The responsible parties: writer Mark Gruenwald, artists Paul Neary and Dennis Janke, and, as always, editor-in-chief/brainchild Jim Shooter.
Folks, I’m not going to say this very often during this series of reviews, but not only does Captain America #308 manage to do almost everything a good crossover tie-in comic should do, it does so well. Don’t believe me? Then let us proceed.
Our issue begins shortly after Secret Wars 2 #1 ended, with our hero still in Los Angeles, stopping by the new West Coast Avengers compound for a visit. The first several pages manage to (a) show off Cap’s fighting skills as he faces off against the compound’s security measures, while he (b) recaps the last several rather busy days of his life, in the context of figuring out what day it is.
So, right off the bat we know exactly who and what Captain America is. New readers get caught up with what’s been happening, regular readers get a push to go check out the big crossover, and anyone who’s already reading both get a fun action sequence to keep from getting annoyed by the recaps. And why, exactly, does he decide to visit these fine folks?
It’s an ad for the upcoming West Coast Avengers series! This is almost as awesome as it is completely shameless!
Now that Cap’s alone, it’s time to interrupt his attempt to get back to New York with the arrival of a new villain, the amazing Armadillo!
No picture for this guy. First, he’s really silly looking, and second, I don’t want to risk going beyond Fair Use. Suffice to say, he’s got the origin that Paul Dini would later steal for the Animated version of Mr. Freeze. Except instead of being a brilliant scientist, he’s an ex-con determined to fly right. And instead of accidentally turning himself into a super-villain, he has it done to him by the only doctor who claims to be able to heal his ailing wife: the rather deliberately named Karl Malus.
Despite being super-strong, he’s no match for Captain America and the previously established Avengers compound defenses. Armadillo was sent out to retrieve Goliath’s inert body for Malus, but the vial of shrinking gas he was sent with broke during the fight. So Cap sends him back to the good doctor for a fresh batch (by the way, we’re not told if it’s Pym particles or not), and follows.
What transpires would have been a third action sequence, except we’re running out of issue, and Captain America convinces Armadillo that fighting in Malus’s lab would put his wife at risk. Since the Armadillo is a decent guy at heart, he listens to reason, and agrees to keep Malus from escaping while Cap goes to contact the proper authorities. Including some doctors that will do more for his wife besides keep her hostage to ensure his cooperation.
I’m sure we’ve seen the last of him.
Plus, there’s a couple of panels establishing that Cap’s roommate Jack has left their apartment, and a couple of pages devoted to the formation of the Serpent Society, a band of snake-themed villains that will pop up time and again throughout the remainder of Gruenwald’s run. All of which is very exciting, but none of which has anything to do with the crossover this comic is allegedly part of. Fortunately, the invisible/glowing figure that’s been popping up in the background periodically turns out to be the Beyonder. He’s been watching Cap since the end of Secret Wars 2 #1 (which means that issue of New Mutants really doesn’t fit), and he’s impressed enough with what he sees to do, well, this:
It should be noted for the record that at no time in this issue does Cap take off his mask, so the Beyonder knowing Steve Rogers’s hair color should be seen as another example of his phenomenal cosmic powers.
Like I said above, this is a legitimately good comic book story. It acknowledges the crossover, even moving the story forward a bit. Various ongoing subplots manage to move forward as well. The fight scenes are clearly told, and even if the villain of the piece is silly, one gets the feeling that was done on purpose, to help keep him sympathetic.Unfortunately, this is the only issue of Captain America we’re getting in this beast of a book. Up next: the X-Men.