This issue is the first of three that focus on the story of the Scourge of the Underworld, a mysterious individual who has been killing minor villains across various Marvel titles for the last few months, including Captain America #311, in what was actually an editorial “housecleaning” mechanism designed by editor and current Captain America writer Mark Gruenwald (spoilers for future issues in linked article). Cap won’t encounter the Scourge for a couple issues yet, so for now we get to focus on his new living and work situation (since breaking up with his fiancee and deciding to move out of his Brooklyn apartment in the last issue), which partially explains the “new head-gear” so prominently hyped on the cover.
When we first see Cap, he’s apparently taking Bernie’s suggestion and moving back into the dorm…
…but we soon learn he’s not staying long.
Not exactly “Hard Travelin’ Heroes” trying to reconnect with America—although he will do that much later, after the recent Secret Empire debacle—but rather committing even more to his mission of serving the entire country, which he began by launching his hotline in issue #312. As team leader, the Wasp is naturally concerned with his availability during his new “remote working” phase, but he just assumes a quinjet will be at his beck and call.
Note the sincere compliment, acknowledging his importance to the Avengers, to which he responds by calling her “Janny.” (Janny?)
Speaking of quinjets, the expert Wakandan engineers that built them (based on the Black Panther’s designs) have now turned their attentions to… fixing up Chevrolet vans. (Maybe they pissed off the king?)
It seems the editors at the in-universe Marvel Comics weren’t too keen on remote work in 1986 either.
Steve definitely seems liberated—perhaps, more than anything else, from dwelling about the break-up with Bernie. (Or paying rent?)
Steve doesn’t get far before the villain du jour shows up, whizzing by him and attracting the local authorities—but Steve is very confident they’re not after him, because he would never ever speed (or else the van simply can’t, despite the best Wakandan technology).
After the patrol car crashes and Steve saves the driver, nature calls, so he visits one of our highway system’s lovely rest stops. (I trust he is grateful he doesn’t have the enhanced olfactory senses of Daredevil or Wolverine.) He does, however, recognize a ne’er-do-well, and suspects he may be the Scourge.
Don’t get me started on the glasses… I just don’t have the time.
Blue Streak thinks he has the jump on this mysterious stranger, but ends up destroying his own ride instead. (Where did the car come from anyway—didn’t he just skate by Steve a few panels ago?)
Under cover of the explosion, both fighters go to their corners and change into their work clothes, and after Blue Streak realizes who he was scuffling with, he lands the zinger of his career.
Amazingly, Cap recovers from this near-fatal verbal blow, and after acrobatically dodging laser blasts—those countless hours in the Avengers training room really paid off—he trips up Blue Streak with one toss of his mighty shield.
After Blue Streak takes off, we get the moment we’ve been waiting for.
In case this scene looks familiar, it just might be.
As he chases the Evil Rollerskater, Cap considers the path his prey could have taken…
…which may have prevented him from throwing tacks in Cap’s way.
Luckily, the shield also doubles as a reverse-Roomba of sorts.
Cap thinks Blue Streak accidentally went over the cliff, so descends the face after him, as he is wont to do… which Blue Streak counted on. (Cap’s heroic impulses are admirable, of course, but the better they’re known by his foes, the more they can take advantage of them.)
After trying and failing to steal Cap’s bike, Blue Streak hitches a ride with a trucker… who is actually the Scourge in disguise. (R.I.P. Blue Streak.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #318, June 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: Justice Is Served and Captain America: Scourge of the Underworld
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #317 and Marvel Fanfare #26 (May 1986)
ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #268, New Mutants #40, and The Incredible Hulk #320 (June 1986)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #319 (July 1986)
While there’s great stuff ahead during the Gruenwald years I wish he hadn’t ended Steve’s life as a “regular American”. That period was my favorite since Cap got to experience the American dream he was fighting for. It put him in touch with normal folks and their hopes, dreams and struggles. It made him the common man that Kirby and Simon wanted him to represent. I also liked Bernie. She was a believable, realistic character. I liked that she was Jewish. I liked that she proposed to Steve instead of the other way around. I liked that she was a small-business owner; it made her a “regular American” to. I liked that she had a fun artistic side. I personally never bought the idea that she’d become a lawyer.