Straight Shooter

Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America — Wolverine
Story: Jeph Loeb
Art: Leinil Yu
The highlight of this book is the cute way that Marvel thinks they've got us fooled. "Oh, no," is the tone of the book, "Captain America is so totally dead, like for real." This is comics, though, where nobody - Captain America's Bucky, Batman's Jason Todd, Illustrated Bible Classics' Jesus - stays dead for long. Especially when the deceased in question is one of the company's most popular, bankable characters.

The storyline - Wolverine wants to get to Captain America's body so he can verify that Steve Rogers is really dead - suffers from the usual problem plaguing these massive crossover issues. Seems like we jump every few panels to a new setting and character. If you're excited by the prospect of a single 24-page issue including Wolverine, Winter Soldier, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Daredevil, welcome to comic books, you must be new here.

This issue, of course, is full of dialogue about grief and acceptance, and delivered straightfaced by men in silly costumes. No matter how good a writer Loeb is, it's pretty obvious that an indestructible guy with claw hands is better suited to fighting than debate. Wolverine kicks a little ass toward the end, but we're like halfway through the book when we get our first "snikt" sound effect.

The art is pretty awesome, though, and if you're for some reason collecting Death of the Captain books, you'll want to pick up this issue. Plot-wise, there's not a whole lot here, though, for geeks my age who grew up on the Death of Superman and Knightfall sagas, the whole scenario seems too similar. Waiting to see how Captain America comes back feels a little like visiting your neighbor's makeshift haunted house one Halloween too many. It's sort of entertaining to watch somebody trying to convince a group of teenagers that a bowl of cold spaghetti is really corpse hair, but all the suspense is gone. And the way they insist you stick your hand in the bowl anyway is kind of creepy and sad. Here's to a quick end to this Civil War, and everybody moving back into their own damn books.

Army @ Love #1-2
Story: Rick Veitch
Art: Veitch and Gary Erskine

Army @ Love
's busting at the staples with irreverent attitude and jokes at the expense of American consumerism, so I'm guessing it's supposed to be satire. What's confusing, though, is satire should be funny, or at least mean something right? A@L, presumably attempting to make a statement about the second Iraq War, takes the easy way out on both the battlefield and the home front. While troops fight an endless war in the dreaded Afbhagistan, life in America remains as shallow and oblivious as ever. When the action stays stateside, the complaints are fairly legit. For example, the book speculates, music will devolve in the near future until it's reduced to being released as cell-phone ring tones. Not exactly Catch-22, but it's a decent observation.

But when the series travels to the Middle East, the setting for most of the action so far, the story stalls. Apparently, if you'd believe Veitch, the solution to the military's dearth of troops for an unpopular war is better advertising. The Army moves women to the battlefront and bills the war as an orgy of limitless sex and violence - "spring break on steroids" - and their stop-loss problems are over. Spring break's a fitting comparison, because the characters introduced thus far have the depth of Girls Gone Wild flashers, except for maybe eliciting even less sympathy.

This war is ripe for spoofing, but the soldiers fighting in it seem like a pretty unfair target. Many of the people fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are being manipulated by their government for sure: They're poor or they're immigrants or they've bought into the anti-terrorism propaganda produced by the White House since, like, September 12, 2001. But A@L portrays these soldiers not as disadvantaged teens or misguided patriots, but as white-collar frat daddies and sorority chicks with no real motivation other than the next thrill or keg party. In other words, exactly the sort of people who are least affected by the war but most likely to defend its importance. Maybe I was wrong, and A@L's more fantasy than satire. But either way, it isn't very good. 

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