This issue continues the story begun in the previous one, in which Captain America traveled to Los Angeles, ostensibly to participate in publicity for a movie made about him. His true purpose is to investigate a mysterious person operating under the name of Nomad, the identity he assumed in issues #180–183 after the Secret Empire incident led him to give up being Captain America (in issue #176). Here, we learn this new Nomad’s secret, as well as the identity of the mysterious “teacher” controlling him and the giant Ameridroid, seen on the cover to your right.
The issue opens with reporter Will Brynner’s rather skewed version of some of the events of the last issue.
The hand in the last panel above belongs to Leonard Spellman, producer of the Cap movie, who was watching the news along with his nephew Wally and Cap himself, all of whom know the news report was crafted to make Nomad look good and Cap look bad (but they don’t yet know why).
Spellman is concerned that Cap knows his intentions in making the movie are sincere, so he relates a story from his own World War II days, beginning with an affirmation of what makes Captain America valuable to the American people, specifically as a symbol of what the country stands for.
His story itself involves an attack by the Red Skull, which took Spellman’s best friend and threatened to take his own will to live… under Cap showed up and restored it.
Naturally, Cap deflects Spellman’s praise and redirects it to those who served their country without the benefit of enhanced abilities.
The story then shifts to the abandoned lot of Democracy Pictures, the studio that (in the Marvel Universe) made the Captain America serial in the 1940s (Republic Pictures in our world), and is also where Lyle Dekker, now the Ameridroid, originally plotted against Cap on behalf of the Red Skull (in issues #219-221). There, Nomad tries in vain to account for his failures to the “teacher” (and the off-panel Ameridroid), before he returns to his training and ponders how he became Nomad in the first place.
No, we hadn’t seen Eddie Ferbel before—but I promise that, if we should ever see anyone else call himself Nomad, it will be a familiar face.
Cap does more press for the movie, hoping to draw out the Nihilist Order. After they finally emerge… and are 100% on script… Nomad is quick to follow, with uncanny timing and “pull.”
Cap isn’t fooled by the Nihilist Order’s assessment of Nomad, which only confirms that they’re working rogether. He does, however, demonstrate it with an appropriately old-fashioned reference: The actor John Garfield, best known for movies such as The Postman Always Rings Twice, Gentleman’s Agreement, and Body and Soul (for which he won an Oscar), made his last film in 1951.
As Cap pursues the Nihilist Order, he pauses when he almost steps on a woman’s foot, only to have the woman be a member herself. She helps her colleagues escape while Nomad once again takes all the credit with the press (whom Cap is also on to by this point).
Even Wally is starting to catch on, while Cap begins to lose his patience with the entire situation.
Things heat up at the movie studio’s next publicity event, which even Spellman thinks goes too far. (And when you’ve lost Spellman…)
As uncomfortable as he is with the parade, Cap does appreciate the sincerity of those who gathered to cheer him on, affirming what Spellman said to him earlier (and what Cap told the “reporter” who questioned his value in the last issue). He doesn’t have long to dwell on this, though: After the Ameridroid shows up, Cap’s focus turns to protecting the crowd.
Cap hitches a ride on his own balloon to hit the Nihilist Order in their own airships, questioning their beliefs while taking them out, before he realizes who his supersized doppelgänger is.
When Nomad shows up on cue, Dekker gives him orders while he just blurts out their plan to anyone who might be listening—including Cap. Unfortunately, he won’t have a chance to make up for it as he becomes yet another casualty of Dekker and the “teacher.”
After subduing Cap with the gas, Dekker takes him back to the Democracy studios, where he meets the “teacher” and is reminded when he was there before.
Cap appeals to the man inside the Ameridroid, whom he thought had gotten better, only to learn that Dekker has come somehow to blame Cap for his being in the oversized robotic form.
Cap reminds Dekker of the truth of how he actually wound up in the Ameridroid and how he overcame his madness… and then Dekker realizes who is truly to blame.
After subduing Dekker, the “teacher” is ready to gloat, revealing his identity by describing his plans…
…before revealing it the obvious (and more dramatic) way.
Don’t be so hard on yourself, Cap… you’ll have a chance to redeem yourself in the next issue, when this story concludes.
Captain America (vol. 1) #262, October 1981: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Zeck (pencils), Frank McLaughlin and Quickdraw Studios (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Jim Novak and Rick Parker (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Dawn’s Early Light.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #261 (September 1981)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America Annual #5 and Avengers Annual #10 (October 1981) and Avengers #212 (October 1981)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #263 (November 1981)
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