Captain America #355 (July 1989)

This issue starts a three-part storyline that reintroduces a Captain America foe who will become much more prominent in coming years. (Hint: Like the current Baron Zemo, she’s second-generation.) It also heralds a split of sorts in the title, as secondary characters receive much more attention—in the case, as highlighted on the cover, it’s Lemar Hoskins meeting Sam Wilson, which happens in the main story, whereas regular back-up stories start with the five-part U.S. Agent story beginning in issue #357. (For that reason, we’ll be covering a lot of issues in batches for a while, starting with the next Captain America post.)

Speaking of the cover (by Ron Frenz and Al Milgrom): Although it will always bring to my mind the goofy Flash covers from the Silver Age, this was an homage to a Kirby classic from May 1963’s Tales to Astonish #43, in the same spirit.

Our story begins with Cap’s first day as a college department chair the Avengers’ leader in this new, bureaucratic, computerized age.

I’ve never felt I had more in common with my hero than I do now!

Happily for him, Peggy Carter calls, but not to chat—she puts the Avengers’ government liaison, Raymond Sikorsky on the line, who updates Cap on the revelations of the last issue.

Naturally Cap is upset about the violent “assassination” (in issue #351), but I’m more confused about John Walker getting a new “secret identity” out of this. As far as I’ve seen, everyone he interacts with still calls him Walker, and he doesn’t seem to have much of a private life (much like Cap, most of the time). I imagine the point is more that the world at large isn’t aware that U.S. Agent is the same man who stood in as Captain America the last year and a half.

After breaking the bad news and then denying any previous knowledge of it, Sikosky places a order with CapCostumes.com…

…and Cap seems surprisingly nonchalant about it. (Again, I find it odd that he has to given the right to wear the traditional outfit, which I would have thought was settled after the end of issue #350.)

Cap does, however, have objections to Walker being placed on the West Coast Avengers team (as we saw in last issue’s post), and Sikorsky has a very strange understanding of Walker’s murderous rampage in issues #345-347 (although it was not shown in the post). Is Sikorsky straight-out lying to Cap, or did Walker’s handlers misrepresent these events in the official reports? I suppose we’ll never know. Sikorsky does convince Cap that his fellow Avengers can “keep on eye” on Walker, but then asks Cap not to tell his longtime friends who their strange new member is, which is an outrageous request to which Cap does not respond. And when Peggy calls again, she definitely has better news.

Bernie’s call sends Cap down memory lane, although—in what is becoming a theme of this issue—he denies he and Bernie were ever affirmatively engaged, asserting that he never said yes to her, although we saw at the end of issue #294 that he said yes several times and very enthusiastically, after which their engagement was referenced numerous times, especially as it ended (however ambiguously).

Is this self-deception or selective memory on Cap’s part? I can’t believe that Gruenwald, the foremost expert at the time on Marvel history and continuity, would have gotten this wrong, so I suspect he may have been trying to suggest something about Cap’s mental state and what he tells himself about his relationship with Bernie.

When he does get her on the line, though, Cap learns she did not call to reminisce.

After Bernie tells him that her sister is missing, he tries to tell her that he’s not a detective, but eventually promises to help.

Sure, no one would want to hear words of comfort about their missing sister from someone they haven’t seen in a while. (Gee, I wonder why that relationship didn’t work out.)

Cap could have called Batman Daredevil, if only to ask if he knows any private investigators, or Spider-Man to call in a favor at the Daily Bugle, or even Nick Fury, Black Widow, or numerous other spies… but no, Cap wants to take of it himself, even though he acknowledges below the many difficulties with doing so. (This is like the Thing offering to go on a stealth mission when the Invisible Woman is standing right there.) But who does he call for help anyway?

That’s right, the Eternal named Sersi, coming to a theater near you very soon, whom he finds in The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe, apparently. (And what’s that look mean, mister?)

Cap seems to know what he’s in for as he visits Sersi, but he certainly didn’t expect a full-on Mae West greeting. And of course, his request is perfect rational and well thought-out. (You know, Peter Parker might have been perfect for this… just sayin’.)

Sersi de-ages Cap to fifteen years old, negating the Project Rebirth treatment but not affecting his mind at all. (Neat trick there.)

Be careful what you wish for, Cap. (Sersi does join the team in a few months starting in Avengers #314.)

Cap’s so weak now he can’t even lift his shield (which only weights 12 pounds, according the same Handbook) or comprehend what Sersi expects when he gets back (although his Archie Andrews blush may suggest otherwise).

Little Stevie Rogers heads to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where he soon runs into two young girls who take a liking to him and show him to a downtown YMCA to crash… and he’s already suspicious of his two guardian angels.

He is right to be suspicious: The girls subdue him with the help of drugs and before he knows it he is on…

He soon realizes where he’s seen several of the his companions before.

We’ll find in the next two issues, covered together in the next Captain America post.


ISSUE DETAILS

Captain America (vol. 1) #355, July 1989: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Rich Bucker (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt


PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #354 (June 1989)

ALSO THIS MONTH: Avengers #305 (July 1989)

NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #356-357 (August-September 1989)

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