Monday, April 21, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA #248

"DRAGON MAN!"
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Big Guy: Jim Shooter

The Plot: As Captain America and SHIELD examine the Strucker robot's body at Ft. Dix, the robot explodes, releasing an airborne data pod that returns to Machinesmith with telemetry on Cap. Machinesmith then activates his recent acquisition -- the robotic organism called Dragon Man -- and sends it, along with the data pod, to find and kill Captain America.

Cap, as Steve Rogers, has just finished dinner with his neighbors when he spies Dragon Man approaching their building. He leaves and changes into costume, battling Dragon Man on the roof. The monster proves too much for Cap to handle and soon has the star-spangled sentinel in its clutches, about to deal the death blow.

Continuity Notes: The issue begins shortly after last issue's events, and chronicles the remainder of that same day. As he examines the Strucker robot, SHIELD's armorer, Sydney "The Gaffer" Levine, declares it the most advanced artificial being he's ever encountered.


Cap calls Nick Fury out on his recent attempt, as seen in IRON MAN #119 - 129, to take control of Stark International on behalf of the U.S. government. Fury reveals he is none too proud of his role in the failed takeover.


As Steve Rogers, Cap spends the day seeking freelance art assignments. This seems like a good time to note that I personally have never been keen on Captain America having a civilian career. He should be paid enough by the Avengers that Captain America can be his only job. Worrying about employment and/or finances works for Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, but not for Captain America.


At a dinner gathering with his neighbors Mike Farrell and Josh Cooper, Steve is introduced to Mike's old college "buddy", Bernadette "Bernie" Rosenthal, who has just moved into the building and is immediately set up by Stern as our hero's new potential romantic interest.


While activating Dragon Man, Machinesmith makes some cryptic comments about his own humanity. Narration notes that Dragon Man was last active in FANTASTIC FOUR #135. Additionally, Cap recognizes Dragon Man from the Avengers' files, due to the creature battling Hercules in AVENGERS #42.


Josh once again attempts and fails to give Steve the letter he received last issue.

My Thoughts: It's a sub-plot-heavy issue, which means I pretty much automatically like it regardless of the quality of the content. And since it's a Roger Stern sub-plot issue, the content is almost automatically excellent -- so there's pretty much no way I can dislike this issue from a writing standpoint. Add in art by John Byrne, and you definitely have a winner.

As noted above, I'm not a fan of Steve Rogers having a career -- I'm barely a fan of him having a personal life, preferring him to be Captain America 24/7, with the Avengers as his primary social circle/supporting cast, and SHIELD agents or reformed villainesses as his love interests -- but Stern handles it all well, so I can't complain. I just feel that this sort of thing is better suited, again as I said above, to the likes of Spider-Man. It feels too pedestrian, too common for a Living Legend to deal with. Which may be the point -- relatable heroes, feet of clay, and all that -- but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

So I guess I have a love/dislike relationship with this issue? The content is great, I just don't think it's great for Captain America. But if it's a fun read, I can't complain too much. And my bizarre fetish for ultra-compressed timelines is tickled here, as last issue was "this morning", this issue covers "today" and "this evening", and we're set for next issue to take us through "tonight". I swear, sometimes I think I'd be happy if someone published a comic that was just panel after panel of pages from an appointment book.

(This may or may not be a good time to admit that when I last gamemastered a superhero roleplaying game a few years back, I actually kept a calendar chronicling exactly when every event occurred. I think we played something like 30 adventure sessions over four or five months, which amounted to about three weeks of in-game time.)

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