Monday, May 5, 2014

CAPTAIN AMERICA #252

"COLD FIRE!"
Writer: Roger Stern | Penciler: John Byrne | Inker: Josef Rubinstein
Letterer: John Costanza | Colorist: Bob Sharen | Editor: Jim Salicrup
Harbormaster: Jim Shooter

The Plot: Captain America is chained to the bow of Roxxon's super tanker as it moves toward New York Harbor. Batroc surreptitiously gives Cap some slack on his chains, then enters the ship's bridge with Mr. Hyde. Hyde makes clear his intention of ramming the ship into the city, even though he already has his ransom money, simply to kill the Cobra for deserting Hyde when he broke out of Ryker's Island a week before. Batroc declares Hyde insane, and attacks his ally.

Meanwhile, Cap has freed himself and made his way back aboard ship. Cap joins the fray, teaming with Batroc against Hyde. Hyde ultimately defeats himself by striking a container of liquified natural gas, which flash freezes him and knocks him into the water. Cap dives overboard to search for Hyde, but finds no trace of him. Meanwhile, Batroc escapes with the ransom. He is caught, however, when Captain America and the coast guard surround his barge before it can reach the open sea.

Continuity Notes: Lots of asterisks in this issue. A recap on the second page informs readers of what transpired last time as far as Hyde's escape from prison and his plan to destroy New York City. Cap also recalls a meeting between himself, D.A. Tower, and Roxxon's Pierce Benedict between panels last issue. A third reference to the previous installment comes when Batroc notes that Hyde forced him into an alliance.

Hyde thinks about his last encounter with Captain America in issue #152, as well as the Cobra's antics as a member of the Serpent Squad in issues 163 and 180 - 182. He also notes that he spent six months in prison, meaning that in Marvel Time, half a year has elapsed between CAPTAIN AMERICA #152 and 252.

As he directs the ship to ram New York Harbor, Hyde mentions the Cobra's fight with Spider-Man in PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #46.

Last issue's installment was the first issue of the run to feature more than 17 pages of story, coming it at 22 pages. Stern and Byrne utilized the extra space for sub-plot development and a brief flashback sequence. This issue features no sub-plots to speak of, so the main story is 17 pages long again, followed by a five-page backup feature.

The first page is a pin-up of Captain America. Page two provides yet another recap of Cap's history from Stern and Byrne, briefly touching upon his exploits in World War II and his civilian careers since the Avengers found him in the modern day. Page 3 provides illustrations of Cap's apartment, and pages four and five introduce Cap's friends and allies, including his landlady, Mrs. Kapplebaum, as well as his neighbors, Josh, Mike, and Bernie, plus Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, the Falcon and his girlfriend Leila, Bucky, Sharon Carter, and the Avengers.

My Thoughts: First off, the cover letterer misspelled Batroc's name. How does something like that slip past the editor??

Anyway. I love this issue simply for Hyde's overkill tactics. He wants to get back at the Cobra for leaving him to rot in prison. He knows the Cobra is holed up someplace in Manhattan. So his plan is to destroy New York City. It's fantastic, and it's a great bit of character insight. Hyde is so determined to slight a perceived wrong, that he will commit the mass murder of millions.

And just as this plot brings out some characterization for Hyde, it also gives us a good look at Batroc. He's a rogue and a scoundrel and a criminal, but he's no murderer refuses to be party to such a despicable act. I like villains with morals, and so Batroc has been a favorite of mine for some time. He's not really such a bad guy. He just values money more than the law. He's even nonchalant when Captain America captures him at the story's end before he can escape with the ransom, like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

Overall, this is a great issue for characterization all around, however I need to level just a bit of criticism at Stern's scripting. I like his dialogue a lot, but his narration is a bit too much. It's not as purple as a Chris Claremont, but in a way that's almost worse. It's too wordy. Stern spends a great deal of the issue explaining things so matter-of-factly that I felt like I was reading a Little Golden Book. See below for an example.

I can't help wondering if this is an intentional choice. I don't believe anything else I've read from Stern, either before or after this issue, is written in quite the same style. But if it is intentional, I'm not quite certain what he's going for here.

Finally: You may recall that last issue, I noted that not everyone in Roxxon is evil after all, as Pierce Benedict seemed genuinely concerned about the loss of life that Mr. Hyde's plan would cause. Here he is shown to be quite proud of the safety of the super tanker, as well. Even so, however, Cap wonders what kind of man would allow such a potentially dangerous vessel near a heavily populated area in the first place. Guess you can't please all the people all the time, and in Roxxon's case, it seems you can't please anyone, ever.

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