Captain America #332-333
Issue(s): Captain America #332, Captain America #333
The government has been trying to contact Captain America for the past couple of issues, but he winds up in Washington of his own accord, because he wants to find out if the army really was behind the creation of super-soldiers through known criminal Curtiss Jackson last issue. Cap's investigation of that is cut short when he's summoned to a commission that lays out the situation for him. According to them, the million dollars that he got from the government was a mistake (as i mentioned in the review for last issue, i don't agree with the reasoning there), and beyond that, the US government owns the name, costume, and shield of Captain America.
They don't necessarily want any of those things back. They just want Cap to work directly for them.
The way the conversation goes, it seems that even if Cap went to work for SHIELD, which was an offer Jasper Sitwell made to him a few issues back, it wouldn't be sufficient (by the way, the lettercol to issue #333 tells us that the extradition to Sweden that Sitwell was using to get Cap to join SHIELD just never happened). They want him to answer directly to the presidents office, basically under the same arrangement that Freedom Force currently does. Cap takes a day to think about it, calling a few friends, including Falcon, Captain Marvel, the Avengers' lawyer, Hawkeye (not home), Nick Fury (not home), D-Man (who says it's all above his pay grade), and Hiram Riddley, whose contribution to the conversation is that he intends to still like Captain America even after he starts liking girls.
Steve thinks that if he decides to give up being Cap, he'd have to go to Tony Stark and ask for a million dollars, since he's already spent the money.
But he ultimately decides that giving up Captain America is what he has to do, on the grounds that he represents the America Dream, not the American government.
It's enough to make Abraham Lincoln cry on the cover.
My intention with my opening blurb wasn't to intimate that Mark Gruenwald is just doing a rehash here. He's asking some interesting questions and making some bold changes with the series. I think it's a relatively realistic premise, too. The government would want super-heroes that work directly for them, as we've seen with their repeated recent attempts at reconstituting the super-soldier program. This is a topic we'll return to with Civil War, as well.
Meanwhile, as Cap deliberates, a crazy protester calling himself Warhead lands on top of the Washington Monument and declares that he will detonate a nuclear device given to him by AIM unless the president declares war on another country.
He doesn't care who - any country will do.
It's kind of ironic that Mark Gruenwald is using this over the top sterotype of a right-wing protestor at the same time he's working towards turning the Super-Patriot, who just recently condoned an attack on foreign exchange students because of their nationalities, into a more sympathetic character. I guess Warhead makes Super-Patriot look good by comparison, but only barely.
And we're not there yet with Super-Patriot, whose initial reaction to hearing about the nuclear bomb is to get himself and his agent Ethan out of town before it's detonated. But Ethan convinces him to go after the guy, and he does manage to stop Warhead, although it's just a matter of luck that the bomb didn't go off during the fight.
If the Super-Patriot's actions weren't a clue for you, the cover to issue #333 asks you to guess who might become the next Captain America. Here's a hard-to-follow legend provided in the lettercol.
Along with some serious possibilities, there are a few Marvel staffers, including "Devastating" Dawn Geiger, who would later awkwardly pose for an ad for the Marvel Swimsuit issue, and others that aren't even identified. And it seems that after the legend was created, someone snuck in Doctor Octopus and the Thing with a beard. Kinda weird.
But after some deliberations, including an idea from Henry Gyrich to blackmail the Avengers with their security clearance unless Steve Rogers changed his mind, Valerie Cooper decides to recruit the Super-Patriot, who i'll now be referring to as John Walker to avoid confusion with Steve Rogers.
Walker's personality so far has been a combination of crass opportunism and the aforementioned condoning of racism (or at least intolerant nationalism that just happened to come down on non-white foreign students). We start to see a different side, with Walker refusing to believe that the government could lie to him...
...and someone who considers himself a true patriot.
These aren't necessarily incompatible with the previous traits, but whereas before it seemed like Walker was only wrapping himself in the flag for commercial gain (while refusing to help a lady that was being mugged when no one would be around to give him credit for it), he now is acting like he's legitimately patriotic. His agent Ethan, on the other hand, sees only the economic benefits of him accepting Cooper's offer.
Walker actually tries to give Steve Rogers a call to make sure he really quit, but he's only able to leave a message on the Captain America hotline (Steve Rogers does not appear at all in issue #333; it's the first issue of Captain America to not include him). Walker decides to accept the offer.
While the commission is considering his - mainly Ethan's - demands, he's put up against three members of Freedom Force as an initial assessment.
He does well enough against Pyro and Avalanche...
...but fails to defeat the Blob.
Cooper sends the message that he's got a lot more training to do.
Nonetheless, he sticks with it and he's not too concerned when the government tells him that he'll have to drop Ethan and all his demands, and can only bring one of his BUCkies into the program. Not sure if the activities of the BUCkies are known to the commission at this time, and i'm also not sure if Walker's acceding to the government's demands is meant to be seen as a good thing - i.e., he's dropping his not-so-good friends - or that he's willing to betray his friends to elevate his own position.
Gruenwald has been giving his best to his Cap run, with the Serpent Society and the Scourge and now this major change. This storyline will allow us to see a new person in the role of Captain America, allowing a character arc for John Walker while also giving us a "the suit doesn't make the man" message that will show us what makes Steve Rogers special. So it gives Gruenwald a lot of storytelling potential and it's a cool shake-up for the book.
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cap appears in Fantastic Four #306 prior to these issues, but this also has to take place after 1987's Avengers annuals, since those feature the real Captain America.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (17): show
Really dig Tom Morgan's work here. I think this is probably the best art the series had since Mike Zeck left.
Posted by: Robert | April 10, 2014 1:19 AM
I suppose I will always wonder why Gruenwald decided to give the costume to a fascist such as John Walker, as well as how planned the decision to attempt to ignore that characterization later on was.
And what are Punisher and Super-Patriot himself doing on the cover? Those are not serious candidates. They should have put Iron Fist, Daredevil, Rick Jones and Dave Ross in there instead.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 10, 2014 2:20 AM
Luis, Gruenwald seemed to want to do redemption stories for Diamondback and USAgent but he also seemed to forget their original characterizations. So Diamondback went from a sexual sociopath who tried to threaten a man into having sex with her and showed no remorse when someone died fleeing from her into a rape victim acting out, while USAgent went from a callous opportunist to a misguided patriot whose brother died in Vietnam.
Posted by: Michael | April 10, 2014 8:18 AM
At a glance I'd say that the link between Walker's patriotism and glory seeking would be that he'd like to be at least as recognized as his brother, which would be his reason for prioritising towards high-case stuff... Though its certainly not the greatest foundation for a symbol of a country.
Posted by: Max_Spider | April 10, 2014 8:39 AM
You know, when this happened i hated it. i had issue 331 and vowed not to buy any more. of course i was young and didnt know that in the comics world, no one really ever goes away.
Now i really like that this shows, more than anything, why steve rogers is better than captain america. I've always acctually agreed with the flag-smasher, he should represent higher ideals than patriotism. I've always prefered Steve to cap. Theres no better way to show why steve is special than having a lesser man try to fill his shoes.
Also, John walker was a good stand in for a certain type of gung-ho, red dawn, reganomics nationalism mentality of the times. Not a fascist in my opinion, just brainwashed by his country's "were #1" propaganda at the time. but not a good man because of it.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 10, 2014 9:08 AM
I like Gruenwald's run on Cap up till shortly after this point, then the book lost me. I thought the best stories of his run were prior to the John Walker vs. Steve Rogers stuff.
I always took the point of Rogers quitting to be simply because of governmental over-reach. That Cap didn't answer directly to the American government, he answered to American ideals.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 10, 2014 3:55 PM
Agree with you there, Chriskafka, I 100 percent understand Steve's refusal here. What the politicians wanted him to do didnt matter. His principled refusal is true steve rogers fashion.
Posted by: kveto from prague | April 10, 2014 4:35 PM
Gru could have handled Steve's rationale for quitting better, but even the quick citations of the Contras in Nicaragua and Freedom Force provide powerful real-world and in-universe reasons not to work for Uncle Sam at this point. The Iran-Contra scandal is revving up at this point in real life; in the context of the times, Steve's decision isn't implausible.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | April 10, 2014 10:54 PM
Why am I picturing Captain Hammer's groupies from "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" sticking their heads inside the next frame after Nu Cap says "Never fought anybody who could do the weird stuff these guys do..." and singing: "We do the weird stuff..."
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | April 11, 2014 2:48 PM
"Make War Some More" is a parody of the "Make War No More!" symbol DC used to end their war stories with in the early 1970s.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 12, 2014 3:05 PM
My problem with this is that it is poorly executed. The entire set up with the retroactive pay, and that Cap now has to return it all back is ridiculous. It is not even needed given the Commission's actual arguments. Second, it would be so easy for Cap to go above their heads and appeal directly to the President or even the American people. Third, the recruitment of Cap's replacement is completely incompetent. Even assuming Steve's replacement must already have superpowers since a repeat of Project: Rebirth can't happen, to pull Walker and place him immediately as Cap is dumb. Don't even get me started at how incompetent Ethan Thurm must be to think being hired as a government law enforcer is the same as working as a celebrity.
A lot of people need to act stupid for this to work as written.
Of course, on all of these issues, we are given an explanation eventually that the situation is entirely contrived. I wonder how much Gruenwald already planned that, or if at some point he realized he needed a big reveal. But I'll reserve comments on that for Cap #350.
Posted by: Chris | April 14, 2014 10:16 PM
I posted this more fully elsewhere, but wanted to direct readers to this:
Walker's personality so far as been a combination of crass opportunism and the aforementioned condoning of racism (or at least intolerant nationalism that just happened to come down on non-white foreign students).
The situation from that issue involved or referred to Algerians, Libyans and Iranians. All of these nationalities stand considered as Caucasians (also, Iranians stand as Aryans).
I have noted that the U.S. census classifies Arabs usually as Caucasians. I refer you to a search of King Hussein of Jordan, who claimed family ties with Mohammed or Muhammad. I would not describe King Hussein of Jordan as a Sub-Saharan African. Muhammed descended, one supposes, in-universe, from the people of Shem of the Hyborian Age, such as Belit. Artists usually draw Belit as bit lighter skinned than her crew, who mostly belong to proto-sub-Saharan Africans.
Posted by: PB210 | April 19, 2014 12:16 PM
A possible origin for the Walker-Cap story: Amazing Heroes #127 reported that Gruenwald stated on L.A. radio station KCRW that he was being hammered with reader demands to make Cap more vicious, violent, and Wolverine-like, and that a storyline showing what would happen if a right-winger became Cap was his response. It does beg the question if Gruenwald blanked out the 1950's Cap, though...
Posted by: Mark Drummond | July 25, 2014 6:35 PM
I dropped the book after #332. Since I was buying a lot of books, it was easy enough to do. And, living in rabid right-wing Orange County, I had my fill of that personality and didn't need to read about it in Cap.
I wondered even at the time if Steve leaving could be strung out long enough that he would return to the position in #350, since that would be the obvious big moment for him to do so (Avengers #300 would be hitting just before that but I couldn't imagine that they would return him to the uniform in Avengers rather than his own series).
Granted, my decision to drop the book said nothing about the quality of the book - I still admire Gruenwald for what he managed to do here and how long he managed to make it stick.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 20, 2015 6:00 PM
I take a back seat to no one in disgust at the excesses of the right, so I feel you there, but I'm a big sucker for redemptions narratives, so I really enjoyed Walker's arc up until he snapped...
Posted by: BU | July 22, 2015 11:31 AM
From Marvel Age, preview of upcoming stories (as well as a bit of a Hembeck piece with Fred interviewing John): https://66.media.tumblr.com/9a66e5049283debd94a55dd907c7e137/tumblr_oaerylN6b91tms107o2_540.jpg
Two things of note, that we never got include a Batroc story or a new Super-Patriot. It's possible the new Super-Patriot was intended to be one of Walker's old pals (who instead became Left-Winger and Right-Winger). It's also worth noting Gruenwald did eventually get around to introducing a new Super-Patriot some 100 issues later in the form of Mike Farrell. The hair depicted in the preview doesn't match any of them, but it's possible Tom Morgan was just drawing Super-Patriot on model (which would've been based on Walker as Super-Patriot).
We also never got to see John tackle the Serpent Society (beyond a brief encounter with Diamondback), but that might've been a slightly inaccurate teaser for the storyline involving Steve which had the Serpent Society in #341-344.
Posted by: AF | July 16, 2016 9:03 AM
Having thought about it for most of the day, I would've quite liked to have seen a done-in-one issue with John fighting Batroc. Shame we didn't actually get that Batroc tale. Gruenwald probably takes the reigns as the best Batroc writer (not that it's a much coveted title, sadly).
Posted by: AF | July 16, 2016 1:55 PM
Hold on! You're forgetting #251-2 by Stern, Byrne & Rubinstein. Fantastic Batroc by Roger.
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | July 7, 2017 12:22 AM
I sent this to the Marvel Appendix guys back in the day, but it makes sense to add it here, too.
Warhead, the terrorist thereat in issue 332, is very loosely based on a real-life protester, Norman Mayer. However, Mayer was an anti-nuclear weapons activist who threatened to blow up the Washington Monument unless politicians started discussing a ban on nuclear weapons. He was killed by National Park Police, who stated that they were trying to disable his explosives-laden van.
The incident happened in December of 1982, some years before this story was published.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 7, 2017 6:46 AM
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