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Captain America #242: Review

Feb 1980
Steven Grant, Don Perlin

Story Name:


Review & Comments

3 stars

Captain America #242 Review by (April 12, 2014)
Review: What a strange issue, even for a fill-in. This seems to come out of nowhere and vanish whence it came, with an obscure villain joining forces with a forgotten villain to bicker while they play their own odd games. The Manipulator is one of quirkiest villains in appearance, plus he’s a guy with two faces who thinks he’s a normal human being (and with two mouths he seems to talk twice as much as most characters). And this isn’t the first, or the best, instance of a villain running some sort of elaborate charade to mess with Cap’s mind, but it is the one that reveals what’s really going on the earliest in the story (page 3 to be precise). Result: a complete lack of suspense since the reader doesn’t have to worry about Cap for the entire story. This also means that all the anxieties usually dumped on Cap (borderline fascist, impossible ideal) can be safely ignored as serious issues—after all Cap shrugs it off from the beginning. So what do we have? A tale of psychological manipulation where the hero is in no danger of being manipulated. Not the way I would have taken the story but then, I’m not a comic book professional.

Comments: Manipulator was introduced in AVENGERS #178 as an enemy of the Beast; this is his second and final appearance—though his remains can be spotted in Machinesmith’s workshop in issue #247. Sergeant Brian Muldoon of the New York Police Department was Officer Steve Rogers’ superior when Cap was a cop from issues #139 until he was unmasked as the criminal Cowled Commander in #159; this is his final appearance as well (as of 2013).


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #242 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro
Answering a call for help apparently from Peggy Carter, Captain America walks into a trap where he is attacked by Nick Fury and Dum Dum Dugan. He is then threatened with disintegration by Peggy who is seeking revenge for the death of her sister Sharon. Confused? At this point the reader is let in on the situation: Brian Muldoon, the former police sergeant unmasked as the criminal Cowled Commander, has hired the bizarre villain the Manipulator (he has faces on the front and back of his head) to kill Captain America for him. Muldoon is impatient that his hired gun is running an elaborate psychology experiment instead of, y’know, killing Cap. Back to the Cap part: Peggy shows she means business by disintegrating a captive Falcon. Cap uses his shield to blast the deadly ray back at her and she goes to pieces. Cap is then attacked again by Nick Fury, Dum Dum Dugan, and Gabe Jones, condemning him for creating a standard no one could live up to. In the scuffle, Gabe and Dum Dum are killed. Suddenly a bright light comes on, revealing Cap to be on the stage of an auditorium where a group led by the Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, and Vision) are hailing him as leader of a Fascist America. Leaving, he heads through darkened hallways and comes upon Fury, hanging from the ceiling; a trap door then drops him into the presence of the Red Skull. The villain announces his scheme to co-op Cap in the service of a fascist America and he has Sharon Carter prisoner. Cap hits the Nazi in the head and his broken mask shows he is Cap underneath. Sharon then kills herself in the same fashion as seen in issue #237; Cap breaks down. Muldoon, bored with the Manipulator’s games, sneaks into the room where Cap is incapacitated and prepares to shoot him but it was a trap by Cap and he knocks out Muldoon. The Manipulator reveals that the people Cap saw were all android doubles and that the real subject of the experiment was Muldoon, a man obsessed with revenge, and insists he has committed no crime. Muldoon shoots at Cap and the bullet ricochets off his shield and hits the Manipulator in the (front) face. Manipulator is shocked to discover he is a robot programmed to think it was human and breaks down. Cap carries Muldoon off to jail.

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Don Perlin
Joe Sinnott
George Roussos
Al Milgrom (Cover Penciler)
Klaus Janson (Cover Inker)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Sam Wilson)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)


Plus: Manipulator (Robot), Sergeant Muldoon.

> Captain America: Book info and issue index

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