The third issue of this expanded retelling of Captain America’s origin and early years brings in more familiar moments and some new ones, as our hero heads overseas in pursuit of the enhanced Nazi agents we met in the last issue—but he will not go alone.
As our story resumes, Cap checks out the diner from which Colonel Fletcher placed a frantic call to General Phillips after briefly escaping from the Nazis, but he learns that they did more than just retrieve their hostage.
This may be the first time Steve Rogers is confronted with mass murder, but unfortunately it would not be the last (nor will he ever “get used” to it).
When he translates the writing on the wall, he finds reason to take responsibility for something he’s not responsible for (another key character trait going forward), before he tends to a survivor and tries to learn more about the situation.
Next Cap heads to the factory that the traitorous driver from the last issue clued him into, where he finds Lieutenant Glass—”Cindy” to him—and is extremely motivated to find her.
And, with no small effort, he does find her, in classic “damsel-in-distress” style for the period. (If there were railroad tracks nearby, I’m sure she would have been tied to them.)
After thrusting his shield into the gears of the machine, Cap and Cindy embrace, and she tells him what the Nazis are up to… until he takes offense at an offhand comment, showing how much he values his integrity, even at this early stage in his life and career.
Cap makes plans for one to go France, but he is easily convinced that he could use some help.
(No help carrying the motorcycle, I guess!)
Inside the base, young Bucky hears a strange noise, and when he checks it out…
…we see one of most famous scenes in Cap’s early life, reproduced many times over since Captain America Comics #1, but with a third party new to this version entering at the end from stage right.
Cindy’s prepared to dispose of any witnesses, but Cap vouches for his young friend (despite already seeing how sneaky he can be) before urging his silence due to the importance of his mission.
Bucky tries to talk his way into the trip to France, first by subtly mentioning a few press contacts he has (the stick), and then his ability to procure a plane and supplies (the carrot). After Cap assures Cindy that even if Bucky manages to get what they need, he won’t get on the plane… well, you can see below who’s on the plane. (“But that’s as far as you go, little mister!”)
When Cindy challenges Bucky’s contribution to the mission, he hints toward his secret purpose that was made official—in a much darker fashion—during Ed Brubaker’s early-2000s run (which re-introduced him as the Winter Soldier), and even contemplates a move on Cindy before he sees Steve’s face and decides against it.
Once Bucky leaves them alone, Steve confesses his self-doubts about whether he’s good enough to live up to the expectations laid on him—but, as I explained in a recent book on a different hero, the fact that he wonders if he’s good enough is part of why he is.
Don’t worry, Bucky had a chute on, and was closely followed by Cap and Cindy (but he still resents it).
Soon after the trio reach the ground they meet members of the French resistance, and together they form a plan to sneak into Paris. Once on a boat on the Seine, they’re seen by Nazi soldiers, and after shielding his colleagues from their gunfire—and with no phone booth nearby—Steve takes a chance to change clothes underwater.
After Cap takes care of the Nazis, the resistors make plans to split up, at which point Cap thanks his French comrades and make an early attempt at an inspirational speech.
(He didn’t mean you, Bucky.)
When the three Americans and their French guide get to the Nazis’ headquarters, Cap learns how well his young friend takes orders (with the help of a little opportunistic ignorance).
(“You mean the guy who sings the song about Cap?” he might have asked if this were 1982.)
Inside, the Nazis have been torturing Fletcher for information about Project Rebirth—in particular, the all-important Vita-Rays, without which even an accurately reproduced super-soldier serum produces unstable results—and then resorted to giving him truth serum, which he is doing his best to resist.
He continues to fight the serum heroically while Cap and Bucky—hey, what’s he doing there?—try to find a way past the guards.
Oh, that’s what he’s doing there.
In the end, Fletcher makes the ultimate sacrifice rather than give up the secrets to America’s newest weapon…
…and not for the last time, Captain America mourns the death of someone close to him who died pursuing their shared mission.
The Nazis gloat, and Cap threatens to lose control in his grief…
…fighting them while asking (futilely) how they can be so inhuman.
Their battle continues—two against one, I might add—and Cap starts to feel it. So, after an acrobatic flip…
…he finds a more efficient way to fight.
Before he goes any further, he catches himself, remembering that revenge is also futile, a lesson he would later recount to other, less experiences heroes many times.
Hey, what happened to Cindy and Bucky, you ask? She takes him to the French safehouse, where he gets his second big surprise of the issue—and one that likely surprises us as well.
I’m sure Cap would like to know about this latest development, but he’s too busy fighting the Nazis, who have followed him up the Eiffel Tower, where one of them stabs him in the ankle with a corkscrew sticking out of the toe of his boot. Eventually they both go over the ledge…
…and our hero struggles to keep his grip on the platform while the Nazi pulls down from below, until he is called out by an eerie voice.
Golly, it sure seems like the Red Skull concluded things right here! You’d better come back for the final issue to see how Cap gets out of this one.
The Adventures of Captain America: Sentinel of Liberty #3, December 1991: Fabian Nicieza (writer), Kevin Maguire and Kevin West (pencils), Terry Austin (inks), Paul Mounts (colors), Richard Starkings (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
PREVIOUS ISSUE: Adventures of Captain America #2 (November 1991)
NEXT ISSUE: Adventures of Captain America #4 (January 1992)