These three annuals, along with the Iron Man and Thor annuals the same summer, form the five-part storyline “The Terminus Factor,” featuring the return of the alien conqueror Terminus, whom we saw Captain America and the Avengers fight in Avengers #257 (although it actually wasn’t him… oh, never mind). Most of Cap’s relevant appearances in these books are in his own annual, which also happens to be the first installment in the story, with just a few interesting panels in the final two installments in the two Avengers annuals. Happily, there are a couple additional stories in these annuals that feature Cap as well.
As the Captain America annual opens, we see our hero inside a craft exploring a volcano in Washington state on behalf of Tony Stark, and getting comfortable with its pilot, Dr. Ramona Napier…
…at least until she reminds him how old he actually is. (But just look at that smile!) After making a dig at CBS—known at the time for programming geared towards old folks like Cap—Ramona and her copilot see the glowing yellow field at the bottom of this page…
…which takes the shape of a ring that envelops the capsule and pulls it deeper into the volcano, with Cap on his own for the time being.
Luckily for them both, Iron Man was “available” and dove in after the craft. Even though Tony is still pretending he’s not Iron Man, Cap obviously knows better, but the more important task for now is getting him and Ramona out, which he has to do without Iron Man, whoever he might be.
Cap makes an epic leap to the rim of the volcano, and when Iron Man apologizes for his momentary absence, Cap makes a decent joke that Tony won’t even acknowledge. (Rude.)
Later, Cap, Ramona, and Tony enjoy the locals’ hospitality at a fish fry, although only Tony partakes (away from the others, to protect his “secret identity”), while Ramona chooses to drink diet soda because her stomach’s upset, which makes no sense whatsoever. (And why did Cap assume she wanted diet soda? Also rude.)
The mayor is only the first sign of the infection due to the glowing yellow force, which was actually Terminus in bacterial form, infecting the local fish and then whoever ate it—including Iron Man, as we see below. But Cap is more concerned with assuring Ramona that he put the mayor down hard for his own good, and that he did not need Tony’s help, because he’s fought the Red Skull, yada yada.
And when he does ask Tony for his opinion regarding the possession overtaking the locals, Cap instead finds himself having to protect Ramona from his fellow Avenger (with a bit of showy acrobatics).
Cap has to continue protecting the locals from themselves, including two heading towards live wires, but in the end is only able to save one.
When Cap sees that Iron Man is the greater threat, he takes the fight to him, before realizing two things about the dazed civilians: They’re drawn to energy sources, and extreme cold reverses their possession. So he leads Ramona to a nearby helicopter to lure Iron Man away, at the risk of seeming cowardly. (I guess everyone’s a bit rude in this issue!)
Tony shoots the copter down, and the latest Captain America-Iron Man fight begins.
(Sure, that was rude too, but for strategic reasons, so I’ll give it a pass.)
Tony spends several pages knocking the stuffing out of Cap before knocking him over the edge of a cliff, giving him a chance to rehearse his best movie line.
Luckily for Cap, Tony comes to just in time to save him once more, although Cap acts like he planned this all along. (And there’s that smile again!)
Reunited and all in their right minds, Cap, Ramona, and Tony share information like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode.
Throughout the Iron Man, Thor, and West Coast Avengers annuals, the Terminus threat grows even larger, eventually taking its normal monstrous form (after destroying and absorbing its “son”—don’t ask) and becoming “Terminus-5.” Eventually, the main team is drawn into the fight on the last page of the West Coast Avengers annual…
…and then Cap directs the action in the concluding chapter in the Avengers annual. Just one panel there is interesting for our purposes, if only for its (at the time) rare meeting of Cap and USAgent, who does not like taking orders from anyone, much less the “real” Captain America he once presumed to replace.
That’s it for “The Terminus Factor,” but the second story in the Captain America annual is much more meaningful, resembling the great “Theater of War” stories written by Paul Jenkins years later. Below, we’re reintroduced to one of the original Howlin’ Commandos, now a United States senator…
…and his biggest fan, who thinks of Reb the same way most people think about Captain America.
Of course, not everyone feels the same, including a self-styled “true patriot.”
Cap quickly takes out the gunman before turning to Reb, whose thoughts go back to 1944 and World War II, where (or when) most of this story takes place.
The Commandos are on a mission to rescue Howard and Maria Stark from the Red Skull, who wants Howard to build him a weapon. Soon, Reb finds himself frozen by fear after being pinned down by a group of Nazi soldiers, but Cap and Bucky show up just in time.
Along with the rest of the Commando, they make easy work of the Germans. Cap makes another unappreciated joke, but Reb is too ashamed of himself to laugh. (What was Nick’s excuse?)
Soon, Cap, Bucky, and the Commandos are scaling the mountain to the castle where the Skull is holding the Starks. Reb falls and is saved by his line, but he’s still terrified, and Cap finds him freaking out. After saving him, Cap tries to lift his spirits, telling him they’re not so different after all. (“In fact, you look just like me!”)
Unfortunately, Nick starts to undo Cap’s good work, so Cap has to give him some of the same speech before focusing his attention on the problem in front of them.
Bucky, small enough to fit through the grate, volunteers to go inside, but Nick is hesitant… and even more so once Reb offers to go with him, but Cap reminds him (twice) that they have no other options.
Plus, Cap has faith in both young men.
Bucky and Reb surprise the Skull, chasing him away before defeating his henchmen and freeing the Starks. Cap and the Commandos are waiting outside for the Skull, whom Cap wants to capture, but this time Nick has to remind him that getting the Starks to safety is the priority (which Cap accepts, with regret).
Cap, Bucky, and the Commandos prepare to escape on the Skull’s plane, and Cap has to convince Reb to come with instead of providing cover.
Reb leaps and catches Cap’s hand just in time… and in 1990, he wakes to find the same hand in his, supporting a fellow hero in any circumstances and any decade.
Finally, in a back-up story in the Avengers annual, Cap sits with Vision and Thor to review the Acts of Vengeance event (covered here in these three posts) and learn how to prevent it from happening again. (I’m afraid that’s up to the editors at Marvel Comics, Cap.)
Vision offers a criticism of Cap’s recruitment of “normies” (such as their support crew, including Peggy Carter), but Cap does not flinch, defending their training and their service.
After thoroughly reviewing the entire event, Cap summarizes it more briefly before all three offer takeaways, with Cap focusing on improving the flaws in their infrastructure it exposed (and hoping their foes learned a lesson as well).
“You Are What You Eat”: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), Jim Valentino (pencils), Sam de la Rosa (inks), colorist not listed, Jean Simek (letters).
“A Soldier’s Story”: Ron Frenz (writer), Mark Bagley (pencils), Mike DeCarlo (inks), Evelyn Stein (colors), Diana Albers (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Streets of Poison (and the first story is also in Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line).
West Coast Avengers (vol. 2) Annual #5, September 1990, “When Titans Thrash”: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), Jim Fry (pencils), Keith Williams (inks), Renée Witterstaetter (colors), Diana Albers (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
“Beat Me in St. Louis”: Roy Thomas and Dann Thomas (writers), Herb Trimpe (pencils), Jeff Albrecht (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Rick Parker (letters).
“Acts of Vengeance Epilog”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Vince Mielcarek (pencils), Bob Downs (inks), Dave Simpson (colors), Janice Chiang (letters).
(More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Avengers Epic Collection: The Crossing Line.