With this issue and this post, we start not only Steve Englehart’s legendary run on Captain America, but also one of the more ethically significant storylines to this point in Cap’s history, a four-issue arc that I’ll be taking one issue at a time. Even though this issue is a prelude of sorts, not getting to the real point of the story until the last four pages, the set-up is meaningful as well. (Englehart sure hit the ground running!)
Our story begins when Cap, Sharon Carter, and the Falcon return to Cap’s hotel room after their battle with Mr. Hyde and the Scorpion in the last issue, only to find someone waiting for them. (Note Cap’s ambivalence concerning his secret identity, which has been the trend since he faked his death to get rid of it in issue #111.)
Nick is not at his best here, taking a lot of his own frustration out on Cap… which, to bis credit, Cap realizes, but it only makes it more difficult to fight one of his oldest friends when he also sympathizes with him, as we see in the exposition below.
New from Hasbro: the Nick Fury Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. action figure complete with goofy-looking power arm! (Also… take that, Sarge Steel! Also… I wonder if he’s got a big star on the shoulder. Also… why does it look more like the Michelin Man‘s arm? Also… isn’t that arm awfully heavy? Also… OK, I’m done.)
While Cap hears Nick out and tries to reason with him, he also tries to calm him down, not wanting to hurt him—even though he poses even more of a threat than usual, what with his S.H.I.E.L.D. Power Suit with Solid Steel Arm™!
What’s more, remember that Cap is beat from the last battle… and it actually makes him lose his shield. (I always appreciate when writers note that Cap does get tired!)
Below, Cap successfully goads Nick into revealing what he’s “fighting for”… and wow is it petty.
Wait, it gets “better.”
While Nick catches his breath, Cap tells him a thing or two about his own experience, and hints at his “man out of time” status, an important aspect of his character that hasn’t been mentioned in quite a while.
Unbeknownst to Cap or Nick, Sharon called Val at S.H.I.E.L.D., who rushes over to tell Nick what an idiot he’s being. (Cap was too kind to say it.) And once his schoolboy jealousy is put to rest, Sharon drops a bomb on him.
The conflict between love and duty Sharon mentions has been an issue since her and Cap’s first date in Tales of Suspense #95, and is a significant theme in Cap’s own struggle with relationships and his role as the Sentinel of Liberty. For now, she seems to have resolved the conflict on the side of love, but if you think this will last long… ha!
Cap and Sharon finally decide to get away…
…while Sam returns to Harlem, to get both good news—he overhears some locals talk up the Falcon’s heroics, as opposed to the normal “Uncle Tom” accusations he hears—and bad news—Leila tells him that black residents have been harassed by a white superhero… and not just any superhero.
Sam nobly takes it on himself to protect Captain America’s reputation… and has he got his job cut out for him.
Well, it certainly looks like him…
I’m sorry to say that “boy” is just the beginning; the n-word is never used, but other offensive terms are. (For the most part, I manage to avoid panels with such language, but if you’re inclined to read the original comics, be warned.)
The only bright side here—from the point of view of the story, at least—is that this Cap’s language (as well as his super-strength) convinces Sam that he’s an imposter.
But when Sam unmasks this Cap to see who he is, he doesn’t like what—or whom—he sees.
The words in the circle at the bottom of this page are accurate, dear reader. This is “a” Captain America and Bucky. But which ones? Where did they come from? We shall soon see…
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #151-152 (July-August 1972)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #103 (September 1973)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #154 (October 1972)