Comic Book Review – Captain America #285 (September 1983)

Writer- J.M. DeMatteis

Artist – Sal Buscema

“Letting Go”

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. As I was going through the Bronze Age bin at Phantom of the Attic last Friday, I came upon this issue and laughed at the cover art. The Porcupine, probably a Mort of the Month from Wizard Magazine, is seen shooting his quills at Captain America. I was leaving the store and making my way home, when I realized that I forgot to buy this issue. I quickly ran back to the store, bought it, and read it on Saturday afternoon.

Captain America has been summoned to the apartment of his former teammate, Jeff Mace (The Patriot). Jeff’s health is deteriorating and one of his final requests is to see Steve before he passes away. Captain America talks to Dr. Hamer about Jeff privately and wants to be kept apprised of any changes to his condition. Elsewhere, the Porcupine has recently upgraded his armor and is in negotiations with the new Secret Empire. Number 43 would like to use the Porcupine’s armor for his henchmen. The Porcupine will use his modified suit in a battle against Captain America as a test. Nomad gets the jump on the Porcupine in his lab but is easily defeated by the supervillain.

Later, Steve cozies up with his new girlfriend, Bernie Rosenthal, but are interrupted by their friends, Mike and Josh. The group finish dinner and Steve receives a phone call. It is Jarvis, who let’s Steve know its time. Steve excuses himself from the get together. After a quick costume change, Steve heads out on his motorcycle to visit Jeff. Steve’s motorcycle is almost hit by a drone but is able to swerve out of the way at the last minute. Steve surveys the area to try to determine who sent the drone his way. He spies the Porcupine on a nearby rooftop, holding Nomad over the side of the building by his cape, ready to drop him. It’s a race against time to try to save Nomad, stop the Porcupine, and see Jeff one last time.

The title of the story has many different connotations in this issue. Jack Munroe must put his inadequacies aside and learn to step out of Captain America’s shadow and become the hero he can be. Steve must try to come to terms with the impending death of his fellow Invader member, a final link to Captain America’s heroic past during WWII. Both of these plots show the humanity of these larger than life superheroes and makes it easier for the reader to connect with them on this level. I liked the inclusion of the scene with Steve and Bernie and their friends because it shows a different side to Captain America we aren’t usually privy to and we get a better understanding of the man behind the shield.

The Porcupine is revealed to be Alex Gentry, a former Army weapons designer. Alex’s costume might be laughable at first, but he shouldn’t be taken lightly. He actually gives Captain America a run for his money during their showdown at issue’s end. I’m curious to see if the Secret Empire shows up in later issues during this run.

I made the right decision by going back and picking up this issue for 2 dollars. It had enough action, romance, and drama to keep me interested from cover to cover. I enjoyed the character development of both leading men and the softer side of Steve Rogers. We forget sometimes how kind, sensitive, and caring Steve can be and this issue is a good reminder of that.

Next Issue – Traveling back in time from a dystopian future of 1991, Luther Manning arrives in the present day to find the lost Deathlok. Can Captain America aid him in finding the lost soldier before Manning draws any more attention to himself?