Captain America #290 (February 1984)

This issue sets up the storyline which will take us through issue #300 (after a quick fill-in next issue), and deals mainly with the private lives of Steve Rogers and his friends. It introduces one character (Seen on the striking cover by John Byrne) who will become a very important figure in coming years, as well as another one who might have, had things gone differently behind the scenes. (You’ll see what I mean in later issues.)

We start with our hero showing off to his girlfriend Bernie in Avengers Mansion (as if simply bringing her to Avengers Mansion wouldn’t be enough).

Cap seems as aware as we are that showing off is not normal for him, although he writes off his discomfort with it as a function of his age rather than his humility.

Based on his lovey-dovey loquaciousness below, we see how far Cap has progressed in his relationship with Bernie, especially considering that, not long ago, he shied away from any such expressions of affection.

Once again, he covers up his embarrassment with cracks about his age.

Seconded!

Next, we get a resolution to only the greatest cliffhanger ever in comics: What happened when Steve Rogers finally met Bernie’s parents, an event he was so keen to avoid he risked his life on an adventure to a dystopian future with Deathlok?

In hindsight, I may have built that up a bit too much.

Bernie was interrupted by a pesky bug, but it seems Cap may have realized it was actually a fellow Avenger.

This reminds of the classic vaudeville routine: “Who was that insect I saw you with last night?” “That was no insect—that was the Wasp!” (Maybe I’m remembering it wrong.)

Seriously, though, Janet is very sweet in her attitude toward Cap—which is impressive, given her own recent experiences with her ex-husband Hank Pym.

Below, the lovebirds have a heart-to-heart while they walk, with Steve referencing his recent integration of the two sides of who he is (after successfully establishing his civilian identity), before expressing astonishment at how influential his actions are.

This would be a fine revelation for most people, especially if it prompts them to think more about the consequences of their actions, but Cap already assumes more responsibility than he should, so we should be concerned that these thoughts may put even more weight on his shoulders.

Make sure you see the “Wilson for Congress” stickers on the fence above—we’ll check in with the candidate soon—before Steve catches Jack Monroe (Nomad) off balance back at their apartment.

We can read Steve’s sympathetic comments as describing a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which was added to the DSM only in 1980 (after being diagnosed in many Vietnam veterans), so kudos to writer J.M. DeMatteis for alluding to it here, adding yet other dimension of humanity to Captain America (and superheroes in general).

I believe the next panel is the first mention of Joseph Rogers’s literary ambitions, which helps explain his son’s love of the written word.

Next, Steve reiterates the true nature of courage as the ability to deal with fear, not the absence of it, citing his own failures to realize this in the past.

After they suit up, Cap and Nomad head to Sam Wilson’s campaign headquarters, which has seen better days.

Cap manages to get the word “elections” out before Redwing startles Nomad, with Sam close behind, revealing that his superhero identity is an open secret at best, at least in Harlem.

Sigh.

Rather than point out the young man’s double negative, Cap focuses on reconnecting with his former partner, who seems reconciled to the election results (although “loser” is a bit harsh). Similar to Cap, Sam has experienced his own revelation about his dual identity, coming to appreciate his value as a social worker as well as a superhero.

Eagle-eyed Jack sees malfeasance nearby, but soon learns that Sam anticipated it all along, which is why he asked Cap over to play “good cop, bad cop”…

…though it’s strange to see Cap in the role of “bad cop”!

Having picked up a third, Cap heads to yet another friend’s place, where they find Arnie Becker experiencing sleep problems (having just been visited by several villains we’ll meet very soon).

Arnie shares tales of li’l Stevie, one aspect of which Jack finds a connection with…

…and which is overheard by the evil pair who had visited Arnie earlier. We recognize Baron Zemo the younger, of course, last seen in issue #278, and his companion is Mother Superior (not Mother Night, as the cover would suggest), who claims a rather infamous lineage.

We don’t actually see Daddy in this issue, but he does receive a dramatic introduction courtesy of his dear daughter.

(Yes, Mother Superior is Sin, a prominent figure in Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America in the 2000s.)

After our game of bridge breaks up, talk between Cap and Nomad turns to Arnie, about whom the latter has suspicions.

Before we can hear Jack’s attitudes toward homosexuality—which we can easily imagine, given his background, may be somewhat retrograde—he’s once again frightened by a birdie.

This is no ordinary bird, however—in fact, it is the other significant character introduced in this issue, who will be explored further in issue #292


ISSUE DETAILS

Captain America (vol. 1) #290, February 1984: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Ron Frenz (pencils), Steve Leialoha (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Diana Albers (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Captain America: Death of the Red Skull


PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #289 and Falcon #3-4 (January-February 1984)

NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #291 (March 1984)

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