Amongst the 22 regular issues of Captain America that Jack Kirby write and drew in 1976 and 1977, he also produced two annuals and the massive Bicentennial Battles Treasury Edition. (If you think this is a lot of output, consider that this was not the only book Jack was writing and drawing at the time.) The first of the two annuals—and the first Cap annual overall that contained original material—came out in late April 1976, between issues #200 and #201 of the regular title.
Captain America Annual #3 is a self-contained story that heralds back to the science fiction tales of Atlas/Marvel’s pre-superhero days, to which Kirby contributed greatly (and magnificently). If you doubt me, I present Exhibit A:
This spaceship is not in space, but rather landed in Jim Hendricks’s farm, and the monster Cap fights is apparently after the ship’s pilot, who is hiding in Jim’s house. Below, Jim cites Cap’s reputation for justice to convince the pilot to trust him.
The pilot explains that he was being held captive in a black hole, from which he escaped—no big deal, anyone could do it—and is now being pursued by his captors, another one of whom Cap defeats, after which he tries to get the fugitive to go on the run again.
Cap is starting to become suspicious of the fugitive’s story… and for good reason, as we shall see.
Nonetheless, when another spaceship approaches, Cap launches into leadership mode, “barking” his orders.
While Cap battles a number of “magnoids” (magnesium robots) who emerged from the ship, the fugitive reveals his true nature as a member of a rampaging homicidal species, who was imprisoned to prevent further deaths. After he attacks Jim and steals his life-force, he then turns on Cap.
I find Cap’s last statement above to be a noble declaration of autonomy, not fearing death but wanting to decide when it will take him.
The fugitive grows as he absorbs more energy, and Cap realizes he has only one chance to prevent disaster. Kirby describes his determination, skill, and experience as he throws his mighty shield—vertically, somehow—but also shows his all-too-human limits as he collapses in exhaustion afterwards.
Cap did enough to stun the fugitive so the magnoids could defeat, restrain, and take him aboard their ship and leave. (Whew!) As he watches it leave, Cap thinks about the mysteries of space, and reserves hope despite what he has just seen.
Finally, Cap tries to report all that happened to the government—the same government that wouldn’t answer Jim Hendricks’s pleas for help, so you can guess how well this goes. However, the general makes an interesting (if familiar) point regarding Cap’s experiences compared to those of the average person on the street.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #198-200 (June-August 1976)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #201-203 (September-November 1976)