In this issue, Captain America finally starts to get some answers to his quest, begun in issue #215, into his forgotten life before Project Rebirth… but those answers will sound strange, and for good reason. We also get some flattering exposition, and sound introspection on Cap’s part, while he struggles against the villainous Corporation, acting in very mysterious ways…
…such as hurling purple German automobiles at him in his apartment, as we see in the opening splash page below.
While he’s dodging the Volkswagen, the exposition highlights his constant state of preparedness, which has served him well through his long and storied career (and eventful personal life).
Cap doesn’t get enough credit for his early reservations about driverless cars!
As far as one’s “intellect disengaging” when performing expert physical tasks is concerned, see this piece by my colleague Barbara Montero (based on her book, Thought in Action).
Below, writer Steve Gerber shows his roots in advertising (previously seen in issue #157), while Cap shows that his legendary humility is limited by reality.
As Cap watches the Bug plummet to its doom (or BA-DOOM), he not only reflects on the way he thinks about himself, but he also reflects on the fact that he reflects on it.
Cap is shocked out of his multi-level introspection by the Old Woman in the Window, to whom he is unfailingly polite…
…unaware that the woman is actually Veda, the woman he met in issue #217 who claims to be the daughter of one of the government agents involved with Project Rebirth, while she is also secretly an agent for the Corporation.
When he gets back to his apartment and inspects the damage, he resumes his reflection on his missing memories and how little he actually knows about Steve Rogers separate from Captain America.
All of this seems a little exaggerated to me, as if he never took off his costume since 1941. It’s one thing to have him be ignorant of his life before then, but here it seems like he’s lost all memories of civilian life, of which he has had some experience since being defrosted, as seen in earlier posts at this very blog.
Cap travels to Washington, DC, to access his military records at the Pentagon (made easier by his Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. credentials, natch).
Already we’re getting some information that sounds odd to those familiar with later Cap lore, including a middle name and a diplomat father, neither of which are canon (and will be explained away later). But even stranger is his stated induction date of December 15, 1941, which corresponds to the details of his past life that we’ll learn about in an upcoming issue, but not to common sense: Cap’s first appearance was in an issue cover-dated March 1941, which included his time as Private Steve Rogers. So why did he buy that he was inducted after Pearl Harbor, which has to conflict with his memories of being Cao (not in question), and only makes sense given the “history” he learn later?
It seems we’re not the only ones with doubts, as Cap investigates this past more (though not his memory of dates).
Cap visits the local newspaper to get more details on the local Rogers family.
Walter, Elizabeth, and Mike… boyhood in Maryland… none of this is canon as we know it now. I point this out for several reasons: First, these details will all be revealed to be false in a couple years’ time (issue #247, to be exact), and second, I don’t think any of these life details are important to the larger “who is Steve Rogers” storyline, so there’s little value in taking them to be true even for the time being.
As he did in issue #181, Cap seeks solace at the foot of an idol (speaking both figuratively and literally), no more fulfilled for having learned some “facts” about himself, and acknowledges (not for the first time) his status as a national symbol.
And then the symbolism gets pushed to 11.
Again, Cap shows himself to be very self-aware, realizing that this is just a statue animated for some nefarious purpose while acknowledging that he is not immune to its symbolic effects.
Eventually he is overcome by both the statue and the connected realization about the new information about his background.
And then our story takes an even stranger turn… and that’s saying a lot, considering we began with a rogue Volkswagen and just finished with an animated statue of Abraham Lincoln.
Where is all this going, you ask? Find out in the next issue and post.
Captain America (vol. 1) #222, June 1978: Steve Gerber (writer), Sal Buscema (pencils), John Tartaglione and Mike Esposito (inks), George Roussos (colors), Gaspar Saladino and Annette Kawecki (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected in color (until Marvel Masterworks: Captain America Volume Twelve is released, that is), but it is collected in black-and-white in Essential Captain America Volume 6.
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #219-221 (March-May 1978)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #172 and Invaders #29 (June 1978)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #223-224 and Marvel Team-Up #71 (July-August 1978)
Steve Gerber was an incredible writer. I just don’t think he was such a good fit for Captain America. I really don’t know of any fans of the character who have anything real positive to say about this period of the series.
That said, Cap vs the VW Bug is so ridiculous that it’s actually entertaining. It also reminds me of the animated segment from Monty Python’s Flying Circus featuring the Killer Cars.
Yes, it’s hard to see what he’s trying to do — and it’s definitely over the top in that sense (VW and such).