These two issues bring us back to Captain America’s main storyline (after the last issue), in that it references Steve Rogers’s burgeoning artistic career, while still having the feel of a fill-in story, this one about a fella named Adonis who definitely isn’t. (No judgment… neither am I!)
Issue #243 opens with Cap fighting unknown agents trying to steal a “Master Matrix,” which S.H.I.E.L.D. uses to create its life-model decoys (LMDs), one of the classic examples of a deus ex machina in the Marvel Universe. (I think Nick Fury has more LMDs of himself than Doctor Doom has Doombots.)
While fighting, Cap reminds us that his artistic responsibilities will never detract from being the Sentinel of Liberty (an excuse I’m sure every artist has tried to use from time to time).
Of course, Cap wants to protect the Master Matrix from falling into the wrong hands, but more important is protecting innocent lives… especially from ricocheting bullets (which never seem to get the attention they should).
As much as I appreciate that bit of exposition, the feat of strength he demonstrates above seems a bit more than the “human perfection” created by Project Rebirth (even driven by his legendary determination)—repelling five grown men seems like it would take the true super-strength Cap used to have (starting in issue #158 and confirmed gone in issue #218).
The thugs get the upper hand temporarily after they grab a hostage…
…but they obviously didn’t count on Cap being such a literalist!
Below we see a fawning crowd gather around our hero… which is especially gratifying, coming so soon after he appeared in a white nationalist TV commercial with a swastika painted on his shield.
As he leaves his adoring fans—and maybe shows off a bit?—the exposition reminds us of his foundation in timeless principle despite popular sentiment to the contrary, a contrast that has been emphasized in the comics since the late 1960s (under the pen of Stan Lee).
Cap hitches a ride on the helicopter in which the thieves are taking the master matrix to Cameron Electronics, a factory owned by an elderly Eric Cameron, who plans to use the Matrix to put his brain in an LMD, while his son Brady plans to use the device to kill his father.
After Cap fights through the automated defenses in the factory, he stops Brady from overloading the Matrix with power but does not stop the process itself, which overloads all by itself (with Cap literally shielding Brady from the blast).
When Eric Cameron emerges from the Matrix, his new body is deformed, and he is not happy about it.
In issue #244, Cap’s first thought is to prevent Eric from killing his son, which he accomplishes with some tricky shieldwork.
Eric flees the burning factory, leaving destruction in his wake, and runs into the woods, evading Cap’s search (with the help of a police helicopter).
The next morning, Cap is back in reflective mode, thinking about his role as the Sentinel of Liberty and how it fits into the modern world (of 1980), as well as his more recent embrace of his life as Steve Rogers.
When Steve gets to Plumber Publishing, the editor’s receptionist warns him that he’s in for a hard time, and she would have been right if not for a certain certificate on the editor’s wall.
I’m sure it’s completely normal to be offered a bonus for meeting your first deadline as a freelance artist, even after you’ve connected with the editor.
But when he hears news of a rampaging Eric Cameron on the radio, he once again affirms that his duties as Cap are more important than any artistic gig. (And let’s face it, the bonus was too good to be true anyway.)
Cap engages with Chambers, helps protect civilians, and offers to help the creature even as he battles with him—and calls him Adonis, even though I don’t think anyone’s referred to him as that yet other than the writer and editor!
Eventually, Eric—you can’t make me call him Adonis—ends up electrocuting himself, and Cap mourns his loss, wishing he’d been able to get through to him before it was too late.
(Hmm… a man, a monster… that sounds familiar for some reason.)
Collected in black-and-white in Essential Captain America Volume 7.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #242 (February 1980)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #193-194 (March-April 1980)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #245 (May 1980)