I was disappointed, before I moved “Down South” to only provide a cursory look at the career of our own Captain Britain in his fortieth year. It’s ironic that his longest story arc saw the Lion of London overshadowed by the USA’s own Sentinel of Liberty and his nemesis with the carmine cranium.
The other week, while exploring the graphic novel section of this very library in Giffnock, I picked up Marvel Masterworks Captain America volume 2. This collection reprints Cap’s solo adventures from the split book Tales of Suspense from the autumn of 1966 until the launch of Captain America 100 in the spring of 1968. I had read virtually all the stories in b/w reprints in The Titans, roughly forty years ago also. They can be gathered into six story arcs with one unconnected fill-in.
The Inconceivable Adaptoid: AIM’s secret weapon, the mimicking android attempts to steal Cap’s identity. cameos by Wanda and Pietro and Agent Axis of Invaders infamy. The Tumbler is a one-shot villain who faces off against the Adaptoid.
Tumbler is an acrobat-strongman who doesn’t have the comic foil qualities of Batroc but this was the oldest issue of ToS I ever had, so I have a fondness for him. He did return a couple of times in the 70s and 80s. The Adaptoid copies the powers of Goliath, the Wasp and Hawkeye to battle Cap and is next seen, cleverly, in combat with his mutant-mirroring counterpart, the Mimic.
The Blitzkrieg of Batroc/The Secret: the first story is panel after panel of combat with the Gallic Gamboler. I’d never seen this episode before, perhaps due to spotty distribution of The Titans; Batroc is a comic foil. The second half is a techno-thriller about a SHIELD agent in deep cover in the” Orient”.
Wanted: Captain America: a weird, off-key interlude by Roy Thomas and Jack Sparling. It reads like one of Thomas’ mid-Sixties off-days on X-Men.
If Bucky Lives: this is a dynamic arc by Gil Kane. Cap is lured into combat with colourful old Avengers foes, Swordsman and Power Man. This is a preamble to a ludicrous scheme by the Red Skull to use a plastic bubble to imprison and move New York City. En route, Cap is pitted against a Bucky-bot; Baron Strucker has a similar ploy in the very early 70s. I wonder why Kirby was off Cap for this period? What was he working on? The Inhumans?
If This Be Modok: this arc begins with the infamous conflict with AIM’s Mecho-Assassin which brought us the deathless scene below:
I think this story might be the first instance (of many) of Nick Fury faking his death. There is also a cameo by new Avenger Hercules and Wanda in her old Brotherhood outfit. Cap pursues Agent 13 to the submarine stronghold of Modok. In his brief first appearance, the freakish living weapon, in his plight, resembles tragic Kirby monsters Quasimodo or the Misfit (from Kamandi). Physically, Captain Victory’s Mr. Mind is like a benevolent Modok. During the course of this story, Cap’s feelings for Agent 13 grow in intensity, almost as great as his obsession with Bucky’s death in previous years.
To Be Reborn: Cap swears he has undertaken his last battle in order to be with Agent 13 but beret-wearing one-off The Sniper leads to Rogers rededicating himself to the role. The Sniper is in the vein of other Kirby gangland grotesques like The Monocle or Steel Hand. “Cap Quits” is a trope that will have a couple of outings, most notably in the Nomad stories of the 70s.
The Claws of the Panther/The Man who Lived Twice: this arc revives the Black Panther in a James Bond thriller about the revived Zemo and his orbiting solar weapon. It also leads in to the first Sixties issue of Cap’s own mag. Agent 13 impersonates the lethal Irma Kruhl ( what a Kirby name!) and her double agent role lends drama to Cap’s predicament.
Pay close attention for the secret of Zemo’s resurrection!
Cap offers his role in the Avengers to the kingly T’Challa. When the Panther returns, he will be much less feline and more like an African Daredevil. Syd Shores gives Kirby’s pencils a gritty, grainy quality but I prefer the blocky clarity of Joe Sinnott.
I really enjoyed this collection. Stan and Jack’s Cap is a compelling tragic hero on the edge of a breakdown: driven by guilt, yearning and frustration and doomed to a cycle of fighting resurrected fanatics who have adopted sci-fi technology, with only his physical prowess and wartime values.
Next, I’m going to read a collection of what I consider “my” FF- the Prisoners of Latveria/ Skrull Slavers era of 1969, when the Fantastic Four was probably my favourite comic.
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