More than most comics stories, this short tale from the anthology title Marvel Comics Presents is placed firmly within a particular point in history: the battle between the Sandinista party, which ruled Nicaragua throughout the 1980s, and the Contras, backed by the United States, who opposed the Sandinistas’ communist ideology. (See more here.) This story almost has to be read as commentary on the United States’ role in the conflict, especially the aspects of it that ended up as the Iran-Contra affair in the late 1980s, with Captain America taking the higher ground against such government corruption, as we shall see.
(And look who’s on the cover between Cap and the Scarlet Witch, very appropriately for 1990: That girl is Poison.)
The story opens on Cap offstage during U.S. Senator Tate’s press conference following their recent joint visit to Nicaragua, with the senator issuing typical conservative, anti-communist talking points. But Cap is obviously thinking of something more sinister, both in his thought balloons as well as the quoted exposition (the juxtaposition of which I find a bit confusing). When the impending danger erupts…
…our hero leaps into action.
He tries to protect the senator while keeping everyone else safe…
…although he’s not entirely successful.
At least the civilians keep their heads down while Cap addresses the gunmen…
…which he does with extreme prejudice (appropriate for the circumstances).
It doesn’t take long for Cap to find the gang’s leader, who tries the “we’re not so different, you and I” line, to no avail.
Cap makes quick work of him too…
…but then finds something to link him back to the senator he presumably tried to assassinate.
Afterwards, Tate and a police officer praise our hero’s good work, but Cap is more interested in laying out his case against the senator, beginning with where he’d seen a similar playing card before, in Nicaragua…
…and the rest of them on the senator himself. (Very observant of Cap—it would seem he read a fair bit of Sherlock Holmes during his well-known literary excursions.)
District Attorney Rogers then makes his closing argument, accusing the senator of manipulating events at the cost of a number of human lives as well as the Nicaraguan peace process, all for his own political purposes.
Note how Cap does not commit to a firm position on international communism or the U.S. position in Nicaragua, standing up instead for peace above all while criticizing the senator’s self-serving motives. (Also, in our world, the Sandinistas were voted out of power in early 1990; either events in the Marvel Universe turned out differently, or this story was finished and archived much earlier.)
But the senator might have the last laugh after all, confident that his plan still worked, although Cap remains cautiously optimistic that the truth will out.
Results, however, are mixed.
This is not the first time Cap has been disappointed in the power and behavior of the media, which was a plot point as early as the Secret Empire episode in the mid-70s. (Also, this story serves as an interesting contrast to one in the previous month’s Captain America Annual #9, featuring a U.S. senator much more to Cap’s liking, who almost falls to an assassination attempt by a man hysterically accusing him of being a communist.)
Marvel Comics Presents (vol. 1) #60, October 1990, “The American Way”: John Figueroa (writer), Tom Lyle (pencils), Roy RIchardson (inks), Nelson Yomtov (colors), Diana Albers (letters). More details at Marvel Database.
Not yet collected.