These two issues, the last of Jack Kirby’s 1976-77 run on Captain America, continue (just barely) from the storyline in issues #206-208 and #209-212. Here, the Falcon takes center stage while Captain America recovers from his temporary blindness following his fight with one of Arnim Zola’s creatures in issue #212, as they both face a new foe whose perspective seems a little familiar to this reader (and perhaps to you as well).
Issue #213 starts with a dream—one with decidedly retributive and vengeful overtones.
I’ve written in past posts (as well as my book) about the vices of vengeance (as opposed to retributive justice, which ideally is institutional and dispassionate). Although Cap usually doesn’t act out of vengeance, I think it’s perfectly reasonable for his dreams to have this theme, especially following one of his closest brushes with death at the hands of the Red Skull in the last issue. Nonetheless, it’s rather alarming to hear him speak like this, even in a dream.
Below, the Red Skull invokes one of the Joker’s favorite points when taunting the Dark Knight: that they are necessary opposites that define each other and mutually justify their existence, in a twisted yin yang relationship.
Then Cap awakens in an effective sequence of panels from Kirby, culminating in what is perhaps Cap’s most blood-curdling expression of vengeance toward the Red Skull.
The hand above belongs to Sam Wilson, who tells Cap about his potential visitors before they commiserate over the burdens of the superhero life, especially the burdens on their loved ones (which has been a recurrent theme between Cap and Sharon through the second half of Kirby’s run).
Soon, Cap gets a mysterious bunkmate, and he chooses to express his curiosity in musical terms, about which Sam pokes fun, and in a rather dark way! (No worries, Cap will get his before the end of the story.)
Even though his temporary blindness allowed the Red Skull to sucker-punch him in the last issue, by now Cap seems to have regained the use of his reflexes, honed by his remaining senses. (Take that, Murdock!)
Seriously, though, did Project Rebirth give him heightened senses as well? I wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t remember it being mentioned before. Perhaps it’s part of the super-strength he acquired in issue #158 that has yet to officially wear off. (Or maybe Kirby’s just being generous to his co-creation.)
Eventually Cap throws the would-be assassin out a window, and the villainous Corporation (who hired said assassin) is informed of this by a mole at S.H.I.E.L.D., they contract the services of a much more Kirby-esque assassin…
…or should I say Ditko-esque, because the Night Flyer seems much like one of Steve Ditko’s Ayn Rand-inspired characters. (His “hang-glider of sinister design,” on the other hand, is pure Kirby, recalling the Silver Surfer’s board and the Black Racer’s skis.)
See also Kite Man, a laughable Batman villain introduced in 1960, made the subject of this iconic cover in 1979, and recently resuscitated by writer Tom King. (Kite Man’s name, by the way, is Charles Brown, naturally.)
Sam intercepts the Night Flyer on his way to the hospital, but despite his best efforts and those of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Flyer makes his way into Cap’s room and shoots his roommate multiple times, only later realizing it was a decoy (which, of course, he claimed he knew all along… he’s the perfect man, after all).
The issue ends with the Night Flyer surrendering his weapon while swearing to fulfill his mission, and at the beginning of issue #214, he overcomes the entire room of superheroes and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with… well, Cap will tell you, before unwittingly apprehending the culprit himself.
Daredevil himself would be envious of Cap’s next move.
Lucky for Cap, the Night Flyer doesn’t have the fraction of a second it would take to take another shot at point-blank range. (Whew!)
Once Sam comes to, he runs to Cap’s side, but Cap wants no sympathy, minimizing his injuries just as he did the ones that led to his blindness in issue #212.
Sam fights the Night Flyer for several pages, and Cap decides he has to “pitch in,” realizing that he can do more good in costume, both to intimidate his foes as well as to boost his own confidence.
Following the S.H.I.E.L.D. mole to where Night Flyer has defeated Sam, Cap uses his shield (and his “heightened senses”) to hit… well, someone.
Cap and Sam fight the Night Flyer until the S.H.I.E.L.D. air defense shoots down his hang-glider, which was the source of his power—unfortunately for him.
Cap can see?
Yes, I am sure that is how nerves work.
And now for Cap’s revenge on Sam for knocking his love of the Great American Songbook.
I don’t see how that was a joke at all… the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent was clearly referring to Benedict Arnold, so Sam just… ah, forget it. (For readers as old as I am who were thinking of Diff’rent Strokes, it didn’t premiere until a year later.)
Jack Kirby spends the last two panels of his run of writer and penciller on Captain America… poking fun at another co-creation of his.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #209-212 (May-August 1977)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #215 (November 1977)