Captain America #367
Issue(s): Captain America #367
The issue starts off with Henry Pym making the most hilarious facial expression of all time. I kind of think this is how Pym feels most of the time, and sometimes it just comes to the surface.
The event freaking Pym out is the revival of the Sub-Mariner. Now that he's awake he warns the Avengers about the mysterious stranger that invited him to join the cabal of villains that included Dr. Doom and the Red Skull, and then says that he'll pretend to join the group to help the Avengers. Once he can get out the door, that is.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull is stewing over his inclusion in the cabal. In fact, he says that he'd quit if it wasn't for the fact that there's a transdimensional doorway stuck on his wall.
It's interesting to see him dismiss the Kingpin as "some petty New York mobster". Does he not know that it was the Kinpgin that he fought back in Captain America #148? Entirely possible.
While he's pondering this, Magneto shows up.
Magneto wants to know if the Red Skull is indeed the one that worked with Hitler back during World War II. The Red Skull makes no attempt to deny it (in fact, he's been saying so in front of Magneto since he's joined the cabal). Magneto tells him that he and his family were victims of Nazi concentration camps, and the Red Skull responds by saying that they're both working for their own "master race" ideals.
And then he pretends to make a peace offering, extending his hand for a shake, all while readying his dust of death. Magneto manages to repel it with a magnetic forcefield...
...but the Red Skull pushes a button, trapping Magneto in a plastic bubble, and then fleeing. Magneto is able to bust out of the bubble pretty easily, but he's then attacked by the Controller. Well, not attacked so much as briefly bothered by.
Captain America, meanwhile, decided to fly to Washington DC after hearing from Namor that the Red Skull was involved in the plot that Namor was invited to join. He sees the wreckage from Magneto's attack, along with the floating magical doorway, and figures that's probably the place to go. He also gets into a fight with the Controller.
Crossbones sees the Cap/Controller fight but doesn't get involved, since he got chewed out for getting into a fight with Cap last time.
While that is happening, Magneto continues to pursue the Skull, fighting his way past the Fourth Sleeper...
...and an army of Robot Red Skulls.
As Captain America follows the path that Magneto took, surveying the wreckage, Namor calls the Avengers to say that the door that had been left behind for him in issue #365 is now gone. He's told not to sweat it because Cap probably has the situation well in hand. Not sure who's manning the communication panel at the moment but i feel like they're overly casual towards Namor and to the idea that Cap may need some backup (what if Cap had found the Skull and Dr. Doom, as Namor warned he might?).
Magneto and the Skull, at this point, are long gone. Magneto has imprisoned him in a fallout shelter and left him with nothing but 10 gallons of water.
Really cool. Magneto's heel turn prior to Acts of Vengeance is a bit of a regression for the character, but even since then it's clear that he's still devoted to the protection of mutantkind, whereas prior to Claremont's changes to the character he was usually a straight up generic villain that was really out for himself. Him joining the Acts of Vengeance cabal therefore felt off, even with John Byrne having him explain that he was using the power the group offered to further his own goals. The fact that he would stick around after finding out that the Red Skull, a prominent World War II era Nazi, was part of the group really needed to be addressed. This issue does an admirable job on that second point. I also like the power differences between the Skull and Magneto. The Skull is a master planner, but even in a cloned version of Captain America's body he should be no match for a real super-powered villain, unless he had prepared in advance for the fight. The Skull's contingency items are enough to slow Magneto down a bit, but that's it, and once Magneto catches up with him it's all over. And Magneto trapping the Skull in solitary confinement and leaving him to a probable slow death makes so much sense that we don't even have to think about the fact that Marvel would never actually let Magneto just kill him outright.
It's funny how Mark Gruenwald does so well when he focuses on villains, considering that he writes his heroes as such goody goody boyscouts (Cap and Quasar). Kieron Dwyer's facial expressions are sometimes a little weird, but in other places they are very good, and he's really great about expressing the power of Magneto and just depicting the battles in general.
The one problem is that the Red Skull can't be locked in a bunker for the rest of Acts of Vengeance. Or can he? Ron Lim filled in last issue, where he was praised for being extra quick, and he becomes the regular artist with next issue. The imprisonment of the Red Skull here introduced a little problem, since Acts of Vengeance is obviously still going on at this point and the Red Skull appears in the final chapters of this story. The answer, explained next issue, is that the Red Skull that appears in the remainder of AoV is actually a robot. The existence of Red Skull robots is raised here, which does raise the possibility that that was the intention all along. And normally i'd say that there's not enough lead time for an entire issue (not just a script change) to fix a problem introduced in a previous issue. But since Ron Lim, who is said to be super-fast, draws next issue, i do think it's possible. Another possible piece of evidence is that the title of next issue was supposed to be called "The Long Dark", which almost sounds like it was going to be about the Skull dealing with his confinement. But issue titles change all the time between next issue blurbs and the actual issues.
Let me put it this way: if it was the plan all along for the Red Skull to be a robot in the other Acts of Vengeance issues, then the situation was handled poorly. There's no indication of that fact, and there should have been, given the circumstances and especially since a memorable moment in those issues is that Dr. Doom turns out to be a robot. On the other hand, if it was a continuity flub, it's very much to the credit of the creative team to recognize it and address it so quickly.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: I'd like to place this as late as possible to keep as many Red Skull appearances as the real Skull as possible. The limiting factor is Henry Pym, who is on the East coast here but returns to the West coast in Avengers West Coast #54. This should also take place before Punisher #29, which shows the Sub-Mariner up and about. The MCP gives the Machinesmith a BTS appearance here, possibly because he's controlling the Skullbots and/or the Sleeper. The Cobra back-up that concludes in this issue is covered in a separate entry.
Crossover: Acts of Vengeance
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCaptain America, Controller, Crossbones, Fabian Stankowicz, Fourth Sleeper, Henry Pym, Machinesmith, Magneto, Red Skull, Sub-Mariner
"The issue starts off with Henry Pym making the most hilarious facial expression of all time. I kind of think this is how Pym feels most of the time, and sometimes it just comes to the surface."
Posted by: clyde | April 8, 2015 2:51 PM
In Namor's defense, unlike Pym he's just had a device pulled off the back of his head that was affecting his nervous system.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 8, 2015 3:09 PM
Oh man I remember seeing that last page on the internet years and years ago and it gave me chills. It felt right to have two of Marvel's greatest villains meet, one with no redeeming features and one with depth and history, and have their confrontation end like that. It just felt so right and natural for the two characters.
Posted by: david banes | April 8, 2015 3:29 PM
I wonder if it was Magneto who sent the skull robot. He encountered a lot of them this issue. But that seems a bit sly for magneto.
Odd that Loki's portal couldn't tell the difference between the Doom and skull robots (it kept out the controller so there were some restrictions)
The skull was impressively wily in his escape attempts. and I felt he basically won the argument with Mags. If Magneto is so much better than a Nazi, he sure has a lot of innocent blood on his hands.
You're right, Gru wrote villains much better than heroes.
Posted by: kveto | April 8, 2015 3:29 PM
"Odd that Loki's portal couldn't tell the difference between the Doom and skull robots (it kept out the controller so there were some restrictions)"
Posted by: clyde | April 8, 2015 3:33 PM
Loki seemed as shocked as the others when the doombot blew up. and that wouldnt explain the skull robot. unless he had very dumb magic.
Posted by: kveto | April 8, 2015 3:44 PM
That Hank Pym face is indeed amaaaaaaazing XD
I could see Peggy Carter calling Namor "Subbie". Not any of other staffers though.
Posted by: Berend | April 8, 2015 5:31 PM
Well Peggy's IS Communications, so I think it is usually meant to be her.
fnord, did you mean that this issue should take place BEFORE Punisher #29, as Subbie is up and about in that issue? (As he is out of commission at the start of this issue.)
Posted by: Erik Robbins | April 8, 2015 9:25 PM
Yes, thanks Erik. Fixed it.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 8, 2015 9:29 PM
Fnord, I don't think the Red Skull in Avengers 313 and Avengers West Coast 55 was intended to be a robot. First, as you pointed out, the Skull's appearance in Avengers 313 doesn't read like he's a robot. But more importantly, Gruenwald devoted an entire backup story in Avengers Annual 19 largely to explaining the Skull was a robot. My theory is that when Gruenwald wrote Captain America 368, he had no clue what was going on in Avengers 313 and Avengers West Coast 55- he just threw the Skull robot in as a reminder of Machinesmith's skill at robotics. Then, when he found out what happened in Avengers 313 and Avengers West Coast 55, he wrote the Annual backup to explain away the error.
Posted by: Michael | April 8, 2015 10:14 PM
Kieron Dwyer had some hits and misses, but I felt like when he was at his best (like the Skull/Magneto parts of this issue) his work had a very kinetic feel to it.
Posted by: Mark Black | April 8, 2015 10:34 PM
Great issue. Deft handling of all the characters. Probably the best single issue in the entire crossover.
Posted by: Chris | April 8, 2015 11:19 PM
Agreed with the review here. There is no way Magneto would join forces with the Red Skull. Magneto would do exactly what he did to Red Skull in this issue - leave him to starve in a pit.
Posted by: Ryan | April 10, 2015 7:45 AM
That is a really haunting ending.
Dwyer reminds me of MacFarlane, in that Dwyer's human expressions are pretty bad but his Skull is pretty awesome - the same way MacFarlane doesn't draw regular people well but his fully costumed characters or mutated characters like the Lizard fare awesome.
Posted by: Erik Beck | September 26, 2015 9:05 AM
Another highlight of the awesome Acts of Vengeance. The Cap tie ins really shined for me. Brilliant stuff and the high water mark for Gru imo.
Posted by: Grom | September 14, 2016 11:32 PM
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