Captain America #401
Issue(s): Captain America #401
Finally, he tells everyone that he's going to give a lecture on ethics later in the day, but says that it's not mandatory.
Then he goes to talk to Peggy Carter and finds out that Diamondback has been missing for 3 weeks, and he just about collapses.
Later, he goes to the lecture and finds that only three Avengers decided to attend - the two active members from the Kooky Quartet days and Black Widow (who, as an aside, disappeared for the entirety of Galactic Storm).
I mean what is this? In real life (so to speak) at this time, Captain America was fighting the perception that he wasn't cool in the fact of comics like Punisher, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider.
Then Cap is put in a position where he goes against the closest thing to a "Punisher" faction in the Avengers. Fine. But instead of embracing that decision and explaining why it's the right one (and maybe making it look cool, if Gruenwald could pull that off), he goes into a slump, reinforcing the idea that he's an old fuddy duddy by setting up a formal lecture to scold the other Avengers. And then to make matters worse, the other Avengers don't even show up. The vote at the beginning was meant to show that Captain America still has the respect of the team, but that's undermined by this sad showing. Cap looks pathetic.
Thor shows up late, after Cap leaves, but the damage is done. Cap is a mopey mess. Hawkeye finds him laying on his bed, depressed. Hawkeye makes him go out to a bar.
Now this bar scene is weird too. Hawkeye makes a point of telling Cap before they go into the bar that there are three types of bars - yuppie, lowlife, and old men - and that this is a lowlife bar. So naturally i started looking around the room to see the lowlifes, but what i found instead were non-Marvel fictional characters.
When Tony Stark showed up, i half-wondered if it was the real Tony Stark or just another Easter egg.
If i tried to tie in all the cameo/Easter eggs with the theme of the issue, it's kind of like Cap is being put in a kind of limbo with a bunch of other old has-been characters. But that surely wasn't the intention. I'm assuming either Gruenwald or artist Rik Levins decided it would be cute to fill the bar with recognizable characters. I think it was a really weird move, but i don't think we are supposed to take any greater meaning from it.
Anyway, the point of the scene (aside from Cap complaining that Mark Gruenwald jettisoned his entire civilian supporting cast: "the Avengers and the headquarters crew are the only people in my life right now") is for Tony to show how much he loves and respects Cap so much that he'll even go into a bar despite the pain it causes him as a recovering alcoholic. They do finally hash out their differences, in a long overdue (but welcome) moment. At this point there's so much water under the bridge that i wouldn't expect a real reckoning for Tony's actions in Armor Wars, but Tony does say that "things go out of hand" and that he became "obsessed". Regarding more recent events, Tony says that he believes that in war there are different standards of morality. Cap doesn't bring up the fact that only one of them has been a soldier in a real war. But what i like about this conversation overall is that the two reconcile while conceding that they have ideological differences. That makes sense for two people that have been working together for so long, and who clearly respect each other. It allows them to continue to be partners but still makes future rifts possible, which should allow for interesting storytelling.
Some good news at the end. When Cap gets back from the bar, he finds that USAgent and Falcon have recovered D-Man.
While all of this is going on, Diamondback is still a prisoner of Crossbones. He moves her to the bunker where Magneto imprisoned the Red Skull during Acts of Vengeance, and then tells her that he's "finally gonna let you join my gang" (a reference to the flashback from last issue). Black Widow goes to search for Diamondback, telling Peggy Carter not to tell Cap about it yet.
I guess if i felt like Mark Gruenwald was putting himself into this story, looking at the comics industry and wondering why his own book isn't getting the accolades and sales that the hot violent heroes were getting, i'd at least feel like we were getting some "art" out of this book. But as usual, the writing is very flat, and there doesn't feel like there's anything personal in it. Alternatively, if this were leading up to another Man Without A Country type story, i could see that. But we already had one of those in Gruenwald's run.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is labeled "After The Storm" in the same font as the Operation: Galactic Storm logo, but i haven't tagged it as part of that crossover. Avengers West Coast #83 takes place while the Avengers are still returning from space, so that takes place prior to this issue. This issue takes place soon enough after Galactic Storm that the other Avengers want to get out of the meeting Cap has called for some R&R, and Iron Man is still wearing his space armor, so i assume it takes place directly after the Avengers get back To Earth. A scene with Quasar quitting the active duty roster is repeated in Quasar #35, so that issue takes place concurrently with this one. See the Considerations in issue #400 regarding the timing of USAgent and Falcon's return with D-Man.
This isn't necessarily the best place to mention these things, but it's where we learn them: it's said that the Avengers had been away for about three weeks. Cap notes that Spider-Man and Namor didn't respond to the call for reserves (the fact that he expected Namor to respond probably places this prior to Namor #26).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Widow, Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Crossbones, Crystal, D-Man, Diamondback, Falcon, Forgotten One, Hawkeye, Henry Pym, Hercules, Iron Man, Jarvis, Living Lightning, Mockingbird, Peggy Carter, Quasar, Scarlet Witch, Sersi, She-Hulk, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter), Starfox, Thunderstrike, USAgent, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man
How many Avengers did Cap expect to show up to that lecture? It's implied that there's in excess of 60 chairs there. Did the Avengers even have that many members at that time?
Cap comes off as pretty much an Eeyore. I did like Hawkeye's almost painful attempts to cheer him up. The art here is terrible and I'm shocked that Rik Levins had such a sustained run on a title with this profile, though that profile is dimming post-Superia and CapWolf and will continue to decline. Gruenwald seemed to really have a vision for Cap when he started and playing Steve Rogers off against John Walker was a great idea. Gru's run to 350 was great and the Bloodstone Hunt was a lot of fun. Good artists (Lim and Dwyer) made up for some mediocre writing. The awful art of Larry Alexander and Rik Levins highlighted some real weaknesses in Gru's Cap. Cap can't constantly be defined in opposition to other characters and I think that's what Gruenwald tried to do far too often. While I'm on the Cap side of the Galactic Storm debate, he certainly doesn't come across as "cool" (like fnord said), he comes off as whiny, out of touch, and a little sanctimonious. Cap shouldn't be looking for Tony to deign things as being 'ok' between them. Tony should be the one who feels like he let down Cap and has to repair the friendship and I don't really get that here (despite the fact that Tony comes to a bar - it might be the Yellow Kid who spoils that moment). Later on with the end of Avengers West Coast, I again get the feeling that Tony sees Cap as a fossil and an impediment even though Cap is in the right.
In short, I think Gruenwald hit a homerun when he was able to pit Rogers against Walker and he tried to go back to that sort of dichotomy later on and it just didn't work.
Posted by: Mark Black | February 2, 2016 1:06 PM
Agree with the criticisms here, pretty much any of Marvel's heroes who weren't "90s badasses" were beginning to be seen as somewhat out of fashion (hey, we're not that far away from them trying to replace Spider-Man with a cooler 90s Spider-Man), but Cap actually seems to be whiny and fuddy-duddy here. Cap is surely smart enough to know most of the other heroes have lives to go to and weren't going to be able to hang around for a lecture on ethics. And I agree it does derail the scene at the start where the other Avengers show support for him, if later they can't be bothered to show support by turning up to his lecture.
On the other hand, I was pleasantly surprised reading this to find they are already having some sort of friendliness between Cap & Tony. In modern comics I'd have expected them to stretch it out a lot longer. And speaking as someone who often puts other people's needs in front of their own, I quite liked Hawkeye's short little speech to Cap at the bar. Not an amazing speech or anything, but sometimes things resonate with you. I think I read this issue once several years ago, and I only remembered that no-one turned up to the ethics lecture, while I had completely forgot about both those bits.
I know Cap must be tired after 3 weeks away, and depressed over the way the war turned out, but to me it seems out of character that he's not immediately out there searching for Diamondback and John Jameson himself. I don't know that he'd have any leads, but it seems bizarre to me that he's sitting there depressed when friends of his are missing.
Posted by: Jonathan | February 2, 2016 3:12 PM
I think Gru was sticking with Cap more for job security reasons than any kind of passion for the character at this point. The enthusiasm just isn't there anymore like it was for the first half of his run and it shows. Look at Quasar and you'll see what I mean. There he's invested in the character and you get the feeling he's enjoying writing the book. But at this point in his Cap run he just seems tired.
Posted by: Robert | February 2, 2016 4:00 PM
This is kind of Gruenwald in a nutshell in that it seems good and not good. I find that Cap is behaving realistically; he's been pushed to the limit mentally and physically, and is doubting himself. I do like that Hawkeye, with his quasi-hero worship of Cap, and Tony Stark, an original Avenger, come to try to cheer Cap up, and Tony's entrance is kind of poignant, what with his drinking problem. That said, things don't come out that well. Tony basically self flagellates himself in saying how Cap is this ethical paragon. While I appreciate it, I feel like the more adult and enjoyable storyline would be for someone to tell Cap to get over himself, recognize that adult colleagues can have different conceptions of ethics, and that those are both okay in the Avengers (and more to the point, Cap is just as a good a hero as ever even with his old school ethics). At that point, Cap should either accept that, or not and do what Hawkeye suggests and leave the Avengers. The resolution here, I thought, was trying to have it both ways--everyone's happy but nobody really came to grips with the central dilemma.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | February 2, 2016 4:56 PM
I love this issue.
A few things, fnord:
You've tagged Thor instead of Thunderstrike.
Quasar leaves the Avengers this issue. It's actually a nice little scene. You mention it in considerations, but surely deserves a mention in the general summary? It is an important development.
And although you not only the 3 Avengers show up for the lecture, Thunderstrike arrives for it too but shows up late. (and Cap had excused Quasar already).
Posted by: AF | February 2, 2016 7:23 PM
Fixed the character tag for Thor/Thunderstrike. Thanks.
I did say in the summary that Thor showed up late.
As to the rest, as i mention in my comments policy, if i don't mention something in a review (or i guess if i do mention something but you don't feel like i mention it enough), my request is that you just say it in the comments. The comments are part of the entry, so that way you are helping me out. I try to cover as many comics as i have time for in a given day, and it's inevitable that i'll gloss over some details. It's also inevitable that i'll find some development worthy of a quick mention but someone else will find it very important or a very good scene. So the comments are a great place to express those things, and i always am interested in reading what other people think. Thanks!
For what it's worth, as i imply in the Considerations for Quasar #35 covering the same scene, the reason i didn't give it more attention is because it feels like a back door way of Mark Gruenwald addressing the fact that Bob Harras kind of unceremoniously dumped Quasar in the actual Avengers book. Which, now i'm glad that you called it out because now i can say that more explicitly. :-)
Posted by: fnord12 | February 2, 2016 7:43 PM
This is maybe overly specific of me, but the one line that really annoyed me was when Cap was thinking how "bad attitudes" might be the way of the future. That has nothing to do with the events of Galactic Storm, so it's just really on the nose complaining about the state of comics in the early 90's. Which, sure, is something that deserves criticism, but it's hard to take from Cap/Gru when all Marvel's more traditional heroes keep getting dull/badly written/backwards looking stories.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't have your characters complain about 90's superheroics, try to sell us on traditional superheroics. But of course, not everyone can write All-Star Superman.
Posted by: Berend | February 2, 2016 8:45 PM
Gruenwald's run is an interesting study case. I suspect he may have invested too much of him on that run for anyone's good.
Gru had some good ideas, but at times it felt almost like he sabotaged himself deliberately, going back at least as far as 1986's #318, where he basically gave up on his relationship with Bernie for no good reason, after a string of issues where she was implicitly demoted from girlfriend to staff. Ironically, now it is Diamondback being promoted from quasi-girlfriend to staff.
It almost feels like he feels overwhelmed by attempting to write a character with both a relationship and a career path - which, incidentally, is an even better description of his Quasar run. Coincidentally or otherwise, his best string of stories happened when he let go of Bernie in order to focus on John Walker, unworthy shield-wielder.
But even then he almost seemed to make a point of mishandling his own ideas. His treatment of Walker was almost as confused as his treatment of Flag-Smasher, even before #350.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | February 2, 2016 11:44 PM
I find it ironic that the only three Avengers who show up for a hero lecture are former villains.
Posted by: Steven | February 3, 2016 1:15 AM
Galactic Storm is one of the big storylines I've never read aside from this site, but this issue sums up some of the reasons I have no desire to read it.
It's in the Avengers charter that you can't kill. That's why Hawkeye had to be put before a trial after his accidental killing of Egghead. You can't just hold a vote to decide whether to discipline them.
And, if the charter has changed with the new UN charter, then that should make all of Iron Man's pulling of rank during Galactic Storm so much bullshit.
I agree that Harras, as a writer, makes a good editor. But, for all the good coordination of GS, it does make the characters look bad and that weighs heavily on this issue.
Posted by: Erik Beck | February 29, 2016 11:30 AM
I love Gru's Cap run but Cap is just a whiner here. Gru is talking here, not Steve Rogers. It's a big pet peeve of mine when writers do that.
Quasar is the one Avenger Cap doesn't feel needs a lecture on ethics. Of course he doesn't, Gru is also writing that book.
Cable, Punisher and Wolverine all sell better than my book, boo-hoo. Would Cap even know who Cable is at this point? I guess SHIELD would know Cable, but I always felt he was operating under the radar at this point.
This may be the only issue in Gru's Cap run that I actively dislike.
Posted by: bigvis497 | September 18, 2017 10:21 AM
In X-Force 5, Gideon claims on national TV that Cable was behind Black Tom's and Juggernaut's plan to blow up the World Trade Center. So Cap could have heard about Cable that way. Besides, Beast could have told Cap about Cable.
Posted by: Michael | September 19, 2017 10:12 PM
It seems odd to me that a WW2 vet would have such a problem with killing. I think its to make the choice, but that issue should be a lot harder for Cap given his history. Especially with someone like the Supreme Intelligence.
Posted by: OrangeDuke | December 26, 2017 6:29 PM
Comments are now closed.
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