This three-part miniseries brings Captain America and the Punisher together for their first substantial team-up, having occasionally encountered each other in passing since they first met in Captain America #241. They don’t actually meet in this first issue, although Frank definitely has an impact on Cap by the end—we do, however, get some fascinating thoughts from the Sentinel of Liberty on the nature of war and the challenges it poses for personal integrity.
The issue opens with Cap busting up an illegal arms operation, accompanied by extensive inner monologue, beginning with the experience of wielding the shield, as well as why he does it.
While he finishes his thoughts with an ode to the companionship his shield grants him, he very politely announces his intentions to the gun traffickers, ending on a very assertive note.
(Speaking of the shield, he doesn’t often hold it that way… interesting.)
Of course, the gun runners fight back, and while Cap easily handles them, he ruminates on the ethics of war, taking a hard line of the issue of “just war” (about which there is an entire field of philosophy), even questioning the propriety of World War II, often taken to the paradigm example of, as Cap says to himself, “the good war,” given its central struggle against genocidal fascism.
He moves on to a related issue, that of an individual combatant’s moral responsibility in a profoundly immoral situation (an issue that arose in the recent Galactic Storm event).
Next he suggests that something other than lives was lost in the war, implicitly criticizing the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 to end the war against Japan, characterizing the action as an exercise of blunt force and a choice of expedience over principle.
Cap’s thoughts continue along these lines while one of the criminals fires a bazooka at the shield…
…gloating that it can’t possibly protect him from all the effects as Cap takes another hit.
Cap considers how people can often let the desire to win overwhelm their principles and integrity, which he characterizes as an act of self-betrayal, before he returns to thinking about his best ally in the war for freedom as his foe fires one more shell… which backfires on him.
Cap’s thoughts continue on the theme of self-betrayal while he interrogates the surviving arms dealers, expressing admiration for their loyalty while he works to overcome it for the sake of justice.
Before he can get any answers, though, members of the “Defense Intelligence Agency,” led by Colonel Max Kalee, storm in. (They were outside from the beginning, suspecting that Cap would show up.) Kalee and Cap discuss their respective approaches to confronting the arms deal, while Cap’s inner monologue turns more personal, referencing his own cause (or mission) and acknowledging that it’s not popular with everybody.
We also see above the first hint of Cap’s suspicion regarding Kalee and his colleagues, which only grows below. More interesting is his acknowledgment of how some people see him—one of the central themes of a certain book—which he turns to his advantage by using it against those who would underestimate him (including Kalee, whom Cap suspects may be a domestic threat).
After we receive some crucial background on General Miguel Alfredo Navatilas, ruthless dictator of the (fictional) South American country of Medisuela and (ostensibly) an enemy of the American government, we finally see the Punisher. His own inner monologue reveals, to no one’s surprise, a much less nuanced view about war and the obligations of the people fighting it—”it’s not a soldier’s job to put the enemy out of action. It’s to destroy him completely”—and ending with a commitment to root out government corruption, “no matter where it leads… no matter who… no matter how high.”
Meanwhile, Cap is looking into the fragment of the weapon he picked up earlier, and relies on a favor from Doctor Ernie Braun, who jokes around his fellow “old man” while he confirms that the weapon was designed to fail.
Next Cap tries to find the rest of the weapons impounded after the bust, but they’re gone—and guess who took ’em.
Cap surprises Royko by remembering meeting him last week—I mean, almost 50 years ago—and when Royko says he was reticent to say anything, figuring Cap hears that kind of thing too much as it is, Cap reminds him (and us) who he does all of this for.
Kalee thinks he has escaped Cap’s reach, but Cap proves him wrong… and reminds us that even a “physically ideal man” has his limits.
After Cap confirms that the weapons in the plane have the same flaws as the one Doctor Braun found, Kalee’s partner sees him and he is forced to bail out (with a parachute, though, sigh). Kalee calls his contact in Washington, Angela Stone, the assistant to the U.S. Attorney General who is also working with Navatilas to coordinate a drugs-for-money-for-weapons scheme to arm the dictator against his communist neighbors. Once Stone realizes how much of a liability Cap has become, she goes undercover to find Frank Castle, claiming to want to expose the whole affair, and fingering the man at the top: Captain America. (For his part, Cap has also confirmed the existence of a conspiracy with Ernie, though neither realizes its full extent.)
Next we see Frank preparing to assassinate Cap, thinking of the different ways the vets of World War II and Vietnam were treated upon their return. (See the comment from Chris below for more on this issue.)
Frank’s and Cap’s inner monologues below echo their earlier thoughts and mirror each other: Frank confirms Cap’s impression of how others see him, as well as endorses the “end the war at all costs” mentality that Cap criticized earlier, while Cap thinks about his shield and how it feels very different this time around.
As we know, the Punisher does not miss.
The dramatic final image:
Is this the end for our hero? (Does Cap ever “really” die?) Find out in the next issue…
Punisher – Captain America: Blood and Glory #1, October 1992: D.G. Chichester and Margaret Clark (writer), Klaus Janson (pencils and inks), John Wellington (colors), Jim Novak (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Collected in: Captain America Epic Collection: Blood and Glory.
ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #408, Infinity War #5, Fantastic Four #369, Quasar #39, and Wonder Man #14, Captain America Annual #11, Thor Annual #17, and Avengers Annual #21, and Ghost Rider – Captain America: Fear (October 1992).
NEXT ISSUE: Punisher – Captain America: Blood and Glory #2 (November 1992)
There’s so much I really like about this mini-series. Lot’s of great ethical thinking from Cap throughout. In this issue I particularly like Cap’s musing about how war, any war, taints a person. But I’m bothered by the Punisher contributing to the myth that Vietnam vets were often treated badly by antiwar demonstrators. This idea was very common at the time but is simply not true. While some rare instances certainly may have happened (although there seem to be no documented proven ones), in general the anti-war movement practiced the ethos of “love the soldier, hate the war”. See the comprehensive study of this in Dr. Jerry Lembcke’s “The Spitting Image”. There’s also an excellent documentary that talks about the strong connections between the ant-war movement and Vietnam veterans called “Sir, No Sir!”
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Thanks, Chris — I wasn’t aware of that, and I’ll add a note in the post pointing to your comment.