This issue sees the Red Skull, Mother Superior, and Baron Zemo continue their psychological campaign against Captain America. Specifically, Cap finally faces off with Mother Superior—and, in the process, discovering who her father is—and Nomad comes to an astonishing realization (more than hinted at on the cover).
You’ll no doubt remember that, at the end of the last issue, Cap and Nomad were trapped by the Red Skull after Cap was tricked into beating his childhood pal Arnie Roth, who had been posed as Baron Zemo, nearly to death… so Cap is understandably very relieved when Arnie comes to.
Don’t get too sappy, Cappy… “fool you once, shame on you,” and so on (given what happened last time they found “Arnie”).
After a door opens, Cap and Nomad explore their surroundings, and soon discover Horst, the Red Skull’s valet, dead and elderly, despite having been in suspended animation like the Skull and… well, you know. So it should not be a surprise when Cap looks in the mirror (especially after Bernie mentioned in the last issue that he was looking older).
You and me both, buddy… you and me both.
The sight of Older Cap seems to disturb Nomad even more, as he starts to remember things he would have rather kept forgotten, and Cap shows that a rapidly accelerating aging process can’t keep a good super-soldier down.
And the Red Skull agrees.
Cap and Nomad wonder around some more, and happen upon a facsimile of a Berlin cafe, in which every one appears to be Arnie Roth… everybody except a woman on stage, who triggers Nomad’s memory of meeting her earlier and being brainwashed into slowly drugging Cap.
(To be fair, being born in the early 1920s makes him old—Nomad just helped him look his age!)
The lights go out and Nomad apparently disappears—and when the lights come back on, another Arnie is on stage, and Cap seems to know this is the genuine article.
Arnie’ self-deprecating song transforms into a heartbreaking monologue, cruelly forced by his captors, referencing his homosexuality and society’s rejection of it.
Cap is predictably enraged, breaking through the force-field separating him from his friend and then reassuring Arnie of his own goodness as well as the validity of who he loves.
After flashing to memories of Bucky as he watches Arnie fall into a stupor, Cap turns his rage upward to their tormentors… until one of them answers his call.
Before they join in battle, Mother Superior reveals her parentage.
Cap doesn’t fully appreciate this revelation, due to his desperate anger…
…which Mother Superior in turn celebrates while reaffirming who her father is.
This fact finally gets through to Cap, but it only brings sympathy, not more hatred or rage.
Cap tries to reason with Mother Superior, treating her as an innocent pawn of her father and painting him as their common enemy.
Despite the crudeness of the drawing, I find Cap’s physical stance above, matching his moral one, to be very effective: arms open despite his enfeebled physique, bathed in light, offering love (in the Christian sense) rather than hate.
Unfortunately, Cap’s heartfelt words fail to get through to the irreparably damaged Mother Superior, as made clear by the exposition below.
Mother Superior shows Cap how many of his loved ones the villains have captured (the Falcon having been defeated and abducted by the Sisters of Sin earlier in this issue)…
…and Cap is distracted enough for her to plunge a needle into his neck, setting the stage for the next issue, in which Baron Zemo takes his turn tormenting our hero.
Captain America (vol. 1) #296, August 1984: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Paul Neary (pencils), Sam de la Rosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Diana Albers (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America: Death of the Red Skull
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #295 (July 1984)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Secret Wars #4 (August 1984)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #297 (September 1984)
The artwork on this issue was genuinely eerie. I found it very unsettling when I was a kid.
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I totally get that!
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