Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Paneled Goods: Captain America '86

Working on a stack of Captain America comics acquired at Comikaze, several important story developments popped up over the course of a half dozen issues from 1986.  The creative team of Writer Mark Gruenwald, Rough Penciler Paul Neary, Finishes by Joe Sinnott and Dennis Janke, Inker Al Williamson, Letterer Diana Albers, Colorist Ken Feduniewicz, Editor Mike Carlin and Editor In Chief Jim Shooter presided.

In January's #313, Cap's newly established national Hotline needs a full time staff as alter ego Steve Rogers' girlfriend Bernadette Rosenthal just can't handle the volume.  An anomaly sends Cap off to Montclair, New Jersey where he meets young Hiram "Ram" Riddley, a *Hacker who uses a *Modem to extract and correlate relevant information from Cap's line while sifting through pranks and police matters.  According to this issue, a Hacker is computer enthusiast while a Modem is a Device that links the computer to a telephone.  See how far we've come?

Meanwhile, The Serpent Society has a contract on MODOK(!), the Mental/Mobile/Mechanized Organism Designed Only for Killing and find him living in the ocean in a downed Advanced Idea Mechanics vessel.  Who hires them we don't know.  Petty criminal and future Captain America girlfriend Diamondback makes an early appearance here and can't get over how Jean-Claude Van Damme foxy Captain America is.  While MODOK uses his mind blasts and flying chair to fend off the Serpents, they gather in full force with Cobra, Anaconda, The Asp, Cottonmouth, Black Mamba, The Rattler, Death Adder and Sidewinder tracking him down at a shopping mall to carry out their contract.  Cap reaches him too late and the mentally powered, physically disabled tragic villain is seemingly killed by some poison laced talons...But the Shield Slinger does set up Ram and his friends as his secret assistants to be his network, sending him updates and leads.  As a bonus, there's a sweet special offer inside from Dorman's Cheese for a Spider-Man backpack!  Valued at $9.95, this 100% nylon backpack with reflective tape for nighttime safety is only $2.95 with 6 UPC symbols!  Order now!

Skipping ahead to May's #317, West Coast Avengers Hawkeye and Mockingbird show up, having been called to testify against villain Crossfire.  Outside the courthouse, a group of circus themed baddies known as The Death Throws, armed with flaming bowling pins, throwing knives and flying grenades, grab Crossfire before he's taken to trial.  Over in Brooklyn, Steven's squeeze Bernie is packing up, moving away to go to law school.  The two met 6 years earlier during Roger Stern and John Bryne's seminal 9 issue run in #247-#255 along with neighbors Joshua, a school teacher and Mike, a firefighter who later joins a violent watchdog group Cap takes on.  At the going away party, Steve busts a move and ends up break dancing before going off with Hawkeye to take on The Death Throws where they trade shield for bow and arrows.  Wouldn't you know that Cap is a pretty good shot.  Steve returns but the party is over and Bernie has left a note, essentially dumping him without saying goodbye.  Oof...

June's # 318 brings The Serpent Society back in as member Death Adder's serpent saucer malfunctions and he's forced to take a cab, it turns out to be a deadly ride as the driver turns around and shoots him through the front seat!  Thus begins a multi-issue crossover arc where a vigilante known as The Scourge is taking out low level supervillains with extreme prejudice.  Usually getting close to them in a non-threatening disguise then serving them a lead salad.  Steve ends up moving into Avengers Mansion with the help of Hercules and Namor the Submariner before they depart for an evening of maidens and mead.  The Wasp aka Jan van Dyne checks in with Steve who plans to hit America and travel wherever the ol' gale needs him.  The Wakanda Design Group under T'Challa (The Black Panther) soup up Cap's Chevy van and he's ready to hit the road, working as freelance artist and seeing, touching, feeling America like the masses on a roadtrip versus flying.  At The Bar With No Name, minor villains are getting paranoid and call a meeting after criminal comrades like Miracle Man, The Melter and Titania have all been whacked.  Tough talking Blue Streak ain't one for joining as he's the meanest mother on 8 wheels equipped with rocket skates and laser beam shooting wrist gun things.  He mixes it up with Cap but then gets picked up by a trucker who you guessed it, tells him it's Glock, Glock o'clock.

July's # 319 brings Cap to my home state to Cleveland, Ohio where he takes out Blacklash, letting everyone know he's not exclusive to New York and that all America is his stomping grounds.  The Scourge continues to off supervillain fools and The Serpent Society is mighty pissed, putting the word out to find the killer.  A hot tip sends Cap to Indiana where he runs into the young and shapely, magenta haired Diamondback once again.  And again, she's got the hots for him, bad.  So bad that she thinks a good influence like Cap could make her go straight after a life of trouble making, petty crime and as a diamond throwing, costumed crusader/criminal invited to join the Society.  Diamondback comes on strong but Cap ain't no one night stand kind of guy and when DB threatens to crash the serpent saucer they're flying in, Cap grabs a parachute, ready to jump out, calling her bluff as even a passionate night with his macho studliness isn't worth dying for.  Back at The Bar, the supervillains meeting is called to order as 18 crooks of various standing including Birdman, Commander Kraken and Hell Razor discuss how to protect themselves and stop The Scourge.  It's a moot point though as Scourge is already there, disguised as the bartender and mows the lawn, so to speak, as he guns down the entire room.

August's # 320 opens with Cap fighting Water Wizard on Lake Erie!  WW tells Cap he's scared for his life and about the meeting at The Bar.  A Cap Trap is set and the star spangled Avenger nabs Scourge, unmasking him to reveal some random ass dude who thinks the law is too lenient and that all his victims were convicted criminals who had it coming.  With his brand of vigilante justice, known of these cons would be back on the street in 3 months due to some court room or legal technicality.  As Cap hauls Scourge to his feet, a shot rings out and the killer of supervillains falls to his knees, killed by another anonymous vigilante serving up their own justice!

In a nice and light fun run, these issues highlight the fact that Cap doesn't have the greatest of rogues gallery but does impart character defining points like Bernie, Diamondback and his traveling across America that will soon become more important when he gives up the costumed mantle.

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