Captain America #316 (April 1986)

This is the first of two self-contained issues that share two features: They both feature Captain America’s “favorite” former Avengers teammate, Hawkeye, and they both highlight the precarious state of Cap’s relationship with his fiancée, Bernie Rosenthal. Also, this issue marks the return of the Armadillo, last seen breaking into (coincidentally) the West Coast Avengers’ headquarters in issue #308, and who happens to have problems in his own love life as well… problems on which Cap might be able to offer a little advice.

The issue opens with Hawkeye explaining his “unique relationship” with Cap to his fellow West Coast Avenger and wife, Mocking bird (a.k.a Bobbi Morse).

Clint saves me the trouble of noting how far he and Cap have progressed since their early days in the Avengers (starting with issue #16)…

…and Bobbi generously lets the “I used to be a bit insecure” line go without mention. (Wait until they’ve been married a little longer!)

Our scene changes to Bernie’s apartment, where she and Steve are having a heart-to-heart about her law school plans, his recent absences, and his unrealistic expectations regarding his national hotline.

After Steve insults the fine folks at University of Wisconsin Law School (ranked #20 in 1987 and #38 at the time of writing), he reveals that his main concern is the distance from New York. As it happens, this is its main feature to Bernie, who is actually emulating him by focusing on her own goals full-time.

Steve gets it, though I have to imagine he’s regretting the whole “moral exemplar” thing right about now. He acknowledges that Bernie’s doing the right thing, but naturally wonders about their engagement—and like every couple looking ahead to a long-distance relationship, they’re optimistic (most likely too much).

No, that’s not Gregory Hines rehearsing upstairs, but just two rejects from Grease West Coast Avengers knocking at Steve’s door. (The trial Clint mentions is part of the basis for next issue’s story.)

Two comments: 1) It looks like Steve is already doubting a future with Bernie, given his hesitant reference to her as his “good friend,” and 2) Bernie suggests the same as she seems happy for the interruption, when she is usually the one who resents impositions on her time with Steve.

Steve is prudently coy about Clint and Bobbi’s superhero identities, which leaves Bernie guessing, and he is even more guarded about the state of his and Bernie’s relationship when Clint brings it up, changing the topic…

…to the Armadillo, now a professional wrestler, with his wife Bonita beside him in the panel below. (More about the “unlimited class” wrestling soon.)

After confessing to not being up on the current line-up at CBGB’s (RIP), Steve notices the wrestling ad in the paper featuring the Armadillo. When he remembers Bernie’s love for wrestling (albeit the normal professional kind), she downplays it for some reason. (Fine for philosophers but not for law students? Hmm and hmm.)

At the end of the evening, Bernie tries to reassure Steve that all is not over—could this be a good sign? (I know the answer, as might you, but we’ll try not to spoil the next issue.)

So what’s up with this “unlimited class wrestling”? (You’d know if you’ve been reading The Thing, ya lousy bums.)

Although Steve has the same reaction to “super-wrestling” that he had to “normal human” pro wrestling, he is happy for Armadillo—and despite her best instincts, it seems Bernie is enjoying the match too.

Steve excuses himself, signalling the possibility of delaying the group’s plans, which Bernie is all too familiar with, even as he considers his side-trip “unnecessary” but at the same time obligatory. (For good reason, I should say: reinforcing good behavior among the formerly criminal set.)

On the way to finding the Armadillo, Cap sees a man and woman canoodling… and when Bonita walks in, he realizes what was going on.

After he rejoins the rest of the gang at Lindy’s, Steve wonders whether he should tell Armadillo that his wife is cheating on him, an all-too-common question.

My answer is: You should tell your partner if you cheated on them, but it’s more complicated when it’s your friend who has been cheated on. Because Steve doesn’t know the Armadillo well enough to know how he feels about it, it is even harder to make a decision—though apparently not for Steve’s three friends, who are unanimously against it.

As it turns out, it’s beside the point, as Cap learns when he hears about a rampaging Armadillo on the streets of Manhattan, and heads there to try to talk him down.

It does not work, and instead Cap finds himself having to repel a flying manhole cover.

What’s the saying: A Cap always lands on his feet?

Cap tries talking again, connecting with the Armadillo one fella to another, and it seems to work better than before… even if only a little.

Of course, when bystanders are endangered, Cap jumps to without a thought…

…after which the Armadillo engages in a very final plan.

Again, Cap’s first thought is for civilians as he tries to knock Armadillo off the building…

…then follows him up while continuing to try to talk him down by sharing his own problèmes d’amour.

Cap reveals he knows 1) that he and Bernie are done, and 2) that there’s life after Bernie. But Armadillo focuses on everything he gave up for his wife, only to be betrayed by her (which, to be fair, goes way beyond Cap’s issues with Bernie). And to my point earlier, Armadillo does imply that he wanted to know, so Cap would have been right to tell him (if he’d known how Armadillo felt).

Hawkeye inadvertently distracts Cap just long enough for Armadillo to jump…

…making Cap feel like a failure for not getting through to Armadillo (even though he survives the fall).

The final panel speaks for itself.

Ain’t that the truth!


ISSUE DETAILS

Captain America (vol. 1) #316, April 1986: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Paul Neary (pencils), Dennis Janke (inks), Ken Feduniewicz (colors), Diana Albers (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Society of Serpents


PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #315 (March 1986)

ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #266 and Vision and the Scarlet Witch #7 (April 1986)

NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #317 and Marvel Fanfare #26 (May 1986)

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