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Marvels Project, The #5: Review

Mar 2010
Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting

Story Name:

(No title given)

Review & Comments

4 stars

Marvels Project, The #5 Review by (March 22, 2011)
This issue begins immediately after the end of the last one. The whole of last issue was loosely date as Fall 1940. This issue includes a period of training for Steve before he is given the CA uniform. The duration is unspecified here, but CA#255 claims 3 months, which is generally accepted. So the 1st mission here could be somewhere in Winter 40/41. (Next issue is dated Summer 1941.) There are several opposing claims. For instance CA#255 has a different 1st mission in March 41 (the cover date of CAC#1). The All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A-Z Update 2007 detailed bibliography has it back in August 40. Thin Man's only Timely issue was dated August 40. Hurricane began in CAC#1 March 41, but his Red Raven Mercury story was dated August 40 too. OHotMU's 3-month-back dating system would actually put both hero's debuts in May 40. Whatever way we look at it they would be around for any of the 1st mission dates quoted above.

All versions of the origin agree that the experiment can't be repeated. CAC#1 said that the spy destroyed the only sample of the serum. ToS#63 changed this to the slightly more believable idea that Erskine was the only one who knew the formula. CA#255 amended this saying that Erskine didn't write down the *complete* formula, which is the line followed by this issue of marvels Project. The Adventures of CA limited series has the whole formula written down (but in scattered pieces), but only Erskine knowing the details of the Vita-Rays. The Truth limited series suggests that with Erskine gone there were details of the use of the serum that were unclear, and the recreation of the experiment there wasn't shown to use Vita-Rays. The results were unpredictable. The existence of Major Kerfoot was previously only documented in CA#155 which told how William Burnside became the CA of the 50's. He found Kerfoot's journal in Berlin and persuaded the US government to use the formula described therein turn him into CA. Unfortunately the absence of Vita-Rays affected his mind. This issue adds to that excuse by saying that Kerfoot didn't have all the formula, and might not have written in his journal all that he did have. But CA#155 doesn't really jell with the fact that the US government supposedly already had better information about Erskine's serum. Cap is shown with the historically-accurate triangular shield and a helmet that doesn't connect to the rest of his costume. This was his look in all 4 adventures in CAC#1. He changed to the round shield and integrated helmet in CAC#2. Unfortunately the initial modern retellings showed him only with the new shield and uniform. It has become the rule since CA#215 that he changed to the 2nd outfit before taking on Bucky (at the end of the 1st story in CAC#1), but was active in the 1st outfit for some time before.

Captain America's origin has had many variations over the years. In Captain America Comics #1 the basic elements were all there:- the scientist, the formula, the Nazi spy killing the scientist, Steve Rogers accidentally killing the spy, and no more super-soldiers can be created. The scientist was called Professor Reinstein in CAC#1 (an obvious suggestion of Einstein). The first modern retelling in Tales of Suspense #63 called him Erskine. Several other versions called him Reinstein until Giant-Size Invaders #1 said Reinstein was Erskine's cover name. The online Grand Comics Database seems to suggest that the name Erskine was used in an origin flashback in CAC#59, but with forename Anton rather than Abraham. According to the online Unofficial Appendix to the handbook of the Marvel Universe Anton Erskine was the name used in Ted White's The Great Gold Steal book. I don't have the book to check, and it will be a long time before Marvel reprints CAC#59 in a Masterworks. I expect the current Official Index to the Marvel Universe to stop when it gets to CAC#48, now considered to be the last issue with Steve Rogers as Cap. CAC#1 had Steve injected with the serum. In ToS#63 he drank it instead. CA#109 had the injection plus Vita-Rays. CA#255 combines all 3 components. Various other versions have taken a mix'n'match approach, like this issue which misses out the injection.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Marvels Project, The #5 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
This issue begins with Steve Rogers' transformation into Captain America via Prof Erskine's super-soldier process, that the US government has organised in the first 4 issues, and ends with Cap's first mission.

This version of Cap's origin contains various standard elements. Rogers drinks Erskine's serum and is bombarded with Vita-Rays. Erskine is killed by the Nazi spy Kruger who infiltrated the project as Agent Clemson last issue. (He was named Kruger in CA#109 and given the alias Clemson in CA#255.) Newly-vitalised Rogers accidentally kills Kruger. The super-soldier process can't be repeated because Erskine didn't commit the whole of his formula to paper.

Steve undergoes a period of training to use his new body, and to master the fighting arts.

Meanwhile government agents have tracked Kruger/Clemson back to the other spy Major Kerfoot alias Prof Hamilton. Kerfoot fakes his own death and is contacted by their unnamed handler. He has transmitted Erskine's incomplete formula, that he copied last issue, to Germany, but he has also written it (or at least some of it) in his journal. The handler kills him, presumably because his cover is blown, and sends the journal to Germany.

Angel has been investigating the death of P.I. Ferret last issue. Despite Ferret's burned down office he has traced the client whose mother was murdered in #2, and followed the leads which led Ferret to Hamilton, whose apartment is now under government guard. Angel has discovered Hamilton was the Nazi spy named Kerfoot, and tries to track down any Nazi activity in the area. Daily Bugle reporter Kellerman (who I think is completely invented here) tells him of the murder of Erskine a few weeks ago. He also mentions Hitler now has his own costumed soldier, the Red Skull.

In France Red Skull is killing villagers trying to get them to betray the Allied fighters who are causing trouble in the occupied territory. These men are Nick Fury, Red Hargrove and the Sky Devils plus John Steele, escapee from the Nazi superhuman Project Nietzsche lab in Frankfurt, all of whom we have been following in the previous issues. But the Sky Devils have been ordered back to England, and Lt Sawyer wants Fury and Hargrove back in the US. Steele stays to continue his activities.

Red Skull's appearance here predates any in CAC or any other Timely comic. But his back-story has been told in several modern comics, the first being Tales of Suspense #66.

We never find out why Fury and Hargrove (nor the Sky Devils) are recalled, though the Adventures of CA limited series does hint that Fury helps train Cap. But we do find out what Lt Sawyer did next in #7, which actually makes that hint more feasible.

Hans Bruder has been moved from the destroyed Frankfurt lab to another Project Nietzsche lab in Berlin, but he has lost all his samples from Steele. He is now working on what they have of Erskine's formula. Also at the lab is a scientist named Burstein, who has a son Noah, who will presumably become the Noah Burstein who empowers Luke Cage amongst others. Presumably with some descendant of Erskine's process.

Back in New York Roosevelt has given Steve Rogers his Captain America uniform after his training is over, and Gen'l Phillips has shown him film of Red Skull. They want Cap as a counter-symbol. Steve suits up as Captain America for the 1st time. He has the historically accurate triangular shield and a helmet not connected to the rest of his costume.

President Roosevelt has been involved in CA's origin since CAC#1. But this is the first time he is said to give Steve his 1st uniform (behind the scenes). He is usually, since CA#255, depicted giving CA his 2nd uniform with the round shield. Gen'l Phillips tells Cap about the Red Skull here (also behind the scenes). This was 1st shown in CA#255, when it is Phillips who gives Rogers the 1st outfit to act as a counter-symbol to the Skull.

Cap has been sent after a nest of Nazi spies at a wharf. Angel has traced the murders of Phantom Bullet in #2 and Ferret last issue to the same group. He watches Cap take most of them out, but the leader escapes. This guy is Kruger and Kerfoot's handler who actually committed the murder of at least Ferret. Angel tries to stop him but gets a flesh wound in the leg. Cap and Angel meet.

This 1st mission is probably based on the (not his first) mission to the Liberty shipyards in CA#255, retold in Adventures of CA and #25 of Brubaker's own CA series. Angel wasn't shown in any of them.

In the midst of all this we see cameos of 2 more early Timely heroes, Thin Man and Hurricane. The stretchy Thin Man, who could effectively go 2-dimensional, only appeared in Mystic Comics #4. But Roy Thomas made him one of the Liberty Legion, and later he was in the modern New Invaders. Technically speedster Hurricane was restricted to a strip in CAC#1-11. But he had previously been in Red Raven #1 as Mercury, and Marvel Universe #7 revealed him to actually be Makkari of the Eternals.

Steve Epting
Steve Epting
Dave Stewart
Steve McNiven (Cover Penciler)
Steve McNiven (Cover Inker)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

Red Skull
Red Skull

(Johann Shmidt)

Plus: Angel (Tom Halloway), John Steele, Nazis, Thin Man.

> Marvels Project, The: Book info and issue index

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