Fallen Son has dealt with the impact Captain America's death upon the Marvel Universe. Loeb's final issue centers on Iron Man's feelings and the theme of Acceptance. The issue's setting is primarily Arlington National Cemetery, the site of Captain America's funeral. Nearly all the unanswered questions brought up in this mini-series are answered.
Captain America's casket is being carried through the rain by an unmanned white horse. Tens of thousands of mourners have come together to celebrate the life of Captain America. Six pallbearers receive the casket. They are Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), Ben Grimm (aka the Thing), T'Challa (aka Black Panther), Carol Danvers (aka Ms. Marvel), Rick Jones, and Sam Wilson (aka the Falcon). They stand grimly over the casket as a new statue of Captain America shines across the rain. The first speaker is Tony Stark. However, he can not compose himself and has to leave the stage before saying anything of substance.
The next speaker is Captain America's longtime sidekick and friend, Sam Wilson. He calls out Captain America's other significant partner, Rick Jones. He describes how Captain America made him believe he could be a hero, that he could "be" the Falcon. He asks veterans of World War II to stand up and remember Captain America's legacy, including the Howling Commandos.
They remain standing as Sam calls out the superheroes that comprised the Invaders and All-Winners Squad with Captain America. Sam recalls how those people felt after they heard Captain America had "died" with Bucky Barnes before the end of WWII. They know the feeling of loss which marks this day. Sam goes in to how Captain America was found frozen in a block of ice. Carol whispers to Tony about what he remembered about that day. He replies that it was the "greatest day of my life." Yellowjacket and Wasp whisper a brief argument. Sam honors the role that Namor, the Sub- Mariner, played that day in rescuing Captain America from the block of ice. The heroes of the modern era who knew Captain America then stand up. Sam takes special note to point out Sharon Carter and Jarvis.
Meanwhile, the New Avengers watch the funeral on TV. Spider-Man wishes they could've gone to the funeral. Wolverine retorts that they just would've been arrested. Luke Cage affirms Wolverine's sentiments. A wistful Spider-Man still disagrees.
Back at the funeral, Sam's speech takes on a noble tone. He asks the crowd to look around and witness all the lives that Captain America touched. It is for this reason that Captain America's death can be a gift of hope and unity.
Three days later, a quinjet carries Iron Man, Wasp, and Yellowjacket to the spot where the original Avengers found Captain America. They carry the true body of Captain America with them. The body buried at Arlington was just a decoy to appease the public. Yellowjacket remarks that it is "pure Tony Stark." Tony Stark offers up a brief, but heartfelt, eulogy to Captain America that he couldn't quite say back at the public funeral. He misses him deeply and wishes that the core Avengers could all be here. Namor emerges from the cold depths of the sea. Iron Man asked him to be here for this moment. He takes it upon himself to let Captain America and his casket rest in peace. He gently lifts the casket and drops it into the sea's depths. The Wasp asks Tony to accept the new era that has been ushered in. Tony doesn't answer as the casket sinks into the blackness.
Fallen Son #5, while focusing on Iron Man, isn't really devoted to his feelings on Captain America's death. In this way, the issue's solicitation is a bit of a misleading tidbit. However, the decision to focus on the wider Marvel Universe works wonders, especially considering that Tony's feelings were dealt with in the Civil War: Confession one-shot. Furthermore, this is far and away the best issue of the Fallen Son mini-series.
Loeb wisely chooses to let the story be an organic outgrowth of the diverse feelings presented at the funeral. Part of the problem of this mini-series was that it was too narrowly defined on the specific feelings related to the grieving process. The reality of death is not a pre-defined cycle of emotions. Rather, a multitude of contradictory feelings is more the course. Loeb accurately, and movingly, captures this dichotomy rather than sticking to a single theme such as Acceptance. The beautiful thing about this issue is that Loeb is able to weave all of these feelings while coming up with a sort of "acceptance" by the end. This is the mark of a gifted storyteller, something that Loeb rediscovered for the final issue.
The funeral scenes were befitting of Captain America's nature. Sam Wilson's speech hit on all the right points about what makes Captain America such an enduring character despite his "man out of time" ethos. We respect both the man and the image of Captain America. Despite Steve Rogers's death, the legacy of Captain America can never be tarnished. Wilson's speech also highlighted just how old and enduring of a character Captain America has been on the Marvel Universe. He has connections with nearly every major character and age in the history of Marvel comic books. Captain America's evolution has been logical and increasingly relevant to American history but his core values have never changed or been diminished.
John Cassaday is the perfect artist to send this mini-series out on a high note. Cassaday's renditions of Captain America at different points in time show his true strength of character as well as providing a dynamic perspective of the character. The decision to use splash pages for these sequences was a nice touch. In fact, a typical reader should not really notice the numerous splash pages. One simply revels in Cassaday's mastery of the iconic images of Captain America.
However, there are a couple of points that detract from the emotional punch this issue packs. The inclusion of the New Avengers seems extraneous as an attempt to complete their story. We know that they are not invited based on previous events in the mini- series as well as in their own title. Thus, the revelation that they sit at home and watch on TV is not terribly an earth-shaking event as Loeb's script seems to want to say. Additionally, Wolverine and Luke Cage appear cruel in completely dismissing Spider-Man's feelings.
Loeb also manages to once again make Iron Man look like a jerk. For one, he doesn't offer a temporary olive branch to the New Avengers so they can attend the funeral. Secondly, readers of Civil War should puke when Tony cries in front of the public. I find it hard to believe that after all that has transpired that Iron Man feels remorse. Where was Iron Man's sadness when Bill Foster died? Or when Happy Hogan died (the irony being that Happy was trying to protect Tony)? Iron Man really needs to get his priorities straight and maybe re-think some of this futurist rhetoric he is spouting and take time to reflect on his actions. A funeral issue should not be the time to exposing Iron Man's fallacies.
The biggest problem of the issue was the revelation that the body in Arlington is a decoy. Make no mistake, I am not opposed to burying Captain America in the water where the Avengers first found him. One would hope that Iron Man would have had the guts to explain to the public the reasoning. There really is no harm in telling the America public that they're burying the real body out in the sea. Iron Man would not have had to give the precise location. Furthermore, he has Namor and the Atlantean army protecting the body from nefarious schemes. Iron Man keeping the location of Captain America's body a secret completely smacks of jealousy and further feeds the perception that Iron Man is a jerk.
This is by far the best script and art of the mini-series. There are still some lingering criticisms but the issue's emotional resonance transcends any faults.