I have often identified the Incredible Hulk as "my first favorite character" but I don't think I've ever mentioned that Captain America is "my second favorite character" (in sequence, not in rank). I think I probably started collecting Captain America for good and all when Hulk #231 crossed over into Captain America #230. A friend of mine had a beat up copy of Captain America #227, and this was right around the time someone sold his comic book collection to the Armchair Adventurer bookstore and I was able to fill in most issues from #114 through Kirby's mid-70s return in one swell foop. I didn't take too much effort at that point to fill in the issues I had missed from #215-229. In any case, all these things happened right around the same time to the best of my recollection, and I continued to buy every issue of Captain America for many years to come.
I was lucky enough to have bought the Stern/Byrne run in "real time" and I was on hand for the DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty run shortly after that. Unfortunately, those two runs were not a one-two punch; more like a one-two punch with a feint between. I prefer re-reading comics in collected editions on good paper stock rather than pulling my originals out of their boxes if at all possible. The good news is: Marvel has a great line of "Epic Collections." The bad news is: I didn't find the Captain America Epic Collection Volume 9 (reprinting #247-266 and an annual) to be a particularly good buy for me.
First of all, the DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty team took a while to coalesce and gel. Second, the Stern/Byrne run has been collected an reprinted so often I really don't have any need to own it again. Third, between the two runs was a series of fill-ins. The DeMatteis/Zeck/Beatty run didn't really kick into high gear until #267. the best news is that the Captain America Epic Collection Volume 10 collects #267-285 (plus an annual and a crossover), the very height of the run. I've got a ton of trade credit built up at my LCS, but I was waiting until the release of v10 to get both.
The only (slightly) disappointing aspect concerning v10 is that the cover of #280 (which depicts Cap beaten and in chains) was chosen as the cover of the collection. Better choices would have been #275 (Cap in full-on action mode leaping directly at the reader) or #284 (Cap on a rooftop with the American Flag below him, flapping in the breeze).
Although it hasn't been just too long since I last read the Stern/Byrne run, approximately five years A.T. (i.e., after moving to Texas) as I like to say, when I return I plan to begin this discussion with issue #247.
Cap appears too skinny to me on this Frank Robbins cover (although nowhere near as skinny as he will become by the end of this issue!).
Nick Fury and SHIELD arrive at the scene of the train wreck to rescue survivers and to assist with the clean-up. Fury gives cap a lift back to SHIELD HQ in Manhattan. Cap asks Fury to arrange a meeting with Mason Harding, inventor of the "Madbomb," now serving a term in prison. Harding was coerced into working for "The Elite" but he's still the foremost authority in advanced mind science. Agt. Dugan has uncovered a photograph of Agent R (Veda's mother), hideously disfigured.
BRIEF ASIDE HERE: Although I had not yet read Kirby's run at the point I first read this story, I was nevertheless somewhat familiar with it. Harding's identity was explained, of course, in the story itself, plus #224 tied in with "Madbomb" continuity as well, making me all the more eager to read it. Plus, as I'm sure you will recall, Marvel licensed the cover of Captain America #193 to be used on a school folder, so I had seen the "Madbomb" art advertised in various Marvel comics many, many times by this point.
Veda meets with Kligger, who is disappointed with her lack of progress. She concludes that she and her boss will either become enemies, or work together closer than ever. She proposes the latter. Unfortunately for her, he does not agree and shoots her with a disintegration ray which reduces her to a pile of dust on the spot. So much for the mystery of Agent R! Honestly, this is one dangling plot thread that has seriously bugged me for more than 40 years!
Meanwhile, Cap has met with Mason Harding in federal custody, but Cap has been trained to resist hypnosis so the meeting is not fruitful. Harding does have an experimental mind probe machine in his lab in rural Connecticut, however, and Cap pulls some strings to get Harding temporarily released. The machine works, and releases multiple memories supporting the dry facts unearthed in #222. BUT the machine had a completely unpredictable effect. Precipitated by the stress of re-experiencing the supressed memories (Harding speculates), the mind probe triggered some chemical change within Cap's body which neutralized the super-soldier serum in Cap's blood, reducing him to a 98 pound weakling!
Captain America had been running late ever since those pages for #220 were lost in the mail. Even after publishing two back-up stories and an entire fill-in issue, the title was still barely ahead of schedule. Although not much was known about Steve Rogers' life prior to becoming Captain America, the problem with Steve Gerber's story was that it contradicted what little with did know. Most recently, for example, Giant-Size Invaders #1 established that "Operation: Rebirth" took place in December of 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor. Editor Roger Stern knew all that but, by the time the pages came in, all he had time to due was proofread them and get them off to the printers. (A late book incurred major late fees at the printer and reduced the book's time on sale.)
With #226, Roger McKenzie took over for departing writer Steve Gerber and immediately introduced a new threat (or rather, reintroduced an old one). Before i get to that, though, I'd just like to say that, even when I was 14 years old I didn't buy that, without the super soldier serum in his veins (even if it was still there after decades and could be neutralized), Steve Rogers would be reduced to a 98-pound weakling. The serum may have given him a perfect physique, but I would think a lifetime of diet and exercise would have resulted in a such body even without benefit of the serum. And this is not even the last time that would happen! This is comics, though, so I'll accept that something is going on... just not that.
As I alluded to in my previous post, the Red Skull has taken over the SHIELD helicarrier by transforming the agents who manned it into duplicates of himself. Also last issue, a surge of adrenaline re-triggered the super-soldier serum still dormant in Cap's system, paving the way for this all-action issue. The Skull has put Nick Fury in a death trap right out of the old "Batman" TV show. The real (?) Skull then appears and psychologically manipulates Captain America into attacking him by killing Fury before his eyes. But Cap was wise that "Fury" was really an LMD and the "Skull" was really Nick Fury.
Now that "The Search for Steve Rogers" (and its aftermath) has wrapped up, Stern & McKenzie set about tying up the loose plot threads surrounding the Corporation. Before procedding, I should perhaps mention at this point the the memories uncovered by Mason Harding's machine in #225 were later revealed to be false, implanted during the war in case Cap was ever captured and interrogated. (See the post dealing with #247 on the first page of this discussion.)
Another loose plot thread is the Falcon, missing since he signed up to train SHIELD's super-agents (except of a brief appearance in #218 and a solo story in #220). You may have also noticed that the Falcon's name has been missing from the logo as of #223. At first it was a design decision, then it was thought it wasn't fair to "advertise" him on the cover when he wasn't in the story. Cap decides to start his search with the super-agents, and heads to SHIELD's midtown "barbershop" headquarters (seen in multiple issues over the years and dating back to Strange Tales).
He arrives to find the facility deserted, but suddenly Jasper Sitwell appears on the screen. He explains that the location has been compromised one too many times and that SHIELD has decided to relocate it. Detonation charges are set to go off in 15 minutes, but Cap asks to be patched through to the super-agents, who have been reassigned to SHEILD's L.A. branch, first. From them we find out that the last thing anyone heard Sam Wilson say before he disappeared was, "Jim's in trouble."
We also learn (from a scene change, not from SHIELD) that "Kilgger" is actually Senator Eugene K. Stivak.
Soon after cap disconnects from talking to SHIELD, he is accosted by the Constrictor (previously seen in Hulk #212). But how can that be? Only Sitwell and the super-agents knew he was in the soon-to-be-destroyed headquarters. Can one of them be a traitor? Constrictor does not believe Cap that the facility is about to be destroyed and they fight.
CLIFFHANGER: Cap and the Constrictor are caught in the explosion!
Cap survives and the Constrictor lets something about his previous assignment regarding the "Wilson kid" slip and Cap begins to put two and two together. He needs to go to L.A. but can't trust SHIELD and he doesn't want to use a quinjet for personal business, either. He goes back to his apartment only to find it a shambles from when the Volkswagon crashed though it in #222. He also left his personal ID and credit cards behind when Animus wrecked the train. He ends up going to Avengers Mansion anyway to borrow some money. Neither Thor nor Hercules nor the Beast have any (Iron Man is not there), but Jarvis loans him enough for bus fare.
There's a humorous scene on the bus with Cap's seatmate, Billy, extolling the virtues of Gene Colan being back on Daredevil. Steve asks the boy his opinion of Captain America, to which the boy replies, "That old fogey?"
Once at the SHILED facility in L.A., Cap bluffs that he knows which of the super agents is the spy and can prove it. He flushes out Blue Streak, who convinces his teammates that Cap is merely testing them to see how much they have improved. after cap defeats him, Vamp "loses her temper" and beats the streak within an inch of her life. then she pulls the old Macbeth "O, yet do I repent me of my fury that i did kill them" ploy. Still conscious (barely) the Streak reveals that the Falcon is being held on Alcatraz.
Man, I love that cover! Always have.
Last issue the Texas Twister left the super agents in a snit after Blue Streak was revealed to be a spy for the corporation West, leaving Marvel Man and the Vamp to accompany Cap to Alcatraz. Meanwhile, the Hulk and his sidekick Fred Sloan are tooling through Berkeley in Fred's VW microbus (just like Arlo Guthrie's!). I swear I never noticed this before, but Fred is obviously smoking a joint while he drives. the smoke puts Hulk to sleep and he changes back to Bruce Banner. They are pulled over by two ersatz state troopers (actually working for Curtiss Jackson of Corporation West) and tranquilized.
Meanwhile, Senator Stivak has faked his own death (by plane crash) and has replaced Veda with Dr. Karla Sofen (a.k.a. Moonstone). They are also in California and have already captured Jim Wilson (and his dog). Back at Alcatraz, Cap, Marvel Man and Vamp have broken off from their tourist group and discovered an underground submarine pen with a giant sea gate at either end. The Falcon is unconscious and chained to one of the sea gates. They have a brief standoff with Jackson, then Kligger and Moonstone arrive. Jackson wants Jim Wilson, and is using both Bruce Banner and the Falcon (Jim's uncle) as bait. Kligger wants Captain America.
As the two rival crime lords begin to negotiate, Kligger reveals Vamp as a plant within SHIELD for Corporation East, and the $#!t hits the fan! Marvel Man uses his wrist band to blast Banner free. Cap plows into the Corporation goons. Banner transforms into the Hulk. Cap and Marvel Man scuffle with Hulk. Jackson opens the sea gate to drown Falcon. Hulk squeezes Cap into unconsciousness in a bear hug. Kligger uses a control to transform Vamp into Animus (!). Animus knocks Hulk inconscious from behind.
CLIFFHANGER: "Suddenly, the cavernous chamber is silent... save for the gentle roar of the ever-rising waters."
The conclusion to this story crosses over into Hulk #232, written by Roger Stern (although this particular issue is scripted by David Michelinie). Before I continue I would like to say that it's little bit of a cheat to reveal that Animus, drawn as a man, turns out to be a woman. Then again, there was no particular "mystery" set up surrounding "his" origin, and they did foreshadow a female voice back in #223. Moving on.
Cap regains consciousness. Kligger and Jackson negotiate. Moonstone blasts Cap into the water (allowing him to free Falcon). Thinking cap has drowned, Jim kicks at Kligger, who backhands him viciously. Jim dog growls. Hulk wakes up, flings Moonstone against the wall. Hulk and Animus fight. Meanwhile, Cap has freed the Falcon. Animus encases Hulk in concrete. Kligger and Jackson resume their negotiations. Cap and Falcon attack. Marvel Man blasts Moonstone. Hulk frees himself. Moonstone flees. Hulk defeats Animus by inadvertently destroying his/her power source. Animus reverts to Vamp, but her mind has been destroyed. Jackson turns on Kligger, machine gunning him to death, then flees in an escape pod. Hulk pursues, leaving Cap, Falcon, Marvel Man and Jim Wilson behind to clean up. Jim is excited to learn that his uncle is the Falcon.
The closing narration still resonates, especially after the events of the past week.
"But though young Jim's ebullience reflects the general air of relief pervading the chamber, a certain stalwart Avenger remains grim.for he has an honest affection for the country from which he derives his name, an affection greater than most men have for their own lives. And yet, once again, he;s seen a high-ranking official of that country's government betray a sacred trust, pursuing a personal quest for power at the expense of those who chose him with their votes... with their hopes.
"It's not a pretty sight, the aftermath of deception. But Captain America has seen it before--and knows he will see it again. Just as he knows he must accept it. for the mark of any true respect, of any... yes, call it love... is taking the bad with the good. Though no one ever said that had to be easy."
And that's the end of Marvel Masterworks Captain America Vol. 12.
Vol. 13 has been solicited for July 2021 release.
There is a scene a few issues ago where Steve Rogers dreams of a notebook with the Carl Jung's definition of Animus written over it. The implication was quite clear, although I fully expect to this day that the original intent was to reveal Veda, not Vamp, as the (first? previous?) Animus. Vamp even begs Senator Stivak to give her the power to become Animus, and I don't think that Vamp would have enough autonomy to go after Cap in Washington D.C. unnoticed anyway.
Far as I know, that is just how it appears to me. Canonically, Veda seems to never have been Animus. Come to think of it, that may relate to the disfiguration in her mother's photo as well.
I liked Steve Gerber's revised past for Cap, incongruous with established continuity as it was. I also like how this time period used continuity to great effect. Beyond just crossing over Cap and Hulk, we are having resolution of dangling plots from the Kirby runs on Machine Man and Captain America itself; from Fantastic Four (Texas Twister and "Marvel Man" aka Quasar, albeit with a characterization that does not really agree with Mark Gruenwald's take on the character). Better yet, it is resolution that leaves the characters in useful and exciting places, as future issues of Hulk and Machine Man will show. Even Curtis Jackson has a lot of story ahead of him, although much of it isn't all that good.
"I fully expect to this day that the original intent was to reveal Veda, not Vamp, as the (first? previous?) Animus."
That's an interesting theory, one I had not previously considered. I'll have to give it some thought.
"I liked Steve Gerber's revised past for Cap, incongruous with established continuity as it was."
Roger Stern attributes at least part of the confusion to "the typeset paragraph that had perched atop the first page of most stories since Captain America #179... the one that begins, '1941! The world at war!'" Incidentally, the December 1940 date established by Roy Thomas in Giant-Size Invaders #1 was derived from the March 1941 cover date of Captain America Comics #1, then counting back three months to determine its sale date.
Incidentally, the December 1940 date established by Roy Thomas in Giant-Size Invaders #1 was derived from the March 1941 cover date of Captain America Comics #1, then counting back three months to determine its sale date.
This statement made me wonder what Mike's Amazing World had to say about the sale date. It says that December 20, 1940, was the sale date and also the copyright date, and that the date was also shown in house ads in three comics (Marvel Mystery Comics #17, Mystic Comics #5 and Human Torch #2).
I think the point has to be held that just as Simon & KIrby created Captain America a year before the Pearl Harbor attack but over a year after Hitler launched the European side of WWII with his entirely unjustified attack on Poland because they thoroughly despised Hitler and everything he stood for and they wanted to create a hero that represented the best of American values to be shown beating the hell out of the Nazis, and so it is important, IMO, that Steve Rogers was anxious to fight Nazis even before the U.S. was directly involved in fighting the war because he was informed enough about the Nazis crimes against humanity that he wanted to do his part and be prepared to fight them when the U.S. did join in the war, as anyone really paying attention in December 1940 would have figured was sure to happen sooner or later. It wasn't just about, "oh, they attacked or declared war on us, so we gotta hit them back hard!" but, "they are attacking and murdering innocent people and we must put a stop to that and bring them to justice even if they haven't attacked us yet."