Captain America #169-175
Issue(s): Captain America #169, Captain America #170, Captain America #171, Captain America #172, Captain America #173, Captain America #174, Captain America #175
As the Black Panther takes the Falcon and his girl Leila to Wakanda...
...Cap investigates the Committee to Regain America's Principles (CRAP) (run by an advertising executive named Quentin Harderman) and winds up getting in a fight with D-list villain the Tumbler, and manages to let him escape.
Returning home, he talks to Sharon and finds that her older sister (who will later be retconned into an aunt) Peggy, who has been in an amnesiac state since World War II when she and Cap had a brief fling, has joined SHIELD. Cap's relationship with SHIELD and Nick Fury isn't so hot right now, so when he goes to talk to them, the Contessa gives him the cold shoulder.
Cap then goes to a charity event organized by CRAP that he agreed to go to to clear his name. He sees the Tumbler there in civilian clothes and attacks him. The Tumbler dies. He was actually assassinated by a mystery figure, but it looks like Cap did it and the police come after him. Cap runs (uncharacteristically), but is stopped by a new super-hero calling himself Moonstone.
Moonstone is a criminal who got his powers when he stole a bit of rock that fell from the Watcher's Blue-Area of the moon, and he's also the guy that assassinated the Tumbler. Cap is busted out of jail by phony supporters that are actually working for Moonstone. He defeats them but opts not to return to captivity.
In Wakanda, while the Falcon and the Black Panther work on the Falcon's upgrade, Leila has a hard time getting along with Tanzika, one of the court hand maidens. They take her to an African city (Lagos, Nigeria) to pass the time, but she winds up getting kidnapped by Stoneface, the gangster that Cap and the Falcon fought, who is now in exile. Eventually the Black Panther and the Falcon show up. The Falcon's got his new costume that includes wings.
Really they're not all that impressive; they just let him glide. Eventually he'll get full flying capabilities but you'd think BP could whip up something better than that. Still, it's nice to see a hero called "Falcon" get the ability to fly.
When Falcon returns to the States he finds Iron Man waiting for him. IM fills him in on Cap's legal problems and gives the Falcon a chance to find him before the Avengers are forced to hunt him down. The Falcon finds Cap without much trouble, but the two of them are attacked and defeated by Moonstone. But while Moonstone runs off to call a press conference Cap and the Falcon wake up and escape.
They deduce that Moonstone came from Nashville and hitchhike their way there in civvies. While there, they bump into the Banshee.
Surprisingly, they get their butts handed to them, even though Cyclops shows up to help, with Xavier and Marvel Girl.
Despite Cyclops' help, when Professor X asks Captain America to help them deal with the fact that mutants are being hunted down and kidnapped (that's the reason Banshee immediately attacked), Cap responds with "I have my own problems now." Only when the Professor suggests that both problems stem from the same source does Cap agree to throw in with the X-Men (which currently consists of only Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl. The Beast has left the group and all the others are missing.).
Then SHIELD shows up to arrest Cap.
The X-Men help him escape...
...and then the Professor reveals that he suspects that the group responsible for the mutant disappearances and Cap's reputation problems is the Secret Empire. The Professor suspects that the Beast's girlfriend, Linda Donaldson, is actually a Secret Empire agent, so the heroes arrange a set-up where Cyclops attacks here, and Cap and the Falcon, dressed as bums, supposedly (but very nicely dressed bums), 'rescue' her.
In return, she hires them to do work for the Secret Empire...
...including stealing a gyroscope from the Brand corporation. For some reason, Steve and Sam decide to wear their super-hero costumes when stealing the gyroscope. The goal was to get in good with the Secret Empire, so why risk reports of Cap and the Falcon being the ones who actually raided Brand? And why further ruin your reputation? Doesn't make a lot of sense. Furthermore, it turns out that the factory boss Mr. Black, who lets Cap and the Falcon get away with the theft, is actually a Secret Empire agent, so this whole ruse is pointless.
Steve and Sam are brought to the Secret Empire's lair, but since the Empire knows who they really are, they try to kill them. The two escape thanks to a mental warning by Xavier that the Falcon picks up on very easily. At this point in time, remember, Xavier has only been able to mentally communicate with other mutants, who have to train to receive his thoughts, and people like FBI Agent Duncan, who had to wear a special mental enhancement device in order to pick up the signal. Xavier suggests that the Falcon's ability to pick up on Xavier's thoughts may possibly mean he's a mutant.
Xavier: "Your reception of my telepathic urgings marks you as a man with a paranormal mind, Falcon! Falcon: "You mean -- I'm a mutant?" Xavier: "Not necessarily, although I've heard you have an uncommon rapport with your hawk!
This was later picked up on in the 1983 Falcon limited series, and a lot of people complained that it was Marvel capitalizing on the popularity of mutants at that time, but it truly is a thread that's been dangling since this issue (#174).
Together the X-Men and Cap and the Falcon explore the Secret Empire's lair and find all the missing mutants: Mastermind, Unus, Polaris, Havok, Mesmero, Angel, Iceman, Beast, and the Blob. They are all strapped to a big wheel, except for the Blob who, too big for the wheel, is laying on a separate table. They are all wired up to a weird machine.
They free the mutants, but then everyone is re-captured by the Secret Empire due to their Atomic Annihilator gun.
However, it turns out that two of the Secret Empire agents are actually Gabriel Jones and Peggy Carter undercover.
Gabriel Jones was responsible for breaking up the original Secret Empire back in the Hulk's book, so it's cool to see him here again. He frees the heroes.
Meanwhile, Moonstone and Harderman are executing their plan, which involves staging an alien invasion on the White House lawn. Moonstone, as a substitute for Captain America, demoralizes the people by surrendering to the 'aliens'. Then Cap shows up and beats the crap out of Moonstone, who turns on Harderman and exposes him. Then, the secret head of the Secret Empire, known only as #1, makes a break for it into the White House. Cap follows and de-hoods him, only to discover that #1 is actually... well, it's implied but not actually said that it is Richard Nixon ("High political office didn't satisfy me! My power was still too constrained by legalities!"). Nixon then kills himself in front of Captain America.
This was pretty good overall. Englehart wasn't afraid to get into politics in Captain America and even though for the most part this is just an adventure story, the political backdrop gives it a little more flavor. I also enjoy all the guest appearances - it's very likely that the X-Men's appearance was just a floater for reviving the X-Men series (and it looks like they were considering a back-to-basics approach because the X-Men are wearing their old uniforms and Professor X is micromanaging them again), but it's still nice to see Cap interact with other super-heroes. And it's cool that Englehart is following up on the plotlines he introduced in Beast's Amazing Adventures story (which, i'll add, is something you'll only pick up on if you take a look at Marvel's output as a line-wide story instead of just, say, reading through a run of Captain America books by themselves).
Still, the dialogue is stilted and the plot's a little nonsensical. Sal Buscema's art has a straightforward classic feel. It's certainly better than a lot of what was going on in the mid-70s at Marvel, but it's not great.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America appears in Avengers #125 after Captain America #175. A footnote says that T'Challa's appearance here takes place before the ongoing story in Jungle Action. I've separated out Captain America #176 from this entry even though it is included in the trade reprint. See the notes for that entry for details.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Captain America: Secret Empire TPB
Inbound References (21): show
According to subsequent letter columns, the Secret Empire story was to last about two issues more, but got speeded up due to Watergate.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 10, 2011 3:44 AM
CRAP was an analogue to the real-life CREEP(Committee to Re-Elect the President).
Quentin Harderman is probably an analogue to H.R. Haldeman.
Plans did exist to bring back the X-Men in very late 1973, and Marvel's FOOM magazine (#3)stated that the winning entry in a create-a-character contest--a Kirbyish New Gods-looking guy called Humus Sapiens--was going to be a charter member of the new X-men. The magazine doesn't say who was attached to the project then, but it probably wasn't Len Wein or Dave Cockrum. Anyway, Humus never did appear in the new X-Men, though I think he did appear in some stories about 3 decades later.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 17, 2011 11:33 AM
yeah, this was a good sprawling storyline. but i cant help but think about the missed potential in some of Englehart's choices. Think how fun it would have been if we'd seen things from cap's perspective rather than the omnipresent. I thought it would have been fun not to know how or if moonstone killed the tumbler. In fact, it wouldve been nice to see some self doubt in cap. Im always surprised more heroes dont accidentally kill their enemies with ordinary fisticuffs by accident.
other bits include moonstone. If he was to take caps place as Americas hero it would have made sense to give hima slightly patriotic theme. Also, no explanation is given as to why cap defeats him at the White House. In their earlier fights, moonstone had shown that his vast array of powers were too much for cap. It felt like he won the last fight just because the plot demanded it.
Posted by: kveto from prague | September 30, 2012 2:35 PM
I absolutely love what you put together here. BUT, we are miles apart on the grades! Really? This only earns a C+ from you?
Posted by: Jack | May 24, 2013 12:24 AM
You wrote: "I also enjoy all the guest appearances - it's very likely that the X-Men's appearance was just a floater for reviving the X-Men series (and it looks like they were considering a back-to-basics approach because the X-Men are wearing their old uniforms and Professor X is micromanaging them again)"
Actually, the X-Men comic series had gone into reprints of their old stories during this time (as The X-Men #67-93) and I believe they appear here in their old uniforms (instead of their individual costumes from The X-Men #39-66) was because that's what the "current" issues of their book were showing them wearing. It made them easier to identify for newer Marvel readers, I guess.
Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2013 12:33 AM
Dagnammit, that was me again. I keep forgetting to fill out the Name & Email fields.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | July 16, 2013 12:33 AM
"Anyway, Humus never did appear in the new X-Men, though I think he did appear in some stories about 3 decades later."
Yes, in the Thunderbolts. Factor Three's Ogre had been keeping him contained.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | July 17, 2013 1:25 AM
Loved Sal Buscema's art, he was one of my favorites. Issue #173 was my 1st Captain America comic that I bought from the store. The story was very surreal. The X-men had broken up and some had disappeared, and Cap was going through some major problems which would soon lead to him quitting.
Posted by: Mike | June 15, 2014 6:52 PM
In regards to Falcon's mutant power, I can't help but think of the Twisted Toyfare Theatre where the X-Men throw a party. Falcon shows up, explaining his power to talk to Redwing is a mutant power. Cyclops then fries Redwing with an optic blast and responds "Now your mutant power sucks."
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 2, 2015 12:03 PM
The Secret Empire reminds me of DC's Wildebeest Society.
Posted by: clyde | August 9, 2015 12:19 AM
I read this when it came out, while following the day-to-day news about Watergate, and I really cannot describe how positive and revolutionary Englehart's writing was in this storyline.
Watergate fostered the pessimism that dominates political discourse and American culture these days, so it's hard for people who had not lived through it to understand how new and potent that pessimism was at the time -- even after all the passion about the Vietnam War and Civil Rights. And Englehart had the vision not to simply reflect current events, but to suggest that the pessimism needed to be countered through self-reflection and through reaffirmation of humanistic values. That perspective was fairly unique at that time, and that voice of reason ultimately was not heeded.
A few of the comics about 9/11 that were published come close to this sort of storytelling, but are strangely less self-reflective about America's strengths and flaws, and the need for America citizens to take ownership of both, in the way that Englehart does here.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | August 30, 2015 8:31 PM
Excellent comments ... I read this arc back in the day, too, and alluded to it recently in a discussion about evil Marvel organizations. It could be held up as a Marvel example of influence from the classic O'Neil/Adams run on GL/GA. (Before becoming a writer, Englehart first worked as an assistant to Adams on an O'Neil story. Okay, it was "Vampirella," but I do think Englehart's writing for Cap reflected the then-new "relevance" and "engagement" of O'Neil.)
What times. And, yes, so much of the CRAP is still with us.
Posted by: Instantiation | August 30, 2015 10:00 PM
Worth adding that the titles of the last two of these issues allude to the CSN song "Long Time Gone" ... which was written in response to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy.
"But you know
Posted by: Instantiation | August 31, 2015 12:11 AM
The Tumbler dies. He was actually assassinated by the Viper
The Tumbler is actually murdered by Moonstone. The Viper was already in jail by the time this storyline started (after the events of issue #163) although he was the one who originally suggested to Quentin Harderman the plan to destroy Cap's reputation with a negative public relations campaign.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 6, 2016 12:59 AM
Posted by: fnord12 | March 6, 2016 1:44 AM
According to Claremont, it was during this story that the Shadow King/Farouk took control of Mastermind, and afterwards started his plots for Ms. Marvel and then Jean Grey.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | May 23, 2016 2:42 PM
Andrew Burke writes: ...and afterwards started his plots for Ms. Marvel and then Jean Grey.
Can you clarify some of this? I do not recall Mastermind doing anything to Ms. Marvel and don't remember the Shadow King's role in his corruption of Jean Grey....
Posted by: MOCK! | July 10, 2016 4:00 PM
@ MOCK!: In his original plans, Claremont says that he intended the Shadow King to take control of Mastermind behind-the-scenes while Wyngarde was a helpless prisoner of the Secret Empire. One of the Shadow King's various plots was to gain control of the mutant Rogue and turn her into his Shadow Queen, his ultimate host. For he had much use for Rogue's absorbing powers. His plan was to maneuver Rogue into joining the X-Men so she would be his sleeper agent. While a part of the team, she would absorb and catalog the various powers of enemy mutants and also heroes, teammates, and other allies.
To this end, the Shadow King influenced Mastermind into seducing Carol Danvers (shown in a scene in MS. MARVEL #25, which was published later in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #11). Had the book not been cancelled, more seduction scenes would have occurred, leading to the corruption of Ms. Marvel. We would have read a Dark Ms. Marvel storyline with an endgame where Ms. Marvel would have attacked and nearly killed Rogue (something mentioned by Rogue herself in UNCANNY X-MEN #182...Claremont usually wrote his later stories as if his cancelled stories saw print, even though they hadn't). This was so Rogue would go to the X-Men for training. But instead, unforseen by the Shadow King, Rogue sought revenge for nearly being killed, which led to the battle that took place between Rogue and Ms. Marvel just before the opening pages of AVENGERS ANNUAL #10.
In the meantime, the Shadow King indulged in another one of his interests: the Phoenix Force. Note the symbol of the Phoenix upon Farouk's astral helmet in UNCANNY X-MEN #117 during his psychic battle with Xavier. This indicated his interest in the Phoenix Force, something started in X-MEN: TRUE FRIENDS #1-3 when Farouk first encountered it via a time-travelling Rachel Summers. To further his plans, the Shadow King influenced Mastermind into seducing Jean Grey. Note that Mastermind was using a mind tap device given to him by Emma Frost to enable him to cast his illusions directly into someone's mind (which was done with Carol Danvers as well). However, this mind tap device would not have given Mastermind the further powers he was shown to be using during the Dark Phoenix Saga. These further powers were a sign that Mastermind was under the control of another powerful telepath (the Shadow King). Of particular note: Proteus was unable to take control of Wyngarde's body around #125 because of psychic shielding, a power that Mastermind did not have but the Shadow King did. Also, in #133, Mastermind somehow pulled Cyclops into the astral plane and nearly killed him, something not in his ability to perform but is a part of the Shadow King's arsenal of powers. Of course, we all know how things played out with Jean. So the Shadow King abandoned Wyngarde to Jean's clutches.
Years later, the Shadow King resumed his plot for Rogue. He once again took control of Mastermind and influenced him into creating a terrible illusion within the mind of Rogue's foster mother, Mystique. Destiny mentioned later that whoever instigated the nightmare was an entity that operated on the "fundamental levels of space and time itself", something that better describes the Shadow King, not Mastermind. The Shadow King-influenced Mastermind then maneuvered Rogue into abandoning her loved ones and seeking out Xavier and his X-Men for help. The Shadow King also influenced Xavier into accepting Rogue into his school. The stage was set. Everything I've said here in this paragraph was shown to have happened this way in the pages of X-TREME X-MEN ANNUAL 2001 via some flashback panels. To be fair, the Dark Phoenix storyline involving the Shadow King's influence of Mastermind was not revealed as such on-panel, however, but that was Claremont's intention, and you can tell this was meant to be through the way Mastermind was used throughout the storyline. But in the case of UNCANNY X-MEN #169-175, the Shadow King's influence of Mastermind and the events therein were revealed in X-TREME X-MEN ANNUAL 2001.
So, basically, this storyline with the Secret Empire had an untold influence upon the lives of the X-Men, Rogue, Ms. Marvel and others later on, although this was never revealed as such on-panel.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | July 11, 2016 10:26 AM
Have you thought about starting a thread on the forum and just directing folk to that when you want to re-iterate your speculation and theories with regards to Claremont? I'm always facepalming but at least they're appropriate on Claremont issues of X-Men. Just on an entry about Captain America issues, it is incredibly tangential spam - especially at that length and the fact it's not remotely canon and your behind-the-scenes facts are muted underneath your rationalizing (and have nothing to do with this Cap story at all).
Although conversely I am perversely interested in seeing how irrelevant a book you can attach one of your "Shadow King did it" posts to.
Posted by: AF | July 11, 2016 10:40 AM
You're right. I'm sorry. I tend to go off on tangents like this sometimes. I was mostly just answering MOCK!'s question, but I did go off too far. As I mentioned in another thread, I am working on creating a website revolving around the Shadow King and I plan to include a forum there once things get going. But again, sorry about the tangent, and thanks for pointing it out.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | July 11, 2016 10:50 AM
Gabe Jones' brilliant defeat of the Secret Empire was a Hendrix song,
If 6 Were 9!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | September 7, 2016 7:00 AM
In Cap 173, Cap does explain why he and Falcon are wearing their costumes when they raid Brand: it's so that if they're captured, there's a chance it eill be by someone who still believes in Captain America (and presumably will let them go or even help them). Not a very good reason, but the script does offer an explanation.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 14, 2017 1:42 AM
We get some background information from Linda Donaldson in #173:
Posted by: Darci | March 2, 2018 11:06 PM
Comments are now closed.
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