This fill-in issue follows up on two previous stories, way back in Tales of Suspense #83 and Captain America #169, all wrapped up in a cover by John Byrne, which seems like an homage to Jack Kirby’s cover to Tales of Suspense #76, albeit with the Tumbler—or a Tumbler—in place of his conceptual cousin, Batroc the Leaper.
We begin with our hero discovering our villain in the midst of villainy, after which they assure each other they know their names before launching into a great fight, modeled on the great battle scenes between Cap and either the Tumbler or Batroc in the days of olde.
This new Tumbler does have the skills, and he knows it…
…but notice how hard he falls when Cap reminds him he left his loot behind.
OK, pal, you do that.
You might think that would be our story… but there’s more! When Cap looks in the bag, he finds a life insurance policy written out to the original Tumbler, John Michael Keane, and in the subsequent exposition, the new Tumbler reveals he is the original’s brother, Michael. When the insurance company refused to pay out on his brother’s policy because he died while engaging in criminal activity, Michael couldn’t support his mother or pay her medical bills, after which she died and he sought revenge on the insurance company.
Unfortunately, Michael doesn’t realize how much of this Cap put together himself, and when the hero wants to talk to him about it, Michael attacks him, blaming him for the deaths of both his brother and mother. But Cap knows better, fully aware that people are responsible for the consequences of their own wrongdoing.
Admirably, Cap defends himself without hurting Michael, all while trying to talk him down…
…before actually pinning him down so he’ll hear Cap when he says he only wants to help.
Cap appeals to Michael’s military background—while excusing petty theft as well as breaking and entering, cool cool cool—and teases out Tumbler 2.0’s real plans…
…which were actually to expose fraud (a very popular mission these days). Cap likes this plan, and offers to join forces.
Quit while you’re ahead, Michael.
The odd couple head out and have an acrobatics contest on the way to the insurance company, with the Tumbler acting like the kid sidekick and Cap admitting to a fear of heights, which he overcomes with courage and precaution.
This is only the second time I’ve noticed where someone calls Cap out on the “son” thing (after Daredevil did it in Captain America #235), and to his credit, Cap acknowledges how insulting it can be. (But does he stop? Do we want him to stop? Nah.)
After they break in, a quick look at the files reveals that the company insures a lot of costumed criminals, policies on which the survivors are hesitant to file claims lest their identities be revealed… but Michael did. When Matthews, the company employee who denied the claim on the original Tumbler’s policy, threatens to kill Cap and Michael in the middle of a “burglary attempt,” Michael stands up for Cap, giving him a chance to get the drop on them.
Cap can’t stop teaching, this time regarding timely action and strategic retreat…
…and the pupil shows he’s learned, but when he pushes the partnership thing too far, Cap pulls back, although not because of the Tumbler’s villainous beginnings.
Gee, someone oughta tell Jack Monroe that!
When all is said and done, Tumbler says the four finest words ever uttered…
…and Cap agrees, before anointing the Tumbler, who opts instead for an early retirement.
All in all, this is one of the better fill-in issues we’ve seen… and regular reader Ben Herman agrees, as you can see for yourself at his excellent post at his blog.
Captain America (vol. 1) #291, March 1984: Bill Mantlo (writer), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Jack Abel (inks), Andy Yanchus (colors), Diana Albers (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America: Death of the Red Skull
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #290 (February 1984)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #241 (March 1984)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #292 (April 1984)
Thanks for the shout-out.