Monday, April 25, 2005

CAPTAIN AMERICA #318 Marvel Comics, 1986



This issue kicks so much ass.

Captain America #318 was one of the ten thousand issues of the book written by Mark Gruenwald. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think he consistently wrote Captain America for nine or ten years. That’s insane. Nobody works on a book for that long these days. Okay, Dave Sim. And Erik Larsen. Anyway, it’s rare. Too me, Gruenwald’s Captain America is the definitive interpretation of the character. I'm a big Gruenwald fan. I’m not saying the man didn’t write any stinkers. Sure, nobody liked Cap-Wolf or the Superia Stratagem. But for the most part Gruenwald delivered old-fashioned adventure stories on a monthly basis that you wouldn’t hesitate letting your little nephew read. You never had to worry about Cap sodomizing somebody with a jackhammer. Yet.

This particular issue is part of the ongoing “Scourge of the Underworld” storyline; Captain America hunts a serial killer(s) who is slaying low-level supervillains with armor piercing bullets. After every murder, the disguised Scourge would always bust out with his tagline, “Justice is served.” If you were to ask why he said that, I’m guessing the answer would be: “ I thought it was just a cold-blooded thing to say to a motherfucker before you popped a cap in his ass.” Anyway, for months the Scourge killings were a subplot in Captain America and a few other books, I think. A disguised Scourge would miraculously show up out of nowhere and shoot some lame villain like Death Adder or Basilisk. The storyline reached a bloody crescendo when Scourge, disguised as a bartender, infiltrated a meeting of supervillains at The Bar With No Name and gunned them all down. The Scourge story allowed Marvel to get rid of some of their supervillainous deadwood – the body count included lame-ass villains like Turner D. Century, Cheetah, and Steeplejack. For a full list of Scourge’s victims, go here. I bet every geek was upset about at least one of Scourge’s killings: “Aww, man! They killed Hammer and Anvil! That’s bullshit!” Me, I was kind of pissed that they killed off Commander Kraken; I always liked him.

The issue begins with Death Adder of the Serpent Society crashing his Serpent Saucer or whatever in The Bronx. To make a long story short, he flags down a cab which happens to be driven by Scourge in disguise. Don’t ask me how Scourge managed to know to show up at that exact point in space and time, because I don’t know. Scourge pops a cap in Death Adder’s ass and says “Justice is served.”

Next we’re introduced to the roller-skating villain Blue Streak, who visits The Bar With No Name, an underground hang out for supervillains. There he chats with Firebrand, a lame Iron Man villain who is freaked out about the Scourge slayings. Firebrand is having a Lame Villains Club meeting at the Bar and wants to know if Blue Streak will come, and maybe bring a salad. Blue Streak rebuffs Firebrand – “I ain’t a joiner.” – and takes off.

For me, the best part of the comic is the part when Captain America, who is traveling “anywhere in this great old country I am needed” in his bad-ass van, needs to take a piss, so he pulls over at a rest stop and bumps into Blue Streak coming out of the john, whistling a merry tune. They’re both out of uniform, but Cap recognizes him. “Aren’t you Blue Streak?” Cap says. And then the fightin’ and chasin’ starts. I for one think that is brilliant, the urination thing. How many times have you read a superhero comic where the hero has to pee? Not only does Cap have to drain the main vein, a novelty in and of itself, but it’s actually important to the plot. Thank God that Cap drank that Thirsty-Two Ouncer earlier, otherwise he would have never bumped into Blue Streak in the first place!

Captain America and Blue Streak change into their respective costumes between panels and start fighting. Wisely, Blue Streak decides not to hang around and he takes off. Cap follows him: ON HIS FUCKING MOTORCYCLE!!! And check out Cap’s great new headgear – he’s got a Peter Fonda helmet with a visor.

Here’s a sample of the action. Imagine generic truck commercial rock when you read this:



Fortunately Cap damages one of Blue Streak’s jet boots, so he’s able to keep up with the villain. There are all manner of twists and turns in their pursuit, which I thought was handled pretty well, actually. Except for the part where Cap blocks a shot from Blue Streak’s gauntlet laser with the shield on his back while he’s riding his motorcycle – that’s not happening. Even Blue Streak comments on it: “How’d he do that? Deflected the beam with his shield strapped to his back!” Yeah, I don’t know either, Blue Streak.

The chase ends when Blue Streak fakes his death by making it look like he crashed through a guard rail and off a cliff. Captain America, being the nice guy that he is, climbs down the cliff to see if Blue Streak survived. I am sure by now that Cap has to piss very badly.

Up on the road, Blue Streak flags down a trucker – only it’s not a trucker, it’s Scourge in disguise, who just happens to be driving down this road at this exact time, I guess, looking for hitchhiking supervillains to kill. Blue Streak climbs up into the cab, oblivious to the danger, and the truck starts off down the road. Then, (and this is a fantastic sound effect) pumSPAK Justice is served, baby. Justice is served.

Hey, you know what else is served? Quality American superhero entertainment. You’re heart has become cold and dead if you can’t appreciate a little Captain America now and then.

19 comments:

Shane Bailey said...

I'm loving the site. Keep up the good work. I need to redo my linksbar soon and I'll be sure to add you to it.

Ian said...

Holy crap, I jsut bought this issue to fill up one of the holes in my Gruenwald Cap collection. I'm reading the Englehart/Buscema years now but I'm almost done. After that it'll be on to Gruenwald. I am, like yourself, quite the Gruenwald fan.

Anonymous said...

I think Gruenwald was on Captain America from issue #306 (Taking over from J. M. DeMatteis) all the way to issue #443, with only one fill-in. ONE! (Issue #423, by Rascally Roy Thomas). The series had its ups and downs, the ups being anything with Diamondback and Cap's relationship, and the downs being pretty much everything after Ron Lim left the book. But issue #371 still holds a special place in my heart. Plus, the series introduced me to Keiron Dwyer, the most kickass of kickingest-ass artists.

Dan Coyle said...

Er, wait, that was me, Dan Coyle, on that last comment.

When Diamonback showed up during Avengers Disassembled, got my heart all a-twitter.

David Campbell said...

I too loves me the Diamondback, particularly The Bloodstone Hunt with art by... Kieron Dwyer! I think...

Bill Reed said...

Hey, I loved Cap-Wolf!

Okay, I was five. But back then, it was awesome.

Shane Bailey said...

Doughboy ruled.

B2 said...

Evil Knievel, eat your heart out!

Woody! said...

I loved that era of Cap for many of the same reasons you mentioned: Scourge, the Serpent Society. Cap also just came in to a large portion and I loved to see how he spent it. All that cool gadgetry, the 1-800 hotline Hard to believe the title could get any better than that. But, it did.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Cap-Wolf was not that badf, but Gruenwald was ill served by the ever more crappy artists working on Captain America.

Martin Wisse

kelvingreen said...

So...er...did Cap ever get to go to the toilet, or has he been holding it in ever since?

Danny Sichel said...

The wonderful thing is that the streak calls Cap a "son of a bimbo".

m.dubberz said...

I started with issue 332 and was hooked ever since. I've worked to get all the gruenwald written Cap comics but still am far away..

I bought the essential captain america reprints as theres no way I'm dropping the cash for the original stan lee/jack kirby years (tales of suspesne through 120s of C.A)

anyway, nice blog. I was sad when i found out gruenwald had passed.

RIP

NiolK said...

pummSPAK. That is the single greatest sound effect in the entire history of comics. I'm changing my name to fucking "pummSPAK". Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I can’t appreciate Blue Streak being killed off. Wait, what? They brought him back in Heroes For Hire this year with no explanation. Nice.

Felicity said...

It's like the 1970s Captain America movies all over again.

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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