This issue begins an on-and-off period of self-questioning for Captain America along several angles, including continued angst about his own identity and purpose in life, as well as more outward-looking concern with the state of American society (befitting the time and the increasing social consciousness of comics). You have to hand it to Stan Lee, Gene Colan, and the rest of the creators behind this period of Cap (including Steve Englehart, whose very pointed run will begin soon) for using the Sentinel of Liberty himself to cast a light on social issues (as Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams would do in several months at DC Comics with Green Lantern and Green Arrow).
As the issue opens, we see the newest superhero partnership that just began in the last couple issues… seem to come to an abrupt end.
Well… OK, then! Of course, we know they’ll reunite soon, sharing the title of the book for seven years, with Sam eventually wielding the shield. But for now, they’re parting like they just had a nice lunch at Joe’s.
Sam seems to gotten to know Cap pretty well, as even he wonders where Cap is going to find a place he belongs.
The man on the stoop is a future comics editor, it seems, and the guy beneath him has a keen eye for rock supergroups.
Cap is also thinking about the state of his life… and one important part of that life in particular.
Here we see Cap acknowledge a pervasive theme through his life and Sharon’s, especially when it comes to their life together: the conflict between duty and happiness. This is common to see on the part of the hero, but less often seen on the part of the hero’s love interest—did Lois ever turn down Superman because her job was more important? We’ll see soon that Sharon is no less broken up about it, but nonetheless stays resolute in her devotion to her mission at S.H.I.E.L.D.
Then a couple kids run by, knocking Cap’s needle onto a different track of his long-playing introspection record.
Here it’s Cap who considers giving up his costumed identity… but that still wouldn’t secure a life with Sharon.
Cap heads to S.H.I.E.L.D. to ask Nick about Sharon, and Nick is ready for him—too ready. (And I think someone recently went to Sharper Image.)
There’s a reason this blog is not titled The Virtues of Nick Fury! What with all the LMDs, fake deaths, and outright manipulation, it’s really amazing Cap puts up with him as much as he does (though he does give up on him at times, such as after Secret War).
Cap does what he was programmed to do, and rationalizes it as helping keep as his mind off another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent—and he soon finds just the right thing to do it.
What I like about this entire episode is how Steve tries to stop the violence and protect the professor (which I appreciate!) while remaining sympathetic to the students’ concerns, regardless of how they express them. This is the approach he takes as he encounters social problems in coming issues: trying to keep the peace while listening to problems that others of his generation were not always willing to consider.
The Rover Boys was a squeaky-clean series of books for kids, aimed toward boys, somewhat like The Hardy Boys books of my own youth. (Just pretend you know what I’m talking about; that’s what my kids do.)
In the first panel below, it seems Cap has been doing some reading to try to impress Tony. (And he picks a secret identity that no one will see through, especially not the top authority on atomic equations.)
Before long, violence erupts again, requiring a costume change, lest someone suspect good ol’ Rog.
Again, Cap steps in to settle things down, careful to practice restraint. (To be fair, though, some students are supervillains… not mine, of course, but I’ve heard things. Bad things.)
Cap was right to be suspicious: while the student unrest is genuine, the few students crossing the line and harassing Professor Fosgrave are doing so at the behest of AIM and their leader MODOK. And Cap continues to try to reason with the most violent of the students, to no avail. (He gets an A for effort, though.)
I thought it had been “a job for him” since he got suited up, but oh well. (At least the rest of the students are also realizing things have gone too far.) Below, he springs into action, explaining the scene to the violent but sincere protester.
The same student, to his credit, tries to become a hero using Cap’s shield, but ends up forcing Cap to use the AIM gun to bring down the helicopter (while, not shown below, he catches the professor before it falls).
When Cap returns to S.H.I.E.L.D., do you think he gives Nick a piece of his mind for manipulating him into investigating the campus unrest? (Or even for calling him “Sunbeam”?) Of course not—instead we get a canned sitcom joke to close the episode, and an Archie-style “!” from Nick.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #118-119 (October-November 1969)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #121 (January 1970)