For the first time I am covering one month’s issues of Captain America and Avengers together, because the Avengers issue has only a brief appearance of our hero, which seems to take place during the issue of Cap’s own book.
At the end of the last issue, Cap was in jail after being defeated by Moonstone, who’s working with Quentin Harderman to discredit Cap and install Moonstone as America’s new hero, and was surprised by a group of costumed men who broke into the jail and… well, see for yourself in the opening page to Captain America #171, which also summarizes Cap’s moral dilemma du jour:
As we described in the last post, this storyline presents Cap with numerous conflicts of principle, centered around his relationship to the law and the value of his reputation to his purpose as America’s defender. Here, the issue is whether or not to stay in jail and wait for justice to be done, which is his natural inclination, but which also increases the chances that the conspiracy against him will worsen and the criminals behind it (including the murderous Moonstone) will remain free.
Here, he chooses the law, but his “friends” have a different opinion.
When the police show up, Cap’s “liberators” take things a bit too far, forcing Cap to fight them to defend the police.
This comes as a welcome surprise to the police, who have come to doubt Cap’s allegiances, not just because of Harderman’s campaign but also Cap’s own actions of late.
Hmm, I’m starting to wonder about these guys…
When Cap comes to, he starts to piece things together, prompted the mysterious reappearance of his shield.
Cap recovers and attacks his foes… who he realizes are actually his foes while he’s beating them up.
After he finishes with the thugs, Cap tries to get information out of one of them, but comes to a realization not many costumed heroes do: Sometimes their threats work too well!
In the process of tracking down that solid clue, Cap stumbles into Avengers #121, where his teammates are fighting the villains of the Zodiac, and he lends them a welcome (if surprising) hand.
Vision saves Mantis, but in the process he critically damages the building she fell from, endangering the civilians in the area—and Cap and Thor both acknowledge that saving lives is always the top priority, even if it means letting the villains escape.
With both Mantis and the civilians safe, the Avengers wish Cap the best, and Cap shows (us, at least) his gratitude for their support.
He may have been too quick with that thought, for who should show up at Sam’s office back in Captain America #171 but Iron Man, who is definitely more concerned about the veracity of Cap’s claims to innocence than he let on in front of the other Avengers.
Sam stands by his friend, of course—see that, Tony?—and soon Redwing has located him.
Now Tony’s worried about the value to the nation of Cap as a symbol… not his friend and fellow Avengers who is the man behind the symbol? With friends like this…
We catch up with Cap in mid-thought, reflecting on the dark irony of his situation and what it means of his understanding of his own moral character, when Sam catches up with him too.
Cap explains what’s happened while Sam’s been in Wakanda and Nigeria the last couple issues, and Sam shows with a hand and a word that he supports his friend 100%… which does not go unnoticed.
I hope Moonstone feels better after getting that off his chest—you’ve gotta love villains’ impulse to gloat about their evil plans!
Sam soars up to confront Moonstone but falls prey to his laser blasts. Cap turns his attention to his friend, and Moonstone takes advantage of it (as villains do), defeating both heroes just in time for the issue to end…
…the resolution of which we’ll see, of course, in the next issue/post.
Captain America (vol. 1) #171, March 1974: Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich (writers), Sal Buscema (pencils), Vince Colletta (inks), Linda Lessmann (colors), Artie Simek (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #172-173 (April-May 1974) and Avengers #125-126 and Giant-Size Avengers #1 (July-August 1974)