This issue welcomes Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, back into the book that for several years bore his name, in a story that features him and Captain America on separate adventures that test both heroes’ resolve and composure in similar ways.
We begin with our title hero riding in the rain through “the black heart of Manhattan,” perhaps Times Square before what some New Yorkers call its “Disneyfication“…
…which Cap might welcome in years to come, judging by his reflections on what the city says about its inhabitants.
Of course, Cap makes sure to miss the woman who rushes in front of his motorcycle, regardless of the costs to him or said ride.
Cap’s injured, but that’s nothing compared to the sight the woman leads him to.
I always appreciate Cap’s tortured reaction to human injury, regardless of how much he’s seen—I don’t think he’d ever let himself become numb to it.
Harlem ends up being his second hospital stop of the day as Steve Rogers stops in to see Sam, Leila, and their families, who are waiting for news on young Jim Wilson, whom we remember from an earlier adventure with the Hulk.
After Steve assures Sam he need not apologize, Sam tells him what happened: Jim was taking part in a community program called the Young Watchers when he was shot trying to stop a liquor store robbery. Sam lashes out in frustration over the futility of his efforts to help the kids of Harlem, and Steve tries to calm him down, reminding him of both the good he does and the desperation behind much lawless activity (an admirable statement from someone often seen as a simple agent of law and order).
Despite his best intentions, Steve doesn’t give Sam what he needs—someone to enable his justified rage—so the Falcon flies off, leaving Leila to give some comforting words to his former partner, which he appreciates.
Cap continues to think about Leila and her relationship with Sam, comparing it to his own with Bernie and hoping to find some of what his friends have together… even if that means revealing his secret life to her.
Talk about a rat problem… we’ll see more of him soon.
Meanwhile, let’s check in on the Falcon, who’s thinking about why he got so upset at the hospital and considering if superheroing is the best way to address what’s wrong with the country.
Turns out he’s already considering an alternative, which he makes sound oh so appealing, before he sees a figure in the shadows…
…who symbolizes several of the ills he’s upset about.
They’re soon joined by the young man’s attackers, and Sam shows that Cap is not the only hero with a defiant streak.
Sam makes quick work of the three toughs, but loses “Little Angel,” while Cap considers if his friend has a point about the nature of his city, considering recent events in his own life.
Turns out his “Cap-sense” is more reliable than he knows, as another person runs in front of his motorcycle…
…and Cap’s natural sympathy and compassion leads him into a trap, even as his gut instinct saves him from a worse fate.
His thoughts above suggest he may be regretting his susceptibility to such traps, which I hope he doesn’t act on: As I note above, it is a reflection of several of his core virtues, which he shouldn’t sacrifice simply because they backfire on occasion. (This isn’t to deny, though, that he could stand to be a smidge more skeptical.)
Cap follows his foe into the tenement and up the stairs (four at a time!), suppressing his pain but not his shock at what he sees on the roof.
As the exposition below points out, Cap is much more accustomed to fighting large numbers of Nazi rats than actual rats…
…so he needs to try a new strategy, and confronts the biggest rat of all…
…which, as we see below, is not far from the truth, especially for a man who calls himself Vermin. Once again, we see Cap suffering from his earlier injury…
…bit fighting through it nonetheless.
Vermin verifies Cap’s earlier intuition that someone is behind many of the recent attacks on him, before he makes an all-too-common proclamation on the part of those who face the Sentinel of Liberty.
Let’s check in on Sam, who finds “Little Angel,” née Raymond, moments before his mother Diane does the same… and you can guess who frightens Raymond more! Diane invites Sam in for coffee, and explains her struggles raising her son with the temptation of the streets looming just outside their door.
They both rush into Raymond’s room after he cries out, and his tearful confession pushes an already fractured Falcon to the edge, from which the hero pulls himself back before he betrays his own principles and sense of integrity.
Meanwhile, Cap continues to find battling Vermin and his vermin difficult…
…incurring even more injury, but not giving up the fight, even against the surprisingly formidable and unpredictable enemy.
When Cap finally gets the upper hand, he finds himself losing control much as Sam did when Raymond confessed his crime…
…and, as Sam did, Cap stops himself before going too far, frightened by the realization of what he could have done had he given in to anger, agony, and exhaustion.
Similar to the ending of issue #270, when Steve and Bernie came together at the end of the issue, bonding over their respective experiences in silence, Steve reconnects with Sam, each unaware of the parallel paths their lives took the day before.
Finally, as they say… he’s running!
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Monsters and Men.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #271 (July 1982)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #273-274 (September-October 1982)