I am, in far too many ways, a Jeph Loeb apologist. This isn't because I think that Loeb is some kind of underrated genius or anything - He isn't, although I maintain that his first six issues of Superman/Batman are a lost pop art gem - but just because I think that he gets waaay too much shit online. To read most of the things that have been written about him, you'd think that he was singlehandedly responsible for the downfall of the superhero comic through his work on things like Batman or Supergirl. It's pretty unfair, I think - There are some things that he's very good at; when it comes to big dumb old-school superhero epics that hit every fanboy erogenous zone without caring about such things as "logic", for example, he's pretty much in a league of his own (and I mean that as a compliment, believe it or not). It's just that there are some things that he's not so good at. Subtlety, for one. Sadly, FALLEN SON: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 is the work of the Jeph Loeb who wants to be subtle and sensitive instead of the one who wants to knock your socks off. And it pretty much sucks.
You can tell that it's going to suck from the start of the book, which opens with the somber cover of Civil War: The Confession (Cap's blood-splattered shield!) above the title of the comic, followed by the somber cover of Captain America #25 (Cap's glove, with a handcuff around his wrist, against a blood-splattered newspaper!), proving that Marvel definitely tries to get the most value from their artists, didn't have any other use for those two pages, and want you desperately to feel how serious this comic is going to be. Sadly, that's then followed up with the first page of the story, which ends with dialogue so bad that you start to wonder if the two covers were there to postpone the story until the last possible minute:
"Nobody would want to see what I saw. Don't you get it? It was - - The death of Captain America."
The first thing on the next page? The words "The Death of Captain America" is red, white and blue. By page five of the comic, the phrase "The Death of Captain America" has appeared three times; it's as if someone got worried that you'd forget what comic you were reading, and took appropriate action. Sadly, this is the most interesting thing about the entire book - Everything from that point onwards is a downward spiral of pointlessness. The plot revolves around Wolverine not believing that Captain America is dead (Didn't he see the two reprint covers or the three mentions of the title of the comic?), and breaking into SHIELD headquarters to find out the truth along with Daredevil. Why does he need Daredevil, you may ask? Well, because Daredevil's heightened senses will help him question the man they think shot Cap. Sure, Wolverine himself has heightened senses that could probably do the same thing (Am I completely misremembering scenes where he could literally smell if someone was lying? I almost hope that I am), but then Lenil Yu wouldn't have the chance to draw a "cool" double page spread of Daredevil and Wolverine jumping over each other. By the end of the book, Wolverine finds a corpse (although we don't see the corpse's head except in silhouette, interestingly enough) and seems to be convinced, as he explains to Iron Man in a fine example of Loeb's increasingly odd dialogue:
"I don't see his shield. How you going to play this, Stark? That Steve Rogers is dead, but Captain America will live on? That's what you'd like, right? You people..."
Yes, it really does mix bold and italics like that, with the strange emphases; it's like that all through the book, for no immediately obvious reason, as in the following:
"You want me to go back and tell them. Anybody who had hope. Who are in denial. Luke Cage. Spidey. The other Avengers. That I've got proof."
As you can tell, by the end of the book, Wolverine is convinced that Cap is, indeed, dead - Good thing too, considering there's another four issues of this series left - but that still doesn't really give you enough story for 32 pages. It's literally "Wolverine doesn't believe he's dead. Then he sees the body, and he's convinced. The end." Everything else is what we've seen far too much of from Marvel since the start of Civil War: Characters telling each other how important the stories are. That's what the whole issue is about - The idea that Captain America is "really" dead, and that this is serious and for keeps this time (as emphasized at the open of the issue, when the formerly-dead Bucky and Wolverine discuss the fact that people don't tend to stay dead in the Marvel Universe). The only problem is, it's not for keeps; we all know that, and spending 32 pages to try and tell me any differently isn't going to convince me or seem like anything other than a waste of time, an insult to my intelligence, and an attempt to try and milk this storyline for all its worth. Awful, despite the pretty art by Yu.