Captain America #145-148
Issue(s): Captain America #145, Captain America #146, Captain America #147, Captain America #148
This is a fun arc if you don't think about it too hard. The gist of it is that Hydra is back, and they're keeping SHIELD's regular forces busy so SHIELD has to send the newly formed Femme Force, accompanied by Captain America, to investigate what turns out to be the main Hydra assault.
There are a number of twists regarding the leadership along the way: the Kingpin has been secretly controlling the group and then it turns out unbeknownst to him, his son Richard Fisk was Supreme Hydra...
...and then it turns out that the Red Skull was controlling things at an even higher level.
In fact, the Skull says that he's always been secretly in control of Hydra, which is really a Nazi front.
When he awakens the Fifth Sleeper robot, the Kingpin sends his mob guys to support SHIELD in defeating it.
I really like that, despite the Kingpin's criminal goals, he's very much against the Red Skull...
...and it's cool seeing him send his mob goons up against the Red Skull.
Richard Fisk acting incognito to his father was interesting as well; i was aware of his Schemer and Rose identities but the fact that he had this whole plan to become Supreme Hydra to take over the group and then give it as a gift to his father is a new wrinkle (meanwhile, not knowing that it's his son that he's bossing around, the Kingpin is harassing and demeaning the poor guy the whole time and nearly blows him up at one point). Someone needs to psychoanalyze that family.
By the way, when Vanessa Fisk tells her husband that if he blows up the base where Femme Force and Hydra were fighting and she tells him "If you destroy Hydra headquarters now... part of both of us will die with it!", i was ready for a revelation that Valentina and Vanessa were the same person. It's the hair.
It's also cool seeing Cap take on the Kingpin; an unusual foe for him.
The problems with the plot, though, are manifold. Hydra's whole plan was that if they could trick SHIELD into sending out Femme Force, it would be an easy win for them, because they're just a bunch of girls. But at the same time, defeating them would somehow bring all of SHIELD to its knees. There's also something about the world's richest man being held prisoner in Las Vegas but it doesn't really tie into anything. And then there's the Red Skull, who doesn't really seem to have needed Hydra in any way in order to release his Sleeper; in fact, showing up and announcing himself the leader of Hydra just gets the Kingpin to turn against him. And as Mark notes in the comments, the idea that Red Skull was always in control of Hydra is a pretty major retcon. We know from Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #29 and Capt. Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders #2-4 that Baron Strucker formed Hydra after fleeing Germany because he failed Hitler. So the idea that Hydra was secretly a Nazi organization doesn't make a lot of sense. And per Mark's comment, it didn't go over well. A text piece in Daredevil #120-123 will un-retcon this retcon and say that the Red Skull's Hydra was really a splinter group that was only seen in this one story.
There's also the wisdom of going to the Sleeper well yet again; wouldn't it have been better to wake up all the Sleepers at once the first time if there really were so many? The Red Skull says this one is the "final" one, though.
More into the details, Friedrich handles the Femme Force very poorly, starting things off with a weird cattiness between Valentina and Sharon that turns into a romantic competition for Captain America.
A thought bubble confirms that she's in love with Cap.
We haven't seen a lot of the Contessa but she's been strong and stalwart so far and seeing her act like this is weird, and it doesn't look good for Sharon either.
More generally, the feminism of Femme Force is of the variety where they shout "Male chauvinist pig!" and "They're only men!" the whole time, and it gets annoying really fast.
There's also the Falcon, nominally the co-partner of this book, who first refuses to go help Cap when SHIELD first contacts him.
This is even after he's had a premonition that Cap is in danger (take note for the debate about whether or not the Falcon is a mutant).
Then suddenly later we see him on a plane to go help Cap anyway, with a flashback showing he changed his mind. He finally gets to the action by the end of issue #147 and he does have some choice things to say to the Kingpin (which, of course, undermines his whole unwillingness to get involved).
The Hydra refrain is usually "Cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place!" but in this arc they use the word "arm" instead of "limb". It's probably not the only time, but it seemed so wrong to me when i read it. The mythological Hydra regrew its heads, of course.
This story re-introduces Eric Koenig, one of the later Howling Commandos, as pilot for SHIELD.
Two entries in the "How can anything so big move so fast?" category. The Kingpin:
And the Sleeper:
Here is the scan of the Kingpin slamming his head into the wall, as mentioned in the comments.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Avengers #100-101. Takes place before Hulk #151-153 because Nick Fury is mad at Cap in that arc due to Val's interest in him.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (13): show
This story literally angered Marvel fans like they'd never been angered before. There was yet another return of the Red Skull(dangerously skirting diminishing threat territory), the unnecessary snarling of Hydra continuity(which required Tony Isabella to go to such lengths as an unusual text page in Daredevil about 3 years later to resolve), and the 5th Sleeper, which immediately became known as the epitome of plot recycling. Sales plummeted(to be fair, Gerry Conway's 4 issues didn't help either) and it took Steve Englehart to rescue the book from cancellation. Gary Friedrich from this point on(with maybe a few exceptions) was restricted to books which had no(or, as in Ghost Rider at the time, minimal) ties to the main Marvel Universe.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 4, 2013 2:53 AM
this story should have been good: the kingpin vs the skull, Sheild vs Hydra. But it wasn't. And the 5th sleeper was silly. Why exactly did the Nazis place a sleeper in the desert outside Las Vegas? What exactly did Vegas do to deserve a sleeper? Wouldn't, I dont know, Moscow or London be more likely targets for revenge?
Also, Ricard Fisk might have the record for failed secret identities
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | March 4, 2013 1:35 PM
Mark, when you say that fans were upset about the snarling of HYDRA continuity, you mean the Skull's claim to be the true founder of HYDRA, right? I think that they eventually said that he was exaggerating and just told Strucker to go to Asia or something.
Posted by: Michael | March 4, 2013 7:51 PM
Regarding the Kingpin hitting the wall, the Red Skull appeared as a hologram so when the Kingpin charged him he ran right through him and hit the wall. I didn't realize it was an infamous scene; it didn't seem that unusual to me.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 4, 2013 8:33 PM
Maybe I shouldn't have used the term "infamous scene" but I've seen people making fun of it and I wondered how it happened.
Posted by: Michael | March 4, 2013 9:32 PM
Added the scan.
P.S. the Kingpin is just fine after his encounter with the wall.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 4, 2013 11:23 PM
Yes, the fans were not happy about the Skull being credited with creating Hydra, most likely because it stepped a bit on some deified Steranko stories. Sure, Marvel eventually backtracked on it, but at the time there was no indication that this was anything but gospel.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 9, 2013 6:09 PM
Just because no one else mentioned it, the "worlds richest man" is Harold Howard, an obvious analog to Howard Hughes, whose descent into mental illness was widely rumored but officially unconfirmed at the time. He has been kidnapped and "replaced" by the Kingpin. It's just another pointless attempt to be topical. As far as I can tell, the story was set in Las Vegas solely to make that reference.
Posted by: Andrew | January 11, 2015 8:05 AM
The "Howard Hughes homage being kidnapped and replaced" would seem to have been shamelessly ripped off from the 1971 James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever." However, that film was apparently released in December and the first couple of these issues would actually have been on newsstands by then, with the others already being written at least. And I'm sure the novel version did not have that particular plot point, so I'm wondering how the timing worked out here. Maybe Hughes' reclusion had already led to rampant speculation (or at least a few jokes) that the real deal was remaining "hidden" for some nefarious reason. Thus, two stories coming out about the same time with a similar plot point.
Posted by: Dan H. | January 11, 2015 8:37 PM
My problem with this story is, how does the Kingpin keep up his "humble businessman" charade after this? Spider-Man's testimony may not mean much to people with the power and authority to go after Fisk, but Cap's certainly should.
Posted by: Thanos6 | May 3, 2015 2:57 AM
After Sifting through the intelligible comment section and the chronoligical HYDRA debate, I am somehow drawn to the Wilson Fisk head smashing scenario and how Vanessa Fisk manages the Kingpin's weight in the bedroom, without occasional injury?
Posted by: RocknRollguitarplayer | June 5, 2016 11:32 PM
Comments are now closed.
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