Captain America #425
Issue(s): Captain America #425
Despite the event-style numbering, this is not a continuing story, and Cap appears in a lot of other books during this period with his powers on the wane.
The story starts with a new Super-Patriot getting outfitted by the Tinkerer.
Meanwhile, Cap is told by Dr. Kincaid that his super-soldier serum is degrading. If he gives up super-heroing, he could probably live out a normal life. But if he keeps his current level of activity up, he'll be paralyzed within a year. Cap tells Kincaid not to tell anyone else about it (without written consent from him!)
Directly after learning this, we see someone in a Captain America costume go to a dive bar and order a round of drinks for the local criminals. Later, Steve Rogers goes to Diamondback and tells her about his health issues, and that is followed by another scene of "Captain America" at the bar, so we know it's not the real Cap.
And a Captain America crashes a high society party and gets attacked by the Porcupine.
Meanwhile, the real Steve gets disillusioned about comic book fans. I mentioned in an earlier review that the increasingly depressing tone of this book seemed reflective of Mark Gruenwald's reaction to the 90s, but this is really on the nose.
Steve hears about the Cap/Porcupine fight but by the time he gets there they are both gone. So Cap calls a press conference to try to draw out the imposter. And sure enough he's attacked, seemingly by the original Masters of Evil.
But he's the only one who can see them. He swings wildly while some of the other Avengers and Diamondback try to stop him. But then the new Super-Patriot reveals himself, claiming that the attack was by Mirage.
Cap claims that the Super-Patriot was in cahoots with Mirage, but the Super-Patriot laughs it off (he also implies that it was really our Cap who was fighting the Porcupine). Super-Patriot leaves. Diamondback tries to follow but loses him. The Black Widow insists on carrying Mirage into the mansion by herself, despite the Vision saying that he's more likely to resist Mirage's illusions. And when the Avengers next find the Widow, she admits that she's let Mirage leave. Security footage shows that "Mirage" turned into the Purple Man and used his powers to order her to release him.
The use of a Super-Patriot feels like a real rehash to me, and i really don't like the implausible idea of a guy who has the ability to mimic dead super-villains. It feels corny. And it's really just a variation on the "here's bunch of characters from the Handbooks" we've been getting in past Mark Gruenwald stories. It's a unique variation, granted, but as we'll see from how it's happening, it's really implausible.
At one point the Super-Patriot compliments the other guy for being such a "dead ringer" for the villains he impersonates, and that seems to stick as his super-villain name. Which is terrible. (I kind of wish that the original Ringer hadn't returned from the dead already, because then this guy could have been revealed to be an undead version of him, in which case his name would have been awesome.) Dead Ringer's powers require him to actually touch the remains of the dead super-villain, which is what i think is implausible (that he has access to all these corpses/cremains). Also implausible is that after touching them, he's able to mimic not only their powers but their costumes and technology (as we see with the Porcupine here).
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cap's appearance in Thunderstrike #4-6 seems to take place before Cap learns about his super-serum problem, but Cap is definitely aware of it by Iron Man #301-305. Takes place while Black Knight and the Vision are members of the Avengers.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showBlack Knight (Dane Whitman), Black Widow, Captain America, Dead Ringer, Diamondback, Keith Kincaid, Mike Farrel, Peggy Carter, Tinkerer, Vision
That comic book thief scene is amazing. I love how Gru has a problem with the terrible 90s speculator market and the "hot" books so he addresses it with all of the subtlety of a plane crash.
Posted by: Bonez | March 15, 2018 5:14 PM
I actually have a copy of this issue, though the cover's long gone. Weirdly, I have no idea why I got it (it may have just been a random spur-of-the-moment purchase and it may not even have been my choice), but I have some idea of where. Until I dug it back up somewhat recently (as in probably over a year ago), I remembered two things about it: Cap had some sort of debilitating, terminal disease, and despite this seemingly being the issue where that was revealed, the letter writers seemed to already know about it and were reacting to it. Turns out that the disease being terminal is just what the letter writers (including one Ben Herman!) had read in the fanzines beforehand.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | March 15, 2018 6:39 PM
@Morgan Wick: Yeah, that sounds about right. In retrospect, I feel silly having written in to the editors to passionately plead "Please don't kill Steve Rogers and have someone else take his place as Cap!" I should have known even back then that whatever the outcome of "Fighting Chance" that eventually Steve would be Cap once again. At least when Ed Brubaker really *did* kill Steve Rogers off 13 years later, my first reaction was to tell people "He'll be back. Sooner or later, he'll be back."
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 15, 2018 10:41 PM
"I kind of wish that the original Ringer hadn't returned from the dead already, because then this guy could have been revealed to be an undead version of him, in which case his name would have been awesome."
Were I ever to get a job at Marvel, my first story will immediately retcon this to be the case.
I'm kind of surprised that Gruenwald would create such a supervillain when he was one of the leading guys behind giving a "scientific" explanation for everyone's superpowers (Giant-Man's extra mass came from a mass dimension etc).
Erm, maybe the dead supervillains' paraphernalia came from a supervillain's clothing & equipment dimenson...? (My second story will establish that's where the Tinkerer gets all his stuff, and he doesn't really invent anything.)
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | March 16, 2018 8:39 AM
[I] really don't like the implausible idea of a guy who has the ability to mimic dead super-villains. It feels corny. And it's really just a variation on the "here's bunch of characters from the Handbooks" we've been getting in past Mark Gruenwald stories. It's a unique variation, granted, but as we'll see from how it's happening, it's really implausible.
I'd say it's even a little worse than that, since those stories at least figured out some thin rationale to gather a bunch of actual characters with a loose thematic connection. This just seems to be, "I want to show some of the dead villains again...eh, there's some guy who can turn into them because reasons."
It doesn't help that Dead Ringer never really develops a distinct personality of his own. I suspect most of us readers can buy some wacky or implausible powers if the character is interesting enough otherwise. This guy's just a power set, so the arbitrariness and implausibility are really the only things to see.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | March 16, 2018 6:03 PM
I feel with Hoover onboard, the book is revitalized a fair bit for the last stretch of Gruenwald's run. Particularly since #402-422 are such a slog. There's still problems (the Cap Armor!) but there's also some good stuff there (Americop, Free Spirit, Jack Flag, even Dead Ringer has a potentially good power set - all basically good ideas).
Posted by: AF | March 17, 2018 3:19 PM
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