Captain America #345-347 and Marvel Comics Presents #2 (September-November 1988)

These three issues of Captain America deal more with John Walker than Steve Rogers, so we’ll cover them at once… along with a bonus solo Captain story from Marvel Comics Presents #2 to make sure you get your money’s worth!

On the opening splash page of issue #345, we see how Douglas Rockwell of the Commission is “reporting” the details of the last issue to John Walker before giving him his next mission.

Walker’s no dummy, though, and he shares his discomfort with what he’s been told to do with Lemar Hoskins, his partner Battlestar, particularly his newfound sympathy for what his predecessor had to go through (accented by, I’m sure, Walker’s and Hoskins’ recent experiences with being jerked around by the Commission).

Meanwhile, Sam Wilson says goodbye to Cap, letting him know he can come back if Nomad and D-Man don’t show up. (Unbeknownst to them, their two friends were abducted by Walker and Hoskins for the Commission in the last issue.)

Above, Sam also reminds Cap he should fight back against the Commission more… but as we see below, he didn’t make the point as strongly as Cap expected. (He got off easy this time!)

Cap takes a minute next to Honest Abe to reflect on his current situation, including his recent acclimation to being on the other side of the law for a change.

Speaking of Cap and Sam’s friends, Sidewinder shows up in the Commission’s holding facility with Vagabond to break Diamondback out, and when she talks him into rescuing Nomad and D-Man too, Dennis pulls the “What Would Cap Do?” card. But he forgets that Nomad doesn’t worship Cap like he used to, proceeding to question the judgment call in issue #332 that led to this whole escapade.

Once he’s sprung, Jack makes contact with Cato ask him to meet in a bar, where he *hic* fills him in *hic* on where D-Man is *hic*. But Cap’s reaction is not what Jack expected or wanted… showing once again that they think very differently these days.

Oh, that’s low.

True to his word, Cap marches into the building where the Commission operates…

…but after he hears the charges they’re leveling against him, he begins to wonder if he should have taken Sam’s and Jack’s advice more seriously.

While that’s going on with Cap, John Walker’s parents are abducted by the Watchdogs, the domestic terrorist group that he and Hoskins had fought early in their career as Captain America and Bucky/Battlestar (starting in issue #335). They try to hang Walker, but after he escapes, a firefight breaks out and his parents are killed, causing Walker to snap and kill all of the Watchdogs.

As issue #346 opens, Walker is in custody in the local jail, and when he finally gets back to Washington, Rockwell lets him have it, especially after Walker was supposed to be “the compliant one.”

Accepting that “you just can’t find good help these days,” Rockwell rashly decides to pick another Cap, but then realizes he’d better check with his boss first…

…who, surprise surprise, is not the president. This fella not only wants to keep the “franchise” of Captain America going, but (later) tells Rockwell to keep Walker in the role as well.

If you have an idea who the mystery man on the screen is… you should. (And if you do, shh.)

In issue #347, the Commission gathers to discuss Walker’s most recent mission alongside Freedom Force, in which he again lost control, and everyone’s least favorite G-man, Henry Gyrich wants him OUTTA THERE.

You can almost see the idea of drone warfare form in General Heyworth’s mind right there, can’t you?

“There oughta be a law,” Gyrich continues, while Rockwell is busy trying to deny Cap one of his Sixth Amendment rights (although I’m not sure it applies in the current extralegal context).

Cap finally starts to realize something ain’t right here, and suspects someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

As Joseph Heller wrote in Catch-22, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

Cap regrets his passive response to the Commission, but again makes the mistake—as he did with Bernie Rosenthal in issue #336 and with Sam in issue #337—of conflating legal resistance to official orders with “waging war with the government.” He beats himself up over why he failed to see the problems with the Commission’s behavior earlier, especially after so many friends tried to tell him, but the easy answer seems to be his default respect for authority that somehow survived the Secret Empire incident—not to mention all his interactions with Gyrich!

In a strange aside that I’m sure has nothing to do with anything but I’ll discuss it here anyway just for kicks, an old man who holds a curious place in Marvel Comics history is freed from an Algerian prison…

…only to be shot and killed by the Scourge (last seen here in issue #320).

When Rockwell reports in about his Steve Rogers problem…

…his boss is more interested in a call from the Scourge, letting him know that “justice is served” as far as the 1950s Red Skull is concerned.

Why this fella elegantly smoking a cigarette in a holder, very interested in Steve Rogers and Captain America, and laughing maniacally while bathed in red light cares about eliminating a former Red Skull, I certainty have no idea!

More to come on all of these fronts in coming issues of Captain America—including a worsening John Walker, who killed his old partners Right-Winger and Left-Winger while Steve Rogers was cooling his heels in the pokey—but before I let you go, let’s talk about the back-up story in the second issue of Marvel Comics Presents, a biweekly anthology title whose regular feature for the first ten issues was some dude named Logan. But the much more interesting story features the Captain fighting Cold War…

…not the Cold War, but “Cold War,” as in the name of the guy shooting the ice darts.

But more importantly, we meet the rare person in the Marvel Universe who is not fooled by Cap’s current change in hue.

No disrespect to Cold War, but the real villain of the story is the Fear-Eater, a psychic parasite who came to Earth on the back of the Silver Surfer in the first issue of Marvel Comics Presents and created Cold War to instill fear that he could… well… eat. (Did he give him his name too? If he did, that makes him twice as evil.) Once “inside” Cap, the Fear Eater makes him feel a different sort of cold altogether, and learns that his new host has lived quite a life.

The Fear-Eater is impressed that Cap does not fear death, and in fact has “mastered” his fears, which could be interpreted as meaning he still has them but doesn’t let them control him, which makes the Fear-Eater want to find them all the more—and he finds one particularly tasty one.

Cap rushes into the nearby building, only to find frozen workers inside…

…arousing feelings the Fear-Eater uses to bring up and magnify Cap’s memories of being frozen for years between World War II and being rescued by the Avengers. (I guess the Fear-Eater likes his fears cold, like a nice cool pasta salad in the summer.)

Cold War starts to encase Cap in ice again, and it isn’t his fear of the cold that drives him to free himself, but rather the fear that he will fail his friends and the cause he has sworn to serve.

In case that wasn’t clear, the Fear-Eater spells it out.

The conclusion reads like that of a Silver-Age DC story—I almost expected Cap to wink at the reader in the last panel!


ISSUE DETAILS

Captain America (vol. 1) #345, September 1988: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Captain America (vol. 1) #346, October 1988: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Captain America (vol. 1) #347, November 1988: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

All collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Captain and Captain America: The Captain

Marvel Comics Presents (vol. 1) #2, September 1988, “Cold War”: Al Milgrom (writer, pencils, and inks), Gregory Wright (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Not yet collected.


PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #344 (August 1988)

NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #348 and Avengers #298 (December 1988)

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