Captain America #171 (March 1974) (cover by John Romita)
Steve Englehart/Mike Friedrich-Sal Buscema/Vince Colletta
Doug: The plot, as they say, has thickened. When last we saw the Star-Spangled Avenger he'd been bested by some newcomer to the "hero" scene. A tough named Moonstone, possessing super strength, lasers in his fingers, and the power to disappear had whooped Cap but good. Quentin Harderman, leader of the Committee to Regain America's Principles (you know the acronym...), had been waging a smear campaign against our protagonist, with Cap definitely worse for the wear. As we open today's tale, the red, white, and blue Avenger has been in jail. In jail, until a team of commandos arrives to break him out.
Karen: Nothing quite says 'goon' like a bunch of guys dressed in white pants, yellow gloves, and plum -colored tops with attached skin-tight hoods.
Doug: The first guy, with the white stripe down the center of his headgear, looks like he's modeling a vintage football helmet!
Doug: Well, what to do, what to do. Cap has previously thought, and actually carried out, subversion of the law already in this story. But now -- talk about a breaking and entering! If Cap stays in jail, he's at Harderman's mercy. However, if he flees, he's definitely at Harderman's mercy, and will even moreso be persona non grata among the media outlets and John Q. Publics of Manhattan. It's a decision the Captain doesn't have to make, as author Mike Friedrich gets us inside the mind of the leader of the "Sanitation Unit" -- this is all a set-up, again engineered by C.R.A.P. When the guards arrive to quell the disturbance, it all breaks loose. But as the tide seems to turn toward the mission failing, the commandos set their guns for gas and drop everyone in the cell left unprepared. Cap is then spirited away by his "rescuers".
Karen: We're given a tiny bit of hope for Cap when the guards recognize that Cap is actually fighting his would-be rescuers. Although not much seems to come of it.
Doug: It's interesting that although there are certainly a lot of Quentin Harderman's machinations in this issue, "Q" himself does not appear.
Doug: Soon we see Cap begin to come to. But as the cobwebs clear, his ears tune in to what the Sanitation Unit is discussing amongst themselves. Talk about cat out of the bag! These dummies just run their mouths like it's their jobs, all the details of the mission flying around the darkened alley in which they've gathered. Cap becomes coherent enough to discern what he needs to know, and when the moment seems right -- SMAK! Cap fights with fury, tossing the S.U. men aside with ease. His super-strength allowed him to recover from the gas quickly, and it allows him to tear through these men without breathing hard. When he gets down to the last one, he grabs the man and begins to interrogate him; however, Cap's threats cause the guy to faint. So there Cap stands, on the run -- a fugitive with a name he seemingly cannot clear.
Karen: These really are a careless lot. You have to wonder about the quality of this CRAP organization.Cap at least gets an address out of the one guy before he passes out like a weenie. Let's face it, they'd never make it in HYDRA.
Doug: Across the Atlantic Ocean, we find the other star of our mag -- Sam Wilson, the Falcon. If you remember, Falc and his lady, Leila, had flown to Wakanda so that the Black Panther could use his technology to grant the Falcon the enhanced abilities he so craved. However, as Leila was being a pain-in-the-butt, T'Challa had arranged for her to fly to Lagos for a big-city field trip. Leila and her Wakandan guards had run afoul of a Harlem hood name Stoneface, whose thugs ended up kidnapping the Falcon's woman. Back in the kingdom, T'Challa had gotten word of the trouble just as Sam was trying on the new wings. So now -- time to kick some tail! The heroes arrive in Lagos, where they immediately hook up with one of T'Challa's spies. It's an uncomfortable exchange, as the spy addresses the Panther as "my Chieftain" and T'Challa replies, "my subject". Sheesh -- manorialism, feudalism, what have you? Anyway, they've got the drop on Stoneface's hideout, so the good guys rally quickly. T'Challa takes the direct approach, smashing through the door. Falc comes flying through the window, but we immediately find that the wings aren't for flying -- they're for gliding! And that means when the air currents change, so does the flight path! One superhero pile-up, coming up!
Karen: Giving the Falcon wings was a great idea -it only made sense for the character. Restricting him to gliding was however a terrible limitation which seemed to be giving with one hand and taking away with the other. It just made no sense. Why do this to the character? It was almost as if someone were pulling a joke, one that was not at all funny. "Sure, we'll let you fly like the other super-heroes Falcon, but uh, you're going to have to climb streetlamps first." It was demeaning and unnecessary. Thankfully it was abandoned at some point and the man could just fly!
Doug: I really like the Falcon's costume, and of course the wings just really make it a finished, polished look. However, I do wish they'd have kept the look of the falconry gauntlets rather than switching to just plain white gloves.
Doug: Stoneface and his goons can't believe their good fortune. In fact, they're so overwhelmed that their brains segue into "stupid super-baddie" mode. Rather than kill them on the spot, Stoneface wants to make a big production of it. So, it's hauling two 225 pound superheroes down the stairs and into the limousines, driving them to the shoreline, and pushing them to the precipice. And after a little posturing, the Panther is pushed over the edge! Seconds later, so is the Falcon. Stoneface marvels at the advantageous turn of events, and then thinks of Leila. But the Falcon has other plans. Remembering T'Challa's explanation of the working of the wings, Falc thinks that since the microcircuits in the wings are directly wired to his brain, he concentrates in a desperate effort to make himself fly. And you know what? That power of positive thinking is something else! Of course he saves his benefactor. Now it's go-time, and the heroes make pretty short work of their nemeses. Leila jumps into Falc's arms -- she tells him he wanted something to make him closer to Cap's level, and boy did he get it!
Karen: Thank goodness that's over with. Let's face it, Stoneface is a cretin and it shouldn't take the Panther and the Falcon more than a few minutes to whup his gang and send them off crying. The scene at the cliff with Falcon having his epiphany was nice. But let's get Sam back to the big city!
Doug: T'Challa sends a ship back to New York with Sam and Leila aboard. We can only speculate what happened in the backseat of that craft... Upon dropping Leila off at the apartment, Sam decides to take to the air and find Redwing. The two share a flight (wonder what the bird thought of it?), and then Sam decides to head to his social work office and see if Steve Rogers is home. Well, he's not -- but Iron Man is! The Golden Avenger relates the events of the past few days, and of the serious nature of Cap's disappearance. Falc pledges to bring Cap in -- he just needs a couple of hours. IM agrees, and with a line that further makes the Civil War debacle all the more stupid, Tony Stark thinks to himself, "...I wish you luck! This country can't afford to have a great symbol like Cap be destroyed!" Hrmph. Guess he forgot that later on.
Karen: Leila is obviously not happy that Falcon prioritizes his spending time with Cap over her. Sal has done a nice job with her expressions on the last few pages, even if I can't stand the woman! The scene with Iron Man and Falcon is interesting. I do have to wonder why it took so long for the Falcon to wind up in the Avengers. I wasn't a fan of the way he was brought in, but I guess that was the point. I can't recall if he had been offered membership before. Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked. Iron Man's recognition of Falc as Cap's closest friend is worth noting and I think is probably accurate for this time period.
Doug: We cut to Cap, closing in on a storefront labeled "The Quentin Co." We have it figured out, but ol' Cap's a little dense. He gets it soon enough, and upon preparing to enter the building is greeted by his partner, a step ahead. Falc asks Cap how it's going to go, and Cap greets him warmly. But Cap seems to sidestep the real issues. Falc says he knows what's gone down, and then gets a rehash of the past several days' events straight from the man. As the two plot their next move, they're interrupted by a threatening voice from above, a voice that says the conversation has been taped and that the Falcon will be proved to be an accomplice of the fugitive Captain America! It's Moonstone, and two heroes don't seem to bother him. Of course Sam cannot wait to prove himself, and rashly flies up to meet Moonstone. But the villain leaps away, gets himself into an offensive position and then uses his lasers to drop the Falcon from the sky. On the ground Cap maneuvers into position to catch is friend, but while he attempts to assess Falc's injuries Moonstone attacks from behind and grabs Cap's shoulders -- while using his laser powers in a direct hit! Lights out!
Karen: These villains just love to talk about their secret plans! How about Moonstone turning off the recorder so he can admit that he killed the Tumbler and is working with Harderman to destroy Cap? He just takes so much pleasure in that! That boy's not right in the head....
Doug: This issue was less set-up and much more "getting down to business". I really enjoyed the Falcon/Black Panther partnership and would have liked to have seen more of it. It's too bad that later on, when Henry Peter Gyrich played his Affirmative Action card on the Avengers that BP and Falc didn't end up on the roster at the same time. A few buddy stories akin to the Beast and Wonder Man might have been fun! Sal was just Sal... I know I always say that, but the man is just so darned steady! As we've now grown used to Vinnie Colletta on the inks over the past two issues, he's not really bothering me. You can look at a page and immediately know that Vinnie's on the job, but it's by no means bad work. I don't think he's necessarily a great match for Sal, but Vinnie's feathery lines do seem somewhat comfortable. Overall, the series has maintained its momentum, and I know that if I'd been reading this 40 years ago I'd have been counting those thirty days to the next issue.
Karen: This was one of the issues I missed when I was buying the series as a kid, so it was only years later that I got to see the Falcon's first flight. Still, I was able to follow the general storyline despite missing issues here or there. All in all, this issue keeps things moving but I don't feel it is as pivotal as others. But there's a lot more to come!
Karen has joined the ranks of podcasters along with her friends Larry and Bob on the Planet 8 podcast. Click on the image to hear them explore all things geek!
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On Sunday, 4/23/17, Martinex1, Doug, and Redartz gathered for a day of fun at C2E2 in Chicago. It was great to finally meet in person after years of online cameraderie.
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Karen and Doug met on the Avengers Assemble! message board back in September 2006. On June 16 2009 they went live with the Bronze Age Babies blog, sharing their love for 1970s and '80s pop culture with readers who happen by each day. You'll find conversations on comics, TV, music, movies, toys, food... just about anything that evokes memories of our beloved pasts!
Doug is a high school social science teacher and department chairman living south of Chicago; he also does contract work for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is married with two adult sons, also both married.
Karen originally hails from California and now works in scientific research/writing in the Phoenix area. She often contributes articles to Back Issue magazine. She is married. She hangs out with Joe Biden occasionally.
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BI #44 is available for digital download and in print. I've read Karen's article on reader reaction to Gerry Conway's ASM #121-122, and it's excellent. This entire magazine was fun! -- Doug
Back Issue #45
As if Karen's work on Spidey in the Bronze Age wasn't awesome enough, she's at it again with a look at the romance of the Vision and the Scarlet Witch in Back Issue's "Odd Couples" issue -- from TwoMorrows!
Karen's talking the Mighty Thor in the Bronze Age!
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