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Captain America 176
"Captain America Must Die!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND August, 1974

(Originally Reviewed On 9/13/01)

STEVE ENGLEHART: Author SAL BUSCEMA: Artist VINNIE COLETTA: Inks ARTIE SIMEK: Letterer L. LESSMANN: Colorist ROY THOMAS: Editor

On the cover, The Mighty Thor counsels Steve Rogers to reconsider his actions, as The Falcon, Sharon Carter, and Iron Man watch him drop his shield and uniform, as Steve intends to renounce his Captain America identity -- forever! (Holy Re-Cap, Batman! Cover by John Romita Sr.)

On the splash page, The Living Legend of World War II screams at the top of his lungs that "Captain America Must Die!" as the blurbs tell the reader that they may have read such things before, but for the first time we hear it from The Sentinel of Liberty, himself, and when the character of Cap is to be discussed years later, this will be among those mentioned. (Holy Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, Batman!)

The words are repeated under his breath, as Cap knows that although others have tried to bring it about, only he can make it so, but even he wonders if he has the right or the guts to destroy a symbol, but in his heart he believes himself not to be a legend, but a man! In the past, Steve Rogers was a scrawny kid, just out of high school, who was born and raised in Manhattan, who made it a point to view the newsreels, and who knew that events abroad were also having their effects being felt on American soil. Knowing that he needed to do his duty, eighteen-year old Steve Rogers intended to become a soldier, but was rejected for being too frail for military service.

The recruiter regrets that the young man was not accepted and that a boy who is not in uniform will have a hard time, while Steve continues to insist that he'll do anything to serve, pleas which are overheard by an officer, who sees in Rogers that he is sincere about serving his country and makes an unusual offer, to which Steve eagerly accepts, determined to fight for his country, and accepts becoming a volunteer in an experiment. Having expected to continue his insistence, Steve remembers when he was taken to a curio shop and the elderly woman behind the counter was not who she seemed, as she continued to dust the counter, while holding a weapon beneath. As if in a movie, Steve Rogers is the main player, and his audience are high-ranking officials who watch in silence.

As he relaxes on the table, Steve is assured by the scientist conducting the experiment that he will most certainly play an active role for America, and the scientist known as Professor Reinstein injects him with what he calls the Super-Soldier Serum, then bombards the frail youth with Vita-Rays, and young Rogers feels as if he is being reborn, while the scientist sees that he is growing, becoming stronger, as power begins to course through this super-soldier, but there are other hands at work...

The newly-transformed Steve Rogers steps off the table, as Professor Reinstein tells him that he's been improved both physically and mentally, and that he is to be the first of many who will thwart spies and saboteurs, to be known as Captain America, and who will be among those to defend the country's shores. A shot cuts off the professor's words and his dreams, as Steve turns and sees the enemy agent who has fired the fatal shot, and with one punch, Rogers sends the killer into an electrical panel, where he is instantly turned to ashes. Steve Rogers is now the only example of Professor Reinstein's work and the fight for America will be taken up by Captain America!

From fighting Nazis, to fighting The Red Skull alongside Bucky Barnes, to spending years in suspended animation, and to be revived by Earth's Mightiest Heroes, joining as one of their number, making new friends and partners in this new decade, only to see the identity of the man who concealed his features under the mask of Number One of The Secret Empire! (Great double-pager by Sal Buscema)

In the decade of The Seventies, Cap has seen the country immersed in scandals and greeted by meaningless words, all the things he had seen as a young man in the newsreels, just as The God of Thunder makes an entrance... In Avengers Mansion, The Mighty Thor has heeded the lightning and has sensed Captain America's plight, and would have words with him. To The Asgardian, there is no more glorious thing than to do battle, and for Captain America, it is what makes his identity, to fight for the right with the blood pulsing in one's veins, and one's abilities used to ensure survival as The Avengers, to be fully alive and fight evil in its many forms. The man tells his fellow Avenger that he is unsure, having been revived into this new age, and wonders if nobility still has a place, and on Earth, things are not as simple as they are across the Rainbow Bridge of Asgard.

Thor knows that Cap must face this inner battle on his own and let's him know that his friendship is there is needed, while Captain America wonders how he can be considered when he stole the electron-gyro (Cap #173) and that he may no longer be worthy of the name. It has been a long time since the early days when he relished his foes' deaths, and The Golden Avenger is next to greet him, offering some advice to his troubled teammate. As Iron Man sees it, very few on the world are as fortunate as they are and there is an obligation to use their abilities for the good of mankind. When The Wasp needed a doctor to save her life, it was the two of them who fought underground to rescue him, and one wonders what if they weren't around to do so, or in the days of World War II when soldiers endured the weapons of their Axis foes, who was it who made short work of the death-dealing ray guns which even the allies could not face?

During his career, Captain America has served as an example by aiding in raising funds for charity, but Cap reminds Shell-Head that although he has strived to help his fellow man, many of them turned against him and accepted the lies generated by The Secret Empire in their frame to make him appear to be a vigilante (Cap #165-#175) As time went on, it was taken for granted that he would alway be there to fight on their behalf, but as their reactions would indicate, it would have little meaning for those who doubted in him, but Iron Man wonders if Cap has lost, as well. The Falcon makes a dramatic entrance and greets his partner, demanding to know why Cap left Washington D.C. without telling anyone where he went, and the startling news about him wanting to quit!

Peggy and Sharon Carter also arrive, having been contacted by The Falcon, and Captain America tells them that even though The Falcon was by his side in Washington, there were some things that even he can't divulge, a secret which the authorities kept quiet, too. The Falcon wonders no matter what Cap saw, it couldn't be the reason to drive his partner to quit since he is the heart of the team, and recalls how they first met on the Island of The Exiles (Cap #117), but he wasn't scared, having helped Sam Wilson and Redwing learn combat skills and acrobatics in order to fight side-by-side. Before leaving the island, Sam Wilson found himself molded into the kind of man he always wanted to be, despite the personal problems Cap had at the time, a moment that he will always remember.

The Falcon has been proud to fight by his side and although Cap can't tell him what he saw inside the White House, The Falcon cannot express the thrill it was to fight against Diamondhead (Cap #126), then becoming a permanent partner, fighting the menace of Modok in Harlem (Cap #133), and Stone-Face was the next foe to fall (Cap #134). Both are meant to be heroes, to serve as public example of what is right, and Sam Wilson knows that he has helped to inspire those in his community as The Falcon.

He knows that just as they can inspire Harlem, Captain America can lead the people of the country, and Cap remembers how he was innocent of the charges brought against him, and how others who were supposed to be examples of what's right were not, as well as how anyone can trust "heroes" anymore, how hero-worship may do more harm than good. To The Falcon, if good man do nothing, evil will flourish, and knows that folks want heroes, and insists that he give them Captain America! Peggy Carter approaches him and asks Cap if he's taken leave of his senses, for America is the greatest country on the Earth, even though there's been scandals, but they have been exposed, showing that there's nothing wrong with the citizens of the country, and tells him that he's much more than an example, he's a symbol of the country, all that it has given to light the torch of liberty (Holy Isabella/Ingersoll, Batman!) throughout the world.

In the years, the spirit of freedom has not been forgotten and continues, having had many of its children paying the ultimate price for this sacred trust, a concept which is larger than Peggy or Cap, and it is a symbol which only he represents! Sharon had told her about how the 1950's Captain America strove to usurp his identity, and how he fought mightily to retain it, and now Cap is ready to give it up? (Cap #153-#156). The name of Captain America differs from those, such as Mr. Fantastic or Daredevil. It is Captain America! "CAPTAIN AMERICA!" Words which have meaning.

Many super-heroes fight crime, but only he fights for the United States of America, but Cap sees a problem with the argument, how America is no longer just the one entity it was when he first took the name, and how there was a time when the country fought against a single foe, with all its people behind it, but now the country has different goals, its citizens have their own dreams, some which contradict others, and in this land, each wishes to do, think what they want to think, as it should be and what makes America great! When the citizens of America look to him, which America is he supposed to represent, to those who came from other countries?

Cap wants to be alone and his friends agree, just as The Vision arrives through the wall, to have a word with The Star-Spangled Avenger. Knowing his friend's troubles, The Synthezoid places his hand on Cap's shoulder and simply asks how Captain America can turn away from a life of adventure, then takes his leave, leaving Sharon Carter to offer her support either way, having fallen in love with the man beneath the mask, and if Captain America should never be seen again, she would still have the man, and as Cap begins to speak, she draws nearer and they kiss.

Both hold hands, then she prepares to take her leave, their eyes still on one another, knowing that when she leaves, he will have to make a decision. Having heard all the arguments, he realizes that they were right in their own way, but they have missed the main point, how he was created in 1941 by the government to serve as their agent in protecting the country, and as time passed, he did his best, having done things that he was not proud of, but he always strived to serve his country, and now he has learned that his country was only serving itself! A revelation which he finds incomprehensible. Everything which comes next depends on the events of the past...

He enters and sees his friends waiting for him, for the decision he makes will also have an effect on the world, as he is the one who must decide if Captain America will live or die, and he has seen everything he has fought for become a total sham. They listen as he tells them that he's wondered if Captain America must die, if he had the strength of his convictions to make the decision, and he has.

A most momentous moment in the life of Steve Rogers and Captain America.

The splash page by Sal Buscema and Vinnie Colleta captures Cap's anguish at making the fateful decision, as well as echoing emotions which are floating around the country at this time.

Even The Living Legend of World War II can find himself at a loss, and recall how he came to be, how his sense of duty and obligation in the darkest of days.

A sense of helplessness gripped Steve Rogers, prior to becoming Captain America in the experiment, which would transform him into a fighting machine, whose creator would die, and who would fight to avenge injustice because it is the right thing to do.

Even a man who has led a career as diverse as Captain America cannot be unfazed, and takes time to reflect on how he came to such a decision.

The world of man would seem to differ to that of gods, and who's to say which struggles are yet to come.

Even he has come under scrutiny, as those who were duped by The Secret Empire were led to believe that he's gone bad.

It was later revealed that The Red Skull had used the Cosmic Cube to turn "Snap" Wilson into the kind of man who'd become Cap's partner, an ideal pawn to betray him, but Sam Wilson was more inspired by the character of Steve Rogers.

In each, the other sees the potential to do good for the world, and to inspire others, especially children, who admire the colorfully-clad heroes. To make a difference.

The question of what makes a hero and how they are perceived is discussed by Cap and Falc.

It is about the fighting spirit of both America and Captain America, what each represents, and should represent.

Cap, as written by Englehart, recognizes how time has changed since the forties, and how the make-up of the United States has changed, and how the face of the citizenry are united in the desire for freedom, one which I'm sure they'd recognize as common ground in the form of Captain America.

This Review Is Dedicated To Tony Isabella and Bob Ingersoll Who Have Brought Captain America And The Falcon Together Again And Who Have Kept Liberty's Torch Burning

God Bless And Take Care Of Those You Love

Steve Chung
"Captain America Must Be Reviewed!"