After eight issues in World War II, we return to the present day, in which Cap battles against a plan the Red Skull launched twenty years ago—and we get the first appearance of Cap’s Kooky Quartet in his own book.
Issue #72 begins with Cap telling Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch the story recounted in the last three issues.
Here we see a familiar sight from this period in Avengers: Hawkeye needling Cap and questioning both his leadership and his virtue. In this case, he accuses Cap of being immodest, which you and I know is ridiculous (and Hawkeye probably does too, not that he would ever tell Cap that).
Also, Wanda asks Cap about the consequences of his desertion of his unit in the last story, but Cap ties up that little loose end… after which it’s Hawkeye’s turn once more to stick his foot in his mouth.
One nice thing about the string of WWII-era stories is that it reminds us how much Bucky meant to Cap, and makes this revisiting of his grief and guilt over his death all the more powerful, especially with Wanda’s reinforcement of it to Hawkeye.
That night, Cap dreams of his last struggle with Red Skull in 1945 before the latter’s death, when the Skull warned him of his master plan to be launched twenty years in the future—which happens to be this day. Thus begins Cap’s three-issue adventures chasing the Red Skull’s Sleepers, giant robots tasked with reviving the Third Reich or, failing that, destroying the world.
Along the way we see some poignant scenes showing Cap’s virtues, such as this glorious page from issue #73:
In this one page we see his courage in the face of danger; his humility in declaring his own life to be unimportant (although too important to be ended by a log!); his resilience and determination to survive in order to save the countless others in danger from the Sleepers; and his gratitude to be alive and sense of duty to prove himself worthy of his “second chance.”
In issue #74, Cap reaches a NATO base to warn them about the Sleepers—and the soldiers there react somewhat surprisingly to seeing the Living Legend of World War II. (Or else they simply take their jobs very, very seriously.)
Of course, Cap doesn’t want to fight them, but he must talk to General Logan to make preparations for fighting the Sleepers.
Luckily for Cap, the General is far more deferential towards Cap then his men were.
Added bonus: Cap gets to show off his art skills!
The issue ends with some Cap-level bravery, including one of my favorite moves: jumping out of the airplane without a parachute. Admittedly, he has one (for later), and he’s only dropping onto the Sleeper below the plane, but still… would you do it? OK then.
(Also, I find the sight of him standing astride the bay doors, looking down to his target, very inspiring.)
Note his thought is not “mustn’t die” but “mustn’t fail”—not that he’s concerned with his own life, but the mission is foremost on his mind, and all the people who stand to die if he fails in it, as we see in the next panel.
On the final page of the issue (and the story) we see Cap use that chute to get away from the Sleeper before it explodes—which it doesn’t do until just before it hits the water, causing Cap to worry that all his effort was for naught. (Happily, it was not.)
We will see him be rescued from the ocean at the beginning of issue #75, covered in the next post, but this wraps up the three-issue arc on the Sleepers, and also counts as the first Red Skull story since Cap’s resurrection, even if the Skull was acting from the dead. (Unfortunately, he won’t be among the dead for long—that’s coming soon.)
Tales of Suspense (vol. 1) #72, December 1965: “The Sleeper Shall Awake!” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (writer, plot, layouts), George Tuska (pencils and inks), ??? (colors), Sam Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Tales of Suspense (vol. 1) #73, January 1966: “Where Walks the Sleeper!” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (writer, plot, layouts), George Tuska (pencils and inks), ??? (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Tales of Suspense (vol. 1) #74, February 1966: “The Final Sleep.” Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (writer, plot, layouts), George Tuska (pencils and inks), ??? (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Tales of Suspense #64-71 (April-November 1965)
NEXT ISSUES: Tales of Suspense #75-78 (March-June 1966)