Captain America #139-143
Issue(s): Captain America #139, Captain America #140, Captain America #141, Captain America #142, Captain America #143
Previously he'd fought Thor and Iron Man, and was clearly tough, but having him go up against Cap and the Falcon (and SHIELD) really gives him the opportunity to show that he's a top level threat.
Four issues was probably pushing it in terms of story length, though.
The fifth issue here has an unrelated story that was building in the subplots of the previous four.
But we start with where we left off in issue #138, with Captain America being taken away in a limo by a mysterious figure. It turns out he's a Police Commissioner Feingold, and he'd like Cap to go undercover as a rookie cop to ferret out a problem with missing police and other special agents.
Cap sees this not just as a mission, but as an opportunity to build a civilian life for himself.
Ever since the return of Sharon Carter (look at that dialogue; like, gag me with a spoon)...
...he's been back to feeling like he needs something to separate himself from Captain America so that he has something to offer Sharon. I don't get it at all. She's a SHIELD agent, you're a super-hero. It's perfect. Why complicate things by adding some additional identity to your life? It wasn't that long ago that Steve Rogers was traveling the country on a motorcycle; how awesome was that, Steve? You couldn't do that working a regular shift as a policeman. But it was definitely an identity outside of Captain America. Sure you had to change into Cap every issue to fight someone, but now you're going to have to do that and be a policeman half the time. And don't tell me you just want to settle down and give up super-heroing when you're saying things like "I can't get enough danger -- take enough risks -- to make me forget my own nagging hang-ups."
As a meta/storytelling engine thing, it's weird timing as well. This book is still working out its status as a team/partner book. That should have been good for a while longer without Cap needing to be a cop to find new adventures. As we'll see in this arc, if Cap and the Falcon need to be assigned a mission, SHIELD can always just beam them up to the helicarrier at will.
In fact, giving Cap a second avenue to receive missions (not counting the Avengers!) just puts the partnership in jeopardy (that said, if we must go down this route, i think Stan handled it fairly well).
Anyway, the policeman status ultimately won't be handled very well and it's just sort of awkwardly discarded during Gerry Conway's run.
While Steve Rogers' secret ID is known to the Commissioner, it isn't known to his immediate supervisor, Sgt. Brian Muldoon. A deliberate parallel is drawn to Sgt. Duffy from Private Rogers' World War II days...
...we're clearly led to expect the same kind of relationship here, with Rogers' disappearances and seemingly flaky behavior covered for at higher levels while his immediate boss is constantly pissed at him.
Muldoon looks like Jack Kirby; and maybe the Sgt. Duffy parallels are a tribute to him (the fact that Muldoon will turn out to be a bad guy is probably just an unfortunate coincidence).
Commissioner Feingold's disappearances turn out to be the work of the Grey Gargoyle.
It's not clear exactly why he's doing it, but i guess he just happened to have a base in the area and petrified anyone who got close to it. Ultimately the Gargoyle is after "Element X", a nuclear product that SHIELD is working on. In addition to the Gargoyle's usual powers (which, again, are devastating to Cap and SHIELD), he's got a new substance that will turn someone into living stone like the Gargoyle, but allows the Gargoyle to control them. And the Falcon gets hit with it.
Between that and the fact that this entire mission comes from the police commissioner and Cap doesn't let the Falcon in on it until he doesn't really have a choice, it's not a great arc for the new partnership.
The Falcon gets a new gadget that will help him with mobility...
...but it's a bit of a downgrade after last arc's jetpack. The similarities to Spider-Man, Daredevil, and the Black Widow (and later, the Cat) are clear, and you really have to wonder why a character called the Falcon isn't just given the ability to fly. SHIELD agents are often shown with jetpacks. Why couldn't they have rigged up something for the Falcon? And why did it have to be Captain America's idea? Couldn't the Falcon at least have come up with it himself?
Unable to defeat the Gargoyle any other way, Cap, Falcon, Fury, and Sharon trick him into a rocket and launch him into space.
The SHIELD helicarrier gets destroyed during the battle with the Gargoyle, but Nick Fury doesn't seem to consider it that big a deal; they've got a back-up.
Issue #139 introduces a Reverend Garcia.
He becomes a victim of the Grey Gargoyle, but he's also used in the story that culminates in the fifth issue in this entry. For that, we are also introduced to Leila (no last name given yet, but it's Taylor) in issue #139.
Leila could give Assata Shakur a run for her money.
A recurring theme (not just from Leila) is that the Falcon's job as Sam Wilson, social worker, actually makes him an Uncle Tom to his community. "Our people need heroes, man. Not handouts." And Leila and her associates, including Rafe Michel...
...are looking for radical solutions to the problems of the black ghetto.
While Reverend Garcia is in the hospital, Leila shows up to announce that she's going to be helping to instigate a riot. She believes (or says she does) that Garcia was actually beaten up by Officer Rogers.
A masked riot-starter is instigating the riots...
...and he turns out to be the Red Skull.
So i guess for once, a Sons of the Serpent type instigator really does turn out to be led by a white supremacist. Of course this time the people getting instigated are black.
Once the Red Skull is exposed, the riots fizzle out, and after putting Cap and the Falcon in an obligatory death trap, the Red Skull escapes.
The fact that the Red Skull was behind the riots doesn't mean the underlying problems are gone, however, and there's obvious tension between Cap and the Falcon...
...made worse by the fact that the Falcon and Leila are attracted to each other.
With some other political storylines, it took reading the reactions in the lettercols for me to realize how impactful they were, but with this riot story i was outright shocked at the radical views being expressed. That the black characters from Sam's neighborhood are treated as antagonists for Cap and the Falcon, and even that they were being manipulated by the Red Skull, doesn't lessen the fact that these views were being expressed, and not without some sympathy, in a mainstream comic book.
Marvel may have been trying to be more willing to deal with race related issues (your mileage may vary on how well they succeeded) but when it comes to women, we're not quite there yet. No time to get feminine, honey.
Even better is when Fury tries to stick up for her.
He gets interrupted, but i would have loved to see where Fury was going with that. A special subdivision of the ESPer unit devoted to women's intuition?
Beyond that, Cap just can't handle Sharon being an active SHIELD agent...
...which may explain why he's looking for a new job, so that she can quit hers and he can support her (which was the reason Sharon and Steve broke up the last time).
Despite a lot of clunkiness, i found myself enjoying these issues. The fact that they got John Romita's full attention (not just layouts like most issues of Spider-Man) probably helped a lot.
Stan Lee stops writing this book during the same two months he also took his vacation on the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man. Unlike those books, however, Stan Lee never returns to Cap.
Issue #134 is a 25 cent double-sized book. Mark Drummond explains the story behind the 25 cent books in the comments for Amazing Spider-Man #102.
By the way, if you're wondering who "Figaro" in the Characters Appearing is, it's just the Falcon's cat, who has sporadic appearances up until Cap #183. I assume he eventually gets eaten by Redwing.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places Avengers #88 and the related brief appearances in Hulk #140 and Iron Man #39 during Captain America #139, after Cap's initial visit with the Commissioner.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show 1971 / Box 6 / Silver Age
1971 / Box 6 / Silver Age
wouldn't be surprising if Redwing ate Figaro. It looks more like a rat than a cat...
Posted by: Jay Gallardo | February 20, 2013 6:13 AM
I love the grey gargoyle in these issues. Using the Helicairier to kamakazee Sheild headquarters was brilliant. Then having SHIELD have to shoot down the helicairier and the gargoyle taking on the whole SHEILD instalation and basically winning (till cap and falc show up). just such wild concepts.
But the red skull passing himself off as a black power leader...ugh. Imagine hearing "We gots to hit the honkies where it hurts most." in what i imagine to be the skull's thick German accent. pretty laughable really.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | February 20, 2013 5:15 PM
The last story title is based on the Navy adage "Red skies in the morning, sailor take warning".
Those missing periods. Argh.....
I've never quite understood the phrase "goldbricking". I assume it means someone sitting on their butt long enough to crap a gold brick.
Cap didn't actually resign from the police until #179.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 23, 2013 7:00 PM
Here's one account of "goldbricking" as originally relating to fake bricks, or bars, of gold: http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-gol2.htm
Posted by: Walter Lawson | February 24, 2013 1:15 AM
I thought the issues were clunky but I really liked that Sam seemed to have his own supporting and dynamic cast while Steve has Sharon and Nick popping in for a bit of this and that.
Posted by: David Banes | November 27, 2013 4:35 AM
"Oh, Steve! Steve! Then you still feel the same way-about us?"
"Yes, Sharon. I'm still gay."
(Sorry, but the "Gay Cap" jokes write themselves sometimes. I also notice that Steve is frustrated he can't "square things" with Sam because Leila is cockblocking him, essentially. Dude, Sam's straight. Deal with it, k?)
But seriously, I too like the idea of Sam getting his own supporting cast here.
Also, so the guy saying "hit the honkies where they live" turns out to be the Red Skull? Awesome. Get down with your bad self, Johan.
Posted by: Dan Spector | August 1, 2014 5:10 PM
Ah yes, the NYPD, paragons of restraint in the face of Black militancy. Not one of Lee's more enlightened arcs.
Posted by: cullen | August 1, 2014 5:25 PM
Amazing how timely this script is - even 40 years later.
Posted by: Jack | January 4, 2015 9:23 AM
This is offensive on so many levels-- one hardly knows where to begin.
1. A Jack Kirby caricature, unimaginatively based on Simon & Kirby's Sgt. Duffy, and notably published 6 months (July 1971) before Funky Flashman (Kirby's later infamous Stan Lee caricature) who debuted in Mister Miracle #6 (Jan-Feb 1972).
2. A story, written and drawn exclusively by white men, in which the majority of black characters are portrayed as criminals: a mob of angry, scowling, violent racists spouting racial slurs, plus a few blaxploitation-style gang members. (The handful of exceptions are: our 2nd-stringer Uncle-Tom social-worker/hero Sam Wilson, the Reverend Garcia, two sympathetic social welfare recipients, and one or two token black cops.)
3. The usual black militant group, whose leaders conceal their faces under hoods, effectively turning the real-life Ku Klux Klan image on it's head.
4. The same representative black militant group portrayed mainly as small-minded, ignorant dupes of a cagey, clever, evil, white Nazi villain.
5. Captain America reduced to whining and pouting like a jilted lover when his only black friend kisses a woman.
6. The Falcon characterized as an Uncle Tom, eventually in need of rescue by Cap, as usual.
7. The usual perjorative use of hippie stereotypes.
8. The usual romantic diminution of women's roles.
9. Gabe Jones (usually shown only in the blackground) not even included, 'tho' Dugan is.
I could go on, but I just hit the character limit.
Posted by: Holt | October 12, 2017 7:04 PM
Re-reading this arc, it struck me that the Helicarrier is called the "Heli-Cruiser," "Hover-Cruiser," "Hover-Copter," "Hover-Craft," and "Hover-Carrier," but not (that I could find) "Heli-Carrier." Demerits to Stan Lee and Gary Friedrich for not keeping better notes.
Posted by: Tony Lewis | May 8, 2018 4:33 PM
Oooh, oooh, lemme No-Prize this one away! I can do it! Hmm...the reason they called the Heli-Carrier everything BUT Heli-Carrier is...ooh, because of, because of...PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY. Yeah, plausible deniabilty, coz...coz whenever Nick Fury has to brief the press, right, he has to dodge tricky questions, y'know, regarding SHIELD's budget and stuff! "Mr. Fury, Mr. Fury, excuse me, Charlie Snow, from the Bugle. Is it true that SHIELD spent a kajillion dollars on a Heli-Carrier that can easily be destroyed by, let's say, a Grey Gargoyle type of guy or something?" "Mr. Snow, I can assure ya, there's no such thing as a SHIELD Heli-Carrier." "Mr. Fury--if that IS your real name--we have sources confirming that SHIELD indeed has a Heli-Carrier, with its very own 'force beam' capable of pulling up an average New York superhero into its belly in a matter of seconds!" "Hey, listen, pal, I'm tellin' ya there's no freakin' Heli-Carrier, an' I mean it! Tell that Jameson guy ta get offa our case, go figure out if Spider-Man's been stealin' Christmas or some shit. 'Fore I showz ya why people call me Fury!"
Posted by: The Transparent Fox | May 9, 2018 8:36 AM
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