It’s understandable that, after the events of the last issue, Steve Rogers doesn’t appear in these issues (except in flashback or on screens). But his influence is definitely felt as the Commission debates what to do next with the name and the shield, and his chosen successor adapts to his new role and has to decide how he’s going to operate in the huge shadow of the original Captain America.
As issue #333 opens, the members of the Commission are shocked, just shocked, that Steve Rogers would rather give up being Captain America rather than submit to their orders, especially when they sound so very reasonable and even-tempered.
Valerie Cooper brings her fellow Commissioners down a notch by reminding them that they are not, in fact, the government, after which General Haywerth goes to another extreme…
…only to be shut down by Henry Gyrich, who has more moderate suggestions—one of which Mr. Mathers thinks may start a superhero Civil War. (He must have read ahead.)
Cooper steers the discussion toward finding a replacement Cap they can pass of as the original, which, after some discussion of what Rogers might do in response, raises the question of who could do it.
The general mentions two super-soldier candidates, neither of which is… available at the moment.
They then consider people in the superhero community, both friends of the original Cap, with Masters having to admit that America is probably not ready for Sam Wilson to be Cap (yet). (Just wait until he reads a little farther.)
They even consider Nick Fury, which would definitely be something to see.
Hey, let’s flip through today’s newspaper and see if anyone pops out at us!
They find John Walker being interviewed on television about the previous day’s heroic events, and summon him in to talk to Cooper…
…when we finally get some background on the self-proclaimed Super-Patriot, who has his suspicions about the entire situation, which he’s almost immediately ashamed of (one of the dangers of unconditional trust in authority).
Walker’s story is an interesting combination of the noble (wanting to serve his history and be like his brother) and the opportunistic (after he met Thurm).
Cooper tells Walker what happened to Captain America, which Walker has a hard time believing, despite the issues he had with the hero.
She finally invites him to be the next Cap, and Walker is naturally conflicted, given his criticisms of the old Cap and the strong pull of duty to the country (which seems sincere).
Walker signs on…
…although Thurm will be most unhappy about his client’s diminished financial prospects, and asks Walker to make a number of unreasonable contract demands, including hiring the Buckies, the Pips to Walker’s Gladys Knight, as official back-ups.
When Walker returns to face the entire Commission, his pre-performance review is excellent…
…so next he tries on the outfit. (No surprise it doesn’t fit, because Walker was enhanced by the Power Broker.)
Walker undergoes a painful first training session with the Freedom Force, and then retursn to the Commission, who demand in turn that he drop Sturm altogether, as well as two of the Buckies. Walker does not have a problem with that, a signal that he is dedicated to serving as Captain America for real, not for his own advantage.
In issue #334, Walker watches game tapes, and although he’s impressed, he’s not intimidated.
He’s frustrated that no one is available to show him how to do what Rogers did, and then wonders why he quit at all, suspecting something’s up but deciding not to worry about it.
Remember that the Commission only ruled out two of Walker’s sidekicks? That leaves Lemar Hoskins, the one remaining, to be…
It didn’t take long for readers to write in, explaining that “buck” is a racist epithet—as well as citing the inappropriateness of a grown man being named after a former kid sidekick, especially when that man is Black and larger than his partner—but it was legendary comics writer Dwayne McDuffie who first let Mark Gruenwald know of the issue, as recounted here. In issue #341, Lemar changes his name to Battlestar, adopting a new costume as well, but for the time being, he’s Bucky.
Eventually, Thurm tells Walker that he’s threatening to reveal that Captain America has been replaced to blackmail the government, and Walker struggles with what to do, looking to his predecessor’s example for guidance and aspiring to live up to it.
After training with the Taskmaster, who knows Steve Rogers’ combat technique as well as anybody, Walker and Hoskins go undercover in elite military Guardsmen armor to scare Thurm, but causing significant damage and injury in the process. The next day, Walker is torn up about it, wondering if the original Cap would have done the same, and when Cooper asks about it, he decides to do what he thinks Cap would do: He admits what he did.
In issue #335, after impressively completing a training exercise, the Commission congratulates their new team and swears them in, including a standard public service oath of allegiance to the Constitution, and then another oath pledging to obey the Commission itself.
Afterwards, Walker and Hoskins get cleaned up while Walker anticipates their first mission, the likelihood of passing as the original Cap, and his hopes of ultimately going public as Cap 2.0
Look at their faces above—that must be some water pressure!
Hoskins wonders what happened to Rogers, and Walker is more cocky in response than he was when privately wondering the same thing above.
As they find out the next day, their first mission is to bust the Watchdogs, a violent terrorist group targeting “immorality,” for which Walker has more than a little sympathy.
Walker and Hoskins are assigned to infiltrate the group…
…but Walker is afraid of running into people he used to know, with the obvious risks.
Hoskins masquerades as a porn director whom Walker attacks, attracting the attention of the Watchdogs, who welcome him with open arms… and Walker is uncomfortable with the fact that he likes it.
But when the Watchdogs bring out Hoskins and prepare to lynch him, Walker is torn between completing the mission and saving his friend… and he chooses the former, hoping that Hoskins’ enhancements can keep him alive until Walker can return for him. Walker takes care of the Watchdogs…
…and returns for Hoskins, only to find he escaped on his own. In addition to be relieved, this makes Walker suspect the mission was a set-up from the beginning, making him even more suspicious of the Commission (and sympathetic towards the original Cap).
In the next issue, we check back with Steve Rogers, with Bernie Rosenthal, Nomad, D-Man, and the Falcon joining in the fun. (Making up for lost time, I guess.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #333, September 1987: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Tom Morgan (pencils), Dave Hunt (inks), Ken Feduniewicz (colors), Ken Lopez and Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
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