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Tales of Suspense 76
"The Gladiator, The Girl, and The Glory!"


Lettering: ARTIE SIMEK

(Originally Reviewed On 09/25/01)

On the cover, The Living Legend of World War II is driven backward by the force of Batroc The Leaper's La Savate Kick, while a frightened Sharon Carter hangs onto a crucial cylinder of Inferno 42, as background passersby watch this battle, as drawn by Jack "King" Kirby!

On the splash page, WHOOM! The dual kick of Batroc The Leaper has failed from keeping the brick wall entrance to SHIELD H.Q. from closing, while Captain America seeks to continue pursuit of the runaway agent, and chides him! (Holy Title Bout, Batman! What about the Gold Watch and Everything, Stan?)

Batroc bids Winghead to stand back for another kick, as Cap strains to pull the brick wall entrance apart... THOOM! Another couple of kicks and the bricks go tumbling down, as Cap concentrates on catching the girl, who is carrying a cylinder of Inferno 42 which begins to glow before an imminent explosive release! Batroc bows and asks Cap to go first, while Winghead knows that he's up to something and knows that he doesn't have enough time to wonder what, as he sees the cylinder continue to glow brighter, and mean doom for New York City! Sharon Carter sees Cap side by side with Batroc and wonders how this can be possible, and vows that the cylinder will never fall into their hands!

In the secret shelter building of SHIELD, Sharon (Say that three times fast... sheesh!) uses a device to make the floor beneath Cap and Batroc fall beneath their feet, with the Leaper chiding Winghead for not knowing of such a manuever, and Cap determined to end the chase! As Batroc continues to tumble, Cap has gotten hold, and tells him to do a back-flip before he hits bottom! Now alone, Cap is aware that the SHIELD agent believes she's keeping an experimental explosive from falling into enemy hands, but is unaware that it's been activated! Every moment she carries it, the effects of Inferno 42 seeps into her bloodstream! (Holy Claremont, Batman! Inferno 42 sounds like the umpteenth episode in a crossover nowadays!) When he catches up to her, Sharon is adamant to keep the cylinder away from him, but then faints from the effects!

Sharon Carter has been overcome by Inferno 42, while Cap stands over her and notes the resemblence between this mysterious girl and the one from his past. In a secret lair in New York City, a shadowy group waits for Batroc's return, protected within an armored fortress chamber! (Holy Juricich, Batman! Shed no tears for this group! They must have a comic book store on the side!) The Inferno 42 is to be placed within a receptacle for safe keeping, halting the detonation sequence, and their goal of gaining mastery of the world draws closer! The SHIELD Agent looks into Cap's eyes and now knows that tbe cylinder has been activated, and tells him to find a way from keeping Inferno 42 from detonating, while The Sentinel of Liberty struggles with the dilemma of staying with her... KRA-ASH! Batroc kicks upward through the floorboards...

Intent on getting the cylinder, he has returned, while Cap hurls his shield at The Leaper, who deftly kicks it aside, and is now determined to finish Cap off! Winghead delivers a solid punch to Batroc's solar plexus, but The Leaper still has enough wind to tell Cap that he will pay for such a blow, then delivers a dual kick to drive him through a window!

Beside the body of Sharon Carter, Batroc retrieves the cylinder of Inferno 42, then leaps through the window, already envisioning the reward he will reap from his mysterious employers, as he leaps through the city! Within the chamber, the shadowy group watch as Batroc joins them, with cylinder in hand, and the telltale glow which has them in danger. Eager for his payment, Batroc wishes to negotiate first, and the group wants the cylinder placed within the receptacle to stop the detonation...

The cylinder is soon sealed, and Batroc is praised for his actions, but The Leaper has money on his mind, a fact which strikes ill with his employers, who claim to have enough money that the million he is due is but a pittance! All turn to see Captain America make his entrance, as he insists the cylinder be handed over to him, and Batroc stares in disbelief at the man who he thought he had squashed like a bug, while Batroc's employers are less than pleased at these developments. Cap tells them that he was playing possum, then followed Batroc to the hide-out, while the employers demand that Batroc earn his money by killing Captain America! (Holy Regis, Batman! Is that the final answer?)

THOOM! Batroc's feet strike the nearby wall, for Cap has already dodged the blow, while the others race for the vacuum tube, in possession of the Inferno 42, as Batroc sees that they've also taken his money, as well, and his priorities have changed once again! Cap only knows that Batroc is responsible for an innocent girl about to die, and he delivers a solid blow with his shield while Batroc continues his tirade... BRANNGG!

Even though he's fighting with Batroc, Cap's top priority is to the fleeing men, who must be caught and punished, even as he sees that the Vernian layout of the hideout shows that these are more than the run of the mill spies, just as Batroc's legs encircle his windpipe! The next moment finds Cap using his own legs to drive his upper torso towards the nearest wall, with Batroc's skull taking the brunt of the blow... BA-KOW! While Cap strives to recuperate, Batroc prepares for another attack... SWOOOSSS... another kick which barely misses Winghead, but Cap manages to catch Batroc's foot and swings him while he's off-balance... SHOOOMM!

Even that fails to get through Batroc's head, as The Leaper takes his leave through a nearby wall, and with the Inferno 42 in other hands, he is determined to leave the city! Cap's thoughts immediate turn to the girl, and he heads off to learn what happened to her, remembering her face being similar to another he know in the past, and wondering if she has anything to do with this girl. The ambulance prepares to cart Sharon Carter off, and the attendeeds aren't too confident for her survival, with no known cure for Inferno 42 poisoning, and the girl congratulating him for switching the cylinder for a fake one. He watches the ambulance screaming down the street, and wonders if he's meant to lose everything he's held dear.

A truly kickin' cover by King Kirby!

John Romita provides the art for this story, having done work on Daredevil and soon on an amazing run on Spider-Man. Mr. Romita also did art for Cap in the 50's when the character was briefly revived.

Batroc would return with his own Brigade in the '70s, with Whirlwind and The Porcupine, then as an awkward ally for Cap and The Falcon against the menace of The Stranger (?), and in the '80s, Roger Stern and John Byrne would have The Leaper team-up with Mr. Hyde, then betray this partner by helping Cap beat him! In the '90s, Mark Gruenwald would have Batroc team up with Zaran and Machiste from the pages of Master of Kung-Fu.

The mysterious girl from Cap's past would be revealed as Peggy Carter, amnesiac sister to SHIELD Agent Sharon Carter in the '70s during Englehart's run, and her therapist would be none other than Dr. Faustus, himself!

Steve Chung
"The Gladiator, The Girl, and The Review!"