatures that look just like the ones they’re fighting in their own series, minus the naked hot chick in the middle of the battlefield.

Man, this just sucks. And Spider-Man’s a pansy. I’m done talking about it. Absolutely without worth.

Jean-Claude Van Doom:
Well, it’s been a handful of days since I read Fallen Son, and I can’t really remember what happened in it. I know the good-but-bad Avengers were fighting a monster and the bad-but-good Avengers were playing cards. And they were all kinda pissed, except nobody seemed as mad as they should, aside from Spider-Man at the very end. Maybe it’s because I know Cap isn’t staying dead, or because I don’t like the new status quo in the Marvel U, but all of these books that are sort of reactions to Civil War just don’t interest me. I have Marvel malaise, I guess you could say.

I grant that this could’ve been a perfectly good book to people who care (although I have my doubts), but I’m not on that list. I’m glad that Marvel’s at least acknowledging the death of its biggest hero, but I’m more interested (marginally) in the books that lead into the future, like Dan Slott’s Initiative.

Fin Fang Doom:
Fallen Son: Avengers wasn’t a bad comic by any means. The art was good, the writing was good, and I certainly enjoyed it more than the Wolverine issue. The parallel storytelling was pretty cool, except when it would cut away to just one story for a one or two page spread. But I’m still not sure if I’d consider it a good issue, or even a worthwhile one.

The idea of the Marvel superheroes grieving Captain America’s death is one that definitely needed to be addressed after Cap “died” last month. I don’t think this mini-series was a very good format for doing that, though. Character moments completely out of context of these characters lives don’t hit home the way that they could have. I’d rather see the characters grieving in there own titles, and having that grief affect the choices they make and actions they take involving whatever’s going on when Cap died. Like Wolverine is fighting Sabretooth and then he snaps out of anger over Cap’s death and does something really nasty to ‘Tooth. Or Spider-Man’s battling Sandman and gets the crap kicked out of him because he’s so depressed.

I guess my biggest complaint is that the issue just seemed sort of obvious. If the stage of grief is anger, you’ve got two choices: anger at your friends or anger at your enemies. So the New Avengers take the first one and the Mighty Avengers take the second one. From that point, anyone could have written the issue. Jeph Loeb didn’t deliver anything that I wasn’t expecting to happen. And since I don’t read either monthly, I don’t care enough about these teams to enjoy a short story featuring each doing something completely random during which they happen to be grieving.

Fallen Son seems to have the same problem that World War III had: I don’t care about every character in the universe, so I don’t care how every character deals with something major happening. I just want to know about the characters that I want to know about. And I just don’t want to know about the Avengers these days.

And here’s special celebrity guest comic blogger Matt from Another Damn Comic Blog:
Color me surprised.

Going in, I wasn’t expecting much out of this one. I’ve about had my fill of “Cap is dead” silliness, and Jeph Loeb’s comics work hasn’t wowed me for quite a while.

And even though this issue doesn’t necessarily “wow” me, either, I have to admit that it is a good deal better than I initially expected.

I like the dichotomy in the way the two Avengers teams deal with their anger over their loss. The Mighty Avengers do so using the oh-so-cliched “superheroes punch stuff too work out their issues” plot device, which is less yawn-inducing than you’d expect it to be when used here.

The New Avengers are where it’s at for me. Aside from the fact that I just plain like the line-up better, the New Avengers deal with anger in a far more subtle, human way. For them, the rage bubbles just beneath the surface, waiting to burst out. It’s not perfectly executed, but it works well enough.

The most interesting bit of the issue, for me, is the exchange between Spidey and Wolverine. Without saying so, it’s kind of a quick, interesting little look at the vastly different ways these characters deal with death and loss. For Logan, death is a regular part of life. Peter, however, takes the hit much more personally.

I’m also a big fan of Ed McGuiness’ art, so having him on art chores didn’t hurt.

It definitely wasn’t a perfect issue, but I enjoyed it enough that I’m willing to give the next issue a chance.

Thanks Matt, thanks Doomies, and thanks you who look at this screen for stopping by. Check back in on Tuesday for next week’s selection and every Saturday for the BOOK OF DOOM!