In its first volume, the title Marvel Super-Heroes introduced Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and the Guardians of the Galaxy, and told Doctor Doom’s first solo story, along with reprinting stories (which it did exclusively after it first twenty issues). In its second volume, it became a quarterly anthology title; its third issue features Captain America in its full-length lead story, which explores a new aspect of his origin story involving a recently introduced hero from the past, while emphasizing the importance of his virtues he possessed before undergoing Project Rebirth. (The comic also contains shorter stories with the Wasp and the Blue Shield, drawn by future superstars Amanda Conner and Greg Capullo, respectively.)
The story begins with Cap coming across a burglary in his old neighborhood, which poses little challenge, but gives writer Danny Fingeroth a chance to gush a little about the Sentinel of Liberty. (Who can blame him!)
Nonetheless, Cap gets a little help… and after he checks on the truck driver and calls the police, Cap realizes he might know his mysterious partner, who definitely knows who he is.
Cap runs after the last “goon,” and his old friend watches in admiration and envy, recalling their two meetings long ago…
…starting with this one, when Steve—or Stevie—is getting harassed by some young toughs in his neighborhood for being artsy (an element of his background I always appreciate being referenced).
Finally, we get a name for Stevie’s guardian angel:
If that name sounds familiar, the next scene may explain why…
…especially to Steve Rogers, now a young man. (As Zorro was to Batman, so Dominic Fortune was to Captain America… kind of.)
Dominic Fortune, 1930s adventurer, was introduced in August 1975’s Marvel Preview #2, and would much later be part of the retroactively established “Avengers 1959,” featuring other characters from the period (in the spirit of the Invaders and Agents of Atlas).
Afterwards, the newsreel shifts to weightier current events, and we see a familiar scene of a young man feeling the call to service.
Young Steve will visit the Army recruitment center soon, but first, a new wrinkle in the familiar tale: Dominic Fortune meeting with General Philips to discuss a new secret government project.
Fortune agrees for the usual reasons—plus the fact that he’s Jewish and feels a deep personal animus toward the Nazis—and so begins the process of readying for the treatment. However, the powers that be have an wide array of “opinions” regarding his being Jewish…
…but in the end, if we take this Mr. Hayworth at his word, Fortune is rejected from consideration because of shortcomings in his moral character (however puritanical those concerns may seem).
This does, however, dovetail nicely with the idea that Project Rebirth worked so well on Steve Rogers because of his pre-existing virtues, which were augmented by the treatment along with his physique.
Speaking of physique… this is where General Philips finds the scrawny kid trying in vain to enlist, and thinks to himself that it might work better to start from “nothing” anyway.
The story continues as usual, until Rogers and the soldiers accompanying him are ambushed by Nazi saboteurs, but Steve bravely refuses to tell them where Erskine and his lab are.
Luckily for him, Fortune happened to see Steve from outside…
…and is surprised to learn that Steve is the new candidate for Project Rebirth. He tells one of the soldiers to take Steve down to his car, where his partner Sabbath is waiting, and they speed way, while Steve takes a second to reflect on his current status.
Sabbath goes back to help Dominic, leaving the soldier to protect Steve, whose thoughts shift from being surprised that he’s so important to everyone, to wondering if any one person should be held to be so important—an admirable expression of egalitarianism (and utilitarianism) that he would nonetheless go on to violate in the future, choosing on numerous occasions to “leave no man behind” regardless of the cost.
The Nazis eventually catch up with the car an enter into a shootout with the soldier, who kills them all before dying from his own wounds. Steve is torn between returning to help Dominic and Sabbath, and protecting the future of Project Rebirth, which has been tailored specifically for him. (He’s concerned for his own life too, of course, but acknowledges that he’s risking that either way.)
He decides to flee and protect the potential for Project Rebirth, but soon realizes that he wouldn’t feel like a hero if he actively neglects to save other lives for it—even though a calculation of lives saved either way would probably recommend that he continue to flee (showing that he already doubts the egalitarianism he expressed earlier).
Whatever we think of the decision he makes, in the end Steve has to trust his own moral judgment, because if he doesn’t believe himself to be a hero who does the right thing in a tough situation, he won’t be able to honestly portray himself as such to the American people.
In another nod to his childhood passion, Steve finds art supplies to use as weapons in his sneak attack against the Nazis.
To his own amazement, Steve fools the Nazis and manages to free Fortune…
…whom he continues to help until the older man has to acknowledge that, despite his youth, inexperience, and “slight” build, Steve may have been the better choice for Project Rebirth after all, based on his courage, instincts, and heart.
That sorted, Steve goes on to undergo the treatment, receiving the super-soldier serum and Vita-Rays, only to have a Nazi saboteur return and kill Professor Erskine, as we know. Some months later, Dominic and Sabbath are watching a newsreel and see Captain America in one of his early outings, and Dom knows right away who’s wielding the shield (while remembering that it might have been him).
Back in the present day, history repeats itself as Fortune comes upon another bunch of young punks hassling a kid, and his intervention does not go unnoticed.
At long last, the two heroes take the chance to connect (and share skin care routines).
Marvel Super-Heroes (vol. 2) #3, September 1990, “Who Serves the Hero…?”: Danny Fingeroth (writer), Gary Hartle (pencils), Tony DeZuniga (inks), Mike Rockwitz (colors), Bill Oakley (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected.
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #376-377, Avengers #322, Avengers #323, Uncanny X-Men #268, Spectacular Spider-Man #168, and Captain America Annual #9, West Coast Avengers Annual #5, and Avengers Annual #19 (September 1990)