These three issues finish out Jack Kirby’s “Madbomb” storyline, with which he began his return to writing and drawing Captain America earlier in 1976. As I explained earlier, Kirby’s 1976-1978 run was light on explicitly ethics-related content, so I cover these issues in batches and fairly quickly. In fact, the most interesting part of these issues to me has nothing to do with the Madbomb at all, but rather Cap becoming a little mad for a… well, just wait and see.
Issue #198 picks up where the last left off, with Cap and the Falcon getting orders with a U.S. Army general about where to look next for the Madbomb, the massive mind-control device with which the Elites plan to overthrow American democracy.
When Cap arrives at the mansion where Harding has been sighted, he finds not Mason, but his daughter.
She must be a DC Comics fan!
Interestingly, Cap and Carol have quite the conversation—clearly she has met no one like him, even beyond the costume and shield, and he’s not accustomed to meeting someone who doesn’t have preconceptions about who he is.
Naturally, Cap’s concerned about her safety, given her father’s predicament, but he also shares more general thoughts, sounding a lot like the philosopher we all know him to be.
Yes, philosophers are famously sensitive people—thank you, Carol!
Just then, Cap pulls away, out of concerns about propriety—a specific iteration of the conflict between duty and love that has doomed all of his romantic entanglements, ever since the early days with Sharon Carter—but he doesn’t pull away completely.
Cap is self-aware enough to realize how much Carol has affected him—and I have to imagine Sam picks up on it too, given how Cap presents the case for protecting her.
While Sam keeps watch over them and the estate, ultimately fighting both Harding’s guards and the Elite forces looking for Harding, Cap takes Carol riding on the beach. (Obviously, he pulled the short straw.)
To jump out of the story for a minute: You might be wondering where Sharon Carter is these days and the status of her relationship with Cap. Kirby’s run was fairly self-contained, and with a few exceptions like Sam’s girlfriend Leila, few supporting characters show up, but we will see Sharon soon (although she may seem… different).
And in any case, Cap’s just doing his job. (Honest!) Below, we see him keeping mindful of the action not far away, as well as opening up to a kindred spirit who knows loneliness perhaps more than he does.
But how does she know that? We find out after some toughs try to kick sand in his face and he reveals he’s already taken the Charles Atlas course.
Well that ups the drama a notch.
In issue #199, Cap and Sam continue to clean up Harding’s estate, and after S.H.I.E.L.D. arrives, they discuss Carol, and Sam expresses his own commonality with her experience.
When Cap pays Carol a visit, he expresses a rather idealistic view of war, while she feels responsible for her father’s selling out to the Elites.
Yes, Cap is a nice man, isn’t he? (That’s what I’ve been saying this entire time!) Seriously, though, he clearly doesn’t want to give up on Carol or Mason, even though they both seem doomed in their own way. (If only confidence were all it took to lick any problem!)
By the end of the issue, Mason reaches Cap and Sam, telling them where to find the the Madbomb and the Elites are located, as well as giving them devices to protect against its effects. The story reaches its conclusion in issue #200 when Cap reaches the Taurey estate and confronts the Elites on their own turf, giving Kirby a chance to show his co-creation in fighting action (a highlight of his mid-1960s work on the character).
(Where’s Sam, you ask? He’s taking care of business at the Taurey Towers Building, where the Madbomb is actually located.)
Cap finally finds Taurey and the rest of the Elites, and overhears them mention his revolutionary namesake, whom he dreamt about back in issue #194, and his connection to Taurey.
After breaking up the Elites’ ball, he offers to settle Taurey’s ancestral beef in the most direct way possible.
This is a curious case of Cap invoking the “dark side” of honor, as I discuss in my book (on pp. 83-84), a sense of honor that has more to do with defending pride than recognizing virtue and integrity. (I hope Cap is only pretending to endorse this sense of honor to bait Taurey.)
While Cap is defeating the man behind the Madbomb, Sam succeeds in destroying the Madbomb itself, and they celebrate together via
An appropriate ending for the bicentennial issue of Captain America that also coincided with the American bicentennial! (Not to be confused with Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, a special issue also published in summer 1976, and discussed here soon.)
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #195-197 (March-May 1976)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America Annual #3 (1976) and Captain America #201-203 (September-November 1976)