BHOC: CAPTAIN AMERICA #222

I bought this issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA as usual at my local 7-11 convenience store. And while I didn’t think much of anything of it at the time, boy, that’s a bizarre cover, isn’t it? It was executed by Ernie Chan, who had been for several years DC’s primary super hero cover artist, during a period in which their covers were printing like hell. Here, though, Ernie’s skills shine through, and he makes even this preposterous moment appear suitably dramatic and involving. And sure, anybody would want to know why the Lincoln Memorial was standing up and attacking Captain America–how could you not look inside?

After a rocky run the past six months or so, CAPTAIN AMERICA finally picked up a new regular writer in the person of Steve Gerber. Gerber was perhaps a strange choice to be helming CAPTAIN AMERICA–he always seemed to do his best work on more iconoclastic characters, and it often carried a strong strata of anti-authoritarian sentiment, something that feels difficult to square with the All-American Super-Soldier. It probably helped things that Cap was at this point on a quest for self-knowledge, and that was a subject that Gerber was well-equipped to tackle. It must be said that this is perhaps the perfect opening to a Steve Gerber run, with a VW Bug being hurled without warning through the window of Captain America’s apartment, where he seems to have been just lounging around in full costume. Absurdity was a Gerber touchstone.

Gerber was also very comfortable working with artist Sal Buscema, whom he’d collaborated with on DEFENDERS and other titles. Sal was one of those workhorse artists that fans often took for granted, but Gerber seemed to really understand and appreciate his strengths as an artist. He could make the sight of Captain America being attacked by a driverless Volkswagon in his apartment seem plausible even when that was as far from the truth as possible. Cap, of course, is able to lure the car into hurling itself back out of the building, where it was destroyed in the fall to the ground below. He then checks in with Nick Fury to tell the SHIELD ramrod about the attack and to try to confirm his suspicions that the mysterious criminal Corporation with whom he’d been contending recently were likely behind this attack. Probably shouldn’t list your number in the phone book, Cap.

After this, Cap changes into Steve Rogers’ civilian clothes and takes a train to the Pentagon in Washington DC. As mentioned earlier, he’s looking for information about his past–in recent issues, he became aware that he had no recollection of his life prior to becoming Captain America (largely because nobody had done much to explore that period yet, really.) Using his Avengers ID, Cap is able to access the Army’s records of his induction into the Super-Soldier Program and find out who he was and where he grew up. But it’s perplexing, in that Cap remembers growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the information he’s given indicates that he was born and raised in Sayville Maryland. Here, Gerber was beginning to retcon the few details of Cap’s past that we did know, but he’d make a few mistakes along the way, and other future writers would eventually disavow the revelations he’d make in this and subsequent issues.

Steve goes further, chasing down residents who might remember the Rogers family, and he learns that their son Mike was killed in the bombing attack at Pearl Harbor. No other son is mentioned in the account, but the old newsman who has pointed him to the obituary tells Steve that the father had his reasons for withholding that piece of information. Cap is confused by all of this–he doesn’t feel any connection to what he’s discovering at all, and so to clear his head he suits up in costume and heads over to the Lincoln Memorial, as you do. And as he’s lost in self-reflection, as previewed on the cover, the colossal stone statue of Lincoln suddenly rips free of its chair and attacks Cap.

I kept waiting for this to turn out to be a trick or a dream or an illusion or some such–but apparently, at least for this issue, this is the genuine Lincoln Monument that has been animated to destroy Captain America. And it turns out that it has a psychological advantage over Cap, too, as the Star-Spangled Avenger is such a fan of Lincoln’s that he cannot bring himself to strike back against the statue. Cap is able to defend himself passively, but the statue of Lincoln beats the heck out of him for several pages, the second of two animated objects to do this to Cap this issue.

Eventually, Cap takes enough punches and has hit his limit, bearing down, and despite his great emotional connection to the man and his legacy, he unleashes on his attacker and DESTROYS THE LINCOLN MONUMENT! I’m sure that SHIELD must have helped Cap to cover up this high crime afterwards–just know that when you go to see the Lincoln Memorial today, that’s a bad copy placed there by SHIELD psy-ops. It’s also probably spying on you. Anyway, the issue is done at this point, but not before one further arrival–because Cap turns in response to an off-screen speaker, and finds himself under attack by an eloquent caveman with a hugely distended cranium. This newcomer appears to have been responsible for both the Monument’s attack and the earlier homicidal motorcar, but now he’s going to take matters into his own hands personally. As I said at the start, Gerber was a master of absurdity, and our story is To Be Continued!

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