These three comics finish up Captain America’s search for the Falcon that began in the last issue, and which also brings in the Hulk for a cross-over at the end—and we find out who the mystery Jim is who the Falcon went looking for in the first place!
Captain America #229 opens where the last issue left off, with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s underground facility collapsing over the heads of Cap and his opponent du jour, the Constrictor, with Cap demonstrating his trademark defiance against… that big steel girder, I guess.
After Cap valiantly fights to get himself and the Constrictor above ground, he tries to frighten his foe into revealing who sold him out… but his reputation for honor tends to make him much less successful at bluffing than the Dark Knight is (which I discuss on pp. 130-132 of Batman and Ethics). Plus, Connie doesn’t know anyway.
Cap does learn that the mysterious Jim’s last name is Wilson, which is a big clue (because there couldn’t be two Wilsons in the Marvel Universe who aren’t related). He decides to go to Los Angeles, where Sam was training the Super-Agents, but he first stops at his apartment, the scene of a recent auto accident (in issue #222). There, he finds a picture of him and Bucky, which triggers his fear of not being able to protect his partners, seen more often in his early years out of the ice.
Unfortunately, Cap can’t find any money in his apartment, so after stopping at the AM—not the ATM, but Avengers Mansion, where Jarvis of all people lends him some dough out of the “pantry money”—he hops the bus to California. Along the way, he starts to think about the state of his country, as he’s had occasion to do, especially since the entire Secret Empire episode (starting in issue #169), until he’s distracted by a young superhero fan, serving as a house ad for another Marvel Comic (and one Cap happened to be appearing in at the time).
Ouch! But Billy’s comment only steers Cap’s early contemplation toward considering, and ultimately reaffirming, his own role a symbol of a country which has started to doubt itself (reminiscent of his doubts way back in issue #122).
Inside, Cap finds the Super-Agents, and in the process of fighting them, it is revealed that the traitor among them is the one called Blue Streak, who tells Cap that the Corporation is holding the Falcon in Alcatraz. In Captain America #230, Cap and two of the other Super-Agents, Vamp and Marvel Man (previously Marvel Boy, later to be Quasar), travel to the historical prison, where Marvel Man announces their presence, much against Cap’s more considered wishes.
I’m not quite sure exactly what Cap did with his shield there, but it impressed the other two! (Let’s hope he can shave that pesky 0.05 seconds off his time, though.)
Soon they find Sam Wilson chained up in an underground (and underwater) chamber, and then the Corporation finds them. (And no, that is not 50 Cent behind the window.)
If you’re surprised at Cap’s apparent willingness to negotiate with Jackson, so is Marvel Man (although not Vamp)… but give him a chance. Jackson mentions the Corporation is less interested in Sam than in his nephew, who Cap guesses is Jim Wilson, and the bargaining only gets more serious.
Who’s behind him? None other than Bruce Banner, whom the Corporation well knows is also the Incredible Hulk (and friend to Jim Wilson).
Cap finally lets Marvel Man in on his plan, much to his relief and ours. It probably says more about Jackson than Cap that the ruse worked: Only a person utterly lacking in integrity could believe that Captain America would compromise his principles so quickly.
Just then, the Corporation’s Kligger and his new lackey Moonstone—not the one involved with the Secret Empire, but psychiatrist Karla Sofen, whom we met in Captain America #192 and who stole the eponymous gem to become the new Moonstone in The Incredible Hulk #228—show up, only to be joined by Vamp, who was another traitor within the Super-Agents. (Excellent screening they have at S.H.I.E.L.D., huh?) Marvel Man starts blasting again, and the ensuing battle only makes Banner angry, and pretty soon there’s a Hulk in the house.
Cap tries to make a connection, but the Hulk is not interested…
…so they fight, and Cap finds that appeals to the Hulk’s rationality are not as effective as he would have liked.
For once, Cap’s greater skill and strategy is not enough to defeat the sheer power of his foe—after all, there is a reason they say that the Hulk is the strongest there is.
Fearing the Hulk’s renewed attention, Kligger uses a device to transform Vamp into Animus (whom we remember from issues #222 and #223), and defeats the Hulk just in time for the chamber to start flooding with water from the San Francisco Bay.
In The Incredible Hulk #232, Cap comes to, only to attract the attention of Moonstone—a situation which he then cleverly uses to his advantage.
Do reflexes keep an unconscious person from trying to breathe when underwater? I certainly don’t know—and please don’t test it out!
The Hulk and Marvel Man continue to fight Animus and Moonstone (respectively) until the latter flees and the former finally succumbs to the green goliath (and transforms back into Vamp). Finally, our heroes confront Kligger, who chooses not to be captured…
…forcing Cap to (literally) shield Jim from the surprisingly wild gunfire.
In the aftermath, Jim learns his uncle is not only a mild-mannered metropolitan social worker, and Cap faces yet another uncomfortable truth, which calls back to his thoughts on the bus to California.
Did I mention that, in addition to being a prominent member of the Corporation, Kligger was also a United States Senator? This makes him the second federal politician Cap has seen who was revealed to be a criminal and then committed suicide to escape justice (after the president himself at the end of the Secret Empire storyline in issue #175). This latest instance serves to reinforce his thought earlier that, despite the principles it stands for and the good people that support it, America also contains corruption—and true patriotism and love for one’s country demands recognizing and combating that corruption, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist or, even worse, defending it.
Collected in black-and-white in Essential Captain America Volume 6.
Captain America (vol. 1) #230, February 1979: Roger McKensie and Roger Stern (writers), Sal Buscema (pencils), Don Perlin (inks), Nelson Yomtov (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
The Incredible Hulk (vol. 1) #232, February 1979: Roger Stern and David Michelinie (writer), Sal Buscema (pencils), Mike Esposito (inks), Ben Sean (colors), John Costanza (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #228 (December 1978)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #231 (March 1979)