“The Bloodstone Hunt,” the story which (barely) began in issue #357, continues in these three issues (and wraps up in the next two), in shorter-than-usual installments to make room for the U.S. Agent back-ups (and the biweekly shipping schedule). Cap doesn’t face a lot of significant moral dilemmas here, but it’s a cracking fun story that casts our hero as part Indiana Jones and part James Bond, with every issue taking place in a different exotic locale. As suggested by the corner boxes on the covers above, much of this story is geared toward bringing our hero closer to Rachel Leighton, aka Diamondback, who was captured by Baron Zemo, Batroc, Zaran, and Machete in the last issue and buried deep under Manhattan …
…which is where we find Cap at the beginning of issue #358.
After he finds the remains of a number of Moloids (the subterranean creatures who often serve the Mole Man), he trips a release that starts the Indy part of the story as he dodges a number of deathtraps…
…which continues for several pages until he finds the Diamond he was looking for (although wrapped in a rougher box than you’d get at Tiffany’s).
When they get back to Avengers Island, Cap almost meets the newer member of the Avengers Support Crew: Colonel James Jameson (son of that guy who’s always demanding pictures of Spider-Man).
After Cap catches up on the history and power of the Bloodstone, he devotes himself to keeping it out of the hands of Batroc and his pals, so he plans a trip… and he warns Rachel to keep her hands to herself (as if he could read her thoughts in the first panel below, predicting a notorious meme).
Cap finally touches base with Jameson, who clarifies that his father does not regard him as a menace (whew).
They travel to Brazil, where Cap and Diamondback parachute into the rain forest, an environment Rachel does not find herself well suited to. Before long they are greeted by the welcoming committee, and Cap finds himself with few options.
After being taken into an Incan temple, Cap and Rachel find the Fumbling Four already captured before they join them on the “The Wheel.”
As issue #359 begins, Cap struggles to counter the effects of the poison…
…while he remains all too aware of the stakes, considering the lives of the four villains as well as Diamondback (who’s mourning the love she and Cap will never share).
Cap finally breaks free just in time to save Zemo from a piercing headache…
…before deflecting the others spears and breaking himself free, to the amazement of Batroc (who should not be surprised).
Cap adopts a unique strategy (at least for him) to protect the others as he continues to work the poison out of his system (and wonders where his best friend has got to).
As he continues to fight—in actions scenes excellently portrayed Kieron Dwyer, Danny Bulanadi, and Bob Sharen, as through this entire story—Cap picks up an idea for some new training at the same time he relies on an old favorite.
Of course, we’re not done until he gets his shield back!
After Cap gets Rachel back to the Quinjet, their search for the Bloodstone continues off the shores of Bermuda, with Cap switching mode from Jones to Bond. Once again they’re one step behind Batroc and company…
…whom Cap is careful not to hit too hard, while they have no such compunctions.
Good thing he watches his opponents carefully!
Soon they are joined by a shiver of sharks, whom Cap engages in issue #360 with less precaution but nonetheless with some remorse.
The four little piggies hide in the remains of a fallen airplane, but to no one’s surprise they do not let the Big Bad Wolf in. (You think I’m kidding? Just wait.)
As Cap fights several of the sharks—including one who has a taste for unique adamantium-vibranium alloy—one of the villains finds he has a heart…
…and he actually gives Cap a hand.
This should be no surprise either: Batroc has often displayed a distinct sense of honor and respect pour le Capitaine, whom he regards as a worthy sparring partner rather than a sworn enemy.
While Cap tries to get away from the sharks, Diamondback finds her way to Baron Zemo’s yacht, where she fights the recollected band of thieves, eventually getting a dagger in the shoulder before Zemo’s pushes her overboard… where Cap is there to save her, sacrificing his air supply and getting them both to the surface.
Jameson picks them up while someone watches from afar… and yes, it’s the first full appearance of Crossbones (who was seen in silhouette observing the goings-on in Brazil in the last issue).
We’ll see much more of him as the Gruenwald run continues, becoming a significant presence in Cap’s world afterwards (as well as becoming a movie star).
Rachel updates Cap on the “sharks” she battled, and even after she reveals a hidden win, she just can’t get no love.
Our tour continues in Egypt, where the tone shifts back to Indiana Jones (whom, it should not go unmentioned, Cap does not much like)…
…as he continues to be protective of Rachel (though not affectionate, as she would like). Of course, that gets more difficult below.
Indeed… in the next Captain America post.
Captain America (vol. 1) #358, late September 1989, “Bones of Contention”: Mark Gruenwald (writer, co-plotter), Kieron Dwyer (pencils, co-plotter), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #359, early October 1989, “Wheel of Death”: Mark Gruenwald (writer, co-plotter), Kieron Dwyer (pencils, co-plotter), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Gregory Wright (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Captain America (vol. 1) #360, late October 1989, “Blood in the Sea”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Al Milgrom (pencils and inks), Jack Fury (colors), John Morelli (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: The Bloodstone Hunt
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #356-357 (August-September 1989)
NEXT ISSUES: Captain America #361-362 (November 1989)