Captain America #383
Issue(s): Captain America #383
Father Time takes him to a world where all of America's legends live: Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, Paul Bunyon, etc..
But Cap doesn't want to be reduced to legend status, so he chases down Father Time and fights to make him send him home. Father Time claims to be an Elder of the Universe.
Cap returns to the real world, and sees the guy in the Father Time costume again, but this time it turns out to be Hawkeye.
Hawkeye was just keeping Cap busy while the Avengers set up for a party.
With the second story in this issue, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz complete their journey into retro-obsession, doing a note for note cover of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #13.
The third story focusing on USAgent. He is digging up the the graves of Right- and Left-Winger to confirm that they are dead.
And they are.
It turns out that USAgent really knew this. They survived the initial explosion that USAgent inflicted on them, but they were in such gruesome condition that they took their own lives.
But USAgent couldn't bring himself to believe it. He does now, and is grieving because of it. Unable to bring himself to reach out to Battlestar or contact his sister (who believes that he's dead), he winds up in a field talking to a scarecrow. He says that when he caused the oil drum to blow up, he never intended for all of this to happen, and realizes that when they blurted out his secret identity they didn't mean for his parents to get killed. In front of the scarecrow, he swears to never kill again.
We should remember that Walker was literally crazy after his parents died, and is probably still crazy now. But this is one of the more plausible efforts to redeem a character (note that i'm comparing it to the possibility of someone like D'Spayre showing up to make him fight demons or something). It would be nice to see this turn into a reflection of some of his other deficiencies, but this back-up is as much about addressing a potential discrepancy between the Captain America series and Avengers West Coast #62 as it is about character development. Still, on both fronts, it's a good effort.
The lettercols (e.g. issue #388) were full of debates on the merits of USAgent and whether or not he should have been redeemed. This back-up may have been a response to that.
The final story (with art by Ron Wilson and Fred Fredericks) shows Crossbones' first meeting with the Red Skull. It takes place "twelve hours" after the Red Skull was put into his cloned Steve Rogers body. That was shown in Captain America #350 and i treated that story like a flashback, not putting it where it really belonged in chronological sequence. So i'm going to do the same for this story. I should really break out both into real separate entries. But, for now:
It turns out that Crossbones was an agent working for the Communist Red Skull. He led an assault on Arnim Zola's mountain fortress. Most of the men were repelled by Zola's defenses and/or Doughboy.
But Crossbones does well enough that the Red Skull is impressed. Crossbones is still captured, but Red Skull challenges him to a hand to hand fight (with Doughboy serving as the ring).
The Skull wins the fight (to be fair, Crossbones is tired from his assault on the castle), but the Skull offers to train him and make him his henchman.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 170,900. Single issue closest to filing date = 175,800.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: Quasar is wearing the costume he got in Quasar #18. Thor is beardless and therefore still merged with Eric Masterson. Regarding the placement of the USAgent back-up, he doesn't have to follow up on the revelations from the Legion of the Unliving immediately. Indeed it seems like it might have taken him a while to work up the nerve.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
Whats happening with John Walker is interesting because Gruenwald seems to be forgetting why he created the character in the first place. I think Walker was meant to show why Steve Rogers was the only man who could be Cap. Walker was created to be a jerk, bad example, zealot, bigot, etc all of which he proved to be good at. But somewhere along the way, Gruenwald fell in love with his character and started to like him (as many writers do with their creations) unfortunately defeating the entire reason for his existence. (What he did to a lesser extent with Diamondback).
Posted by: kveto | September 15, 2015 5:34 PM
And the main story just illustrates sadly how few legends a young country like the US has to draw upon. I mean "Uncle Sam"? Really scraping for anyone to include. An elder of the Universe devoted himself to collecting 5 characters? (No offense intended, please. just an observation.)
Posted by: kveto | September 15, 2015 5:43 PM
Fnord, I have issues with placing the US Agent story this late. The dialogue makes it clear that Left-Winger and Right-Winger have only been dead a week. So placing it this late means that they were alive at the time of Avengers West Coast 62. Your placement basically turns Left-Winger and Right-Winger into Schrodinger's Cat- they're alive as long as John doesn't check to see if they're dead but as soon as John checks, they're dead.
Posted by: Michael | September 15, 2015 6:55 PM
Michael, between me not taking temporal references too seriously and USAgent not necessarily being an expert as how long it takes bodies to rot (let alone being in a sound state of mind), i don't think it's worth cutting up the issue, which you know i prefer not to do.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 15, 2015 7:10 PM
The decision to make the first half of this G-rated was a tad odd.
While you have the kid-friendly lead of Cap in a Saturday morning cartoon meeting Paul Bunyan, you have a backup with US Agent digging up an incinerated corpse.
I guess they thought making the anniversary as general appeal friendly was a good idea, and that's why the lead was so hokey. But it didn't work. I had several non-Cap reading friends who picked up this issue (because, as many would say in the 90s, "it'll be worth something some day!") and they thought it was cheesy and wondered what I saw in the book.
Obviously, it had a different tone from stories, such as just a year prior, where Machete is gutting an old man to pull a Bloodstone from his stomach. It seemed like this was a fluke at the time of release, but it was a sign of the cheese to come. As I've said before, this is the perfect border between Gru's great first half and the embarrassing 2nd half to his run.
There are a few filler issues before Lim jumps ship, which are adequate, but completely forgettable rehash of earlier plots, then the bad 90s art comes and Fonzie straps on the water skis for the cornball Superia Stratagem.
The lead doesn't even make sense. Was Cap hallucinating the whole time? Was it an after effect of the ice? Instead of eating cake at a tame party (despite Hawkeye's boast), maybe the Avengers and crew should have advised him to seek help immediately.
Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2015 7:20 PM
It is interesting to look at Mark Gruenwald's writing in hindsight, and to also examine the various editorial pieces he wrote that explained his creative process and the rationales behind some of his decisions. I'm glad fnord has included excerpts from some of those in his various write-ups of both Captain America and Quasar.
Looking at all of this, especially Gruenwald's very old-fashioned approaches to the nature of heroism and his plot-over-character structure for writing stories, it is very apparent that his sensibilities were closely aligned with Silver Age superhero comic books.
If fact, I now find it a bit odd that Gruenwald spent his entire career at Marvel because his thinking and the tone of his work seem much more akin to DC Comics. I cannot help but think that he would have been very happy if he had stumbled across a time machine and traveled back to the late 1950s to become employed as an editor & writer at National Periodical Publications.
The main story in this 50th anniversary issue of Captain America is especially reminiscent of the material published by DC in the late 50s and early 60s.
Posted by: Ben Herman | September 15, 2015 7:32 PM
A lot of the attempted salvage of US Agent was due to his very vocal fanbase, who were sore and writing in to complain that he had been pushed out to bring Steve back.
I think Gruenwald was trying to give the people what they wanted, but it required a lot of excuse-making and near-retconning.
Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2015 7:34 PM
What... USAgent had fans? Really?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | September 15, 2015 9:02 PM
A disappointing anniversary that marked the second, bad half of Gruenwald's run. I think Gruenwald had run out of ideas at this point. He should have been taken off the title, and after recharging his batteries, he might have come back for a special run or something. But he was the Executive Editor at this point, so who was going to fire him? Jim Owlsley?
Gruenwald's Quasar run would actually improve in quality starting at this point.
Posted by: Chris | September 15, 2015 9:36 PM
Yes, Luis, the letters pages had quite few of them, oddly enough.
Some early 90s readers wanted a psycho Cap who killed his adversaries. Others felt sorry for Walker, and thought he should be given a second chance.
Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2015 10:08 PM
I agree that to some extent Gruenwald's run goes off the rails at this point, but I did like the subplot with AIM, Jack Flag and Free Spirit, and the usual revival of obscure characters. The loss of first Dwyer than Lim really hurt the comic.
Posted by: MikeCheyne | September 16, 2015 11:39 AM
Ironically, the Golden Age Father Time never gets a mention.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 17, 2015 2:53 PM
Gruenwald was always a little schizophrenic. On the one hand, he played up his silver age sensibilities in the heroes, but, on the other, you had things like the Watchdog issue or villains like Scourge and Machete killing everyone in sight.
Posted by: Bob | September 18, 2015 11:21 AM
Does Gruenwald continue writing this title because he can't find a writer to replace him. The editors had alienated the established writers. Gru couldn't find a long-term writer for Avengers until fellow editor Bob Harras took over. Editor-In-Chief Tom DeFalco wrote Thor and went on to write Fantastic Four. Was this because he couldn't find a writer to take over?
Posted by: Steven | September 18, 2015 1:13 PM
I tend to agree with Steven's theorizing that at this point Marvel editorial is increasingly alienating established writers and artists, who are choosing to work for DC or other comic companies rather than returning to Marvel to work on the main books, where they are subject to editorial whems.
Also, I agree that the poorly executed Father Time story is akin to a DC Silver Age story, which makes it an interesting contrast to the DeFalco-Frenz reselling the first meeting between Cap and Sgt. Fury, which is very much a Marvel Silver Age story. The distinctions between the two show what was revolutionary about Marvel in the 1960s, and unfortunately also show how much Marvel had lost that revolutionary edge by this time.
Posted by: Aaron Malchow | September 19, 2015 3:33 PM
Wait, Right Winger and Left Winger are weak enough to need care for the rest of their lives but they are too strong for the staff to prevent their suicides? I'm gonna go with a huh?
Notice how the one female facing away from us in the Avengers splash is the one with the least clothing on her behind. Can't imagine that's an accident.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 8, 2015 11:47 AM
Because of Comic Book Time, the main story here must be non-canonical these days, right? Because Cap's origin is still in WWII, so the 50th anniversary of Steve Rogers becoming Captain America would still be in 1991, but due to the sliding timescale, these days he would still have been in ice 24 years ago.
Posted by: Tuomas | December 9, 2015 4:23 AM
As Gruenwald would say, it takes place on AN anniversary, just not the 50th one.
Posted by: Michael | December 9, 2015 7:57 AM
And it just made Cap's Top 75 stories at #70. It'd be interesting to compare fnord's grades to how other people rank those stories, but to be fair, fnord's grades have to do with how a non-comic reader would find this, as opposed to devoted fans.
Posted by: Erik Beck | December 9, 2015 8:14 AM
Comments are now closed.
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