Captain America #339 (March 1988)

This issue looks like a lousy event tie-in—and to a large extent it is—but Mark Gruenwald ties it in to Steve Rogers’ inner turmoil very well, ensuring that there is more than enough quality content here to keep us busy, starting with an airplane conversation among the Captain’s New Kooky Quartet and ending with more of Cap’s visit with Tony Stark, both following the events of the last post.

The guest-villain of the cover is Famine, one of X-Men foe Apocalypse’s Four Horsemen, who disintegrates foodstuffs and makes people very very hungry. (She is not a huge factor in our coverage of the issue, but she will come up later.)

Our hero will meet Famine soon enough… but for now, he’s in the land of dreams, and none too happy for it. (At least it gives us an excuse to see the right guy in the costume again!)

This dramatized version of his resignation in issue #332 turns into a “showed up to school in your underwear” dream, but that aspect doesn’t seem to bother Steve Rogers.

While the strange figures in his dream mock his service as Captain America, Steve looks down to see the costume D-Man gave him in issue #337

…and is entangled in an all-too-obvious visual metaphor before he can put it on. (It also suggests the possibility that Steve underestimates the forces acting against him, if he thinks this is all just bureaucratic overreach.)

As he rips the face off his massive foe, he sees first President Reagan, who jokes about the Red Skull, before ripping further and revealing his own face, representing a person Steve is more willing to blame for the mess he’s in, given his humility and strong baseline respect for authority. (And anyway, the Red Skull couldn’t be involved, right? He’s dead, isn’t he? Isn’t he? Let me just say I would be very shocked…)

Steve wakes up, sans red tape, on an airplane charted by D-Man, returning from Las Vegas with his friends after their adventure of the last two issues (including a spell in the pokey). D-Man asks Steve if he’s OK, and he opens up (as he regularly has since first meeting Dunphy in issue #328).

D-Man is relieved to learn that his hero is human. (I find his sincere awe at being in Captain America’s presence endearing.)

And then Steve starts to realize the value of being Captain America, with all the trappings, as opposed to merely the Captain.

Sam overhears this and hopes his old partner is going to be more proactive in resisting the Commission’s demand that he follow their orders, which led to his resignation (in issue #332)… but he is sorely disappointed, as Steve continues to refuse to even consider it.

No time for snake-hunting, though, when their pilot hears news of Famine ravaging crops in the Midwest, and our heroes dive after her, with Cap trusting Sam to take care of the situation.

Sam does bring her down to the ground, although the act of touching her, even with his gloves on, makes him feel weak and famished. D-Man stops Famine from getting away by jumping on her ride first, while Cap tends to his old friend.

It may not seem like a big deal, but I really admire how Cap trusts the others to take care of Famine while he tends to Sam…

…and then reluctantly returns to the battle, realizing the enormous stakes—but not without making himself a shield.

Cap invokes the “voice that can command a god,” which apparently rivals that of Apocalypse himself, and uses it to reason with her…

…which almost works, but she does not have faith in her foe, so she continues to fight, and Cap is forced to fight back, despite his makeshift equipment.

Cap realizes even more how much he needs a real shield, and not just for practical reasons—and after Famine disappears, he reflects on the harm she did to the country and how much he still identifies with it, despite his change in name and status.

He soon takes action towards the first point in another look at the scene from last month’s Iron Man #227 that we already saw, but now with bonus footage!

Here, we learn that Tony has already made his friend a new shield… although he doesn’t need a shield to protect his secrets regarding his current fight to get his tech back, including from the U.S. government.

Having a real shield again—even one missing the special qualities of the original—makes Cap feel like himself again (even more than one might expect).

Tony offers Cap the shield to keep, but this is not as generous a gesture as Cap believes. (More to the point… “no charge?” Would he have actually billed Captain America for a new shield? I give Tony a hard time now and again, but this seems extremely cold, even for him.)

It’s Iron Man #228, actually… and luckily you don’t have to wait at all!


Captain America (vol. 1) #339, March 1988: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (pencils), Tony DeZuniga (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Captain and Captain America: The Captain

PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #338 and Iron Man #227 (February 1988)

ALSO THIS MONTH: Iron Man #228 (March 1988)

NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #340 (April 1988)

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