Captain America #177-186
Issue(s): Captain America #177, Captain America #178, Captain America #179, Captain America #180, Captain America #181, Captain America #182, Captain America #183, Captain America #184, Captain America #185, Captain America #186
Meanwhile, Lucifer escapes from the extradimensional world he was trapped in.
He breaks into a convenience store and starts eating candy bars. It totally should have been Hostess Fruit Pies.
He gets himself mixed up with a couple of local thieves, and merges himself with one of them during a fight with the Falcon. Then, since his energy is too strong for one human body to contain, he splits his power with Aries (or an Aries) from the Zodiac.
Then the two Lucifers get hired by the crime boss Morgan to kill the Falcon. After their first failed attempted, they come back to Morgan to remind him that they're not just fighting a single man! Oh no! They're also fighting Redwing! "And bird, Morgan. Don't forget the bird!"
Meanwhile Captain America's retirement has inspired a number of imitator/replacements, but they aren't doing so good. Cap is enjoying a domestic scene with Sharon Carter, but he feels bad about the fact that Peggy Carter is still in love with Captain America. But, oddly, Gabriel Jones picks up Peggy on the rebound. Granted they ought to be the same age, but Gabe looks a lot younger than Peggy and it seems weird that they'd get together.
Lucifer sends his Dominus robots after the Falcon...
...and, seeing the Falcon in trouble, Steve Rogers puts on a ski-mask and helps out. It turns out the robots aren't so tough because they were built to maintain Dominus, not fight. The Falcon is not happy at all that Steve had to bail him out.
Next, Steve is repeatedly attacked by a character called the Golden Archer...
...who turns out to be Hawkeye trying to convince Steve to become a super-hero again. He gives him the idea that he can be a super-hero wtihout being Captain America.
Meanwhile, the Viper is rescued from the police, only to be killed by Madame Hydra, simply because she wants to use his name.
She's formed a new Serpent Squad. The Squad includes Princess Python, the Cobra, and the Eel, who i still contend doesn't belong on the team since Eels are not snakes.
Steve designs himself a new costume and decides to call himself Nomad.
Sharon isn't happy that he's going back into the super-hero life, although i don't know why she doesn't just join him. Sharon is written as a really prissy "chick" in these issues and it's grating. She spends much of the book crying in the arms of her friend Dave Cox, a one-armed Vietnam vet that looks like Jesus.
Nomad gets into a fight with the Serpent Squad, but trips on his cape and lets them escape, having kidnapped the president of Roxxon oil. No capes!
The Squad teams up with Krang, who wouldn't be allowed in the group except he has the Serpent Crown.
Madame Hydra/Viper is written as a really nasty and crazy revolutionary, and she makes nonsensical radical feminist comments as well.
Namor shows up, doesn't recognize Nomad as Cap, and tries to beat info about Krang out of him.
Steve reveals that he's the former Captain America to avoid getting pulverized. While they are talking, they hear the head of Roxxon speak and Namor realizes that he's under the control of the Serpent Crown. After a quick check with SHIELD (Nick Fury calls Namor the "sub-mareener"), Nomad and Namor head to Roxxon's oil rigs.
After mopping up Krang and the Squad (but Viper and Cobra escape with the crown), Nomad is told by Roxxon that he should have minded his own business since Roxxon has it's own private police force that can take care of such things.
We pause here to consider the limitations of my project when it comes to trade paperbacks, as Nomad's appearance in Avengers #131 takes place here. While helping out the Avengers on an unrelated matter (The Celestial Madonna saga), he hears that Cobra and Viper have resurfaced, and returns to his own book to catch them.
At this point, solid but unspectacular penciler Sal Buscema has been replaced by Frank Robbins. Robbins was a veteran comic artist with work dating back to the great depression, but this is among his earliest work at Marvel. Contrasted to Buscema, his work on Cap has high and low points. Buscema had a simple but classic look that never really made you go wow, but never looked too bad, either. Robbins' art on Cap is very stylized. His characters are very contorted and comical looking.
Sometimes, the effect is really good, especially when depicting grotesque characters like the Red Skull, but other times it doesn't seem to fit the mood of the book very well, making things look satirical when they shouldn't be.
Steve finds that the reputation of Captain America has its uses as he arrives on the scene of a siege of Cobra and Viper only to have the police knock him out and tie him up since they don't want some unknown super hero getting in their way. The police wind up getting massacred. Nomad frees himself and defeats the two Serpent Squaders, with Viper seemingly dying.
The Serpent Crown manages to hide itself, though.
Back in NYC, the Falcon and one of the fake Caps, whose real name is Roscoe, get captured in a set-up by the Red Skull.
Next issue (#183), Nomad is fighting Black Man in a Chicken Suit #2, whose name is either Blackhook or Gamecock.
After a mysterious person with a bazooka breaks up the fight, the Falcon's girlfriend Leila lets Nomad know that Sam is missing. Nomad then gets attacked buy a bunch of dirty hippies who bought into the Viper's revolutionary speak. Escaping the deadly hippies, Nomad finds no leads on Falcon's whereabouts, although he does find out about a series of bank robberies where the money has all been replaced with counterfeits.
Nomad: Don't you know that all accounts are insured by up to $20,000 by the government?
Then things get really weird as Nomad decides to see if Luke Cage know anything about the Falcon. "Cage's color is a very slim lead, but it's all I can come up with right now!". Uh, Steve, Cage's color isn't a lead at all. "Cage is something of a detective" is a pretty good excuse to go to Luke Cage. "Cage knows the streets of Harlem pretty well and might be able to tell me about anything unusual going on." is a pretty good excuse to go to Luke Cage. "Cage is black and so is my friend who is missing" is a terrible reason to try and get his help. Anyway, Cage is currently out of town, so it doesn't matter.
Cap also tries calling Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters to see if the Falcon went there to find out if his bond with Falcon was indeed a mutant power, as Professor X had previously suggested, but the Beast tells him that Falcon isn't there.
Finally, Redwing finds Nomad. The bird leads him to the dead, brutalized body of Roscoe.
The Falcon, still alive, is also there. Realizing that Secret Empire Agent Number One (AKA Richard Nixon) was just as a bad as the Red Skull, Steve decides to go back to being Captain America.
Issue #184 has fill-in art by Herbe Trimpe.
The Red Skull says that his attack is timed to the 30th anniversary of the date Hitler committed suicide in his bunker.
Of course in the Marvel Universe, Hitler was actually killed by the Golden Age Human Torch, and also lived on in a cloned body that became the Hate Monger, but i guess the Skull doesn't know that yet. Cap and the Falcon face the Skull, but he escapes.
The Skull uses Dust of Death, to kill members of the US's Federal Open Market Committee and turn their faces into red skulls, and plays Chopin's Funeral March like he used to back in World War II. Jeopardizing his plans to derail the US economy, the Red Skull kidnaps and tortures Gabe and Peggy because he doesn't like interracial dating.
When Cap and the Falcon come to the rescue, the Red Skull reveals that the Falcon is actually his pawn.
The Stan Lee/Jack Kirby origin that we read in his initial appearance was a fake one, and the Falcon was really a jive-talkin' pimp. The Red Skull turned "Snap" Wilson into the Falcon to... to... i don't know. It doesn't make sense at all, and it's really a shame to turn Marvel's first African-American super-hero into a criminal that was created by a Nazi. It doesn't serve the plot in any significant way, it detracts terribly from the character, it's an unnecessary retcon, and it really takes a lot out of the Falcon as a milestone. I don't know what Englehart was thinking. The Nomad arc has been OK so far. Not great. It hasn't touched on real political topics like some past Englehart Cap stories have done, but it's been a fine action story and it's been interesting watching Cap's search for identity. This, however, completely ruins the story.
The Red Skull escapes, and the Falcon goes into a coma.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: Takes place concurrently with Avengers #129-135. Luke Cage is currently in LA.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: Captain America & Falcon: Nomad TPB
Inbound References (22): show
I like englehart but "snap" wilson was unforgivable.
But I did love steve as Nomad. I wished hed have stayed the Nomad.
The Serpent Squad story was actually inspired by Patty Hearst's kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing by the Symbionese Liberation Army. The SLA also had a patch design reminiscent of Steranko's Hydra symbol. That series of events also inspired a few obscure hardcore mid-70s porn films.
A later letters column revealed that much of the Red Skull's dialogue was taken verbatim from unprinted letters to Marvel protesting Peggy and Gabe's interracial relationship. Other columns explained that the Falcon's criminal history was written because the character was, well, boring.
Joe Giella was previously a longtime DC artist. He only did a few things for Marvel and may have retired afterwards.
The guy with the bazooka was never explained anywhere. I'm assuming he was an employee of Hugh Jones, sent there to stop the fight so Nomad/Cap could find the Falcon and confront the Red Skull. Considering that the Skull's plan was to destroy the economy and Jones was a businessman, it does make some sense.
Englehart originally wanted Roscoe crucified the normal way, but then-EIC Roy Thomas(just before Len Wein took over) vetoed it, saying that crucifixions were overdone. Englehart switched it to upside-down.
This was the Beast's reappearance after his dangling plot threads from his Canada/Secret Empire involvement were finished. Nobody else is at the X-Mansion, which could place it during the first part of Giant-Size X-Men #1 when the X-men are on Krakoa and Professor X is recruiting the new team(though I don't recall if Cyclops returned before, during, or after the recruitment).
Also: after # 186, Sharon Carter disappears for nearly a year.
Given how much an awful mistake the "Snap Wilson" story of the Falcon is, I wonder why Marvel kept it in fact. An obvious way to eliminate it is to reveal that the first origin of the Falcon is the true origin, and the Skull's "secret origin" is a lie created by possession of the Cosmic Cube. Of course, you'd need some reason why the Skull would retroactively change reality like that, but another obvious reason is that he hated Sam Wilson being such a noble character and just wanted to slime him and everyone associated with him by making him into a jive pimp.
Ralph Macchio has a letter in #179.
DeMatteis later retcons "Snap" Wilson into a split personality, IIRC.
The fact is, on first read, the reveal of the Falcon as the Skull's creation/sleeper agent is really good. Sam had been allowed to devolve into another Bucky, only with the tokenism aspect tagged on. But, of course, that's also Englehart's fault, since he'd been writing the book for the three previous years, during which much of Falc's world (Leila, his social-worker job, Rafe Michel, Morgan) has been erased from the book, little by little. Much like Cap's second job as Steve Rogers, NYPD.
It's hard to argue with the quality of the stories that Steve told, but they didn't fit the framework that Stan had established, that Friedrich and Conway had stayed within. Englehart is always writing Captain America, not Captain America and the Falcon. (Much as, after all of Conway's work to make Daredevil and the Black Widow its own separate, San Francisco-set partnership book, Gerber really can't write anything but Daredevil, and eventually writes Natasha out of the series and moves DD back home to NYC.)
So Sam *was* boring. The "upright, cheerful Negro" ideal sidekick that Steve would approve of, as the Skull mocks. And so Englehart decides to blow it all up. The idea of Sam actually being a criminal isn't necessarily bad, but the big-pimping Frank Robbins imagery for "Snap" (and the "Snap" name) are just over the line, IMO.
A side note is that, as the Skull's sleeper agent, Sam is actually responsible for the "locked-room" murder at the lighthouse. I don't recall John David Warner (who succeeds Englehart) ever really dealing with the fact that Sam killed a guy. Pretty much swept under the rug.
Perhaps Englehart thought that it was a bad idea for the "first" African-American hero to be just a sidekick, and by tarnishing Sam, that honor would fall to his own creation, Luke Cage?
A "Pat and Nard" newspaper headline in #179 refers to the underground comix characters by Jay Lynch.
Mark Gruenwald has a letter in #181.
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