Captain America #286-289
Issue(s): Captain America #286, Captain America #287, Captain America #288, Captain America #289
...arrives in the present to hunt down his original body.
He meets up with Captain America along the way, and Cap, on his way to meet Bernie's parents, is a little too happy to put on his costume and rush away from his girlfriend.
They find a group of super-scientists operating out of a defunct Brand factory, and they are attacked by the current Deathlok.
Manning's computer is on the fritz, resulting in some funny messages.
After a bit of fighting, Cap manages to convince the mind-wiped Deathlok to merge with the clone of Manning...
...and doing so restores Deathlok's memories and causes him to turn on Brand.
Deathlok wipes out all of the Brand agents in the factory - much to Cap's chagrin - and then leads Cap to a subway station that he knows Godwulf is monitoring from the future. Godwulf transports both of them to the future...
...where Cap is horrified to see what the world will look like in 1991. Cap learns that by this year, all of earth's heroes were killed by agents of Roxxon/Brand's Nth Command unit, which used dimensional transporters to teleport all of Earth's heroes to alternate realities that couldn't sustain life. First the super-hero teams were taken out - the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Defenders, and the X-Men - and then the individual heroes. You would think that would have resulted in a world overrun by super-villains, but instead, after the heroes were defeated, Roxxon found themselves facing civilian resistance (the Nth Projectors required too much power for prolonged usage) and eventually the country tore itself apart and chaos broke out in the rest of the world as well, and eventually the US got nuked. The current threat in the US is a cyborg named Hellinger. Godwulf has a group of resistance fighters that include among their ranks a dwarf Mr. T and a woman calling herself Iron Butterfly (because nothing says 1991 like a 1960s era psychedelic rock band).
Cap tells Deathlok that he is the living symbol of America, 1991 (which in the real 1991 we'll discover is a lot more true than Iron Butterfly).
Cap and the resistance fighters face and defeat Hellinger.
You can tell that i'm not going into any of the above in too much detail. This really seems to be a wrap-up of Deathlok's Astonishing Tales storyline, which was truncated and abandoned when Deathlok moved to the present. DeMatteis does a good job of making the ending accessible and enjoyable even if, like me, you haven't read most of the Deathlok issues.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Nomad rescues a woman from some muggers.
The woman is really "Sister Pleasure", from the upcoming Red Skull storyline, in disguise.
And after Cap wraps things up in the future, he returns to the present so that he can prevent Deathlok's future from ever happening in the first place. And he'll be handling that in an Assistant Editors' Month issue, although the AEM material will be limited to a short back-up feature.
Even before Cap interferes, there's a deviation from Deathlok's alternate 1991 - the Nth Command opts to just go after the big three super-hero teams, saving the Defenders for later, unlike the way Godwulf described the way things went down in his version.
Cap is unable to contact the Avengers (because he doesn't have change for a payphone), so he rushes to the secret Brand base and makes it through the electronic doors thanks to information he learned from Godwulf.
One thing we learned from Godwulf in the future is that he was originally working for Roxxon before he became a good guy, and so we see his present day self leading the assault on the Baxter Building.
We also see a different unit getting set up to attack the X-Men.
To stop Roxxon, Cap has to defeat this adorable robot.
In addition to being too cute to want to hit, it also projects psycho-rays that are supposed to drive its opponents to horror and madness. But Cap resists, in part because he realizes that now that he has a supporting cast (e.g. Bernie, Josh Cooper, Mike Farley) and a life as an ordinary person, he has something to fight for besides an abstract America. So he manages to stop the robot and power down the Nth Projectors. Leaving the Nth Commandos in an awkward situation when they go to face the Avengers.
It's not shown whether the other Nth Commandoes face similar situations at the Baxter Building and X-Mansion, or if they retreated before things got that far along.
Nick Fury and SHIELD show up to mop up after Cap has shut things down, but Cap has to run off to get back with Bernie.
And now we get into the Assistant Editors' Month portion of the story. Throughout these issues, we've seen Bernie have to deal with the embarrassment of showing up to a big family dinner without bringing her boyfriend. So the AEM back-up starts with Bernie trying to put herself into Steve's shoes (and Mike Carlin putting himself in the Watcher's).
She imagines herself facing off against the Mo-Skull (who is too awesome to be relegated to just this back-up and the cover)...
...and having to deal with a simpering Steve Rogers who is always crying when she has to run off to help the Avengers.
So with that, she discovers she's ok with Steve having to run out on her all the time, and so it's a happy meeting when he shows up at the end.
Even while the AEM portion was goofy, it serves a good purpose beyond just being silly fun. Bernie knows Cap's secret identity and by doing the role-reversal exercise she realizes that she doesn't want to be the whiny girlfriend character, and so from here we should be entering a phase where Steve and Bernie's relationship is not hindered by Steve's responsibilities as Captain America.
Overall this turns out to be a solid story.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Avengers #237-238 for Cap and the other Avengers that appear in issue #289. We should also probably assume that Brand's intelligence is good and the Fantastic Four and X-Men are home when they launch their attacks even though those characters aren't shown. The MCP places this circa Uncanny X-Men annual #7 for the X-Men and between Fantastic Four #262-263 for the FF.
Crossover: Assistant Editors' Month
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Hawkeye's line to MoSkull is a M.A.S.H. reference.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 15, 2013 6:56 PM
The commandos at the Baxter Building were probably in a similar situation, since in Quasar 3, Johnny recognizes the device the Angler has as the same one used by commandos that tried to zap the FF into another dimension.
Posted by: Michael | August 15, 2013 7:47 PM
The Nth Commandos mention they've been training for 10 years. Using the sliding timescale rule, that means the Roxxon project has existed almost since the very beginning of the Marvel Universe in FF#1.
I've always liked the idea of Roxxon Oil as a corporation that is effectively a villain, but I have never liked the way it's been implemented except for a few issues.C
Posted by: Chris | August 16, 2013 12:04 AM
DeMatteis seemed to think the Marvel Universe had been around for at least 15 years- he had the Skull describe Sin as barely in her teens in issue 293-301.
Posted by: Michael | August 16, 2013 12:20 AM
Cap vs Deathlok seems such a natural match-up. But that team of resistant fighters makes me want to avoid the issues.
And besides being brilliant, Moskull proves that Bernie really doesn't listen when Steve explains his other life (which is cute and realistic. I'm sure glass-blowing stories are over Steve's head)
Posted by: kveto from prague | August 16, 2013 2:19 PM
So MOSKULL's scheme involves Pizza Hut...why do I imagine him fitting in the Code Geass universe? (brilliant idea otherwise)
And the other green robot...Mega Man boss. Has to be.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 16, 2013 3:12 PM
Of course, Hawkeye making a MASH reference makes sense, since that show (and novel, perhaps) featured someone named Hawkeye, and both derive their names from Natty Bumppo (when Hawkeye debuted, he wore a buckskin ensemble, just as did Natty Bumppo) who appeared in The Last of the Mohicans.
Posted by: PB210 | August 16, 2013 10:06 PM
Deathlok is an exciting concept. But this story was horridly written. The Bernie fantasy was less embarrassing than the main story.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 2, 2013 11:08 PM
Per Dematteis in Amazing Heroes #98: Mark Gruenwald was uncredited co-plotter on this story because DeMatteis knew nothing about Deathlok's history.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 9, 2014 2:49 PM
DeMatteis made one blunder in Deathlok's history--he says a few times that Luther Manning was actually brought back to life, but the Astonishing Tales series does make clear that Deathlok's flesh parts are animated but still dead(the cannibals in the series were able to smell his flesh decaying).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 11, 2015 11:10 AM
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | April 14, 2015 3:14 PM
I would take Bernie America over Jane Foster's "Thor" any day of the week!
Posted by: Gary Himes | April 2, 2018 10:42 PM
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