This issue continues the “day in the life” theme of the last one, set against the background of the illness of Jeff Mace, former hero known as the Patriot and the second man to serve as Captain America after the “death” of Steve Rogers in 1945. We also spend some time on Steve’s relationship with Bernie Rosenthal, and we see some welcome growth in our hero regarding his perennial conflict between duty and love.
…although he still makes time to fight crime.
Esther and Sol, you’re not wrong. (I’m always gratified for these glimpses into how the ordinary citizens of the Marvel Universe see Cap and his fellow heroes, as explored to magnificent effect by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross in Marvels.)
As we know from the last issue, Cap is not racing to fight the Red Skull, but to get to the bedside of an old friend and colleague, Jeff Mace, in the final days of his battle with cancer.
For a few pages we see Nomad follow a drone that was hovering outside Mace’s window, tracing it back to the hideout of the Porcupine, an old foe of Ant-Man and the Wasp who first fought Cap in issue #130, who is developing weaponry for a rebooted Secret Empire and plans to test it by fighting Captain America once again. After he defeats Nomad, we rejoin Days of Our Lives, already in progress.
But before they have a chance to “not make speeches,” their neighbors Josh and Mike burst in with pizza, and… well, there’s pizza.
The first step is recognizing you have a problem!
Steve finally resolve to put the past behind him and embrace the effects of inflation when he gets an ominous call from Jarvis and finds he has to say goodbye once again to Bernie… so he can say goodbye one last time to Jeff Mace.
If Cap renewed his struggle with duty and love in the last issue, he seems to have reconciled it by now, having successfully compartmentalized his private life as Steve Rogers with his responsibilities at Captain America; as a result, he is able to fully live as each one when appropriate.
Unfortunately, the Porcupine has other plans for the Sentinel of Liberty that stand in the way of getting to Mace’s bedside…
…and Cap is none too happy about that—or seeing Nomad in danger, for that matter. He lets Porcupine have a taste of his patented defiance before having to play a deadly game of catch.
Nomad’s momentum takes them over the edge of the roof…
…with the exposition above and below reminiscent of John Stuart Mill’s statement, aimed at those that criticize economics as “unfeeling,” that “the most unfeeling thing I know of is the law of gravitation: it breaks the neck of the best and most amiable person without scruple, if he forgets for a single moment to give heed to it.” Regardless, Cap manages to save both himself as Nomad, if only barely, thanks to his indefatigable perseverance.
Cap rises to face another conflict, this one between one duty and another—stopping Porcupine and being at Mace’s side in his final moments—and he knows just whom he can call on to help.
Unfortunately, Nomad has to struggle through his own shame and doubt, even in the face of his hero fighting with incredible resilience.
As Cap goes down, Nomad finally gets his head together…
…and fight Porcupine himself for a while, all to give Cap the chance to deal the final blow and then explain how he played possum before he. has. to. GO.
Cap leaves Nomad in a better place and rushes to Jeff’s hospital room, where his old friend has been hanging on…
…until he no longer has to.
A fitting farewell, complete with a salute, to a hero and fellow Captain America.
Speaking of hospitals, in Fantastic Four #258, Cap and Iron Man visit their friend the Thing, coincident with the events of Marvel Two-in-One #96, as two of Doctor Doom’s sentry robots look into a different patient. (The man in the armor is Tony Stark, not James Rhodes, whom we’ve seen in that role since, such as in Iron Man #172.)
Collected in Captain America Epic Collection: Monsters and Men.
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #284 (August 1983)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #235 (September 1983)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #286-288 (October-December 1983)