Captain America #411-418
Issue(s): Captain America #411, Captain America #412, Captain America #413, Captain America #414, Captain America #415, Captain America #416, Captain America #417, Captain America #418
This long stretch of issues starts off with another of those awful moments where Mark Gruenwald dumps a million characters on us for no good reason. Once we get past that it improves into some generic but perfectly fine adventures. And once we get past the Where's Waldo portion, even though his run continues for another two years, i think i'm at a point where i won't have much more to say about Gruenwald's Cap run. I may find something that changes my mind. But we're past the clear highlights (Scourge, the Serpent Society, the substitute Cap, the Bloodstone Hunt) and also past the obvious lowlights (Cap-Wolf). Aside from perhaps another round of problems with the super-serum, there isn't much of note going forward. In my opinion Gruenwald was out of ideas at this point and his remaining on the title caused it to stagnate, but obviously people that are bigger Gruenwald fans would disagree. My point is that i don't think there are any major surprises or innovations coming.
The story starts with Captain America convincing Diamondback that they should be partners in crimefighting, which is something she wants, and that she therefore should let him help in her quest to hunt down Snapdragon after the beating she gave her. Cap contacts Nick Fury, who lets them know about an upcoming AIM Weapons Expo. In addition to being a trade show, the expo has become a vacation resort spot for super-villains, so Fury suspects that Snapdragon will be there. AIM are technically a legit organization at this point, so Fury would appreciate any help in proving illegal activities (aside from harboring dozens of wanted super-criminals, presumably).
Cap and his friends recently captured several of the super-villains that have been working for the Red Skull, so they disguise themselves in those identities (with some behind-the-scenes help from Sersi): Cap = Crossbones, Diamondback = Mother Night, Falcon = Jack O'Lantern. And they head to AIM's Boca Caliente location, with Cap conning his way in as Crossbones even though he doesn't have a proper invitation and a bio-metric scan shows differences from the last time AIM took a reading.
The heroes find that the island is indeed full of villains.
And yes, calling in the Avengers, etc., might very well cause most of the villains to scatter, but it should be enough to catch a few of them and, more importantly, take AIM down.
Anyway, it turns out that Crossbones had agreed to a wager with Batroc wherein he'd have to fight a bunch of guys, so Cap has to go through with it to keep his identity secret. The fight takes place in front of just about every villain ever. I'll break the two page spread in half for searching purposes (although there are several other crowd panels). But as always the heavy work here has already been done by the MCP.
If you scan through the list in the Characters Appearing, you'll see lots of characters that just don't belong here. Some are currently involved in other storylines. Some are out of prison with no explanation. Some just don't seem to be the type to be hanging around with AIM or vacationing with other costumed villains. Some haven't appeared in years and could benefit from some actual stories instead of just random appearances in a crowd.
As for the people that Cap has to fight, we start with Mad Dog.
Then General Wo. His inclusion is pure continuity porn that makes no sense. (And the continuity isn't even right; it's acknowledged in a lettercol that Gruenwald mistakenly wrote that Wo came from China, when he was really from Vietnam.)
And finally Batroc himself.
What follows is actually a nice character moment. Batroc recognizes Captain America's fighting style, despite the Crossbones disguise. He tells Cap that Cap has to throw the fight or else he'll announce his identity to the crowd.
For some reason, Cap doesn't just go along with it. So Batroc's partner Zaran announces to the crowd that "Crossbones" is really Cap. And Batroc offers $50,000 for the crowd to take him down (which also seems a little unnecessary).
I like the basic idea here. Gruenwald has done well with Batroc in the past, and it's nice to see the continued focus here, even if i find Cap's motives for continuing the fight to be a little unclear. But i feel like the moment is diluted by the giant crowd of super-villains. This scene would have been more effective if it was just a room full of regular criminals (i.e. AIM agents). It would have made the scene more about just Cap and Batroc, allowing their personalities to play off each other. Now Cap has to fight like every super-villain ever, which is just ridiculous.
Meanwhile, Shang-Chi, who helpfully describes himself as the "renegade son of Fu Manchu" for the audience, infiltrates AIM's island on a mission for MI-6.
So Cap gets some help from Falcon and Shang-Chi, two characters who also shouldn't be able to handle dozens of serious super-villains all on their own.
And, Diamondback trails Snapdragon, but she finds that Snapdragon is providing muscle to Superia, who is trying to take over AIM by assassinating Alessandro Brannex, the seeming head of AIM.
Superia's actions are not approved of by MODAM, which surprises Superia since MODAM was one of her "Femizons".
It also turns out that Brannex is really the Super-Adaptoid.
While the rest of Superia's Femizon bodyguards are distracted with all of this, Diamondback takes the opportunity to fight Snapdragon, and winds up drowning her in a fountain.
I'm sort of done with the whole question of whether or not Diamondback ever redeemed herself for her early criminal activity, but this sure doesn't help her case.
I've said in the past that i get Mother Night and Superia confused, and it turns out i'm not the only one.
Cap and his friends eventually get off the island with some help from Nick Fury and Cap's pilot Moonhunter, without Cap having found "any evidence of wrongdoing with which to bust AIM with". Diamondback spends the rest of these issues keeping her killing of Snapdragon to herself and feeling guilty about it, but like i said, i'm done with that whole thread; it feels like a rehash at this point.
Instead of going home, they respond to an invite from the Black Panther to attend his wedding, but when they get to Wakanda, the Panther says that the wedding was called off because Wakanda has fallen into economic crises because another source of Vibranium has been discovered. This results in an adventure in the Savage Land with the Black Panther and Ka-Zar. And, if nothing else, it gives us these guys as villains.
They're awesome. Zabu's looking a little odd, though.
Black Panther gets some help from the Zebra Men tribe (first seen in Ka-Zar #12-13). A scout named Maza is provided to him; the chieftain has an ulterior motive, hoping that the Panther might marry her.
But the tribe also has a legitimate reason to help, since they are unhappy with the people that are mining the "sky-metal". The miners turn out to be AIM again.
And there's also a High Technician, who says that the High Evolutionary was his mentor, living in a citadel with the Savage Land Mutate Lorelei.
They provide some mind-controlled hero vs. hero opportunities, although the Falcon has an ace in his new costume's technology, which prevents him from being controlled.
The Technician is trading with AIM, allowing them mineral rights in return for energy resources that allow him to continue his experiments in making adorable Dino-Men.
But the AIM plot gets a bit muddled when some agents locate the armor of Terminus and one tries to activate it for himself.
Cap and his friends defeat Terminus using a variant of how Hercules beat "him" once before (although remember that a retcon says that wasn't the real Terminus, something that this story doesn't acknowledge). They crack a hole in the armor to get at the AIM agent inside.
Meanwhile, Cap and Ka-Zar attack the armor with Savage Land vibranium, which causes it to melt.
Diamondback is injured during the fighting, so Cap and the Falcon bring her back to Wakanda for treatment. The Black Panther stays behind to continue to help the locals drive out AIM. It's sort of left open what would have happened if a legitimate company had found a vibranium source. The idea being that the Panther might do things to protect his country's interests that Cap wouldn't necessarily approve of. Since it's AIM that's doing the mining, it becomes a moot point. I also don't feel like the differences between Wakandan and Savage Land vibranium are discussed in enough detail. We obviously see the difference when the Terminus armor is defeated. But it's not spelled out why AIM mining Savage Land vibranium is such a threat to Wakanda's economy.
The main story in Cap #418, while Cap is waiting for Diamondback to come out of surgery, focuses on D-Man, who we saw fell in with Brother Wonderful and some homeless people at the end of the last arc. Brother Wonderful is from a Kirby story (see Captain America #201-203), although the use of the character here is only vaguely connected to the original and feels pretty random (like, increasingly, a lot of Gruenwald's use of continuity). Brother Wonderful turns out to really be Brother Inquistor, although even that and its implications aren't really clear. The main point is that Brother Inquistor is running the underground homeless group like a dictatorship while organizing raids on the surface world. D-Man, in response to a request for help from a kid in the group, eventually rebels. In the end he takes down the Brother and is reunited with Cap.
Use of continuity has always been Mark Gruenwald's main strength, even when his scripting abilities and his use of support casts haven't been very good. I've said before that as a writer, Gruenwald made a good editor. He came up with interesting plot that could have been handed over to better writers to make great stories, but even on his own he sometimes delivered pretty good stories. But at this point, it's like there aren't even plots. The Savage Land story, although it has some vagaries, is fine. But the AIM Island story and the Brother Wonderful story barely qualify as stories at all. It's like Gruenwald at this point has decided that just dredging up some old character, or loading a story with millions of characters, suffices as a story in and of itself. And it doesn't. There's no value in Brother Wonderful resurfacing this way. And the idea of Captain America fighting a horde of villains that includes the likes of the Absorbing Man, the Wrecking Crew, the Rhino, etc.. is just ridiculous. Any one of those characters should give us a good issue or two's worth of story with a little applied creativity. Or, if you're going to bring back the likes of Triple-Iron, fucking do something with him. These crowd stories are a joke at this point. Gruenwald is like a kid who told his parents a joke that they found funny once, and now he goes around telling it all day. The all-snake villains story was cool. It was cute to see all the forgotten characters on the Stranger's planet, even if it was disappointing that nothing was really done with them. But we've gotten more and more ridiculous as it's gone on.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 222,175. Single issue closest to filing date = 227,000.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The villain appearances will have to fall where they may. We can reason that characters that are shown to be imprisoned before and after this story temporarily escaped, etc.. The lettercol in issue #419 says that the High Technician appeared during the Evolutionary War, but i don't think that's explicitly the case; i.e. i don't think we ever see a character called the High Technician during that crossover. See Walter's comment for some thoughts.
Terminus was last seen in Avengers annual #19, where he was seemingly destroyed in space. And this is acknowledged in this story, with Cap unsure how Terminus could be back. So i wouldn't think this should count as a real appearance of Terminus; maybe it was the suit used in Uncanny X-Men annual #12. But the MCP do list it as a real Terminus appearance. Maybe a later appearance confirms something, or maybe i'm just so mixed up over the Terminus retcons that i'm forgetting something. But Don's comment below confirms what i'm thinking, that this isn't a real Terminus appearance, so i'm not listing him.
It's worth noting that, at least by publication date, Wolverine and some of the X-Men were also in the Savage Land around this time in Wolverine #69-71. But there's nothing that dictates placement between the two stories.
It's not specifically said one way or another whether Nick Fury is the Director of SHIELD at this point.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (9): show
I have to say, I giggled a little when I looked at that crowd scene and imagined the expression on Stiletto's face when he realized that Stilt-Man was sitting in front of him.
Posted by: Andrew | September 8, 2016 2:32 PM
Do I get a No-Prize if I suggest that they were able to fight a room full of super-villains because said super-villains had probably been drinking since before noon on bad guy party island?
Posted by: Red Comet | September 8, 2016 3:38 PM
@Red Comet - I think these guys had the same problem that the Avengers had in Volume 3 #4 by Busiek & Perez when every single member of the team attempted to stop Whirlwind from robbing a bank, but they failed miserably because they were basically tripping over each other's feet.
Having said that, the "drunk after a day of knocking back complimentary AIM booze" explanation also works :)
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 8, 2016 3:45 PM
I think if the villains in attendance had been non powered guys who relied on weapons/tech (and who weren't allowed to bring those in), things would have made more sense (also why are some of these guys even here, unless they're just networking--the Rhino doesn't need to buy anything from AIM). Most of them aren't that good fighters without weapons and those that are would be out of their element in big crowds. So I can see Cap and co. holding their own for a while against like non weaponed Shocker, Stilt Man, Boomerang, etc.
Also, Batroc I think was the only villain (except maybe Crossbones) Gruenwald really had a good feel for all the way through. He's super cool in all his appearances, including his illusory one in Galactic Storm (and he gets a cameo in the final Gruenwald issue!).
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | September 8, 2016 5:12 PM
@Ben- the difference was that in Busiek's story, the fight lasted about a page and Whirlwind used his super-speed to escape rather than engaging in a real fight. Gruenwald had Cap and Sam and Shang actually engage in a real fight with the villains.
Posted by: Michael | September 8, 2016 7:36 PM
For a while, I thought General Wo was the guy who'd held Tony Stark captive in the Iron Man origin story. It wasn't until later I realized that Marvel had two Vietnamese commie wrestler villains.
Posted by: Mortificator | September 8, 2016 7:47 PM
And yes, calling in the Avengers, etc., might very well cause most of the villains to scatter, but it should be enough to catch a few of them and, more importantly, take AIM down.
Don't worry. The Avengers will be called in 2 decades later (by the way, don't you love how no matter how lousy the premise or storyline, it will be recycled years later? Yay, comics!)
Posted by: Jon Dubya | September 8, 2016 11:07 PM
Do I get a no-prize if I suggest that all the villains that shouldn't be here are really no-names that are dressed up as them for some reason, thus helping to explain why they're dispatched so easily?
Posted by: Morgan Wick | September 8, 2016 11:18 PM
I stopped reading Cap regularly after Ron Lim left but what I read here from the scans seems better than Superia Stratagem and Cap Wolf. Some decent ideas with Batroc like fnord says. I also agree that Crossbones was written well by Gru. One of his better creations. I was disappointed with his appearance in the latest Cap movie especially with the Actor's face. Not what I would envisage Crossbones looking like.
Posted by: Grom | September 9, 2016 12:55 AM
The High Technician's identity is never revealed. I've always thought he might be Stack from the Evolutionary War. The Appendix theorizes that HT might be a woman because of the way Rik Levin draws the characters stance and chest. I never noticed before, but HT has a rather weird, claw-like hand in that panel with Falcon and Lorelei.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | September 9, 2016 1:54 AM
The Terminus situation was explained by Eon in Quasar #7. The real Terminus arrived on Earth and was sent to the core in Fantastic Four #269-270 and he remained below ground until this Quasar issue. While underground, Terminus sent two pawns wearing replica armor to the surface in order to recover his lance and test the might of Earth's superhuman champions. The Terminus who destroyed the Savage Land in Avengers #256-257 was actually a Deviant named Jorro while a brain-washed Garokk the Petrified Man wore the Terminus armor in X-Men Annual #12. Eon seemed to think that both stand-ins wore the same "ersatz armor."
In any event, this storyline definitely should NOT count as a real Terminus appearance, no matter what the MCP says.
Posted by: Don Campbell | September 9, 2016 2:12 AM
Fnord, even those of us who were "fans" of Gruenwald know that he jumped the shark long ago. CA was the only comic I was buying at this time, lord knows why since i didnt like it.
you gotta credit the artists for doing those giant crowd shots, then only to have the colorist not be bothered and shade them all blue.
Gru's obsession with bringing back obscure characters was way out of hand. In what universe is general Wo a supervillain? It would have made sense to limit the crowd shots to villans who use technology and having had that tech taken from them. I have no problem with cap beating up unarmed Boomerang, Oddball, etc. But it reinforces that old trope, the more villains there are, the less effective they are.
the Falcon has a good showing in this arc. And Ka-zar vs Black Pather is one of those fights you can't believe hadn't happened before.
Naming one of the dinomen Bronto must be pretty embarrassing for the high technician.
Posted by: kveto | September 9, 2016 3:39 AM
When these issues came out I really liked them. Of course, I was in high school at the time. Looking back on these nowadays, as fnord observes above, these are "some generic but perfectly fine adventures." These issues are fun, but nothing amazing or groundbreaking.
I have to agree with what fnord observed in the past, that early 1991 would have been the best time for Mark Gruenwald to have departed from Captain America. fnord cited Cap #382 as what would have been a perfectly good point for Gruenwald to have moved on to other projects. I myself like the next four issues after that, and see #386 as the point where Gruenwald should have called it a day. Immediately after that "The Superia Strategem" begins, and with in Gruenwald's tumble into mediocrity.
By the time we get to this group of issues Gruenwald is pretty much coasting, and a few months down the road comes his year-and-a-half long wrap-up on the series, "Fighting Chance," which is unrelentingly bleak, and appears very much influenced by the depressing changes Gruenwald was witnessing firsthand at Marvel.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 9, 2016 4:17 PM
Alternatively, the villains who shouldn't be there are Adaptoids, helping AIm put on a show for the villains hwo do come there. ("Man...everyone who's anyone is here!")
Posted by: Omar Karindu | September 9, 2016 6:31 PM
I tend to think the only reason Gru stayed on at this point was cut to seeing how badly Marvel was treating non-mutant characters at the time.
Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2016 10:36 PM
Did he die that weekend?
Posted by: Grom | September 16, 2016 12:39 AM
Yes. He looked at that awful ccomic and it gave him a massive heart attack.
Posted by: Steven | September 16, 2016 1:23 AM
I believe it!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | November 2, 2017 11:10 AM
Comments are now closed.
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