This issue continues from the last, which ended with Captain America having been subdued by the Slayer—a.k.a. Captain America’s pacifist friend Dave Cox after being transformed radically by Mother Superior and Baron Zemo—who has now turned his sights to Nomad. If that’s not enough pulse-pounding action for you, Steve and Bernie have the talk after she dropped the m-word a couple issues ago, which then to an entire issue of Cap contemplating the prospect.
Of course, it’s a bit hard for Nomad to remember that Cox is a pacifist at the moment…
…but he does try to use that knowledge to talk him down, which impresses Cap, especially after he dressed down the younger hero in the last issue for using excessive force on an ordinary thief.
Unfortunately, just as Nomad’s words start to get through, Cox pauses, and Nomad takes his chance to land a decent blow. (To his credit, as we see in a subsequent panel, not shown here, Nomad does realize this, but he felt he couldn’t risk not striking while he could.)
But Cox quickly recovers and lowers his blade on Nomad, and before the ax falls we see the reactions of three of our actors, with Cap’s the most complex and realistic.
Cox once again surprises everybody as he manages to resist his evil programming, perhaps due to Nomad’s words, and reassert who he is.
Mother Superior does her best to reinforce her control of him, offering him the choice of following her way or dying, and Cox makes the only choice he can.
Mother Superior and Zemo flee, leaving Cap and Nomad to tend to Cox, who is still clinging to life. After getting Cox to the hospital, Cap updates Nomad on his history with Zemo and how the villain attacked him through Arnie Roth (in issue #276) and now Dave Cox, and Nomad draws the obvious conclusion.
We see where this is going, but before Cap gets there too, Cox’s wife Julie arrives with their young son. Cap starts to apologize for happened, but Julie knows her husband too well.
Come sunrise, Cap returns to pondering the implications of Zemo’s campaign against him for Bernie’s marriage proposal, as well as his slowing reflexes.
For his part, Nomad is still struggling to reconcile Cox’s pacifism with his sacrifice, and Cap has to, once again, go through the distinction between moral courage and physical courage.
That’s very optimistic of Cap, maybe even naive, but he needs to maintain that attitude to keep fighting to bring that day about.
Once back at Bernie’s apartment, Steve can’t hide his anxiety from the woman who loves him, but when he starts to explain…
…she ain’t buyin’ it.
She tells him that he’s not as special as he thinks, that everyone bears risks in life…
…and that he ought to take the risk of accepting her proposal.
Looks like that “be a hero” line worked.
Of course, the issue can’t end on that happy note, can it?
Some people send the weirdest engagement presents!
Collected in: Captain America: Death of the Red Skull
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #293 and Alpha Flight #10 (May 1984)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #295 (July 1984)