Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA #249

"DEATH, WHERE IS THEY STING?"
Writer/Co-Plotters/Penciler: Roger Stern & John Byrne
Inker: Josef Rubinstein | Letterer: Jim Novak | Colorist: Bob Sharen
Editor: Jim Salicrup | Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Captain America escapes Dragon Man and destroys Machinesmith's airborne pod, which returns the dragon to its normal, docile state. It departs to find Machinesmith, and Cap tags along. Dragon Man leads Cap to a country barn, where Machinesmith has a secret underground complex. Machinesmith subdues Dragon Man before it can attack him, then battles Captain America. Cap realizes that Machinesmith's mind exists in his mainframe computer and destroys it -- but this action kills Machinesmith as well, which was the villain's ultimate goal.

Continuity Notes: Cap references his fight with the Strucker robot "this morning" -- which a footnote informs us was in issue #247. Following the fight between Dragon Man and Cap in Brooklyn last issue, Steve Rogers's neighbors wonder where he disappeared to, and Bernie Rosenthal wonders if she could be falling for a man she just met.


Machinesmith provides Cap with his backstory: he previously wore the identity of Daredevil's enemy, Mr. Fear, and plummeted to his apparent death during a confrontation with the scarlet swashbuckler. His robots found and saved him, transplanting his brainwaves into a computer to keep him alive.


Machinesmith could not bear to live this way, but found that his programming kept him from taking his own life. He concocted a scheme to trick a superhero into killing him, and that hero turned out to be Captain America. With his dying words, Machinesmith thanks Cap for killing him, though Cap believes there should have been another option.


During his flashbacks, Machinesmith reveals that he provided robots to "entrepreneurs". I believe I've read, though I can't recall where, that Stern and Byrne intended Machinesmith to be the supplier of Arcade's many human-like robots in UNCANNY X-MEN.


My Thoughts: I always like a story that reaffirms a hero's stance against killing. Captain Amerca's words as he departs Machinesmith's lair are especially poingant. He simply can't believe that taking a life should ever be necessary, and that giving up one's own life should only be done in the defense of liberty.


I know that such ideals aren't exactly realistic -- in real life there are, quite regularly, occasions where you need to kill your enemy before they kill you -- but there's just something about seeing this philosophy espoused in comics that really hits home for me. Of course heroes shoudn't kill. Hereoes are better than us. They should always find a way to save the day and defeat their enemies with no loss of life. Maybe we can't live up to that example in the real world, but that doesn't mean we can't admire it.

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