In 1978, CAPTAIN AMERICA was a series in a bit of trouble. After Jack Kirby’s much-heralded return to the series a few years earlier ran its course, not quite capturing the classic Marvel flavor that was hoped for, a succession of different creators came on to helm the series, often on an almost ad hoc basis. This led to the series becoming a bit of a meandering mess for several years, as nobody could quite figure out what to do with the Star-Spangled Avenger. On top of this, as with many Marvel titles of this era, the book was plagued with scheduling problems that forced unscheduled reprints and last-minute back-up stories to be used to get something, anything, to the printer on time. And yet, despite all of this, I had become a regular CAPTAIN AMERICA reader.
This issue picks up where the last one left off–with Cap having been captured by old foe Dekker, the man who had attempted to sabotage the 1944 Captain America movie serial, and who was now in possession of a twelve-foot-tall Captain America robot for some reason. But this particular bit of retroactive continuity was designed to explain something that pretty much nobody was worried about: how, if Cap and Bucky’s final mission during WWII took place near the English Channel, did his frozen form wind up in Newfoundland? By this point, the impulse to attempt to bullet-proof every facet of Marvel’s continuity was in full force, despite that being an impossible task. And so, here we were.
For really no reason tan to give an excuse for recounting this missing chapter of Cap’s life, Dekker tells his foe how the Red Skull first saved him from their previous encounter but then turned on him for his failure. Dekker managed to survive and he wound up in Newfoundland, where he recruited a new cadre of henchmen. And so, when he heard about Cap’s final battle with Baron Zemo, Dekker sent scuba divers to fish Cap’s frozen form out of the water and bring it to him in Newfoundland–where Cap revived. Not even thinking about Bucky once in this flashback adventure (which seems absurd given how the present day Cap would wax rhapsodic about his dead partner at the drop of a hat) Cap learns that Dekker has developed both a new type of nerve gas and also an apparatus which can drain Cap’s superhuman physique and impart it to Dekker. Pretty good work from a guy who was doing movie special effects just an issue ago.
Cap takes the opportunity to break free and fight his way through Dekker’s stronghold. He also switches back to his Steve Rogers duds because continuity shows that when he’s unfrozen by the Avengers, he’ll be wearing them. So even though it doesn’t really make much sense, he makes the change, then heads for the plane full of Dekker’s experimental nerve gas. Of course, Dekker’s men shoot the plane out of the sky–and now we learn that it was actually this Nerve Gas combined with Cap’s super-soldier serum that threw the Avenger into suspended animation. Thus, what was once a simple if implausible story has been replaced by something complicated but equally implausible (if not more so.) Te net gain here, frankly, is less than zero. Still, a lot of Marvel comics of this era put a lot of effort into tidying up little quirks of continuity like this one, whether justified or not.
Back in the present, Dekker has grown too old to survive his original Cap-physique-stealing process–which is why he’s built his super-large Cap android. His plan has been amended: he’s going to suck Cap’s power into the ‘bot and put his own mind into it as well. And e proceeds to do just that! And then, abruptly, the story comes to a sudden To Be Continued because the creative team ran out of time and didn’t finish their pages in time. Oops! Well, at least it’s not the most horrible place to put a break in the story, given that Dekker has just become the Ameridroid–that almost feels like a climax moment. Still, it’s another example of the sort of shoddiness that ran rampant at Marvel in this era, as the workload had grown beyond the capabilities of any single editor to handle.
In the back of the book was a short six-page story featuring the Falcon, which made sense given that he was the co-headliner. This was one of a number of six-page sort stories that Scott Edelman had been hired to write for characters across the line as a hedge against just what had happened here; a creative team not being able to come through with a finished book in time. These would show up here and there over the next year or two. This one opens up with the Falcon discovering that his pet Redwing is missing and is being held hostage, believe it or not.
The perpetrator is a guy named Mortimer Freebish, who fancies himself a villainous Hawkeye. Special note must be made of Freebish’s costume, which is aggressively awful–by intent, I would hope since the character is intended to be something of a nut. It takes the Falcon four more pages to beat this guy into the dirt, but the story is entertaining enough, if a bit overtly silly. And it does nothing to enhance the Falcon’s reputation as a solo hero–something sorely needed at this point, as he would be dropped from the masthead in another issue or two and relegated to infrequent guest-star.