The two-part story beginning in this issue reintroduces some old friends and one villain from Captain America’s past (and a beloved series covered in its entirety at this very blog)…
After opening on the discovery of a murder north of London, England, and a glimpse of the issue’s special guests, the focus turns to our hero, intervening in an ordinary liquor store hold-up, which Cap nonetheless takes as seriously as a throw-down with Thanos, with the exposition noting his steady demeanor. (And is the “razor-sharp” edge of his shield back? Look at it slice through that shotgun barrel.)
Not to discount the fancy shieldwork below, but I’m more interested in the thief’s comment about never believing Captain America was real—beside his legendary service in World War II, Cap has always been a fairly public hero, unlike more shadowy figures like Daredevil and Batman, both of whom are often portrayed as “urban legends.” I mean, Cap almost ran for U.S. president just three issues ago!
Speaking of the Caped Crusader, below we get a rare glimpse at Cap being intimidating even when standing still (especially with the shadows added to his figure).
But where your average street-level superhero may simply attack the gunman, relieving him of his weapon and then beating him to a pulp, Cap convinces him to hand over his weapon. He doesn’t even use fear or threats to do it—he just tells the man that he has no chance of success, and after thinking it over, the man agrees (on the “only one sane response”).
The easy work done, Cap prepares for his most dangerous mission ever…
In fact, the original production of Oklahoma! did open in 1943 (and ran through 1948), but the 1979 revival closed in August 1980, which seems off even for a comic that was published several months ahead of its January 1981 cover date. (But hey, Cap does do the impossible!)
After the couple return to Steve’s apartment, they discuss his “old-fashioned” tastes (sigh)…
…and Bernie makes a move with stealth that Batroc the Leaper would admire.
Uncanny timing on the part of dear Jarvis, which starts off the adventure part of our tale by summoning Captain America into action with the invocation of a familiar name.
Neither of them is completely honest with the other, with Steve not ready yet to share his other life with Bernie, and Bernie responding to Steve’s evasiveness with a defensive fib.
Will these crazy kids ever work it out? Wait and see!
Steve spends the last of his savings on a flight to London… on a Concorde. I think even Tony Stark would be jealous! More important, he reminisces about his WWII days and his superhero colleagues at the time, the Invaders.
When Steve gets to customs in London, he shows us that membership indeed does have its privileges.
Finally, Steve gets to Falsworth Manor, home of Lord Falsworth, the original Union Jack of World War I, and his daughter Jacqueline, previously the Invader known as Spitfire.
As we saw when Peggy Carter encountered him for the first time in the “modern age,” Jackie is a bit self-conscious in front of the perpetually young Steve Rogers.
Steve and Jackie catch each other up, which very smoothly cleans up a continuity error in Cap’s first modern appearance and updates us on Jackie and her brother, before they are joined by her father.
Lord Fallsworth fills Steve in on why he was summoned, claiming that his old foe Baron Blood is still alive… as alive as a vampire can be, at any rate. And Steve is willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, based on his respect for the former hero.
Batman Cap begins investigating and meets Doctor Cromwell, who seems off in several ways that may very well be important later.
Cap ask to see the body of Baron Blood and knows instantly that whoever is in the coffin, he—or she—is not the vampire he’s looking for.
Hmm, he’s seen that many vampire skeletons in combat? I want to read those stories! (Seriously, though, I appreciate Cap’s logic here: Just because Baron Blood may be on the loose does not mean that he’s the killer, even though the chances of that being true have increased significantly.)
Back at the manor, we (and Cap) meet Jackie’s son Kenneth and his friend Joey Chapman. (Joey has an interesting reaction to meeting Cap, seeming awed by him and also playfully teasing with him.)
Cap shares a quiet moment with Lord Fallsworth, the younger man assuring the older that he’s not crazy and allowing him to relive his glory days once more, at least in spirit. (And how often do I get a chance to refer to Cap as “the younger man”?)
That night, Baron Blood strikes…
…but of course Cap is ready.
Despite his clever deduction that the Baron would strike at him first, he forgot his foe’s strength…
…and the fight lasts longer than he would have liked, with Cap relying on his infamous judo skills, not emphasizing as much lately as in his early days out of the ice.
In the end, however, Baron Blood uses his hypnotic abilities to overcome Cap in preparation of siring him.
Come back in the next post to see if Captain America becomes even longer in the tooth than he already is!
Captain America (vol. 1) #253, January 1981: Roger Stern (plot and script), John Byrne (plot and pencils), Josef Rubinstein (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #252 (December 1980)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #203 (January 1981)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #254 (February 1981)