This issue wraps up the three-part story begun in issue #261, which finds Captain America in Los Angeles to investigate a new Nomad, only to find himself battling a terrorist group called the Nihilist Order and his old foe the Ameridroid (who killed Nomad in the last issue), all under the control of a mysterious “teacher” who is none other than the Red Skull. (Whew.)
I should also mention that Cap was ostensibly in L.A. to help promote a Galactic Studios movie being made about his life, and the Red Skull happens to be headquartered at the studios of Democracy Pictures, which made the Marvel Universe version the 1940s Captain America serial (made by Republic Pictures in our world). But the Red Skull has yet another movie in mind, as we see in the title of this issue’s story…
When he first see Cap, he is still blaming himself for not seeing the Skull’s hand behind all of this earlier, as he learned at the end of the last issue. Of course, this gives Skull a chance to gloat about his evil plan, including setting up the new Nomad to get him to Los Angeles, and confirming that he had plants in the media slanting the news against Cap and for Nomad.
As usual, the Red Skull’s plan does not stop at killing Captain America, but also destroying his good name.
This is not Cap’s first rodeo (nor ours), so he’s not surprised or concerned about the attack on his reputation. He is upset, however, about Lyle Dekker, the Ameridroid, who was fine the last time they met, but unfortunately he fit the Red Skull’s love for dramatic flair…
…as well as his essential cruelty, which prompts a succinct and forceful reaction from our hero.
After the Red Skull reactivates the Ameridroid, Cap helps him to fight the Skull’s control, reminding him that inside that giant robotic shell, he’s still a man with a mind of his own.
The Skull scoffs, and Dekker finds it hard to disagree, but Cap keeps at him, even as the giant pummels him…
…until his words finally get through.
Dekker, on the other hand, does not get through… to the Red Skull, that is… but the Skull does take the chance to give one of his patented spiels against freedom, typical of an advocate of tyranny.
Although understandable if not justified for any other person, Cap’s reaction seems excessive for him, as he throws his shield at the Skull with obvious murderous intent, if not effect.
Cap’s next blow is just as demonstrative if less lethal.
As Cap searches the Democracy Studios grounds for the Red Skull, he finds more Nihilist Order goons, who simply give Cap a bit of exercise, much needed to work out some of this frustration at his arch-nemesis and the manipulation he’s been subject to since arriving in Los Angeles.
Eventually, another Skull robot leads him to a train, which takes him to an elevator, which takes him to yet another movie studio, where he learns the true reach of the Red Skull’s plan…
…which actually involves boosting Cap’s reputation again, just to use the public’s love for him against them.
I’m usually not convinced when the villain says “I really meant to fail the whole time—it was all part of my plan,” but the Skull really sells it here. He also emphasizes that his goal is never just to destroy Captain America, but the country he represents.
Wow, good thing we’re no longer glued to our screens, huh? This would never work now!
Cap attacks the Skull and decapitates him, revealing yet another robot (whether he knew that or not). Immediately afterwards, who should burst into the room, leading Cap to doubt everything, but Dekker… but he’s not interested in Cap at all.
Apparently, Dekker manages to do what Cap couldn’t (assuming he intended to), although the Red Skull has “died” before, and I kinda suspect he’ll be back. (Dekker will return, but not for many years—thirty, to be precise.)
After Cap finds and destroys the film before it can be shown to innocent viewers, the guys behind the Galactic Studios movie take our weary hero to the airport, where he is happy to be finished with Hollywood once and for all…
…until 2011, that is.
Captain America (vol. 1) #263, November 1981: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Zeck (pencils), Frank McLaughlin and Quickdraw Studios (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Dawn’s Early Light.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #262 (October 1981)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #213 (November 1981)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #264 (December 1981)