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Captain America #281: Review

May 1983
J. M. DeMatteis, Mike Zeck

Story Name:

Before the Fall!

Review & Comments

3 stars

Captain America #281 Review by (January 25, 2015)
Comments: Part one of three parts. The story of the return of the 1950s Cap and Bucky was related in CAPTAIN AMERICA #153-156, and issue #236. Viper split with Hydra in issue #180. Constrictor previously fought Cap in issues #228-229, 231, and Annual #5; he will resurface in #309-311. Future comics writer Barry Dutter has a letter in the letters column.

Review: J. M. DeMatteis went above and beyond the call of duty in reviving the 1950s Bucky (after they had retconned him into a different Bucky and killed him off in #236). Jack was a likeable character, a hero with doubts and fears but a great deal of heart. In the 90s they would convert him into a grim gun-slinging vigilante and then have Winter Soldier (you know, the first Bucky) bump him off in CAP (2004) #3. For now, though, he’s just a fledgling hero, trying to find his place in a strange new world. Otherwise this is a mildly entertaining story but, 50s Bucky aside, is fairly undistinguished with uncharacteristically weak art from Zeck and Beatty.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #281 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Steve Rogers and Bernie Rosenthal go out to the movies and see wartime newsreels of Captain America and Bucky in action; Steve is a bit uncomfortable dealing with his past. After they depart for home, a homeless wanderer is asked to leave the theater; outside, the young man spies Steve and is surprised…..

In San Francisco, Spider-Woman is searching for the villainous Viper, who Jessica has just learned is her mother (SPIDER-WOMAN #44). Spidey-W enters an abandoned warehouse which informants have told her is Viper’s headquarters; she is greeted by her foe communicating via a viewscreen; Viper tells Jess she is not her mother (and thinks that it was a deception Spidey-W was playing on her) and sics two enormous snakes on her. She maneuvers one serpent into ramming its head through the screen and using that one to fatally bite the other….

Back at their apartment, Steve finally asks the question that has been on his mind for some time: when Steve was being impersonated by Primus, did she sleep with him? (At least that’s what the writer hinting is on Steve’s mind—Comics Code and all that, you know) She says no. They are interrupted by the young man from the theater. Steve sees a dead ringer for Bucky Barnes and jumps to the conclusion that this is a trick by an enemy. Steve beats him up until the newcomer can reveal that he is Jack Monroe, the 1950s Bucky. He fills in the tale of how he became the new Bucky to a new Cap, both of whom underwent plastic surgery to resemble the original heroes, how the flawed Super-Soldier treatment eventually drove them mad, they were put into suspended animation for some years (explaining why Jack is still young after 30 years) until they were released to battle the real Cap, then they fell into the hands of Dr Faustus who convinced 50s Cap that he had murdered his Bucky. But now Jack has nowhere to go, so Steve apologizes and invites Jack to stay there until he finds his direction….

Elsewhere, Viper learns that Spider-Woman escaped her trap; she shoots the messenger (literally) as a warning to the rest of her gang (including an undercover SHIELD Agent Gail Runciter). Viper then changes into the costume of an ordinary housewife and we learn that her HQ lies below an ordinary small American town….

That night Captain America and his new old partner go adventuring in the streets. A helicopter swoops down on them and Constrictor leaps out. The villain zaps Bucky with his electrified coils and faces Cap. A henchman in the copter blasts Cap with a ray gun and Constrictor hustles Cap away before Jack’s helpless eyes….

Mike Zeck
John Beatty
Bob Sharen
Mike Zeck (Cover Penciler)
John Beatty (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)


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