Characters Appearing: Captain America, Dr. Doom, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Machinesmith, Sharon Carter, Ulysses Chapman
Captain America #450-453
Issue(s): Captain America #450, Captain America #451, Captain America #452, Captain America #453
Bill Clinton follows in Ronald Reagan's footsteps and strips Captain America of his uniform once again. Typical Neolib.
This time it's for the very understandably reason that Captain America recently teamed-up with the Red Skull to attack a military research facility.
But it's more than that. It's known that Captain America recently "died". And, subsequently, Machinesmith has been acting on information that he only could have gotten from Cap. So the implication is that Cap traded secrets for his cure.
He's not only stripped of his title, he's exiled and sent to London.
Sharon Carter joins him, hoping to help him clear his name. But first Cap has to shake himself out of a funk.
She gives him a new costume to cheer him up.
And also a plasma shield. Provided by "the rat".
Cap and Sharon head to "Moldavia", where Machinesmith has constructed the Argus canon that he learned about from Cap (the assumption is from reading the electrical impulses in Cap's brain). But on the way they are attacked by Machinesmith's armored goons.
They lead the goons to a US army base, where the goons are captured. And Cap and Sharon steal a plane to get the rest of the way to Moldavia. And also to act as a target for the Argus canon, so that they can locate it.
They survive the cannon shot and fight their way through Moldavia, fighting Moldavian soldiers and fighting with each other about tactics (Sharon doesn't like Cap's recklessness, Cap insists Sharon not shoot to kill).
They wind up getting caught by Machinesmith.
Machinesmith has a coin with all of Cap's memories imprinted on it. He uses some of the knowledge to remotely sabotage the SHIELD helicarrier, and he's also got one of his body's in the proximity of the president.
Cap deals with the local copies of Machinesmith, and then assigns Sharon to deal with the Helicarrier while he stops Machinesmith from assassinating the president. While Sharon is de-hacking the Helicarrier, we see her calling upon knowledge that he learned from Jasper Sitwell, Ultron, and Micro.
Meanwhile, to get back to the US, Cap heads to Latveria to enlist the help of Dr. Doom. We're definitely going with the "Latverians live in absolute fear of Doom" interpretation, not "Dr. Doom is actually an effective ruler and his people genuinely love him".
We're also at a point where i feel like Dr. Doom is a bit defanged; he's constantly helping heroes out.
I think it started with Infinity Gauntlet, where it was cool to see him work with the heroes. And it's cool to see him agree to help Cap here too! I just feel like this will be happening more and more. Meanwhile, the fact that Doom rules his country with total terror is just a thing that heroes kind of live with (until Bendis' Secret War, anyway).
As for Machinesmith, his motivations are closer to Ultron than i've seen from him before.
Cap of course gets back to Washington in time to stop him...
...and all is forgiven.
At this point, Steve Rogers giving up/losing his Captain America identity is more of a tradition than an innovative story, but this was done well, and at 4 issues it's concise enough that it doesn't feel like a huge retread of the Gruenwald version or anything.
Garney's art is great. There's sometimes a problem with layouting; in the conversation with Dr. Doom, spread out over a page and a half, it was sometimes difficult to tell which order to read the panels in. But in terms of delivering action, and also quieter moments like Cap's brooding, it's nice. A departure from the static splash pages of the Image artists.
There's definitely a more serious ("realistic") tone to the Waid/Garney run compared to Gruenwald's Serpents and other fun comic book stuff, and i think that was actually alienating to some readers. But the general consensus - which i agree with - is that the Cap series is at a high point here. I'd even say it's rivaling Hulk for best book of the year (it helps that the Hulk series has gotten a bit weird at this point). So OF COURSE we're one issue away from the book being canceled and replaced with a new series by... Rob Liefeld?!?
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Cap and the Red Skull's invasion of the military base from issue #447 is said to have happened "eight days ago". Next issue is an epilogue to this story and should probably come soon afterwards.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
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