These two issues complete the storyline begun in the last, in which Captain America was de-aged to fifteen years old by the Eternal Sersi to go undercover amongst teenage runaways in search of the missing sister of his ex-fiancée Bernie Rosenthal. (Got that?) But before he could look around very much, he was abducted himself by the Sisters of Sin, the Red Skull’s “Girl Scouts,” whom he last saw dealing with the villain’s corpse in issue #301 (before he got himself less dead, as revealed in issue #350).
(A note about the cover to issue #357 above: Technically, the six-part storyline “The Bloodstone Hunt” starts in this issue, but only in a short back-up story that doesn’t even feature Cap, although we will see one image from it at the end of this post. Most of the issue is taken up by the story covered here, even though the cover suggests that it’s just the back-up feature. Very strange.)
Issue #356 begins with Little Stevie emerging from the bus he found himself in at the end of the last issue to find himself at some sort of hootenanny… and not the good kind. If the text is too small and you can’t embiggen the image, Steve suspects this is an indoctrination camp of the Red Skull’s, and he’s considered how he will handle himself given that the abilities granted him by Project Rebirth were negated by Sersi’s de-aging spell.
Before long, Mother Night appears—this is not Sinthea Schmidt, the former Mother Superior who was called “Mother Night” on the cover of issue #290, but, as Cap eventually realizes, Suprema from way back in issue #123—we’ll see Sinthea soon enough, though.
And this fun theme park’s name? Camp Rage. (Because of course it is.)
Mother Night is preaching that good ol’ hate when one of the lads makes a vulgar comment that she does not take well… and Steve has to stand there and watch, unable to intervene both because he’ll blow his cover and he may not be able to, given his depleted state.
As Steve is shuttled into quarters with the rest of the kids, he berates himself for not keeping track of the Sisters of Sin since leaving them in issue #301.
A girl nearby complains of claustrophobia and is about to pay a steep price for it… and Steve can no longer stand by, although he is not as effective as he is used to being.
He has a chance to reflect on his poor performance after being shut in a cubicle himself, but wisely accepts his circumstances and uses the time to investigate his surroundings and think about where he saw Mother Night before.
Luckily his mind wasn’t affected by Circe’s spell, so Steve keeps his wits about him, but sympathizes with the rest of the kids, and imagines what he’ll do if he reverts to adult form before they release him.
He hears someone approaching and quickly crouches in the top of the cubicle, getting the drop on the Sisters (while regretting that he has to resort to literally “fighting dirty”).
Steve escapes into the woods but returns to observe Mother Night’s rally, drumming up hate against authority figures of all sorts… and yuppies… and Steve is frightened by the fact that this being done to children.
But that doesn’t compare to what he sees next, as the gathered kids are let loose on a captured member of the moralistic Watchdogs (whom John Walker faced several times during his spell as Captain America).
Steve leaves the scene, invoking legal philosopher Joel Feinberg’s category of “triple-sick” crimes while promising justice… once he can summon his fellow Avengers.
Steve’s escape is delayed when he hears the girl from earlier crying out, and reveals his true age when he calls her “miss.”
Below he considers freeing all the kids to help cover his escape, but decides the harm they’d likely suffer is not worth it.
They make it to the main lodge and find a phone, but before Steve can use it, guess who shows up—Sinthea (Sin for short).
They fight for several pages, and Sin holds her own thanks to Steve’s unfamiliarity with his “new” body, until his shirt comes open, revealing his true identity… not that Sin believes it. (How did she know about the Stars and Stripes, though? Cap’s hotline is public, of course, but I didn’t think that the kids who monitored it for him were.)
When he comes to, Little Stevie is now Li’l Cap. (If you think this is silly, wait til you hear about Teen Tony.) He withstands Malachi’s beatings and has the presence of mind to remember where he’s seen him and Mother Night before.
Once again, Cap is fortunate his mind was not de-aged, so he has hopes of resisting the truth serum…
…as well as giving the full name of “Roger Grant,” the last name presumably referencing the false middle name he was given (as explained in issue #247). Below, he continues with Sin’s earlier presumption about him while he waits for Sersi’s spell to wear off.
Sin pleads with Mother Night to let her and the other Sisters kill Cap, but they turn to their other captive instead…
…after which Cap is set free and beaten to within an inch of his life by the Sisters of Sin.
Issue #357 opens with the Sister named Torso about to deliver “the killing blow” when Sin stops here, wanting to do the job herself, and their petty argument gives Cap time to gather his thoughts.
By the time he gets his head back together, he invites all the Sisters to attack, which would lead one to suspect he has a clue as to what is about to happen…
…as Sersi’s transformation finally expires (albeit earlier than scheduled).
Malachi takes over for the Sisters and taunts Cap about not being able to fight without his shield… taunts that prove laughable, of course.
After Cap reaffirms his own abilities—”pretty darn good” being the understatement of the year, but also reflecting his humility, even when thinking to himself—he discovers Jennifer is very much alive.
As Cap catches up with Mother Night, trying to escape with her young recruits, she orders them to kill the Avenger, and he’s forced to resist while being careful not to hurt the brainwashed kids.
Mother Night seems to disappear into a cloud of darkness, swearing to lead the nation’s youth in a rebellious uprising… and Cap is concerned with what she’s doing to the institution of motherhood?
Thanks to the control over his mind he’s displayed throughout this story, Cap ignores the “darkness” and captures Mother Night… but before he can call the authorities, he delivers an early version of his famous “Rappin’ with Cap” lectures, this one very serious, warning of the dangers of succumbing to violent impulses and those who would arouse them.
Cap doesn’t leave without telling Jennifer the truth… that his name isn’t actually Roger. (And that he may be familiar with the movie Big.)
But what is he going to tell Bernie? Oh, she’ll be so devastated that he hasn’t found her sister yet… “oh wait never mind my bad.”
He’s not wrong!
Finally, Cap pays Sersi a visit, and she tells him why he reverted back to Man-Cap sooner than expected. He insists on honoring “his debt,” but is naively ignorant of how the Eternal hopes to collect.
And in the short back-up story in issue #357 that launches “The Bloodstone Hunt,” we see Baron Zemo, Batroc, Machete, and Zaran preparing to hunt from the shattered remains of the valuable (and evil) Bloodstone—and dealing with Rachel Leighton, aka, Diamondback, who was tracking them for reasons of her own.
We’ll cover the next part of this story—a fantastic adventure tale that is more about bringing Cap and Rachel becoming closer than anything else—in the next Captain America post.
“Night of Sin”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Al Milgrom (pencils and inks), “J. Schmoe” (colors), John Morelli (letters).
“The Bloodstone Hunt: Prologue”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Kieron Dwyer (pencils), Al Milgrom (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), John Morelli (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Captain America #355 (July 1989)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #358-360 (September-October 1989)