Captain America #323
Issue(s): Captain America #323
The plot takes place in the aftermath of the current Captain America's deadly shooting of an ULTIMATUM terrorist last issue, and begins with SHIELD offering Cap the option of retroactively joining their organization so that they can say the killing was part of a legitimate international law enforcement operation. Captain America thinks that he'd have to give up being an Avenger and his own hotline if he were to join SHIELD, but he does seriously consider the offer.
It's worth noting, and i like this a lot, that Captain America is not overwhelmed with grief or anything over the terrorist he killed. He deeply regrets it, of course, but he tells Jarvis that the media has overblown the incident, and he rejects an offer to commiserate with the Black Knight, who has had his own experiences with killing during the Crusades.
Granted, the Black Knight's offer comes at an inappropriate time. He and Hercules have invited some ladies over for a toga party.
Anyone wondering why Dane never successfully managed to woo the Wasp away from Paladin may want to look here. If she was at all aware that he was engaging in these kinds of lowbrow fratboy antics with Hercules, she most likely wouldn't have considered him as a potential suitor.
Cap is more concerned about the SHIELD offer, and he wishes that he could call Bernie to talk about it, but he thinks it's too late to call her at her lawschool. She similarly wishes she could call him. So there's a kind of O. Henry thing going on there, except O. Henry never saw Flashdance.
Now we get to the Super-Patriot. I wrote about the last storyline that the problem with Flag-Smasher's anti-nationalisim is that he puts Captain America in a box that Marvel or most readers wouldn't really be comfortable with; Cap really has to believe in the idea of American exceptionalism in order for Flag-Smasher to be a good contrast for him. Super-Patriot/USAgent will eventually be able to play that role better, and he'll be the sort of character where you can believe that he's expressing a point of view that, while it could be legitimate, it's not necessarily one that Marvel is endorsing. All that said, we're not there yet, and the Super-Patriot is depicted in this story as just an opportunist. When presented with the opportunity to stop an old lady from being mugged, he declines because "such a petty crime isn't glitzy enough".
"If it won't make the headlines, the Super-Patriot isn't interested". He's also hired a publicist, and as we'll see is not above staging a fake attack to make himself look good.
This will turn out to be a real disappointment to Captain America, who, when he first sees a poster advertising a Super-Patriot rally, thinks to himself, "Yeahhh... just what I'm in the mood for."
Poor Cap instead finds out that the rally is actually about bashing him.
In part due to the fact that he's too old, but the Super-Patriot also takes advantage of the fact that Cap is in the news about using a gun to kill the terrorist.
It's definitely meant to show the Super-Patriot's opportunism again, but since i know that the character will eventually take on a more right-wing persona, it feels weird to have him criticizing Cap for using a gun.
Beyond the gun issue, there really isn't much to criticize Captain America for, so Super-Patriot is left talking about how he's old. Which, given Cap's physical age and continued success, is not much to go on. If Gruenwald had given Cap a few failures in recent issues, or if the Super-Patriot's ideology was apparent from the start here, it might have made the speech a little less weak-sauce. Super-Patriot tells the crowd to contact their congressmen to demand a general election for the role of Captain America.
The staged attack i mentioned is part of the rally. While Super-Patriot is talking, three armed guys in Captain America outfits rush the stage and declare themselves to be the Bold Urban Commandos - Buckies for short - and they claim to be there to defend Captain America's honor.
The Super-Patriot makes an awkward crack about them having As on their heads instead of Bs; the characters later will indeed have Bs on their heads.
Two of these Buckies will eventually become the goofily named and fairly insignificant Right-Winger and Left-Winger, and the black guy will become Super-Patriot's official Bucky when he becomes Cap (I'll talk about the unintentional racism that leads to him changing his name to Battlestar when we get to that).
When Cap sees guys with guns wearing his costumes attacking someone, he tries to get into costume himself to help stop them, but Super-Patriot takes them out on his own.
Cap gets suspicious when they are taken away in a non-standard police van, and he later shows up out of costume to tell the Super-Patriot to cease and desist.
Super-Patriot responds by challenging him to a fight...
...which Cap declines.
And when he's leaving, he's attacked by the Buckies.
While fighting them, he realizes they have super-strength, but he's still able to defeat all three of them while in a suit and with his shield inside the art portfolio bag.
Cap then goes on television to publicly discuss the terrorist shooting and, by implication, decline the SHIELD position. By doing this and not even mentioning the Super-Patriot, Super-Patriot and his PR agent Ethan Thurm feel that they've been outmaneuvered.
Once again, Mark Gruenwald proves that as a writer, he makes a good editor. Great ideas here, but they work only in the broadest sense if we don't think it through too much. Captain America has always been presented as extremely popular, so what is it about Super-Patriot's speech that persuades anyone? There was actually material to work with - Cap's inclusion of the Sub-Mariner in the Avengers, his failure to capture Magneto in New Mutants #40, his thousand-yard stare during the Hulk battle in Hulk #321-323, all might have been used to show Cap getting soft or weak. But instead Super-Patriot's speech just has nothing of substance except the gun issue, and i just have a hard time seeing the Super-Patriot gaining traction on that. Gruenwald was right to have confidence in the Super-Patriot concept, though, and will continue to use him and eventually get him "right"; it just feels a little clunky getting there. The Neary/Beatty team do well with the art and character design and even manage to sell the ridiculous idea of grown men with Captain America masks and no shirts toting machine guns and calling themselves Buckies.
Just to geek out for a second, i want to mention that this issue starts with the Super-Patriot setting off some fireworks at the Statue of Liberty. And it's mentioned that the Statue is closed for repairs for only the second time in its history. That's based on real-world history, but in the Marvel universe, the statue was damaged by Gog in Astonishing Tales #18 and the Hulk in Hulk #206.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain America returns from Europe and the fight with ULTIMATUM at the beginning of this issue, so he shouldn't appear in other books in between last issue and this one. So for Black Knight and Hercules, this occurs in the same place as Cap for issues #321-323, between Avengers #272-273.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
You said Right-Winger and Left-Winger are fairly insignificant. The dead parents of Super-Patriot disagree. Since Right-Winger and Left-Winger were ticked at not being able to join him when he became Captain America, they blabbed his secret identity on TV. This led the Watchdogs to kidnap his parents. When he tried to save them, they were killed.
Posted by: clyde | January 21, 2014 5:58 PM
I just mean in the sense that they have less than a dozen appearances and barely appear outside the Captain America book, unlike Battlestar (who joins Silver Sable's Wild Pack) and of course USAgent.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 21, 2014 6:31 PM
I see your point. I always thought they were what evil people should be - no "big" plans or ideology, just out for pure revenge.
Posted by: clyde | January 21, 2014 6:59 PM
Lemar's "My plexus" line was criticized for being corny- who says "My plexus" when someone smacks them in the gut?
Posted by: Michael | January 21, 2014 8:02 PM
I don't think this is the issue where it's confirmed that the Helicarrier isn't rebuilt, or maybe i'm missing it. Cap is taken to an abandoned building to be debriefed by Sitwell because the "main headquarters is off limits to all outsiders these day". Based on that i'd be suspicious of anything they told Cap until/unless he agreed to join, but i actually don't see any mention of the Helicarrier.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 21, 2014 9:15 PM
Super-Patriot is not well defined here. Gruenwald does much better later on. I think Super-Patriot makes more sense as a riff on the popular professional wrestling of the mid-eighties at this point than a more right wing patriot. Everything about him this issue screams "sports entertainment". I wonder if he originally was meant to be in the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation (UCWF) of the Thing series before his manager thought he could would do well on his own.
I agree with your comments on Dane Whitman. I don't think Gruenwald gave it much thought, he just wanted something to be happening in the background to make the exposition less obvious. It makes sense for Hercules to have floozies over. Dane Whitman was never portrayed that way previously. Plus who brings over floozies to Avengers Mansion and doesn't have his mask on! I'll give Dane the benefit of the doubt and say he was ready to go to bed and Hercules just showed up with the Muses from Olympus and kept insisting he join him.
Posted by: Chris | January 21, 2014 10:59 PM
Chris has answered Michael's question, I think: "My plexus!" is pretty bad scripting in any event, but you could imagine a pro-wrestling color commentator saying the BUC-y had just been hit in the solar plexus. Without re-reading the issue I don't recall offhand how heavily the UCWF angle is brought out here, but it certainly becomes clear that that's where the Super-Patriot's schtick is coming from.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | January 22, 2014 12:48 AM
I have a question: Why are we always assuming that Steve Rogers is old? I mean How old was he when he went into suspended animation? 23? 24? time did not pass for him. Sure, he would still be a man out of his time, but a Young man anyway, body and mind. He should not feel like a 50 years old ex-soldier...
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | January 22, 2014 12:24 PM
Boy, talk about different strokes.
Super-Patriot IMO is as well defined as he will ever be in this here story. He only works - to the extent that he CAN work at all - as a brutal caricature.
When Gru made him the substitute Cap, he became even _more_ of a caricature. And his enemies, the Watchdogs, had to become full-blown boogeymen, who were very hard to take seriously.
Which only goes to show how difficult it is to make a convincing superhero of something as tricky and questionable as patriotism.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 22, 2014 8:31 PM
@Jay: trouble is, he was thawed back in 1964. Even with Marvel's ridiculously overworked attempts at a compressed timeline, he has still been active in the modern era for far longer than he was back in the 1940s.
And while it has sometimes been suggested that the superserum slows down his aging (a bad idea IMO), even so he would still be at the very least approaching 40. Not a particularly convincing age for what is supposed to be the ultimate fighting machine of all.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | January 22, 2014 8:35 PM
When Cap was thawed, he was in his mid-twenties which is not all that different from many heroes except those introduced as teenagers. There are probably several heroes older than him (Tony Stark being one). Depending on the sliding time scale, you add 9-12 years to that placing him in his mid-thirties or late thirties.
While not at someone's ordinary absolute peak time anymore, his experience probably more than makes up for it. Even though war is a young man's game, the stereotype of the significantly older platoon sergeant or master sergeant in war movies is based on reality. Some of the old soldiers are OLD.
The super-soldier serum may not slow down aging, but it probably prevents a lot of deleterious effects of aging. It basically wipes out disease, builds instant muscle mass, heals infirmities, and more. It made a 4F reject into the perfect physical specimen. Cap can probably go into his 50s or even 60s without a noticeable decline in performance.
The "grampaw America" comment is probably based less on Cap's physical age than his chronological age. If we assume 1920 as the year of his birth, it would make Cap 66 years old at time of publication.
It's been a long time since I read these comics, and I only collected the replacement storyline sporadically. I look forward to seeing how Super Patriot's character develops.
Posted by: Chris | January 23, 2014 1:23 AM
I'm not sure the toga-party would necessarily be a turn-off for Jan. Keep in mind that she can be a party gal herself--and as long as there were some hunky guys in skimpy togas as well as girls, I think she'd consider it fair play. (as long as proper security screenings are being done for these people being in the Mansion, of course)
As for Dane...I definitely don't think this party was his idea. It was definitely something Herc suggested (possibly even to cheer Dane up from his pining over Jan).
Posted by: Dermie | January 23, 2014 2:00 AM
Hercules's appearance here has to take place before the Mansion Siege storyline. The Marvel Chronology Project has it after his appearance in Power Pack #28 and before the Siege begins in Avengers #273.
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | February 12, 2014 6:13 PM
I just read this issue and I really like some of what it accomplishes. The restaurant scene was great. Cap came off as quietly confident in the confrontation and the whole sequence was nice and tense.
Posted by: JP | May 19, 2015 1:08 AM
"Anyone wondering why Dane never successfully managed to woo the Wasp away from Paladin may want to look here. If she was at all aware that he was engaging in these kinds of lowbrow fratboy antics with Hercules, she most likely wouldn't have considered him as a potential suitor."
I don't know. Given that Jan was always complaining that Hank was too uptight and stuck in his lab and given the way she seems to think Dane is a bit too serious, this might have actually won her over a little bit, knowing Dane could really relax.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 7, 2015 7:15 AM
I assume Dane was influenced by Hercules because it still doesn't look like him to engage in random "lowbrow fratboy antics" on his own.
I'm not sure what the consensus at Marvel was at the time this issue was written, but nowadays Cap really is old behind his super-soldier body. The sliding timescale still is very much in effect, but the fall from the plane is treated as a fixed point in time, meaning he really did get frozen at the end of WW2. They just add years to the time he spent frozen as real time flies and Avengers #4 keeps moving further away from WW2. Case in point, the removal of his super-soldier serum in 2014 left him as a 90-year-old-looking old man, which is way older than he should look if the congelation only happened 20 years ago or something. And several 2016 comics explicitly mention him as 90-something even after he regains his youthful appearance. So he's technically getting older and older.
There's still the issue of him feeling mentally old even though only ~14 years have passed since Avengers #4, but I guess knowing at least half a century passed between the fall and the thawing has that kind of effect.
Posted by: Nate Wolf | July 2, 2017 4:20 PM
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