Captain America #316-317
Issue(s): Captain America #316, Captain America #317
Poor Armadillo. He allowed a mad scientist to turn him into a monster in return for curing his wife, and when she was cured, she convinced him to remain a monster so that he could earn money in the Unlimited Class Wrestling circuit. And she's cheating on him.
Captain America is having love problems, too. Bernie has chosen the University of Wisconsin as her law school. She deliberately picked something out of state so that she could have some time off from Cap, who hasn't been around lately thanks to his super-hero life. She's not breaking up with him, but she wants to see if their love can "weather a separation". Before they can discuss things further, Hawkeye and Mockingbird show up in their civvies. They are in town to testify at the trial of Crossfire, and Hawkeye thought it would be fun to crash at Cap's place for the night. Before arriving, Hawkeye confesses to Mockingbird that the reason he used to mouth off in the Kooky Quartet days was because he was insecure.
It's cool seeing Bernie realizing that Hawkeye and Mockingbird are super-heroes (of course they are; who else would wear green tights like the ones Bobbi is wearing?).
Hawkeye suggests going to check out the Armadillo at the UCWF match in town. Bernie apparently no longer likes wrestling; that was during one of her "weird" phases, but she agrees to go if Steve will help her pack.
After watching Armadillo win (and Steve grouse about "true combat")...
...Cap decides to visit him backstage. He notices Armadillo's wife Bonita making out with her friend Ramon. Cap decides not to tell Armadillo...
...but Armadillo finds out on his own later, and goes on a rampage.
Cap shows up to try to talk him down...
...but Armadillo tries to kill himself by climbing a tall building (the Empire State, i think?)...
...and dropping off. He survives the fall, however.
I like the Armadillo. So weird looking, and tragic in a way the Thing never was because no one took advantage of him the way Bonita did. There's no parallel between him and Cap though beyond the basic fact that they are both dealing with relationship problems. Armadillo have given up everything for love, and was betrayed. Cap hasn't given up anything for Bernie; if we're to believe her, the problem is that he couldn't spare any time for her at all.
The next issue deals with the reason Hawkeye and Mockingbird are in town. They are supposed to testify at the trial of Crossfire, but while he is being transported, he's rescued by a group of... well, i'll call them super-villains. But they're really just a group of jugglers called the (ugh) Death Throws. Bombshell and Oddball from the Hawkeye mini-series have added Knick Knack, Ringleader, and Tenpin to their ranks.
Crossfire doesn't even have the money to pay them, so they decide to try to see if they can get money from Hawkeye and Mockingbird to return him instead.
Cap is supposed to be at a goodbye party for Bernie, but instead he goes with Hawkeye to the ransom hand-off to fight the jugglers, even though Hawkeye's two-seat jet cycle means that Mockingbird has to take a cab to the fight.
A big deal is made of the fact that Hawkeye and Cap switch weapons going into the fight...
...but let's face it: they are fighting a bunch of Ren Faire rejects; tactics don't really come into it.
When Cap returns home, he finds that Bernie has decided to not wait for him, and has just left a note. Well deserved.
As much as i liked the Armadillo issue, i disliked the cornball Death Throws. Poor Hawkeye that he gets saddled with these guys as villains. I'm not a huge Hawkeye fan, but a dude so good with a bow and arrow that he gets to fight real super-villains is pretty cool. A guy with a circus ability fighting other people with circus abilities, especially with names like Knick Knack, is wholly uninteresting.
The break-up/separation (and lead up to it) definitely feels forced, but as we'll see next issue, it's just the beginning of a shake-up for the book.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP has this between West Coast Avengers #10-11 (same gap as Hulk #320-323). The stories in these two issues aren't directly related, but both take place while Hawkeye and Mockingbird are in New York so i've included them in a single entry. I've listed the Wasp as appearing in this issue but it's a behind-the-scenes appearance; Mockingbird says that they checked with her while looking for the people that took Crossfire.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showAnna Kappelbaum, Armadillo, Bernie Rosenthal, Bombshell, Captain America, Crossfire, Falcon, Hawkeye, Josh Cooper, Knick Knack, Mike Farrel, Mockingbird, Oddball, Ringleader, Tenpin, Wasp
Here is the beginning of Gruenwald eliminating Cap's existing supporting cast. Gruenwald's run has its ups and downs, but this was a big mistake. A good supporting cast is essential to ground the superhero in realism. Cap never had a great cast like Spidey had, or even DD or Iron Man did, but there were likable characters, and Bernie was a good girlfriend. There could have been improvements in the depiction of his civilian life (the commercial artist idea never grabbed me, and Cap needs some sort of cover story/tie-in with the government), but jettisoning what currently exists didn't work out.
If I was designing a new cast/civilian concept, I'd go the route Tom Clancy did with Jack Ryan. Ryan wrote war histories and position/analysis papers for the Defense Department and CIA. I'd have Cap do the same, but also include SHIELD, Project: Pegasus, etc. Cap has plenty of experience fighting HYDRA and what not, and a consulting gig on how to fight subversive organizations or defend against superhuman threats is something needed in the Marvel Universe, and that Steve Rogers could do very well. I'd keep his artistic bent by making it a hobby, perhaps even selling some paintings at flea markets and such. You could then have the same supporting cast at the apartment, but introduce other characters at his work/career, some of whom would know that Steve is Cap, but most be ignorant. He would have strong ties to the government, but still remain separate from it so you could have any range of missions.
The above wouldn't fit in the eventual plans for the Superpatriot, but I think it would be a good long term fit for the character who desperately needs a civilian identity yet has to retain strong ties to the US government.
Posted by: Chris | December 1, 2013 8:12 PM
I agree that the complete gutting of the cast here didn't work, but Gruenwald did do a lot with the supporting cast eventually--Bernie came back, Diamondback became a major character, John Jameson was a great character, the Avengers support crew got their time in the sun...now the central problem here as you point out, is that all of these characters primarily relate to Cap just as Cap, which is different than all other hero dynamics.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | December 1, 2013 9:26 PM
Agreed on Death Throws. Oddball had a certain appeal in his first appearance as he was obviously being set up as a Hawk-eye nemesis and their fight was pretty brutal. With the Death throws he moved into silly territory. How did Scourge miss this bunch?
I'm not sure I missed Caps civilian life. Cap has always been pretty uninteresting out of costume as he's the same guy really (as opposed to say Spider-man who takes on a different persona from Peter Parker).
Posted by: kveto from prague | December 2, 2013 3:20 PM
Kveto, I don't miss his civilian job at all. Commercial artist was a failed attempt to deepen the character, but it was better than having Steve Rogers as a cop. Cap's best "civilian identity" was back in WWII when he was a soldier with a cover story. That dynamic worked well for obvious reasons, but it couldn't carry on past World War II. Cap needs to retain some ties to the government, but be outside the military chain of command, hence my idea to capture some of the old dynamic (which even Cap post-1964 had with his ties to Fury and SHIELD).
Michael hits my problem exactly - it's all fine for Cap to have lots of interaction with characters as Cap, but he also needs people to relate to him as Steve Rogers. Someone as superhero 100% of the time, which is how Gruenwald eventually writes him, doesn't work for me for the same reason people are not defined by their jobs.
Anna Kappelbaum, Mike Farrel, and Josh Cooper were not the best supporting cast, but I did like the dynamic they created. Even if Cap's public persona and Steve Rogers are essentially the same, people react differently to Steve than to Cap, and it's good to see that difference in the relationship. Cap is the "Living Legend of World War II" and is a high profile member of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". To me, Cap needs people just to treat him as plain old Steve Rogers because sometimes people just need to be themselves and not be constantly "on".
Posted by: Chris | December 2, 2013 3:36 PM
"Michael hits my problem exactly - it's all fine for Cap to have lots of interaction with characters as Cap, but he also needs people to relate to him as Steve Rogers. Someone as superhero 100% of the time, which is how Gruenwald eventually writes him, doesn't work for me for the same reason people are not defined by their jobs."
It makes little senses for heroes who do not stand as outlaws the way the Green Hornet, the Shadow, Zorro and the Spider did to have dual identities. Those heroes
cf. comments here
Posted by: PB210 | December 2, 2013 7:12 PM
It makes little senses for heroes who do not stand as outlaws the way the Green Hornet, the Shadow, Zorro and the Spider did to have dual identities. Those heroes would have faced legal reprisal, with the Spanish Army executing Zorro as a social protestor.
Posted by: PB210 | December 2, 2013 7:13 PM
I think I have to side with PB210 on this one. Why should Cap have a secret identity? Just because other superheroes do? He's not like other superheroes. Personally I never liked the attempts to focus on his personal life and give him some kind of forced Peter Parkerisms. It never felt genuine to me.
Posted by: Robert | December 2, 2013 7:48 PM
I don't think it makes as much sense for Captain America, but the reason Spider Man always gave for keeping his identity secret was that if all his enemies knew he was Peter Parker, then it'd endanger people close to him, like Aunt May or Mary Jane.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | December 2, 2013 9:01 PM
I agree with PB210's comments that secret identities, as a trope, can be used poorly when used unthinkingly. Marvel, of course, broke that trope with the FF who were quickly established as not having secret identities. So it's not like Marvel has only one set pattern of handling this issue.
However, I actually think it is MORE important for Cap to have a secret identity than heroes like Spidey. Spidey presumably only has to worry about villains he personally crossed. Cap, on the other hand, has to worry about all sorts of enemies he's never even met. All sorts of foreign governments, terrorists, and deranged psychos could target him or his loved ones simply because of what he symbolizes.
There is a reason why the identities of Seal Team Six are kept secret, or why even routine CIA agents are given cover stories in Embassy work. Same applies to Cap.
Also, "Captain America" is a symbol, and that cuts both ways. If Steve Rogers (or any of the other men the government has assigned the codename to) has a bad day or does something unwise, it won't reflect badly on the symbol. Counterpoint, at some point Steve Rogers just wants to be Steve, and not be weighed down with the responsibility and formality that "Captain America" has.
Posted by: Chris | December 3, 2013 1:33 AM
PB, Zorro would be executed by the Mexican Army, given the case, since he was born and lived in California during the era of mexican rule
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | December 3, 2013 8:16 AM
Posted by: PB210 | December 3, 2013 7:17 PM
So, McCulley ended up being the typical guy who confuses Spain with Mexico...
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | December 3, 2013 7:27 PM
The timeline of Zorro is very suspect. It includes elements of Spanish colonial and Mexican eras. It's much more in the veins of a mythic time - "a long time ago" - rather than historical fiction.
Posted by: Chris | December 3, 2013 8:15 PM
These were two of my favorite issues of Cap. The big disadvantage of moving Hawkeye to LA was that we missed the Hawkeye / Cap interactions - as Hawkeye has grown, his relationship with Cap has really matured and it's nice to see. We got a bit of it in the Hawkeye mini-series, when he refused to ask for Cap's help on the subway.
I also really liked Armadillo - a bit of a Silver Age freak but with a nice tragic story - never really a villain, but he gets sucked into the antagonist role a couple of times.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 13, 2015 7:46 AM
I suppose these two issues are united by7 a loose sort of theme, in that they're both about what happens to villains *after* they're beaten.
The Death-Throws's appearance here was a missed opportunity: this would've made sense as a Serpent Society job, but I suppose that a) Gruenwald wanted to tie in further to the Hawkeye miniseries and b) using Sidewinder's crew risks overxposing the Serpents and watering down their threat level too much.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | April 13, 2018 1:45 PM
Though corny they may be, I must confess to a soft spot for the Death-Throws, particularly Knick Knack. Considering his diminutive stature, I wonder if the name, aside from his juggling specialty, was in part influenced by the character Nick Nack from the 1974 Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun". Nick Nack was the manservant to Christopher Lee's title character,portayed by Herve Villachez ("Tattoo" from TV's "Fantasy Island").
Posted by: Brian Coffey | April 15, 2018 11:57 PM
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