This issue wraps up the storyline involving the Hood (actually Baron von Strucker, actually a robot) and the supposedly reborn Bucky Barnes (who seems, based on the cover, to have grown considerably upset since the last issue). It also manages to introduce yet another level of WTFery to this already convoluted tale, courtesy of everybody’s favorite acronym, MODOK.
But first, let’s see how the general public (and Cap himself) are reacting to the sudden appearance of his long-lost chum.
While the press and assorted onlookers seem pleased with this latest development—and “Bucky” is surprisingly quick with a quip—someone else is not so pleased, especially because he thought himself as Cap’s future partner. (And yes, that’s Walter Cronkite again on the TV, last seen in issue #125.)
Just wait, Sam—only one more issue to go until you get your chance!
We also revisit our friends in S.H.I.E.L.D., from whom Cap is currently on the run. Sharon hopes that the relief over Bucky’s reappearance will lessen Cap’s fear over her safety… which Nick completely misunderstands. (Oh, Nick.)
Next, MODOK joins our tale, recounting how he has been pulling the strings behind most of the events in this storyline, starting with the campus riot in issue #130, which his agents instigated—apparently just for kicks, “merely an amusing exercise–reaffirming once again the power of MODOK!” Once he became aware of Strucker’s plans, and after watching Batroc, Whirlwind, and the Porcupine fail to defeat Cap, he decides to “help” Strucker with his plan of revenge against Cap. But for that he needs help himself, and so he travels mentally to Latveria…
So that’s the secret of “Bucky” revealed: yet another robot, albeit one designed with Bucky’s personality as well as his appearance. Very crafty, Doom… but maybe too crafty, as we’ll soon see.
It turns out that MODOK put the entire “find a fake Bucky to lure Cap” plan in Strucker’s head, and then planted Robo-Bucky where Strucker would find him. And even though Strucker failed, MODOK still has control of his robot… who’s riding on the Capcycle behind his former “partner.” (By the way, that’s MODOK speaking in the balloons in the upper-lefthand corner, as he’s watching a display “thru the robot’s unhuman eyes.” Hurtful!)
This is where Cap realizes that something’s wrong.
There’s something very avant-garde in the sequence of panels above; it’s not your usual depiction of a punch, at least not in comics of that time.
It figures that Doctor Doom would build an adjustable “desire for homicide” into his Bucky robot.
Naturally, Cap thinks Bucky’s angry that Cap didn’t save him; it’s almost as if the guilt Cap’s felt since coming out of the ice has manifested itself and is striking back against him. (And is the editorial note really necessary? I guess every comic is someone’s first, but…)
Eventually, Cap realizes this is too much, even for a reborn Bucky, and tries to help him rather than fight him—a situation that will be repeated (with the real Bucky) at the end of the first Winter Soldier storyline (Captain America, vol. 5, #14, April 2006) as well as the movie.
Below we see that no matter who wins the fight, everything’s coming up MODOK. (It’s strange that his ultimate goal is to control Cap, though, not to kill him.)
Naturally, Cap feels responsible for whatever’s happened to Bucky, and this makes it even harder for him to fight back.
But wait! Maybe Doom went overboard when he programmed the robot with the very heroic personality of James Buchanan Barnes. (Oops.)
(Again, this turn of events was echoed in the later comics and movie versions of the Winter Soldier story, if more subtly.)
When MODOK realizes what Doom did—very likely on purpose, or least as he would say—he has to settle for what’s behind door number two, and hope that Cap is irrevocably damaged by watching his young sidekick die a second time.
Cap very well may have been scarred for life by this, if he hadn’t begun to suspect this Bucky was actually an imposter—before discovering he wasn’t even a real boy at all.
Cap has a moment of realization and introspection, quite aware that he perhaps believed too quickly that it was really Bucky (although, to be fair, he always seemed to have his doubts). But he also finds a silver lining, however tenuous… a rare glimpse of a spiritual side to the Sentinel of Liberty.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #131 (November 1970)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #133 (January 1971)