These two issues contain the first significant meeting between Captains America and Britain, after some minor appearances together in Captain Britain’s Marvel UK title and the licensed book Rom. It also finishes off Mike Carlin’s short “interlude” run on Captain America, following J.M. DeMatteis’s epic run and preceding Mark Gruenwald’s decade on the book that starts next issue. (We’ll hear from the latter at the end of the post.)
Issue #305 opens with our hero hard at work at the drawing table, facing his greatest foe.
He references the difficulty of balancing his two “jobs”…
…and foreshadows an upcoming development in his career, before a sudden and surprising costume change that’s practically over before it begins.
Steve expresses skepticism about the mystical world (with apologies to a fellow “long underwear type”) before turning his attention to the British-themed costume (and presumably thinking of his fellow Invaders, Union Jack and Spitfire).
As he prepares to leave for Blighty, he thinks through his decision, which is actually a bit questionable given the inessential purpose of the trip and his admitted less-than-stellar reputation among his clients. This isn’t your typical heroic moral dilemma based on saving lives, but it is a common use of judgment that you and I may experience fairly regularly.
After he arrives in London, it doesn’t take long for Cap to come face-to-face with the costume in question… with quite an angry fella inside it.
It also doesn’t take long for Cap to suspect that this is not actually Captain Britain…
…and after a long battle amongst the historic landmarks of London, “Captain Britain” defeats our Cap and locks him in a dungeon (which is apparently not the Tower of London, so the white-haired man is not one of the York princes).
So who is he, then?
Oh. (Guess you had to be there.)
Usually portrayed as the fallen son of King Arthur in the legends, this Modred is the former apprentice of a man he believes to be the wizard Merlin, and who later fell in with a bad otherworldly crowd. Eventually he battled the Black Knight (and his teammates in the Defenders and the Avengers) as well as Captain Britain, who is the agent of the true Merlin. Thinking Merlin his mentor and rival, Modred plans to summon and defeat him using Captain Britain’s mystical-technological armor, leaving the real hero naked in the dungeon with our Cap.
In issue #306, while Modred goes on a rampage to lure Merlin out, Cap struggles to escape the dungeon.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note that Cap’s childhood friend Arnie Roth pops into Bernie’s shop to say goodbye to Steve. (We’ll see him again, but not for quite a while: June 1994’s issue #428.)
Meanwhile, Cap hasn’t made much headway. The other Cap doesn’t think he’d be much help, but as expected, our Cap is determined not to give up. (Check out the Spidey-ish pose in the third panel below.)
Captain Britain appreciates Captain America’s words of resolve, which are soon backed up with action.
Working together, the Captains escape from the dungeon and face Modred. Captain Britain explains that only he can summon Merlin, which he will do if Modred returns the armor to him (to the sound of F-ZAMM, which sounds to me like a profane version of SHAZAM).
Of course he does! However, Merlin never comes, and Modred strikes out, only to have his own power turned against him by Captains America and Britain.
And guess who shows up once the fight’s over?
As we all do when facing a giant wizard in the sky, Cap gets his civil rights on, but Merlin cares not.
Cap still doesn’t like it, and seems to somehow feel responsible for what Merlin did, while maintaining the belief that the Captains could have defeated him if they’d tried.
On the letters page, editor and incoming writer Mark Gruenwald explains what Captain America means to him, emphasizing his early life of deprivation and hardship and his appreciation of the gifts he was granted as well as the responsibilities they entail, ideas which we will see play out throughout his decade-long run on the title, starting with the next issue.
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Society of Serpents
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #255-256 (May-June 1985)