This issue celebrates Captain America’s 50th anniversary, based on the March 1941 cover date of Captain America Comics #1. Of course, Cap didn’t appear regularly for all of those fifty years, as he acknowledges at one point in the main story—and it wasn’t always Steve Rogers wielding the shield—but it’s still a notable date to celebrate. Here, we’ll cover the main story, which is in the spirit of Captain America’s Bicentennial Battles, as well as the second, shorter tale, which provides a different perspective on a Lee/Kirby tale. (There are also short stories featuring USAgent and the Red Skull, but Cap appears in neither.)
The opening splash provides us a fine portrait of our hero, courtesy of Ron Lim and Danny Bulanadi, while he reflects on the relative quiet of late—never mind the interdimensional goings-on in Avengers around this time—and the “funk” he’s been in (which I don’t remember being mentioned before, but this issue should be treated more like an annual, not necessarily fitting into the series’ precise timeline of events and moods).
Cap chases the Chronos-wannabe down the alley, flinging his shield at him, only to have it swallowed up by a portal, followed by the villain himself… who goes by “Father Time.” (OK, so it’s Chronos’s dad.)
After notifying Peggy at Avengers HQ, Cap walks through the looking glass himself, quite aware that he is taking quite a risk.
On the other side, Cap finds himself in a peaceful forest, where he meets the first of many strange characters…
…Johnny Appleseed, who happens to have Cap’s shield.
Cap asks Mr. Appleseed if he’s seen Father Time, and after he gets no helpful information whatsoever, he goes to mark a tree, which gets a rise out of the local.
Cap thinks through what he’s seen, including the sudden appearance of plains and a mountain range in the forests of Ohio.
Next, he’s almost run over by a rampaging herd of cattle, followed by their wrangler…
…who questions the relevance of “lawman” where (and when) they are, before introducing himself as Pecos Bill and offering Cap a ride.
After hopping off the horse before it and Bill ride into a tornado, Cap looks down to see railroad tracks, which gives him another clue as to what’s going on… before he sees his next legend.
He doesn’t have to ask who this is… he knows.
Same with the next one…
…who makes a pitch for his “unspoilt” America, with which many would take issue (except from an environmental perspective, perhaps), but Cap is focused on getting to his America, not making comparisons.
After Bunyan gives our hero a boost up the mountain, Cap finds yet another legend, this one a lot closer to his heart (and his costume).
I’m disappointed: Cap usually makes the literary references, but he apparently misses this one, drawn from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 16:
But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
Changing the subject, Cap contemplates the nature of the different figures he’s encountered on his adventure, but Uncle Sam brings them all together and ties them to Cap as well, sounding like a literature professor or comics scholar than a
Freedom Fighter national symbol.
Uncle Sam tries to sell Cap on where they sit, “Legendary America,” a sort of Valhalla of America mythology. But he pushes a little too hard, sounding more like a sentinel of death trying to convince Cap it’s time to pass on, and Cap says no.
Just then, the “bloody tyrant” returns and reveals he’s the one trying to get Cap to quit…
…and as they fight, Cap finds himself aging quickly, but still manages to get Father Time to reveal his true nature and his goal, which is tied to—you guessed it—Cap’s fiftieth anniversary.
Cap answers as we would expect, his defiance shining through until the end, which seems to come any “time” now…
…but instead, Cap finds himself back to that rainy alley, chasing Father Time as if he had never thrown his shield at him. So he adjusts his aim and tries again.
Cap unmasks the Scooby-Doo villain to find old man Smi—no, wait, huh?
Hawkeye is clueless, but reasonably so, as Cap begins to realize he imagined the entire episode. In his relief, he casually threatens career-ending injury to get Clint to talk, and when he does, a deeper conspiracy comes to light…
…a surprise party! (A little anticlimactic, if you ask me.)
Note that, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, his humility demands he point out he hasn’t been active for all those fifty years, but no one cares—they just want cake. (And this story is never referenced again, so we will never know if Father Time was a real Elder of the Universe or just the product of some bad egg salad Cap had for lunch.)
Before we sign off, let’s take a quick look at the second story, which retells the first meeting between Captain America and Nick Fury, first told in Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandos #13, but this time from the point of view of Cap (and Bucky).
This younger, more naive Cap is alarmed to find a boy of Bucky’s age driving the Nazi convoy… until Bucky takes him out, that is.
Cap’s antipathy toward subterfuge bows to the necessity of war—a small sacrifice, in the context—as he and Bucky go undercover. (“Little chum,” heh.)
Below, Cap and Nick meet for the first time (again), with Cap refusing Nick’s offer of a gun, which raises a few eyebrows among the Commandos (as it did in the previous telling).
Nick finally meets Cap in costume (with Bucky backing him up), and before long they have each other’s back, each with his preferred weapon.
Nick is impressed at Cap and Bucky’s courage and initiative, which leads him to *gulp* apologize for writing them off as mere fundraisers for the war effort (emphasized more in the earlier story than this one).
When all is said and done, Cap downplays his injury to pay tribute to Fury and his colleagues instead.
“I Am Legend”: Mark Gruenwald (writer), Ron Lim (pencils), Danny Bulanadi (inks), Steve Buccellato (colors), Joe Rosen (letters).
“Fighting Side by Side with Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos”: Tom DeFalco (co-plotter, writer), Ron Frenz (co-plotter, pencils), Bob Petrecca (inks), Paul Becton (colors), Michael Heisler (letters).
More details at Marvel Database.
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Streets of Poison
PREVIOUS ISSUES: Captain America #381-382 (January-February 1991)
NEXT ISSUE: Captain America #384 and Namor the Sub-Mariner #13 (April 1991)