Captain America #328-331
Issue(s): Captain America #328, Captain America #329, Captain America #330, Captain America #331
An interesting set of issues that follow up on threads from the cancelled Thing series and also uses characters from the cancelled Spider-Woman book, both of which were edited by Mark Gruenwald.
Captain America shows up at the Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation to investigate the Super-Patriot and his BUCkies. At first they think he's a scrawny new recruit in a fake Captain America costume and there's a scuffle, but Cap manages to hold his own until the Thing's friend, Demolition Dunphy breaks things up.
Dunphy tells Cap about the Power Broker. He says about 75% of the wrestlers get their powers from the Broker (with the rest being potentially mutants), but they've all made it past their withdrawal symptoms now. Dunphy asks to tag along on the investigation with Cap since he has a score to settle with the Power Broker, and Cap agrees. But what Cap doesn't realize is that Dunphy has become a super-hero fanboy and sees this as his way to break into that world.
He says the costume is based on Daredevil's, but the cover of issue #328 also acknowledges that the mask looks like Wolverine's.
Dunphy gets some info on the Power Broker's current location, and Cap heads there undercover, on the pretense that he's interested in getting the treatment. After Cap described losing to the Super-Patriot to Dunphy, Dunphy wonders if Cap is actually considering getting the treatment for real.
While Cap is entering the hideout (behind an ice cream parlor), he's scanned, and it's said that he has 2% body fat.
That scanner must be measuring body fat a different way than it's typically understood. People with body fat in the 3-4 percent range are really vascular and look disgusting (warning: shirtless dudes), not the way Cap has ever been drawn. And when your body fat gets that low, there's really a tradeoff with physical strength, which is why the World's Strongest Man type of guys have much higher fat levels. At 2%, Cap should probably be dead. Now maybe his super-soldier serum has allowed him to have really low body fat while retaining his strength and health - the readings are called "extraordinary" - but it still seems impossibly low.
Cap's statements are evaluated for truthfulness...
...and it turns out that he's actually being interviewed by a dummy.
Cap gives the guards a slip, and locates my favorite minor mad scientist, Dr. Karl Malus...
...but then he's shot in the back by Lieutenant Michael Lynch, who seemed to be a good guy that was helping Sharon Ventura in the Thing's series.
Malus rigs Cap up to the augmenter. He notes that Cap has apparently already undergone a "primitive" version of the treatment.
Cap is rescued by Demolition-Man.
Malus was subjecting Cap to the treatment because, since he'd already gone through something similar once, it would have caused his muscles to explode. But since the treatment was only partially completed when D-Man intervened, Cap now has increased super-strength. However, Malus says he'd have to do something else to make it permanent. D-Man offers to keep an eye on Malus while he completes the treatment. Cap gives it some serious thought but ultimately declines.
Cap and D-Man continue their investigation...
...but then D-Man gets hungry and heads to a diner while Cap stays behind to interrogate Malus, leaving Cap alone to fight off a group of back-up soldiers that arrive.
These goons aren't as steroidal as the UCWF guys, but they are still augmented. Cap is forced to give the guys the slip. Meanwhile, D-Man returns and gets beaten up by them. D-Man is brought to the Power Broker while Cap and Malus flee into the sewer where Malus dumps his rejects.
Cap and Malus are rescued by a group of characters from Spider-Woman's series. They are calling themselves Night Shift.
Cap doesn't stick around to find out what they are about, and instead runs after Malus.
But that just gets him more of Night Shift, who we learn are led by the Shroud.
The Shroud brings Cap into the darkness to talk with him privately, and we learn that most of the other members of Night Shift aren't aware that Shroud is a good guy, and he's basically persuaded them to band together to keep the LA sewers clear for themselves. Cap then goes along with a plan to allow Shroud to pretend that he's beaten Cap, and to pretend to allow Dansen Macabre to hypnotize him (while Shroud secretly covers Cap's eyes with darkness). They then hypnotize Karl Malus as well. Cap isn't happy with all the deception and mind control, but they do get info on the Power Broker's location (which, since he's been dumping the rejects into the sewers, Night Shift wants to stop as well).
Werewolf By Night seems to be a in a completely feral mode, which may be why nothing is made of his own connection with Karl Malus from Spider-Woman #32. It seems odd that the Werewolf is able to work on a team while Jack Russell isn't in control, though. Maybe Dansen's powers again?
Anyway, the group infiltrates the Power Broker's base...
Cap eventually makes it to the Power Broker, who turns out to be Curtiss Jackson of the Corporation.
Jackson is all too happy to take Cap to D-Man, who we find is being held along with Sharon Ventura.
And D-Man has been pumped full of stimulants, so he attacks Cap.
Cap manages to dodge long enough that D-Man passes out. After about four pulse-pounding pages of Cap giving D-Man CPR, our next big event is Sharon Ventura waking up and having a freakout, apparently having been "hurt" while under captivity.
Cap is able to calm her down, and also forces Karl Malus to heal D-Man. Next, Lieutenant Lynch shows up again with a contingent of troops, supposedly to arrest Jackson for augmenting foreign soldiers-for-hire. But Sharon Ventura outs him as the one who betrayed her to the Power Broker. And that's when Lynch sends in - oh geez, do i have to say it? - G.I. Max!
Cap holds his own against Max...
...and Lynch gets nervous about how that will affect his career (confirming that he does seem to legitimately be working for the army), so he fires a shot at Cap, and hits Max in the jugular instead.
With that, an epilogue.
Backing up a bit, we see the continuation of the investigation of the IRS agent that discovered that Steve Rogers is Captain America. It's said that the million dollars that Cap was awarded was in error, since he wasn't serving his country during the time he was under ice. I beg to differ. If a soldier goes missing in action during a combat mission, that doesn't count as serving their country? But that plus the fact that Cap hasn't been serving in an official capacity since getting revived gets the ball rolling for something bigger than just reclaiming the money.
We next see FBI agents entering Avengers Mansion...
...but they leave when Cap isn't there, and we don't yet learn what they want.
Definitely interesting stuff. D-Man is definitely goofy and Night Shift is also really hodgepodge. But both within reason. D-Man is deliberately something of a joke at first, although that becomes less so as the arc goes on. Night Shift, similar to the tease of a Lizard series in Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #127 seems to part of a test to see if the more monster-ish aspects of Marvel are ready for a revival. Between them and the use of Curtiss Jackson, it does seem like Mark Gruenwald was getting inspiration while putting together the Marvel Handbooks, but i don't consider that a bad thing at all. There's no excuse for G.I. Max, though.
Still, the overlapping of the UCWF and the super-soldier program is pretty cool and there's a nice set of intersections here. A good, straightforward plot that takes elements from the Thing and ties them into the ongoing Super-Patriot stuff while also reviving Sharon Ventura to bring her into the FF series and even checks in with a random group of west coast based characters that are maybe a little too weird for the West Coast Avengers (although that's the next place they'll appear).
This is the end of Paul Neary's run, with Tom Morgan, the artist on #330 here, taking over for a bit.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 139,482. Single issue closest to filing date = 143,800.
Quality Rating: B-
Chronological Placement Considerations: For both Captain America and Captain Marvel, the MCP places these issues after the X-Men vs. Avengers miniseries. Cap and Sharon Ventura next appear in Fantastic Four #306. I also have this taking place after the Avengers annuals, so that Cap can go directly from dropping off Sharon in New York to Washington, per his stated intention (the MCP instead places the Annuals after Cap dropping off Sharon).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (10): show
Farber and McNulty are based on the Blues Brothers.
Posted by: Michael | April 5, 2014 2:59 PM
I just talked about this a bit in the FF #306 entry. It seems pretty clear to me. "Filthy beasts" is not the sort of phrase you'd use against someone that just ("just") tortured you. I also assume this was a deliberate handoff to Englehart and that his plans were discussed, so Gruenwald was setting him up.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 5, 2014 3:07 PM
I liked the concept of the Night Shift, but ultimately they make better sense as a villain group than any kind of hero group for a regular series. Yes, the Shroud controls them, but that would change quickly if he was exposed as a Green
I think Gruenwald just liked to do occasional archaeology and reuse existing characters rather than create new ones, especially when they would be only be rather minor goons rather than real characters. The Night Shift's appearance in these issues is along those lines.
The Epilogue is very Dragnetesque.
References state CA #323 when it should be DD 323, but the link is correct.
The past year or so of Cap stories have not been that good. Not awful, but not exciting. The house cleaning elements of the Scourge wrap up, what's happened to Nomad, and the Super-Patriot wrap up have really sucked the life out of the title. There needed to be more stellar one shots to keep the excitement and interest going. Gruenwald will have a problem of consistency with excellence throughout all the books he writes. He constantly struggles between mediocore and very good.
Posted by: Chris | April 5, 2014 3:14 PM
Digger was the host for Tower of Shadows in the late Silver Age, which gave us a great Steranko story. I can't fathom what the hell he was supposed to do in the proper MU. Look ugly and whack people with a shovel?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 5, 2014 3:51 PM
Fixed the reference. Thanks, Chris.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 5, 2014 3:52 PM
You've uploaded the Cap rescued by D-man twice.
Posted by: JSfan | April 5, 2014 6:31 PM
Thanks, JSfan. Fixed that too.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 5, 2014 6:38 PM
I find it really amusing that within literally minutes of meeting each other D-Man invites Cap to take a shower with him, and Cap just gets naked with this perfect stranger. So much for secret identity concerns! ;)
Posted by: Dermie | April 5, 2014 7:53 PM
If you haven't seen it, see Cap's opinion on his secret identity from Captain America #321. He doesn't mention his showering policy, though.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 6, 2014 12:10 AM
Yeah, I knew Cap didn't tend to be too hung up on his secret identity. But still...secret identity or not it just seems a little strange for D-Man to be inviting a guy he just met into the showers with him. Sure, its a locker room and that's normal enough--but on the flip side, its inviting someone you've known for 2 minutes to get in the shower with you! lol
People tend to make jokes about homoerotic subtext to Cap's relationships with sidekicks like Bucky and Rick Jones, and even the Falcon...how did they miss THIS with D-Man? lol
Posted by: Dermie | April 6, 2014 6:33 PM
At least he's not GI Joel.
I wonder why they made the kill shot a deflection off caps shield.
Kinda like Night Shift. Putting all those weird LA villains together makes sense in a sort weird way
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 7, 2014 11:33 AM
I like the comedy in the villain thinking "that does it. Now I've got to kill Cap" and then in the very next panel getting knocked out.
Posted by: S | September 10, 2014 10:39 AM
Regarding comments about D-Man as homoerotic sidekick, he has recently been established as gay.
I have seen anti-diversity people complaining that Marvel's current "minority" characters are too politically motivated & too perfect rather than being "real" characters with flaws, presumably they're not aware of D-Man who quite successfully manages to avoid this by having spent most of the past 30 years being portrayed as a complete loser & joke.
Gruenwald sort-of warmly portrays D-Man as a good guy in a silly costume who wants to be a hero but is too much of a "normal" guy despite his strength, he doesn't have that extra something that the great Marvel heroes do. Which makes sense as a character that would exist in the Marvel universe, even though they'd probably be killed off the first time they ran into a major supervillain (as nearly happens when he fights Titania). And in the MU, a "normal" hero is a loser. I think Busiek is first to treat him as a joke in a "mean" way, establishing D-Man's poor hygiene, which if nothing else makes him a very non-stereotypical gay character.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 16, 2018 9:37 PM
(Okay, Gruenwald did start the joke about D-Man's body odour when the mentally damaged D-Man returns from the Arctic, but I don't think Gru intended that to be an ongoing feature of the character once he was back home.)
I guess it's a hard thing to balance, exactly how jokey you want your jokey characters to be. Carlin & Gruenwald did seem to have a love for a particular sort of silly-but-you-also-take-it-seriously.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 16, 2018 9:51 PM
I would argue against Busiek treating him as a joke. There's a difference between making a joke with a character and treating him as a joke.
Its true that he did deal with the poor hygiene issue, and had some of the other members disrespect him--but Busiek also made a point of showing that the poor hygiene was because of D-Man's living conditions as a protector to the impoverished citizens of Zero Town, and he showed D-Man as an effective hero alongside the Avengers. He had Captain America chastise any other Avenger he heard speak disparagingly of Dennis, and he showed Jarvis treating him with respect.
D-Man getting treated as a joke is more the responsibility of Brian Michael Bendis, who repeatedly used D-Man as the butt of jokes in at least half a dozen issues that Dennis didn't even appear in. And the majority of the times that he actually did use Dennis on-panel it was very unflattering--ranging from him being a pathetic blubbering mess (when he applied to be a nanny for Luke Cage and Jessica Jones' baby) or as a raving lunatic (as a member of the "Revengers"). He did give Dennis a bit more sensitive showing in the pages of THE PULSE, but even that was part of Bendis' downward trajectory for D-Man since that is where he was shown to have gone delusional and needed to be taken away for psychological treatment.
Thankfully Nick Spencer has rescued Dennis from joke status made him a serious supporting character again.
Posted by: Dermie | July 17, 2018 12:53 AM
On the subject of D-Man...
He smells bad because he doesn't have access to a shower.
As I recall, every Avenger who reacts negatively to D-Man is either a jerk (Namor, Moondragon, Starfox, Hercules) or has a super-sensitive sense of smell (Tigra). Even the Panther, who has a sensitive nose, tries to talk Namor down about it.
[We do see Firebird looking at him, but in her case it's probably Christian concern.]
Their reactions to D-Man say something about them, not about him.
To be fair, no one sits close to him, but to also be fair, he smells pretty damn bad. And he's well aware of it, but doesn't let it stop him from doing his job or dealing with the others pleasantly.
I really like D-Man; I always wanted to do a D-Man mini-series.
Posted by: Kurt Busiek | July 20, 2018 1:50 AM
Hey, I didn't know Kurt Busiek read our blatherings sometimes! Fame at last!
It seems I stand corrected (by two different people) and that I perceived ill will to Demolition Dunphy which was not there. I hereby welcome Mr Busiek as the 2nd member of my D-Man Fan Club.
Posted by: Jonathan, son of Kevin | July 20, 2018 3:53 AM
So, in conclusion, it definitely doesn't reflect badly on you 20 years later to have written a book that insisted on a homeless person smelling because ultimately he DOES smell "pretty damn bad".
And anyway it's only the famous jerks like Spider-Man and Firestar who refuse to sit near him and, of course, those "concerned Christians".
Why don't you go back and retcon that one with some Space Phantoms, Kurt?
Posted by: AF | July 20, 2018 6:05 AM
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