Captain America #355-357
Issue(s): Captain America #355, Captain America #356, Captain America #357 (Mother Night story only)
While he's there, he gets a call from Raymond Sikorski. Sikorski updates Cap on the John Walker situation, telling him that Walker wasn't really assassinated but that the charade wasn't officially sanctioned by the Superhuman Affairs Commission. Sikorski then asks to buy the rights to the black costume in exchange for allowing Steve Rogers the right to keep the real Captain America uniform in perpetuity. I assume this is being done after the fact to cover their bases, since we already saw Walker in that costume last issue. Cap doesn't actually agree; he just tells Sikorski to send him the papers and he'll get back to him. Sikorski then drops a bombshell on him: he's going to assign Walker to the West Coast Avengers. Sikorski defends Walker's murders as being in self-defense, and he spins the inclusion of Walker in the WCA as a way for Cap's teammates to keep an eye on him. But at the same time he asks Cap to not tell his teammates Walker's identity (i.e., that this was the guy that had been playing the role of Cap). Cap again doesn't really agree to anything, but i'll note that he also doesn't immediately pick up the phone to tell Hawkeye what's coming.
Partially that's because after the call with Sikorski he immediately gets another call, this time from his old girlfriend Bernie Rosenthal (i guess i should mention that both of these calls are facilitated by Peggy Carter in her new role as Avengers Communications Director). Bernie has a sister named Nancy that has run away from home and now cannot be located. After initially protesting that this isn't the sort of thing Avengers do, he agrees to look into it. After hanging up the phone, he thinks to himself, "Blast... I should have said something more comforting." Yeah, well, that's what happens when you remove all the regular people from your supporting cast; you stop remembering how to act human.
Actually, Cap seems pretty exhausted from all the administrative work he's having to do, which may explain his lackluster decisions around John Walker and his inability to express his emotions to Bernie, and even the way he'll go about handling the missing runaways problem. Cap does check into it and learns that Nancy isn't the only runaway to have gone missing; it turns out there is a lengthy list including some kids that help with his hotline. So he gets the idea to hang around the Port Authority, where the kids seem to be disappearing from. Except he's obviously not a kid himself. So he gets the idea to have someone cast an illusion to make him look like a kid. But neither Dr. Druid or Dr. Strange are available, so Cap flips through his Marvel handbook to find someone else that might help him. And he hits upon the record for Sersi.
And Sersi agrees to help by literally transforming him back into a teenager. No illusions, and no super-soldier serum. Cap doesn't think to ask for any kind of change, like maybe go ahead and put the serum back in, or maybe give him a way to undo the transformation on command, or maybe give him the ability to shoot frickin' lasers out of his eyes while he's a teenager (i have no idea what Sersi is capable of, but the subject isn't brought up at all).
Steve isn't even strong enough to lift his shield anymore, so he leaves it at Sersi's apartment.
Outside the Port Authority, he attracts the attention of a pair of girls...
...and they eventually get him and a bunch of other runaways onto a bus. It takes him a while, but Steve recognizes them as the de-aged Sisters of Sin, friends of the Red Skull's daughter.
Issue #355 was drawn by Rich Buckler and inked by Al Milgrom. Issue #356 and the main story in #357 are drawn and inked by Milgrom. There's a note in issue #356 thanking Milgrom "for helping us out of our deadline pinch by drawing this issue of Cap in about eight seconds and still turning in a great job". I wasn't reading Cap regularly at this point in realtime but i bought #355 at an airport bookstand (you could do that at the time!) to have some reading for a plane ride. I remember being both intrigued and sarcastic about the very retro cover. And i did think it was an interesting set up, but seeing Sersi say things like "Oh world-saving is such a bore" confirmed my cheesiness impression. It took me a while to bother getting #356, but when i did i found it disappointing. I don't know if that was because of the rushed art (which really isn't that bad, especially for Milgrom) or something else. It's actually a pretty dark issue, which we'll see in a second. But i never got the third part of this story until recently for this project, because i had the second half of issue #357 in my Bloodstone Hunt trade paperback. I didn't even realize at first that the trade left out the first half of issue #357 (because it's unrelated to the Bloodstone story) as well as the USAgent back-ups. Trade paperbacks, as i've learned over and over again, are very annoying for completists like me.
But anyway, this story. Teen Steve and the other runaways are taken to a camp where they are to be put through a brainwashing regiment. And finally i see why i've confused the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, with Suprema, the character who appeared way back in Captain America #123. It's because they've both played the role of Mother Night.
Steve and the other runaways are put in pee-stained boxes where they can't lay down.
And they're made to chant about how much they hate everybody.
Mother Night's partner, Malachi Scarbo, brings out a Watchdog, so the kids can focus their hate on him.
Steve is powerless to stop them from setting the guy on fire. He later tries to escape to bring back the Avengers, but he's forced to bring along a runaway girl that is too claustrophobic to survive in the boxes any longer. Steve goes to the camp's office to try to use the phone, and that's where he encounters the daughter of the Red Skull herself.
In his teen body, Steve is no match for her. He's brought to Mother Night for interrogation.
Teen Steve looks pretty weird, but i wonder if it's meant as a kind of tribute to the Simon/Kirby depictions of the pre-Captain America Steve Rogers.
The girl Cap was with is callously killed.
And Cap himself is beaten up by the Sisters of Sin.
Cap is saved by the fact that the Sisters wind up fighting amongst each other over who gets to kill him, and then he transforms back into adulthood ahead of schedule.
Cap fights with Scarbo while Mother Night and her "daughters" run away.
It turns out that the girl wasn't killed after all.
I wonder if that was a last minute adjustment to angry reaction or maybe the comic code, or if it was planned all along.
Cap then fights his way through the semi-brainwashed kids...
...and eventually finds Mother Night, who claims that the kids, including many that have already left the camp, are ticking timebombs ready to explode. There's apparently a "perversion of motherhood" theme going on here.
But things are wrapped up very quickly since we do have the beginning of the Bloodstone arc in the second half of this book.
It turns out that Bernie's sister wasn't even at the camp.
At least Sersi was smart enough to think about an escape valve for the transformation, even if Cap was too tired to. Of course now he may be too tired to reject her advances.
There's a subplot in issue #355 featuring Battlestar closing the loop on John Walker's "death". In earlier issues it was him that we followed while the mystery of the disappearance of Walker's body was being developed, but then that thread cut away from Battlestar to show us the truth without Battlestar learning anything. So this issue has Battlestar fighting his way to Valerie Cooper...
...and she tells him that Walker is indeed still alive but that it's up to Walker to contact him if he wants to.
Since Battlestar isn't going to let things stay there, he decides to expand his contacts in the super-hero world. So he decides to cold call the Falcon, since the Falcon's secret ID is public. And coincidentally enough. the Falcon is being attacked by some of the newer Serpent Society guys for his costume this issue.
Battlestar helps out with the fight (poor Redwing!)...
...and then just says he came by to say hello, and that's the end of it. Kind of weird. I thought it might continue in the following issue or something, but nope. Nowadays he could have just sent a friend request via Facebook or LinkedIn.
The "Missing persons" storyline was interesting but ultimately unsatisfying. The Sisters get away and we don't learn what the point of it all was at this time, and of course from here we're going into the Bloodstone Hunt.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Avengers' computer says that Starfox is recuperating, placing this before the Starfox story in Avengers Spotlight #21. Of course that same computer lists Machinesmith as "in custody" so there may be a few bugs in the system. This also has to take place before USAgent joins the West Coast Avengers in West Coast Avengers #45. The second story in issue #357 is the first part of the Bloodstone Hunt and has to take place after Diamondback's participation in Atlantis Attacks, so that story has been split into a separate entry. Cap references his meeting with Sersi during the run in Avengers #308, which continues directly from a story beginning in Avengers #305, so this arc takes place earlier than that.
I should note that the Red Skull's daughter is officially called "Sin" in this story, and that's the name that sticks for her. I've kept the original names for the other Sisters, but for the record: Sister Pleasure = Raunch, Sister Agony = Slash, Sister Dream = Hoodwink, and Sister Death = Torso.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBattlestar, Bernie Rosenthal, Captain America, Coachwhip, Falcon, Mother Night, Peggy Carter, Puff Adder, Raymond Sikorski, Redwing, Rock Python, Scarbo, Sersi, Sin, Sister Agony, Sister Death, Sister Dream, Sister Pleasure, Valerie Cooper
Fnord, Diamondback and the Serpent Society probably appear in X-Men Annual 13 in between the main story and the second story in Cap 357. Here's why- X-Men Annual 13 is the third part of Atlantis Attacks. Iron Man Annual 10, part 2 of Atlantis Attacks, takes place after Avengers 310. In addition, the new Serpents' attack on Falcon is theorized to be an "initiation" in this issue but the new Serpents seem to be full members of the Society in X-Men Annual 13. Sorry, I should have warned you in advance.
Posted by: Michael | October 3, 2014 5:14 PM
The Sisters of Sin plot is a potentially cool idea abruptly and unsatisfactorily ended. However, the Bloodstone Hunt is one of my favorite plots from childhood comics reading; I never got the first part though, so I kinda had to make up the story's background myself...which, well, is obviously impossible.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | October 3, 2014 5:43 PM
Ahh, the bloodstone hunt. It was what got me back to reading Cap and introduced me to Diamondback. It features an extremely competent Batroc and Brigade, Baron Zemo, and is just such a retro type fun. In a lot of ways, it was the last fun issues I would ever read.
Posted by: kveto from prague | October 3, 2014 5:47 PM
I did not remember that Steve failed to state a clear stance about the USAgent fiasco. That ambiguity was very frustrating.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 3, 2014 5:54 PM
Do the Avengers get people to pose for them before puttin them on their files :)
Posted by: JSfan | October 3, 2014 6:50 PM
Jennifer the runaway's death was clearly set up as a fake out, I think, given that Hoodwink happens to be the one who carries out the murder. Gru had the reveal planned.
Gru's use of old continuity--Suprema, the Sisters of Sin, even ultra-obscure Ulysses Bloodstone--is one of his strengths: the stories seem plausible for a place like the MU where characters like this should bump into one another.
On the other hand, the pointlessness of the youth camp plot shows us a major and persistent weakness of Gru's run: he elevates the Red Skull to a mastermind, rather rthan a doomsday-device-of-the-week villain, but Gru can never figure out what the master plan is supposed to be or how individual schemes fit into it.
The other thing going on here is Gru continuing to explore topical '80s America theme, in this case cults. (We saw PAD address this in Web a year or so ago.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | October 3, 2014 10:07 PM
The retro cover was by Ron Frenz; the last of his retro covers for Cap. He stopped doing FF covers around this same time. That left his retro-Kirby style of the time exclusively to Thor. This is interesting because you mentioned in a recent Thor entry that they were getting letters about the style and responded there would be changes soon. While those changes were slow in coming on Thor, it's likely these complaints are why they stopped having Frenz do the covers for other books.
Posted by: Robert | October 3, 2014 11:20 PM
I never knew until just knew that Jennifer the runaway survived. I had started getting Cap again with #350, but was starting to drop a lot of books at this time. I didn't want to be tied up with the Bloodstone Hunt so I dropped the book before the conclusion to the runaway story rather than be sucked into the Hunt (I hate that they wrapped up a storyline then started a new multi-issue storyline in the same issue).
"Captain America is on monitor duty, quite literally. This is what we had to do in the days before Windows, guys."
Not me. I had a Mac.
Posted by: Erik Beck | August 28, 2015 7:42 AM
Fnord, I think you're still confused about Sin and Mother Night. When Sin used the name Mother Superior in her first appearance and wore a costume similar to the one Mother Night is now wearing. But I don't think Sin ever used the name "Mother Night."
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 19, 2015 3:59 AM
(Though maybe when you say they've both "played the role of Mother Night," you mean as leader of the Sisters of Sin, not that Sin actually used the name. It *is* confusing.)
Posted by: Walter Lawson | November 19, 2015 4:01 AM
The revised Mother Night and Minister Blood shows Gruenwald at his best taking old characters that were rather lame and forgettable, and putting them to good use. In essence, these are brand new characters - there is no reason they have to be Suprema and Scarbo. But reusing them puts them into good use, and there is no reason why they shouldn't be acting this way.
Gruenwald would reuse a lot of old villains like this, and generally he turned them into something more interesting and more likely to be used again than their original incarnation.
In retrospect, this is an "interesting" story because it showed a theme Gruenwald would use later on - Cap being transformed into something else in order to drive a plot. These are some of the weakest stories in his canon because of it, although they often did have some good ideas in them. But the means of transforming Cap into a kid and how he gets out is very intrusive.
Posted by: Chris | May 21, 2016 3:14 PM
Surprised nobody else has brought up that all the solicitations and previews for these issues promised a storyline involving Captain America battling Taskmaster and attempting to shut down his schools. Not only did it not happen in these issues, it never happened.
I was thinking it may be because Taskmaster was set to appear in (a single issue of) Amazing Spider-Man but that was apparently a year earlier. Taskmaster wasn't appearing anywhere, so it wasn't that.
But I think the likely explanation is the art demands on Captain America were becoming too much. Not only is this story not drawn by the then regular artist Kieron Dwyer but starting with #357, the comic begins running back-up strips by different artists that will remain a fixture until the early 400s.
So, instead we get this filler story. Which is a shame because I definitely would've been up for the original story with Cap facing Taskmaster.
Posted by: AF | July 12, 2016 6:27 PM
Ed Brubaker's run will much later feature a flashback suggesting that Suprema/Mother Night raised Sin on the Isle of Exiles because the Skull couldn't be bothered, which would not only add some backing to this story, but might also suggest that she was working for the Skull as far back as her Suprema days.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 8, 2017 6:15 PM
Wouldn't some of the monitor screens constitute as a BTS appearance for some characters?
Posted by: AF | January 4, 2018 6:48 AM
I try to limit counting BTS appearances to only where the character is said to be actively doing something. In this case, Cap is just looking at computer files, so i don't think i will count them.
Posted by: fnord12 | January 4, 2018 11:40 AM
Comments are now closed.
|SuperMegaMonkey home | Comics Chronology home|