This issue of Captain America is a thematic one-shot, a story that fits within, but doesn’t contribute to, the status quo of Steve Rogers living in Brooklyn and working as a freelance artist, while focusing on a central idea, specifically personal liberty, autonomy, or self-determination. What’s more, it features Captain America facing off against a major Spider-Man villain, which is the least interesting aspect of the issue—but obviously regarded as the most lucrative by the editor who solicited the cover art! Bonus: Cap gives Iron Man the mm-hm over in Shellhead’s own book.
The opening page emphasizes his current dual life, which is something he’s longed for since his defrosting, but still requires some management.
Cap decides to stay up, seeing as how it’s almost 6 am (so late!), and heads to Avengers Mansion for an early workout before delivering some art to the ad agency he works for. Note how the exposition stresses freedom, which seems to combine (at least in the orange text box) both personal autonomy and political liberty—distinct though related concepts.
After chasing his elusive pursuer for a while, he continues to the mansion, where Jarvis has a question for him…
…which Cap answers while enjoying his workout (in boots and all). Again, he focuses on freedom, but this time freedom from the entanglements that might come from bunking at the mansion, rather than any deeper sense of liberty. (Should Bernie Rosenthal, whom Steve Rogers has been growing close to of late, be worried?)
No, not that Coulson—Phil wouldn’t be introduced into the comics until 2012’s Battle Scars #1. In the shower, Cap remembers meeting Corporal Ray Coulson in World War II and credits him with helping him win a small victory for the Allies.
Cap commits to helping Coulson out with a turn of phrase that’s part Zen kōan, part Yogi Berra, and all Captain America.
When Cap meets up with Coulson, he greets him, as he does all veterans, with magnanimity, with Cap regarding Coulson as being just as much of a living legend as most people regard Cap.
Ray Coulson tells Cap about his son John, whom he wished he’d been closer to, especially after his wife died when John was young, and who recently disappeared after stealing money from Ray’s bike shop. He asks Cap to find him—not to bring him back, but just to tell him that his father’s sorry.
After some detective work, without beating up any thugs in a bar—I know you heard me Mr. Murdock, don’t even pretend you didn’t, I know you have very good hearing—Cap finds young John Coulson (standing behind the couch) in probably the last place he wanted to.
When Cap says he want to talk to John, the other gang members gather around the young man and challenge Cap to prove his “manlihood,” to which he gives a perfect response (and almost looks bored when he gives it).
What will the challenge be? A battle of wits, perhaps? A trivia contest? A U.S. history quiz? None of the above.
Cap doesn’t have to withstand the strain for long before his shadowy stalker from earlier in our story finally makes his presence known. It just may be the last person you’d expect… if you hadn’t seen the cover already. (This may also be a good time to mention, yet again, that the actual composition of his shield has still not been revealed as of this point, though it is referenced in almost. every. issue.)
The loss of his shield is enough to inspire Cap to a feat of strength that may have surprised even him.
Cap and Doc Ock mix it up for a bit, prompting the villain to acknowledge Cap’s perseverance as well as his strength, before he raises the shield against its owner…
…which was obviously a mistake.
(I guess Cap had its “razor-sharp edge” dulled, luckily for Doc Ock.)
Cap ties Ock up but the villain still manages to escape—back to being Spidey’s problem, I guess—so Cap returns to the reason he’s there. Cap delivers his message…
…which is consistent with the issue’s theme of freedom, specifically that it should be used wisely and compassionately. (In other words, as I recently wrote elsewhere, we have the freedom to do what we want, and we should want to use it to do good.)
John returns to his father and they start the process of reconciliation, after which he visits Avengers Mansion with a token of gratitude for Cap, which predictably makes him uncomfortable…
…but which also comes with an acknowledgement from the young man that he got the message, which is all Cap really wanted to hear.
NOT DONE YET!
Over in Iron Man #148, Tony is determined to intervene in military coup in the (fictional) Central American country of Costa Diablo, where he has a factory full of employees, but he needs a little help getting there… and Cap is concerned, given the Avengers’ recent spotty track record with national sovereignty issues (as addressed most recently here).
Mm-hm indeed—and frankly I’m surprised it stopped there. Later, Cap’s typical reaction to Tony’s shenanigans will look something more like this:
(From New Avengers, vol. 3, #2, March 2013, by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, and Rick Magyar. We’ll get there… eventually.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #259, July 1981: Jim Shooter (plot), David Michelinie (script), Mike Zeck (pencils), Frank McLaughlin and Quickdraw Studios (inks), Roger Slifer (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Dawn’s Early Light.
Iron Man (vol. 1) #148, July 1981: David Michelinie and Bob Layton (writers), John Romita, Jr. (pencils), Bob Layton (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in Iron Man Epic Collection: The Enemy Within.
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