This annual is significant for (at least) two reasons. First, it is the first significant meeting between Captain America and Wolverine aside from brief interactions in team and event books, most notably Secret Wars, and later retcons, such as Uncanny X-Men #268, which show them meeting during World War II. Second, it marks the return of Mike Zeck on interior pencils, unfortunately for the last time on a Cap story (although he’ll continue to provide astonishing covers for a while yet).
After seven pages of Wolverine fighting a giant robot and its handler in defense of Nuklo, the radioactive mutant introduced in Giant-Size Avengers #1, we see Captain America investigating a sinkhole that—believe it or not—is connected to Wolverine’s own adventure. Note the townspeople’s amazement at seeing an Avenger in their little town (wherever it might be).
Apparently, on Earth-616, Dee Snyder (not Snider) sings for Twisted Sister (or maybe Twysted Syster), but I assume that, just as on our earth, he still wants to rock.
To escape the embarrassing hyperbole, Cap jumps in the big hole…
…but wisely decides to use the ladder instead, a better perch from which to play detective.
That’s right, Captain America uses his mighty shield, made from a unique combination of proto-adamantium and vibranium… as a doorstop. And as we see below, it proves invaluable nonetheless, not just to Cap but also to the men it helps him rescue.
But Cap isn’t finished with the case, which he just can’t seem to crack!
After finding a more traditional doorstop, Cap tosses a rock ahead of him to test for more booby-traps…
…and Matt Murdock himself would be proud of how Cap picks up a clue from its sound, which gives him at least a split second to anticipate the next disaster, from which his shield saves him yet again.
Below, Cap makes a joke to himself—he’ll have remember to tell Hawkeye about it later—before he very cleverly extricates himself from his pointed predicament. (At least he acknowledges the sacrifice of the shield’s paint job.)
The shield’s work is not yet done—although this time its job is more traditional.
Like the end of a Geraldo Rivera special, Cap finds a big load of nothing, but still manages to deduce that a robot once lived here before getting more details above ground.
After reaching out to his hotline, Cap gets word of a giant rampaging robot at Adametco, a company that makes adamantium. When he gets there, the security guard has no idea how a robot could have gotten in, given their state-of-the-art security, but then becomes aware that someone broke in through a fence…
…that “someone” being our clawed friend. He and Cap finally meet, and Cap tells Wolverine he’s on thin ice due to his association with Magneto (apparently forgetting his recent heroic actions in New Mutants #40).
Surprisingly, Wolverine does not take well to being lectured, and Cap’s shield takes yet another hit.
The two mix it up before the robot!—the robot!—appears and they realize they’re both in the same story after all.
To be fair, he has a point.
Aww, the robot’s name is Tess—that’s a pretty name.
Gee, it’s a wonder these two don’t team up more often.
Cap admires the robot’s skills, while Wolverine just won’t let up.
Of course, it’s Cap who extends the olive branch first, but Wolverine is still reluctant.
After a shout-out to the FOIA, Cap gets more than he bargained for when he decides to look into the owner of the underground lair the robot came from.
It turns Tess was made in the early 1940s to guard against a super-soldier uprising…
…a reasonable purpose made irrelevant after only one super-soldier was made. (Of course, it was later established that experiments continued for decades under the auspices of the Weapon Plus program, which produced Nuke, seen in Daredevil #233, and also gave Wolverine his shiny new skeleton.)
After Wolverine identifies Tess’s controller as a mutant named Richard Rennselaer who can control machinery, Cap and Wolverine meet up at a nuclear command center that Tess seems intent on destroying.
Cap directs the personnel at the center to clear the area, reasoning that Tess is after him, and then makes a questionable inference regarding his shield.
That doesn’t quite make sense: If adamantium is the strongest substance in the Marvel Universe, and the shield is made from an early formulation of adamantium, which we can assume is less strong than the final substance, mixed with vibranium, which by implication is less strong as well, the shield should be less strong than adamantium. (Right?)
As the two heroes continue to butt heads, Cap reflects on Wolverine’s… well, let’s just say he doesn’t play well with others (unless they’re named Jean).
Nonetheless, Cap does admire Wolverine’s skill, and finds a way to work with him.
Once they have Tess down, Wolverine goes for the throat, and demonstrates his heroism with his next request, which earns even more admiration from the Sentinel of Liberty.
Once they take care of Tess, Cap and Wolverine ask her controller what he wants… and the ordinariness of his goal seems a bit of a letdown.
There are more holes in Rennselaer’s plan than one of Wolverine’s foes post-snikt, and after failing to answer for them, he just goes ahead with it anyway.
Cap knocks Rennselaer off his… flying thingie… and Wolverine gets ready to play his part, whether it’s to catch Rennselaer, as Cap ordered, or impale him. (And we know how Wolverine loves it when Cap gives him orders.)
In the end, Wolverine does neither… which I suppose splits the difference, in a way?
Cap doesn’t see it that way…
…and he makes a pledge that will come back to bite him (or stab him?) after Wolverine helps out the nascent team in their first adventure in June 2005’s New Avengers #6 (by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch, and Danny Miki). Just look at his face in that first panel.
“Well I don’t have to like it!”
Captain America (vol. 1) Annual #8, September 1986: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Mike Zeck (pencils), John Beatty and Josef Rubinstein (inks), Glynis Oliver (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Justice Is Served