By this point in my life, things had settled down into a rhythm. I was somehow bringing in enough spending money where I could afford to go to the 7-11 every week on Thursday to buy the new comics I wanted. I was doing this largely through a combination of saving the money my parents gave me for school lunch each day (eating lunch is overrated) as well as the almost-weekly dollar my grandfather would inevitably give me when he and my grandmother would visit every week. There’d also be the odd set of chores or local neighborhood jobs that might bring in a few extra dollars. All of which is to say that there’s absolutely no story behind the purchase of this issue of CAPTAIN AMERICA. It showed up at the 7-11, and I paid my 35 cents and took it home, because I was now buying the book regularly.
The series was going through one of its odd periods at this time (although an argument could be made that it had been in an odd period every since Cap’s creator Jack Kirby returned to helm the series during the bicentennial year.) Cap was back to existing in lockstep with the rest of the Marvel Universe, but his stories were being written by the idiosyncratic Steve Gerber. Gerber was never interested in sticking to the tired-and-true, and he obsessively dug into the inner lives of his characters in a way that was novel during the 1970s. His visual partner was Sal Buscema, a stalwart workhorse steeped in the Marvel style. Sal seemed like he wasn’t any fan’s favorite artist during this era (tastes ran more to illustrative guys like Neal Adams or rococo detail-mongers in the Barry Smith school) but he was never an unwelcome presence on a book. With Sal, you always knew exactly what you were going to get, and it was going to exist squarely within the mainstream of the Marvel style. In some respects, Buscema’s direct and unchallenging artwork helped to ground Gerber’s wind and unpredictable stories a little bit.
Last issue, Cap was attacked by the Lincoln Memorial, which got destroyed in the battle. (Somebody apparently fixes it up between here and its next Marvel Universe appearance, presumably S.H.I.E.L.D.) This turned out to be the work of Animus, a caveman-looking specimen with an oversized cranium and powers both physical and mental. Animus had caused the statue to come to life and attack Cap–and as this issue opens, it attempts to finish the job itself. Cap fights back, almost killing Animus by smashing its melon-like head in with his shield before it teleports itself away–all the while contemplating in true Gerber style whether the only way to cope with such a threat is to sink to its own level in terms of savagery and brutality. In the aftermath, Cap makes his way back to the hotel room he’s staying at as Steve Rogers while he’s in Washington trying to find information about his lost past (In prior issues, Steve realized that he didn’t retain any memory of his life before becoming Captain America, which sent him off on this quest for self.)
Getting back to the hotel, Cap realizes that because he left through the window in his costumed identity, he didn’t take his key with him. Before Gerber can have him contemplate the savagery of knocking the door to his own room down, it is opened from the inside by Veda, a character who has been prowling around for the past couple of issues. She’s the daughter of a woman who was present on the day when Steve became Captain America, and she’s evidenced an interest in him ever since their paths crossed. But Steve isn’t in the mood for Veda’s overtures–nor for the surveillance devices that he discovers Nick Fury has planted on his shield, which he promptly flushes down the toilet.
But one of those tracking devices belonged to the Corporation, the underworld organization that was giving Cap a hard time–and of which Veda was a member. Steve winds up going to dinner with Veda after he has a fragmented dream of himself back in college–the details of which are lost to him when he awakens. But this has made him realize that the information he’s looking for must be locked up in his subconscious, and so he takes a train back to Manhattan with the intention of turning to one of his allies who can robe his mind and seek out what he’s looking for. But Veda reports Cap’s movements to Kligger and the Corporation–and so it is that Steve’s train is attacked and derailed in a horrible accident by Animus.
Cap crawls from the wreckage, having survived the crash where so many of the other passengers did not. And he is pissed as he sees Animus surveying the ruins. He realizes that this loss of life was due to an attack against him, and he is pissed. And so he attacks the weird caveman-foe. But it’s still a lopsided battle, as Animus’ mental powers in particular are able to keep Cap at bay. It even turns Cap’s own shield against him telekinetically. So it’s a typical Marvel fight scene, but during the battle, Cap notices something about his foe’s behavior.
It becomes apparent to Cap that Animus can only use one of his two abilities at a time. Whenever it employs its vast strength, it cannot focus on using its mental capabilities, and when it’s striking with its mind, it becomes immobile. Armed with this knowledge, Cap hurls a piece of rubble at Animus, causing it to club it out of the air–and Cap closes with the creature while it is doing that, landing a solid game-winning blow. But as Cap relentlessly pounds on his foe, Animus calls out in anguish for help from Kligger–and it is once again teleported from the battlefield, leaving Cap once again frustrated by the entire affair. And as the Star-Spangled Champion moves to go help the survivors of the crash, the issue wraps up. Not a bad story in terms of being ten minutes of entertainment, but there also isn’t a whole lot to recommend it or which makes it memorable after so many years. It was there, it was fine.