Captain America #179 (November 1974)(cover by Ron Wilson and Frank Giacoia)
"Slings and Arrows"
Steve Englehart-Sal Buscema/Vince Colletta
Doug: I didn't own this comic as a youngster, but a close friend of mine did. We were great pals, spending all our summer days reading comics, drawing, and playing Megos in his basement. Along the way we listened to AM radio and sang along with Wings, Elton John, and whatever one-hit wonders came our way (I'm looking at you, Carl Douglas, and your Kung fu Fighting). I'd missed the whole of the "Secret Empire" arc, but having the Cap Mego and having enjoyed some of the animated Tales of Suspense adventures on reruns of the Marvel Super-Heroes show, I was all-in to read this issue. Then, and especially now with my adult fixation with rubber mask reveals, it didn't disappoint.
Ah, the rubber mask. What is it about that corny comic convention that appeals to me? How about HOW INCREDIBLY STUPID IT IS?? Really... any "master of disguise" schtick is going to require a large helping of suspension of disbelief. But when some shmoe does it and gets away with it? No way. See this Man-Bat story if you don't believe me. How in the world does one obtain or create such a lifelike mask, only to later reveal something like an iron mask or a furry face, or even humongous bat-ears lurking beneath? The mind boggles. And that, I suppose, is why I like it -- for sheer lunacy. Zanier than our boy Bob Haney, that's for sure.
Sink your teeth into a 100-Word Review:
Just three issues removed from the fall-out of the Secret Empire adventure, Cap and Falc have split ways. Cap has stuck to his word of hanging up the shield, and he’s settling into a civilian life alongside his love, Sharon Carter (SHIELD’s Agent-13). But a new menace has attacked – the Golden Archer. A sun-hued relic seemingly from the age of Robin Hood, he attacks Cap multiple times. Subplots involve Falc trying to beat the Harlem mob, Cap telling Peggy Carter that they’re through, and more would-be fill-in Caps across the country. Cap finally bests the Archer, who turns out to really be…
The Good: Usually I begin by lauding the art team. I'll get to that in a moment or three. But what struck me as I read this was the pacing of the story, and its organization. Many authors are masters of the subplot (John Byrne comes to mind specifically). Here Steve Englehart gives us a whirlwind of topical points between the comic's 18 story pages. We see our main arc for four pages, then a Falcon vignette, back to Steve Rogers for one page, then to a biker gang whose leader wants to become the new Captain America. A page later we're back to Steve for five pages, then one page to see how it turned out for our wannabe shield-slinger. The book concludes with a five page climactic battle between Steve and the Golden Archer. It's nicely laid out, with each interlude serving to heighten suspense for what was really a pretty basic plot in the main tale.
Englehart chose some sort of old English form (which is certainly debatable, I'm sure) of speech for the Golden Archer. The "real" Golden Archer had actually appeared in Avengers #85 as part of the Squadron Supreme. His costume was different from what we see here; the next time we'll see the Archer, he will be in this same outfit. I liked the Archer's depiction here -- very much a swashbuckler, and the fact that he was stalking Cap and could turn up at any time was fun. In fact, the Archer seemed to know some of Steve Roger's habits, patterns of movement...
I was not enough of a regular Cap reader to make too much of a judgement on the Steve/Sharon/Peggy love triangle, but I will say that from a distance the Steve and Sharon pairing made more sense than the Steve and Peggy relationship. That being said, Steve seemed to sort of take advantage of his fountain of youth, trading in for a younger model. His prerogative of course, but the ditching of Peggy in this issue seemed cruel. Come to think of it, why is that in the "good" category? I guess because the relationship, any relationship, humanizes Cap -- he of the "duty first" devotion.
Although the Falcon's solo adventures were on hold for 90% of this issue, I really liked in this era that he got to be featured as his own guy. A solo series would have been an easy sell to me in the Bronze Age; I enjoyed his one-off in Marvel Premiere.
Lastly, the big reveal at the end of Hawkeye as the Golden Archer, rubber mask and all, was excellent. What a dopey scene. Sure enough -- ol' Hawk's mask popped right up into form, no mashing or flattening at all. It's just silly -- silly as a Silver Age DC -- but I love it. And I loved how Hawkeye threw some shade at Thor's Asgardian-speak.
The Bad: Wait, you say -- you didn't talk about the art. You are correct. I saved it for this space. Oh it isn't bad bad. In fact, it's really pretty consistent from what we'd seen throughout the "Secret Empire" arc. But for whatever reason, in this issue I am seeing Sal Buscema and I am seeing Vince Colletta. Not a conglomeration of the two, as in previous issues. Instead, I just see Sal's forms and Vinnie's feathery inks. There's no blending here. It's tough to put my finger on, and I don't know if you'll get the same vibe from the art samples provided (perhaps my best example is the full page scan at the top of the post). But if you use the link just above and check out some of the books from a few months prior, I think you'll see that Vinnie's inks were a little heavier in general. I just see all the featheriness that many of his detractors cry out about. So it's not awful. But I noticed. In my opinion, I shouldn't notice. I should see the combination, the sum of the parts, and it should be pleasing to me as an art gestalt. Tell me if I'm off base.
The Ugly: Nuthin'. Unless you thought Steve was a HUGE jerk to Peggy. Then you might be mad.
Overall this was another fun one. I have come to really enjoy most of the solo adventures of my favorite Avengers -- Cap, Iron Man, and Thor. There were some solid creators on those books in the Bronze Age. Sure, sometimes there was a little hit-and-miss, but more often than not one could certainly get their quarter's worth of fun. Makes me want to be a kid again and feel that as I stand in front of the drug stores shelves.
Happy Labor Day to our Stateside friends. Enjoy the holiday!