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Captain America Theater of War #3: Review

Jan 2009
Paul Jenkins, Gary Erskine

Story Name:

America the Beautiful

Review & Comments

5 stars

Captain America Theater of War #3 Review by (February 1, 2013)
Review: Possibly the best of the THEATER OF WAR series (either this or “A Brother in Arms”), the story stresses the true nature of bravery and patriotism without overdoing it. The art is very effective; the one surprise is that Cap is drawn with a heavy featured and rugged face. This is generally what I picture John Walker or the 1950s Cap to look like and not the real thing; this quality contributes to the characterization of Cap as the dedicated (and hardened) military man presented in this series. And the story gives us a rare glimpse at Cap’s religion when he prays over the fallen Bobby Shaw; here Cap’s faith is more of a generic “American civil religion” (coined by Robert Bellah), mixing patriotism and benevolence with a vague vision of a Higher Power rather than anything specifically Christian (despite quoting Jesus). He clearly hopes that Bobby’s dying for his country will earn him an entrance into Heaven, whereas salvation in the Bible is through repentance and faith in Christ alone, something Bobby showed no sign of. But that’s a side issue, the real value of the story is in illustrating that courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to do what has to be done in spite of it, which is what Bobby Shaw did in the end.

Comments: The story is dedicated to the author’s friend J. Douglas Huggins (mentioned in the story) and his childhood friend Bobby Shaw of Pasadena Texas, who died on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1941 (and whose name was used for the protagonist of the tale). Cap carries a triangular shield throughout the story. Fort Lehigh is located in Pennsylvania rather than the more common New York or Virginia. Among the guests glimpsed in the audience at the memorial service are Iron Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man, Colossus, Black Cat, She-Hulk, the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, Iron Fist, Thor, Ant-Man and Baron Zemo (!), though only Invisible Woman and Mr. Fantastic are seen in close-up. Bucky and the Red Skull appear in cameos in the flashbacks. One of the GIs in England has the name Jenkins, after the author (a Brit). Second story reprinted from CAPTAIN AMERICA (1998) #32.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America Theater of War #3 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Captain America arrives on the beach in Normandy, France, in response to an urgent summons he had requested decades earlier. French workers were excavating a tunnel dynamited by the Germans during the War and found it larger than expected. Cap is directed to an access tunnel where he pauses to collect himself before entering. Inside a utility room he finds the skeleton of an American soldier, Private Bobby Shaw of Pasadena, Texas. He says a prayer and arranges for the body to be returned to the United States for burial to fulfill a promise he made sixty years ago. A soldier asks who Shaw was that Captain America requested to recover his body personally; Cap replies, "He was me."

Flashback to Fort Lehigh in 1941: Private Bobby "Shrimpie" Shaw was the company screw-up, unable to handle the rigors of training or to remember the steps in the various drills. Steve Rogers, secretly Captain America, tried to help Bobby any way he could but that frequently resulted in Steve sharing Bobby’s punishment. One night as they are assigned to KP duty together, Bobby shares his dream of buying a home near a body of water where he can settle down with a beautiful girl…. As the war progresses, Captain America serves his country with acts of heroism, while keeping tabs on Bobby Shaw. In Sicily, Cap is with the Infantry when they are pinned down by enemy fire. Shaw is missing and is soon spotted cowering in fear on the other side of the street. Cap braves a hail of German bullets to reach Bobby and encourage him to do what’s right; he heads back across the street…but the terrified Bobby remains where he is….

In the present, Cap takes Bobby’s last letter home to his mother (now deceased) from the dead man’s pocket and, in a brief ceremony, he announces a posthumous promotion and presents a Purple Heart to the skeleton. The confused soldier again questions Cap who explains that Bobby Shaw was the worst soldier in the history of the United States but the bravest man Cap ever knew….

Flashback: Cap arranged for Bobby to be transferred to The Big Red One, where he was sent to England to await the invasion. There, he covered his shyness about talking to women by claiming he had a more beautiful girl back home…. Cap has Bobby assigned to be at his side as the US Army storms Omaha Beach on D-Day. At the last minute, Bobby confesses that he can’t swim so Cap has to make sure the hapless GI makes it to the beach without drowning as well as being shot. Cap leaves the terrified Bobby cowering in a shelter and heads on to his main mission. Soldiers are pinned down by enemy fire and Cap has to clear the way for them to reach the cliff base. The Living Legend pushes through the hail of bullets to reach some men in a foxhole but discovers the field telephone has been broken. He turns and sees Bobby Shaw following him; the young soldier blindly ran after Cap and couldn’t stop. From their position they see an access tunnel in the cliff. Cap sends Bobby back to inform the rest of the unit while he goes on ahead to battle guards. The soldiers reach the tunnel and enter in the face of gunfire. They discover the tunnel is mined as the commander is killed. Panicking, Bobby hides in a utility room; Cap orders him to try to reach the enemy position from the flank but Bobby is too scared. A German hurls a grenade at the Americans and rushes forward and kicks the bomb away but he is critically injured by the explosion. Cap carries the wounded Bobby to the utility room and promises to come back for him but Bobby knows this is the end…. Cap hustles the other GIs out of the tunnel just moments before the explosives detonate….

At a memorial service for Bobby Shaw attended by military personnel and superheroes, Cap pays tribute to the fallen hero, who died that others might live free. Of all the heroes he’s known, Bobby was the bravest, he then drops Bobby’s dog tags into the water—the water he’d always dreamed of, beside the most beautiful girl, the Statue of Liberty….

Story #2


Writer: Dan Jurgens. Penciler: Jerry Ordway. Inker: Jerry Ordway. Colorist: Gregory Wright.

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

SHIELD Agent Cameron Klein arrives at Avengers Mansion with an urgent summons for Captain America to head to a hospital in Upstate New York. They take off in a hovercar but Cap quickly realizes he is a fake since he didn’t give the code word from Nick Fury. Fury appears on the communicator and tells Cap to go along with Klein….

Thirteen hours earlier, at an annual gathering of the Klein family, patriarch Stanley Klein assembles his great-grandchildren to tell them the story of what he did in the war. He tells how he was at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, camped in the snow with his company, dreaming about going home to his girlfriend Shirley when the enemy suddenly attacked. The first volley of shells killed most of Stan’s outfit right away. The following fighting was intense and chaotic and lasted for hours. Finally the small band of Americans was trapped and it looked like the end but Captain America arrived leading the Howling Commandos to save the day. Cap returned to Stan the photo of Shirley he had lost in the fracas. Shortly after finishing this tale for his family, Stan suffers a heart attack….

Now Cameron Klein arrives at the hospital where his grandfather is dying, bringing Cap and Nick Fury. They head to the bedside of the old veteran who thanks Cap for saving his life all those years ago. Stan gives Cap his Purple Heart, since his whole family owes their lives to him. Stan passes away quietly and Cameron apologizes for lying to Cap but he and Fury assure the young agent that you always do what you can for a fellow soldier.

Gary Erskine
Gary Erskine
Chris Sotomayor
Steve Epting (Cover Penciler)
Steve Epting (Cover Inker)
Steve Epting (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes

(James Barnes)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Edwin Jarvis)

Plus: Cameron Klein, Howling Commandos.

> Captain America Theater of War: Book info and issue index

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