Captain America #253-254
Issue(s): Captain America #253, Captain America #254
He also gets to meet his former partner in the Invaders, Spitfire. It's the first time he's seen her since World War II. She is now a frumpy middle aged woman; her powers have faded. It's said that Brian, the first Destroyer and second Union Jack, died in a car crash in 1953. Spitfire's husband, a Lord Crichton, died in 1956.
The Invaders series only ended a little over a year ago by publication date, so this is almost an immediate follow-up.
Falsworth summoned Cap to help with a vampire problem. It seems that Baron Blood has returned.
There's a funny scene where Blood has hypnotized Cap and tries to bite him, but Cap's chainmail armor saves the day.
We also meet Spitfire's son, Kenneth Falsworth, who will later take on the Baron Blood mantle himself. Right now he's just an ordinary college student though. He's with his 'best mate' Joey Chapman, who takes up the Union Jack costume this issue to help Cap trick Baron Blood.
There's a little bit of a murder mystery style plot, with people wondering who Baron Blood is disguising himself as, and Chapman is suspected for a while. There are several elements to Joey, and it's possible to infer that he and Kenneth were mean to be gay. His family is uncomfortable with Ken bringing Joey home, although the given reason for that is that Joey is lower class. And Ken knows him to be a "sound sleeper". That's all circumstantial, though, and part of the reason we might start look for hidden clues about Joey is because he's briefly thought to be Baron Blood or a thrall of the vampire.
Baron Blood actually turns out to be disguised as the local doctor.
Baron Blood is killed this issue, beheaded by Captain America's shield.
There's occasionally some debate about whether Captain America has killed or should kill, and this issue is sometimes cited, but i don't think it's really relevant to the debate since what he's killing here is an undead vampire.
Early in issue #253 there's a scene that reminds me of the famous Dirty Harry "Do you feel lucky" scene except unlike Clint Eastwood, Cap doesn't have to threaten to shoot anyone to get the bad guy to give up. So maybe that's an answer to the killing debate (i don't really have a dog in that race).
Back in the States, while showing the developing relationship between Steve Rogers and Bernie Rosenthal, Stern and Byrne are having fun playing up the "man out of time" element that's been neglected in Captain America's series for a while now.
And a little later, we stumble into a Mary Worth strip by accident.
Issue #254 is dedicated to Frank Robbins, "the man who first drew Union Jack". It's worth noting that Robbins was still alive at this point; he died in 1994. And for those who wanted to see John Byrne draw some Golden Age characters, here you go:
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (8): show
The X-Men were supposed to appear in this title eventually, but that was dumped when Byrne quit that title in order to give him a clean break.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 2, 2012 7:35 PM
Man this Byrne and Stern run is soooo good! A shame it is only 9 issues. I actually wasn't super excited for this two parter since it seemed a little strange to see Steve fighting a vampire.
I know I shouldn't doubt those two. Then I read it and learned just how much history was in it and it wasn't a random vampire.
I really like Bernie, unlike so many other comic book love interests she's pretty but not flat out super goregous plus glass blowers aren't that common fiction occupation. I like it when there's the rare fiction relationship where the guy is goregous and the lady isn't super model, way too common the other way around.
Posted by: David Banes | February 5, 2014 8:49 PM
It's a great run, and it's terrible it was aborted so early. I particularly like these issues for several reasons.
First, it's one of the few where vampires are treated well in a 4 color genre. Horror and superheroics are genres that don't mix well together, but Stern gets it right.
Second, Stern hits perfect notes on the "man out of time" aspect of Cap. Not just juxtaposing modern Cap with aged characters from WWII, but aspects like having Brian Falsworth die offscreen in 1953 through a mundane traffic accident really hits home the passage of time and the difference in eras. It adds a pathos that defines modern day Captain America from its Golden Age origins.
Lastly, it made Baron Blood a GREAT villain in his last appearance. While a cool concept, it was somewhat underwhelming in Invaders. Here Stern & Byrne do it justice. Just wonderful.
If I remember right, Blood utters "Death always wins" in his fight with Captain America. That always stuck with me. It's true, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't fight for life. I use it a lot when I GM fantasy RPGs with undead as villains.
Posted by: Chris | February 6, 2014 1:16 AM
One of my favorite death scenes of all-time and my favorite Cap story of all-time. Just magnificent story-telling and characterization and a nice epilogue to the Invaders, but with better art.
Posted by: Erik Beck | April 24, 2015 6:04 PM
Yeah, I agree with everything Chris said. This story was great and I say that as someone who never really got into the Invaders (despite reading most of the early issues as a friend was collecting them).
It was a fun "double swerve" with Union Jack at the end, first having it be a young, fit Union Jack that Baron Blood is attacking (rather than the feeble Lord Falsworth he thinks it is) and then after the fight having him unmask and reveal that it's actually Joey and not Ken, the natural heir to the title. Of course, in retrospect the clues that it should be Joey were there so it's not like Stern threw that in just to be clever.
And it says something for how young I was when I read these that I completely missed the subtext between "college mates" Brian and Joey, just as I'd missed it between Brian Falsworth and his "best friend" Roger Aubrey in the Invaders.
Posted by: Dan H. | October 25, 2015 12:11 PM
this two-parter makes up for the whole original Invaders series.
Posted by: kveto | February 28, 2016 10:34 AM
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