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Captain America #372: Review

Jul 1990
Mark Gruenwald, Ron Lim

Story Name:

Sold on Ice!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Captain America #372 Review by (June 29, 2012)
Review: Ah, the classic “Streets of Poison” story arc, one of the famous adventures of 80s/90s Captain America history. Starts out promising much—then finds it can’t follow through on it. It begins as one of those stories “ripped from the headlines:” Cap takes on America’s drug crisis; to that end the patriotic hero must become a street-level crimefighter a la Daredevil. It’s an interesting premise. There’s a major DD vibe going on—the junkies, the dealers, the slums—then Kingpin and Bullseye, capped off with an appearance by the Man without Fear himself…and he gets beaten to a pulp twice. The gritty milieu also echoes the Punisher, who is referenced a couple of times. And the chief source of drama is Cap’s exposure to Ice, a type of methamphetamine which causes him to change into a brutal paranoid thug. Problem is, seems like Gruenwald realized Cap could do nothing to solve the drug crisis, so he dragged in Red Skull and made the story into a standard super-villain scheme and resolved it with a fight between two major bad guys; the gritty drama we had been following simply dissipates, vanishing with DD and Bullseye. And Cap’s problem is solved by a blood transfusion between panels and this is where the story arc switches themes to address an issue many had asked before (and after): isn’t the Super-Soldier Serum a drug? So we are treated to a slightly defensive justification for Cap’s own original “drug addiction:” the claim that the man is more than the drug—plus “I can quit anytime I want,” an excuse we’ve all heard before. Back when this was written comics were more for kids, so the importance of stressing that a hero wasn’t on drugs can’t be overestimated but in hindsight, the two halves of this story fail to cohere into a whole. As for the rest of the comic…to be honest, I never much cared for Ron Lim’s art, he draws everyone with these narrow-eyed hatchet faces and everyone looks sneaky. And Gruenwald goes a bit over the top with giving gangsters funny names

Comments: Part one of the seven-part “Streets of Poison.” Boomslang was introduced in CAPTAIN AMERICA #341-344; his final appearance would be in issues #411-413. And yes, a Boomslang is a snake, one native to Africa, though the villain is Australian. By the way, the incident with the mystery woman is never mentioned again, at least not in this story arc. Battle Star story: part one of seven. The hero got his tip on where to find USAgent in CAP #355-356. John Walker wore the Captain America uniform in the classic CAP #332-350. The Bullpen Bulletins page has an announcement for the forthcoming (1990) Captain America movie.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #372 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Captain America patrols the Manhattan night on his new Sky-Cycle. He spies Boomslang of the Serpent Society on a rooftop spying on a building across the street. Cap lands silently and confronts the villain who panics and runs. Cap pursues the crook into an alley where he runs into a gang of teenage drug dealers. A couple of the punks open fire, cutting down Boomslang. Cap, enraged, launches himself into them; a couple of gunshots go wild, hitting other gang members. At this point Cap orders the rest to surrender and they do. The hero rushes the wounded Boomslang and two gang members to the hospital where one of the kids dies. A depressed Cap returns to Avengers headquarters where he is met by Michael O’Brien, who tells Cap something is wrong with Fabian. Cap stops by the workroom of Fabian Stankowicz and finds the tech expert thin and nervous, quickly descending into paranoia. Cap questions him about drug use and Fabian confesses that to deal with stress he has taken "Ice" a new street drug that works like a longer-lasting form of crack. Cap insists that Fabian enter rehab not just for his own sake but because the Avengers are role models; Fabian then asks the million-dollar question: "Isn’t the Super-Soldier Serum a drug?" This sets Cap to thinking about the issue as to whether the Serum is in a class with illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs…. But for now he researches Ice on the computer and vows to tackle the drug problem, a more serious threat to America than the ones he usually faces.

Interlude: Two hoods, Lowlife and Ground Chuck, are waiting outside the hangout of Tone-Def and his gang (the ones Cap fought in the beginning of the issue) hoping to score some drugs. They are puzzled by the police lock on the door and even more so by a mysterious woman who orders them away then vanishes while their backs are turned.

Interlude 2: A dangerous prison inmate, kept in solitary confinement and denied even the most harmless objects that can be turned into weapons, batters his face against his cell wall, until his visage is a bloody mess. Two guards enter and the prisoner spits his loose tooth in the eye of one guard, giving him the opening to snatch the man’s gun and shoot the other. He then forces the surviving guard to lead him out…. (Spoiler alert: it’s Bullseye.)

That night, Captain America, disguised as bearded derelict and accompanied by John Jameson, tracks down Fabian’s dealer, Kid Gloves, who jumps to the conclusion that he is facing the Punisher. Cap uses the misunderstanding to also capture Gloves’ supplier Moosemeat and demands the location of the supply center. Led to a warehouse, Cap, in uniform, bursts in through a skylight only to find demolitions expert Napalm, who sets off a massive suicide blast….

Story #2

Agent Provocateur

Writer: Mark Gruenwald. Penciler: Mark Bagley. Inker: Don Hudson. Colorist: Nel Yomtov.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

On a wooded hill overlooking the West Coast Avengers compound in Palos Verde, California, Battle Star waits with a rifle. After days of waiting he suddenly spots his quarry, leaving the compound on a flying cycle. He scoops up the rifle and fires an explosive charge at the rider, who dodges the burst. A massive shield comes toward Battle Star’s face followed by the red-white-and-black-clad hero USAgent. Battle Star reveals that all he wanted was the Agent’s attention and addresses him as Johnny—the apparently-dead John Walker, briefly Captain America. USAgent denies being Walker so the Star fills him (and the readers) in on their past: Lemar Hoskins and John Walker met in the Army and became friends, they received enhanced strength from the Power Broker (Curtiss Jackson) but instead of going into wrestling, they became the heroes Super-Patriot and Bucky. Soon afterward, Walker was chosen by the government to replace Steve Rogers as Captain America and at the ceremony where Walker returned the shield to Rogers, he was shot down by a sniper. After much investigation, Lemar has finally found him—but USAgent still denies he is John Walker and when Battle Star mentions his late parents, the Agent shouts, "My parents are not dead!!!" and slugs him. Battle Star decides it is time to pound some sense into his old pal….

Ron Lim
Danny Bulanadi
Steve Buccelatto
Ron Lim (Cover Penciler)
Danny Bulanadi (Cover Inker)
? (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)
U.S. Agent
U.S. Agent

(John Walker)

Plus: Battle Star, Boomslang, Fabian Stankowicz, John Jameson, Michael O'Brien.

> Captain America: Book info and issue index

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