Each of these two issues heralds a return: Captain America #348, as you can see from the cover, features everybody’s favorite anti-nationalist, Flag-Smasher, who’s looking for Captain America and is not happy with the one he got, while Avengers #298 welcomes the Captain back to the Avengers title, if not, quite yet, the team itself (especially considering the Avengers, such as they were, effectively disbanded at the end of issue #297).
In Captain America #348, John Walker faces the Commission in a similar context to when Steve Rogers did the same in issue #332—with Mr. Rockwell even referencing why they replaced Rogers in the first place—ending with Walker being put in a time-out.
In walks a strange visitor, although it shouldn’t be that strange, given that this Commission supposedly acts under his command… but as we see below, the president has not been keep abreast of what they’ve been doing in his name.
Hint: “We didn’t want to bother you” is bureaucracy-speak for “we didn’t want you to find out.”
The president asks about Rogers…
…but Rockwell does not get the reaction he expected, and the president urges Rogers’ release.
Cap would be very relieved to know this: As we have seen, he has long wondered how much the president was involved with the Commission’s activities, which was an important part of his refusal to fight back against them.
I guess the president hasn’t heard of Walker’s recent breakdowns over the last three issues either, but his kind words don’t altogether save the new Cap (although they do get the Commission to spring the old one).
Of course, Rockwell has to go talk to his real boss, who seems awfully focused on sullying the good name of Captain America, like someone else we used to know.
Before he’s cut loose, Cap continues his favorite pastime: self-reflection, wondering yet again why he didn’t resist the Commission more (or at all) when he had the chance
The idea that he actually wanted a challenge is a new one, though… and one that he doesn’t get a chance to explore more once he gets set free.
Of course, Rockwell doesn’t actually tell him he’s free to leave, so Cap thinks he’s escaping—which he seems OK with, now that he regards his detention as illegal, plus the fact that it enables him to check on D-Man.
(It is, to some extent, because we know Rockwell bugged it.)
Meanwhile, Flag-Smasher has re-emerged (as seen in the first four pages of this issue) and has commandeered an Arctic research base, threatening to kill the scientists working there unless Captain America shows up. The joke’s on him, though… he didn’t say which Captain America, and Rockwell is more than happy to send him Walker and hope his problem takes care of itself.
Of course, Flag-Smasher doesn’t find this Cap’s moral code as clear-cut or as easy to manipulate.
Flag-Smasher realizes that this is not his father’s Captain America, and after a long battle, he defeats Walker. When Hoskins shows up, Flag-Smasher demands to see the real Captain America or else.
But the real Captain America is preoccupied at the moment by a strange message from New York…
…which leads directly to Avengers #298 (without waiting two weeks, lucky you!). This issue is a tie-in to Inferno, an X-Men crossover event in which the Avengers were not really involved, but they were affected by its chaos for three issues. In this issue, as the cover indicates, the Avengers’ butler Jarvis is “the last Avenger,” battling sentient machines to protect a young woman named Glory Garsen. He manages to leave a message for Cap—but for some reason, Rorschach finds it instead.
MACHINES ALIVE. AVENGERS MISSING.
WRONG UNIVERSE. AT LEAST NO COMEDIAN HERE.
WHAT’S A “SPIDER-MAN”?
Capschach (Rogschach?) finds Jarvis’s message and soon finds himself assaulted by the routine call-monitoring equipment.
Cap throws his mighty shield, and the bad machines make like Rice Krispies…
…albeit in the wrong order.
Cap finds Jarvis being held captive by a car that Transformed™ into a giant robot, and shows it the same fierce response he showed his answering machine earlier.
After all his recent self-recrimination over the business with the Commission, Cap positively seems to be enjoying himself here, wielding banter as well as he does his shield.
And he never misses a chance to give fighting lessons, even if they’re wasted on a
Transformer Gobot Giant-Size Car-Thing.
How did Jarvis see through Cap’s new dual-layer disguise? He is quite the Avenger indeed.
Jarvis delicately suggests that this might be a foe no single super hero could withstand… and to his credit, Cap gets the hint.
Amazingly, Jarvis does get Ms. Garsen’s attention back, and she asks him to walk her home. (For once, a happy ending!)
Avengers (vol. 1) #298, December 1988: Walter Simonson (writer), John Buscema (pencils), Tom Palmer (inks), Eliot Brown (colors), Bill Oakley and Ken Lopez (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: Heavy Metal