This two-parter by regular fill-in writer David Anthony Kraft reunites Captain America with Nick Fury and his Howlin’ Commandos from World War II to face a common enemy they assumed was dead—and in the end, they lose one of their own.
Issue #273 opens with Cap meeting old friends and making new ones, all the while distinctly overdressed for the party.
I assume Cap doesn’t want to embarrass Koenig by telling them in front of all his friends that they met in issue #189. (Similarly, Nick doesn’t acknowledge that the Infinity Formula he’s taken since being injured in WWII keeps him youthful.)
Of course, whenever there’s a gathering of heroes, evil will raise its head (“and if you cut off one head,” yada yada).
Although it makes it difficult to separate panels for the purposes of this blog, I do admire the way penciller Mike Zeck has Cap seem to jump off the page by crossing the gutters (as he does in the pages above and below).
Hydra makes off with General “Happy Sam” Sawyer, but not before he gives one last order to Captain America, who then turns to protecting the rest of the party-goers inside (although many of them are more than capable of taking on some Hydra goons).
Cap defeats them himself, but what happens next leaves him visibly horrified.
After decoding the clue in the hat General Sawyer dropped, Cap, Nick, Dum Dum, and Gabe head to North Dakota, where Hydra took over an air force base in order to access the strategic air control planes that can direct the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Eventually a fight starts, as well as the scholarly debate that always seem to break out as the same time. (Funny how that seems to happen in Captain America stories!) As the Red Skull often does, the Supreme Hydra argues that Americans neither appreciate nor deserve their freedoms, and Cap should abandon principles to pursue his own self-interest…
…which Cap rejects, of course, citing the higher motives possible for individuals, which tyrants never acknowledge and actually fear, because it lessens their own power (which relies on the subjugation of the people).
And furthermore, concerning the appeal to his own self-interest, Cap affirms that a dedication to principle is unwavering in the face of material gain, unlike those whose loyalties are always for sale.
When Cap finally attacks the Supreme Hydra himself, he receives a shock, both literally and figuratively.
Yes, it’s Baron Strucker… or is it? (We have been fooled before, after all.)
After Koenig risks his life in a failed attempt to stop Strucker from escaping, Cap gives a rousing speech to his “troops” to close out issue #273…
..before, in issue #274, he has a heart-to-heart with Nick about whether Strucker is actually Strucker.
We shall soon see (and it was issue #247, but who’s counting).
The good guys track Strucker to Hydra Island, also thought destroyed, which Cap investigates solo, dropping a welcome literary reference while getting a hint of things to come.
As Strucker prepares to drug General Sawyer in preparation for extracting information from his mind, he discovers that the Hulk is not the only one who smashes…
…nor, as Cap points out, is Strucker the only one to make empty threats (even one that had been tried already).
Cap whisks Sawyer away and into an airshaft, where the general again gives him an order to leave him and save others.
Meanwhile, the former Commandos are pinned down by the Hydra forces, and Nick and Dum Dum are ready to rush them by themselves until the magic of the vertical shield toss comes to their aid.
By the way Cap and Nick banter below, you’d think the fight was all but over…
…until Strucker appears with General Sawyer and presents a massive trolley problem to Cap and Nick, albeit one with significant complications (as indicated by the middle panel below).
Well that just destroys the analogy further… thanks a lot, Strucker! However, it turns out the Sawyer he had was not the actual Sawyer, who had disguised himself as a Hydra agent and ends up getting the drop on Strucker, who turned out not to be the real Strucker either.
General Sawyer makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the others…
…and the secret of Baron Strucker is revealed, which is also tragic but in its own, more existential way.
After Cap, Nick, and the Commandos escape before Hydra Island sinks again, they gather for another reunion, very different from the one that opened the issue.
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Monsters and Men.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #272 (August 1982)
ALSO THESE MONTHS: Avengers #224, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Avengers Annual #11, The Incredible Hulk Annual #11, and Marvel Two-in-One #92 and Annual #7 (October 1982)