All Fall Down
Written by Casey Jones
Art by Jason Reeves, Brian Brinlee, Gian Fernando, Anvit, Pericles Junior, Barnaby Bagenda
Color by Cirque Studios, Al Jerek Torrijas
Letters by Andrew Diroll-Black
Edited by William T. Marks
Release Date: December 6, 2011
Cover Price: $19.95
Ah, the old “superheroes lose their powers” story. GoD’ers have undoubtedly seen this storyline hundreds of times. Nearly every comic hero must endure this rite of passage where they lose their power and prove that their heroism comes from more than just their super-strength and heat vision. Given the countless derivations of this concept, writer Casey Jones presents an amazingly unique twist on the one of the most common story angles in his debut comic, All Fall Down.
Sophie Mitchell, a teenage girl, inexplicably absorbs the powers of every superhero and villain in the world, which leaves her as mankind’s only hope to rescue kittens from trees and stop a huge planetesimal chunk from vaporizing the Earth. The implication is that, before, thousands of superheroes streaked through skies in search of evil mastermind plots to foil. That is, until The Fall – when young Sophie Mitchell involuntarily becomes Siphon. The other superheroes instantly lose their powers. If they just happened to be flying, running at Mach 3, or shape-shifting at the time, well, they’re screwed.
All Fall Down is really about accepting that life can drill you in the head with a knuckleball and how you get back up. The story focuses on The Pantheon, a world-renowned, Justice League-ish group of five heroes: Portia, Phylum, Pronto, Plymouth, and Paradigm. These five characters lived to be superheroes — it was their life’s passion. Each character copes with the devastating loss of power in individual ways; several Pantheon members suffering deep depression and alcoholism, while others attempt to cope, put on a strong front, and provide comfort for the others.
Casey Jones rises up to the challenge of penning a fresh take on this story angle. Jones’ characters are well-planned, engaging, and would fit snugly in any major comic universe. They are new, but familiar characters that quickly flesh out and become captivating. Jones is also an unabashed sadist of a writer: he has no qualms about physically and mentally destroying his characters. Many writers simply can’t let go of their little darlings and want to drag on their stories for decades. Jones almost revels in smacking the cast around and seeing who gets up begging for more. Ultimately, All Fall Down drops you right into the end game of what was, presumably, a glorious run for a universe teeming with superheroes and villains.
A separate artist pencils each chapter of All Fall Down, so the art style and quality varies dramatically in this book. I wasn’t a fan of the work in the earlier chapters, which make heavy use of dynamic angles and foreshortening techniques. The pencil work is solid and the color, with deep gradients and textures, is eye-catching. But nothing can mask the numerous, unflattering angled, profile shots. The art style just didn’t quite fit the story’s tone until Pericles Junior‘s art in Chapter Five. His simple and more realistic style, along with a much flatter color palette, complement the story much better than the glossy, three-dimensional quality of the previous chapters. Not coincidentally, it was in Chapter Five where I really began to grasp All Fall Down‘s goal and enjoy the ride.
Shit happens — that’s really the entire theme of this book. Casey Jones dangles little nuggets of hope in front of the Pantheon only to snatch them away and let the characters work through their suffering. My one disappointment is The Ghoul, the Skeletor-looking guy on the cover, doesn’t get more focus. I loved that character the instant I glanced at the cover and he only gets better with a little story behind him. The spectacular ending is surprisingly risky and pays notable homage to classic, supervillain revelation scenes. It’s a brave conclusion to a journey well worth taking.