Writer: Jim Valentino (Writer/Plot), Howard Wong (Creator/Dialogue)
Artist: Marco Rudy
Publisher: Image Comics

Athletes, like actors or musicians, are entertainers. And as much as we, as a society, love to build people up, we love to tear them down, or at least make popcorn and enjoy their tumble from grace. It’s part of the tendency in the human species to want to see our heroes brought low, to revel in their downfalls and use their failings as proof that they were never really better than us after all. And we are just as entertained by train wrecks as we are super star performances.

Superheroes are constantly being constructed and deconstructed. It’s the nature of their mythology which lends itself to this process. And this can be done to great effect and plumb the depths of an icon’s character. It’s part of what makes Frank Miller’s Daredevil run and his Dark Knight Returns such classics. Unfortunately, After the Cape, despite its promise, won’t come close to such classics.

“It feels like we’ve been living this crappy life of ours forever, but after today, that’s all going to change.” –Ethan

After the Cape is the story of Ethan Falls (subtly named), also known as Captain Gravity; a hero with clay … everything. Drummed out of the super hero biz due to his drinking problem, he is much like the flawed hero, Tony Stark/Iron Man. Unfortunately, Ethan continues to use his powers, and because has to support his family, he turns to crime. That is pretty much the entire character study and plot. The story takes several issues to go not much further than that.

When we think of “The Fall”, we go back to the story in Genesis about the sin of Adam and Eve. Moving beyond a literal interpretation of the story, Adam’s sin represents man seeking his own way. Our pursuit of what we hope to create out of rebellion (the lie of independence), attempting to write our own stories; all the while ignoring the grand story of which we’re a part. The Fall also gives us the main themes of Story. Relationships are broken and look at what we arises from this conflict: man vs. man; man vs. God; man vs. self; man vs. Creation. One of the things that makes suffering so bad is the sense, the part of us that knows, that things aren’t as they’re supposed to be.

“This can’t be happening.” –Ethan

Ethan’s fall came with the temptation of power, specifically to misuse power (much like Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the desert). Having been given free will, he, like the rest of us, is free to make good or bad choices … and must face the consequences of those choices. Ethan chose to short cut his way through life, to cross the line, and use his gifts for his own ends (even good, justifiable ends)

“You ruined your own life.” –Shadow Stalker

On the flip side, the mark of a hero isn’t the catalogue of his imperfections, but what he does in spite of them. Heroes only fall so far because they’ve been placed to high in the first place. Some of this is understandable, as heroes are to be held to a higher standard (thus part of why we come to resent them and infer a sense of superiority to them).

Even after a fall from grace, when you’ve watched everything you’ve worked for crumble about you, there’s still hope for redemption. God can still use fallen heroes. Yes, you have to pay the consequences, pick up the pieces, and start over, but that’s the process. Wallowing in your guilt is just as stifling as not facing your sin. Face what you’ve done and repent, then realize that at some point you’re done repenting. You bear the consequences, whatever they may be, and move on. The journey back to being a hero, to be what we were created to be, has to be a careful process.

“He’s still one of us, even if he thinks differently. And we don’t abandon our own.” –Paladin

After the Cape uses up enough black ink to make me think I picked up an issue of Sin City. The art manages to convey a world shrouded in shadows, and black and whites. Unfortunately, the story was a potentially intriguing character study undermined by not straying from the familiar path of its theme. Its lack of real exploration as it sticks to very surface treatment might have more of an emotional resonance if we “knew” these heroes. Instead, it comes across as deconstruction for deconstructions sake. And thus is ultimately unsatisfying.