This issue sees a split (of sorts) in Captain America and the Falcon’s partnership—as you may have guessed from the subtle hint on the cover—as well as Sam’s new costume (also on the cover). Plus… Femme Force!
We open on what is apparently a Hydra meeting, which is soon broken up by Cap and agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with jetpacks, soon to be joined by Sharon Carter and other female S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, now operating under the name of Femme Force. (It’s truly amazing that women’s long struggle for equality wasn’t settled after this issue—well, you can’t say Marvel didn’t try! See also Avengers #83, from a year earlier, featuring the Lady Liberators.)
Of course, this gives Cap a chance to be a first class heel, while Nick lets the reader in on what’s really going on…
…this entire scene was a demonstration for President Nixon and his advisors in an attempt to get funding for S.H.I.E.L.D. (The Hydra agents were all LMDs—life model decoys—which were also part of the show.)
Fury’s not happy with the president’s double-talk about approving appropriations (just wait, Nick), but first he grants Sharon and Cap a kindness… one that will have to wait until Cap gets his nap.
…which he never gets, at least not without disturbing dreams, which are illustrated in the second part of the story. (Frankly, I find it unclear how much of this dream is based on memories, as implied in the opening narration below, and how much was “just a dream,” as Cap thinks on the final page.)
The dream starts where the last issue left off, which Cap spying on Sam and Leila. At least he’s self-aware enough to admit this, although his excuse is flimsy at best: What makes him think he “deserves” to know why Sam’s leaving, and even if he did, why does this justify eavesdropping?
At least he seems to respect Sam’s right to his own thoughts… and manages to distract Sam from the fact that his partner was spying on him and Leila.
While much of Sam’s “jive talk” (courtesy of writer Gary Friedrich) in the last few issues is cringeworthy, I really like Sam’s explanation of his various issues with his perception and role within the black community, as well as Cap’s humble and contrite reaction to it, providing his friend with a sounding board rather than presuming to know how to solve his problems.
If this is actually a memory, it certainly explains Cap’s fitful sleep!
And in case Cap didn’t see the cover to the comic, Sam shows him (and us) his new costume, and makes clear to Cap that his mind is made up. (Don’t worry, dear readers, this is not the last we’ll see of Mr. Wilson in this comic or this blog!)
Below, we see Cap step aside to let Sam handle the problem himself. Note how Cap’s words in panel 3 resemble what he says to Tony Stark in Captain America: Civil War: “If I see a situation pointed south, I can’t ignore it.” It’s to his credit that when he has a good reason to, such as the preferences of his friend (Sam, not Tony… please), he can stop his impulse to step in when things “point south.”
Interestingly, below we see Sam explain himself again, but now in a different way, to his neighbors in Harlem.
(“Just a dream” although “it really happened.” Okay. I’ll assume the latter, which makes more sense, but… really?)
Cap’s happy for his friend’s newfound mission and dedication, and again returns to bemoan his own loneliness and failure to maintain a partnership. He resolves once again to never take another partner (or be part of a team, at least until next issue when he works with Femme Force again), but trust me, this is not the last we’ll see of Captain America and the Falcon. (Obviously… that’s the title on the cover for almost seven more years!)
Captain America (vol. 1) #144, December 1971: Gary Friedrich (writer), John Romita, Sr. and Gray Morrow (both pencils and inks), ??? (colors), Artie Simek and Gray Morrow (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #143 (November 1971)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #94 (December 1971)