Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Dead Man's Diary

Gold Key's comic book version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. never hit the same tongue-in-cheek vibe that the original TV series always had, but it featured the same sort of strong plots and action that were also a trademark of the early seasons of the show.

The 12th issue (May 1967--writer unknown; art by Mike Sekowski) is a good example of this. It's a great yarn, typical of the skillfully told stories that Gold Key regularly gave us.

"The Dead Man's Diary Affair" starts with a THRUSH agent faking his death. Alex Devoe is a master of disguise used by THRUSH to deliver cash payments to its agents around the world. But Devoe decides to go into business for himself, faking his death in a plane crash and disappearing with a half-million dollars of THRUSH cash.

At first, the heads of THRUSH assume Devoe was killed in the crash and that the money burned. But Devoe knows that it won't be long before they figure out he's alive. For Devoe to live long enough to enjoy his ill-gotten gains, he needs to destroy THRUSH before they destroy him.

And what better way to do this than to enter UNCLE headquarters in disguise, replace Mr. Waverly (UNCLE's leader) with himself and then use UNCLE's best agents and his own diary--full of information on THRUSH activities--to destroy the evil organization.

It's a strong plot concept and even includes an explanation for why Devoe doesn't just send UNCLE the diary and let them do the work of dismantling THRUSH on their own. He wants to be personally sure the bad guys are destroyed and also wants the personal satisfaction of overseeing the process himself.

Solo and Kuryakin check out a lead from the diary, which leads to the capture of a race car driver who was smuggling gold. With this confirmation that the diary's information is accurate, the two agents take off on a multi-nation montage, dismantling several THRUSH operations.

 Finally, "Mr. Waverly" joins his top agents when they prepare to raid a conclave of THRUSH leaders. But here his plan starts to unravel. Though his disguise skills have made him Waverly's physical double, he doesn't have Waverly's speech patterns and personality down exactly. Soon, Kuryakin begins to have doubts and sends a request back to New York to thoroughly search the headquarters.

In the meantime, THRUSH has spotted the UNCLE agents and arranged an ambush. Solo survives, but "Waverly" is killed. Much to Solo and Kuryakin's relief, the real Mr. Waverly is found tied up in a closet back at HQ.

There are a few minor quibbles with the story. It's a little too dialogue-heavy and it seems unlikely that Waverly could be tied up in a room at UNCLE headquarters for what must have been days without someone stumbling over him. But these are indeed quibbles. Overall, the story has a strong, internally logical plot, exciting action and an effective villain in Alex Devoe.

Next week, we return to Lost Valley for yet another visit with Turok and Andar.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Edgar Rice Burroughs Podcast--Episode #8

The latest episode of the Edgar Rice Burroughs podcast is now available.

Jess, Scott and I talk about ERB's 1914 novel At the Earth's Core, which introduces us to the underground world of Pellucidar.

We are also joined by Chris Carey, director of publishing for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., who shares some news about upcoming ERB-related books and other items.

Click HERE to listen or download. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

Nick Carter: "Echo of Death" 7/6/43

A financial expert disappears just before exposing a big stock fraud scheme. Nick tries to find him and the trail leads to two murders and a classic locked room mystery.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A Lawless Street

Calem Ware (Randolph Scott) is an experienced and tough lawman, known for having cleaned up numerous wild towns, leaving only when law and order had been established and moving on to the next lawless town. Along the way, his wife (Angela Landsbury) had left him, unable to handle the thought of him being in constant danger.

Now Calem is the marshal of the town of Medicine Bend. He's been here for awhile, but he hasn't yet tamed the town. This is shown to be true largely because people keep interrupting his otherwise quiet day by trying to kill him. Heck, he can't even get through his morning shave without someone trying to whack him.

Also, his wife arrives in town, hired to sing at a local saloon. No one knows the two are married and the saloon owner keeps proposing to her.

A Lawless Street (1955) has its flaws. The dialogue is sometimes stilted and overly melodramatic. And I would have preferred to see different actors in some of the supporting roles. Edgar Buchanan, for instance, would have been great as the town doctor.

But it is still an enjoyable movie. Scott is very good in the lead role, playing the marshal as a friendly and decent man who is getting very tired of the violence that keeps filling his life and had driven away the woman he loves. Angela Landsbury isn't given quite enough to do, but plays her role well and gets to belt out a fun song.

It turns out that the saloon owner who is hitting on her is also one of two business owners in town who has put a price on the marshal's head. They have inside information about a smelting factory that will be built nearby, which would also nearby mines to reopen and bring a lot of money into town. If the marshal weren't around, they could declare Medicine Bend an open town, force other businesses to sell out to them and rack in the cash.

After several would-be assassins end up dead, the bad guys bring in a skilled gunman who actually does outdraw the marshal. Everyone thinks Ware was killed, but the quick-thinking town doctor had told a fib and Ware is hidden in the jail until his wound heals.

This leads to a scene that makes this otherwise average western really stand out. The three main bad guys are drinking in a saloon, with drunken revelry in the main street raising up a racket. But suddenly the street go quiet. Then, one by one, bartenders run in to tell them that Calem Ware is still alive and closing up the other saloons. Gradually, the villains realize that Ware is indeed alive and is coming back for a re-match.

This leads to a great ending for this entertaining story. A Lawless Street is a satisfying way to spend an hour-and-a-half.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Unlikely Suspects

Captain America and the Falcon #159 (March 1973) is the last part of a three-issue story arc I've been reviewing. I choose it in general because the story is the sort of skilled, entertaining storytelling I like to celebrate on this blog and specifically because I remember enjoying this particular story so thoroughly when I was a young but already brilliant child.  Gee whiz, I had good taste.

Written by Steve Englehart and with art by Sal Buscema, this issue picks up with Steve Rogers being held prisoner by the suspended Sgt. Muldoon and another off-duty cop, who are apparently convinced that Steve is the Cowled Commander, the unfortunately-named master criminal who had several cops on his payroll and is unleashing a massive crime wave on New York City.

This is a fun plot twist. It's been established that, aside from cops who were proven to be corrupt, a number of other possibly-innocent cops were implicated in the corruption and had been suspended. Muldoon was one of these. For a man whose life revolves around being a cop, the temptation to employ vigilante tactics to clear himself would have been strong. And Steve, who had recently been working as a cop to solve another case, had (from Muldoon's perspective) constantly vanished from duty without any official consequences. So its reasonable that Steve would be a suspect in his mind.

Of course, the plot twist at the story's end will have us completely re-interpreting Muldoon's motives here, but that's part of what makes it an effective plot twist.

Anyway, Steve still has increased super-strength from the reaction of poison antidote with the Super Soldier serum (that happened last issue), so escaping isn't that difficult.

The above panels make me question whether Sgt. Muldoon would ever make it as a good detective. He and his partner knocked Steve out and tied him to a chair without ever noticing that he apparentlh had a Captain America outfit and a shield under his street clothes. But, to be fair, nobody in a Comic Book Universe ever notices that sort of thing. Frankly, people living in Comic Book Universes aren't always that bright.

The Cowled Commander's crime wave is underway and Cap soon encounters a quartet of B-list super villains. This includes the Eel, the second villain with a snake motif we've met during this story arc. In fact, it'll turn out that Eel and Viper are brothers. The family that slays together, stays together.

During the ensuing battle, Falcon shows up, carrying Viper (whom he captured last issue). And if you are carrying a super villain when attacking other super villains, obviously the thing to do is hit the new bad guys with your prisoner.

When Falcon takes a hit, the bad guys get a chance to run for it. The heroes pursue, but bad luck ensues when a police car crashes through a vine barrier and inadvertently blocks Cap and Falcon from the villains, allowing them to escape.

This allows the story to throw a red herring at us. The police commissioner is in that cop car and apologizes for accidentally allowing the crooks to escape. But is it an accident? Or is the commissioner the Cowled Commander?

It's not a bad red herring, though it comes a little too late in the story to be truly effective. The case is going to be tied up in just a few pages.

Red Wing has been following the villains and leads the heroes to their hideout.  What follows is an effectively illustrated and largely fun series of action scenes, though this section of this otherwise solidly written story has its contrived moments. Cap and Falcon are captured rather quickly when they attack and then tossed into a death trap for the Cowled Commander to finish off. In general, there's nothing wrong with this. But we are approaching the end of the story and the capture of the heroes happens too quickly, making them seem a little inept. And keeping them alive for a death trap doesn't fit the mercenary nature of these particular villains. A week excuse that they must allow their boss to make the final "let's kill 'em now" decision is weak, since they hadn't been hesitating in their attempts to kill the heroes before this. In fact, Viper had been specifically hired to kill Cap in the first issue.

Oh, well. taken for what it is, it's a fun fight scene. Cap uses his new super strength to escape captivity for the second time this issue by ripping a hole in the gas chamber he and Falcon are put in. With Red Wing's help, they finish the costumed villains and then capture the Cowled Commander...

...who turns out to be Muldoon. He'd created the Cowled Commander identity to start a crime wave initially to get the police department to drop all that annoying due process stuff and just come down harshly on crooks, while capturing Steve had been with the intent of torturing him into confessing something to create yet another red herring, thus further masking his identity.

But his criminal empire had taken on a life of its own and soon he was pretty much just a crook for the sake of being a crook and raking in the cash. There's a nice line of dialogue from Falcon that casts doubts on the "purity" of Muldoon's original motive--how much was making money a factor even at the beginning?

It's a perfectly reasonable bad guy motive for a character like Muldoon, with the plot twist made all the more effective because both Captain America and the commissioner had been convinced that Muldoon was honest and had been unjustly suspended.

Thus ends an excellent three-part story, full of great action and some effective characterizations. The final action scenes really did need improvement--an extended fight scene would have worked a lot better than the capture--death trap--escape sequence that didn't fit the personalities of the villains involved (including Muldoon), but Buscema's art looks great anyways and the story as a whole holds up really well.

Next week, we'll visit again with Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

Gunsmoke: "Sins of the Fathers" 1/22/55

A mountain man named Big Dan Daggit brings his Kiowa wife to Dodge. Because of a recent bloody raid by Kiowas, a lot of the locals object to the wife being in town. But if you mess with Big Dan's wife, you're gonna have to mess with him as well.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Room Service, Comfortable Beds and a Machine Gun on the Roof

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the awesomely fun RKO film Men of America (1932), in which cowboys battled Chicago-style gangsters.  The DVD I now own containing that movie is actually a double-feature, matched up with another awesomely fun RKO movie from that same year.

Roar of the Dragon starts with an effective information dump, delivered to us via newspaper headlines, news banners posted on walls and a bandit leader being briefed by one of his men. This is how we find out that a large group of brutal bandits, led by a Russian renegade named Voronsky—is rampaging around Manchuria while the Chinese army is too busy fighting a war to notice.

Voronsky, by the way, is played by perpetual villain C. Henry Gordon. Gordon outdoes his usual screen villainy here—he practically exudes evil right through the TV screen.

Voronsky’s men had attacked a riverboat commanded by the usually drunk but always competent Captain Carson (Richard Dix). The bandits were driven off and Voronsky now has a mangled ear from where Carson bit him.

All this is wonderful stuff, setting up the story and the necessary ambiance for the film, but I really which the budget and running time of the movie had allowed us to see the riverboat battle rather than just be told about it. That would have been cool.

But the movie doesn’t lack action we get to actually witness. The riverboat is now at a nearby city, being repaired while the captain and the passengers stay at a local hotel. When the bandits attack the city, the hotel is besieged, with Carson taking charge of the defense. A machine gun set up on the roof allows them to hold off the bandits, but they have limited food and water. After some battles, ammunition runs low as well. That they took in a half-dozen Chinese orphans stretches their supplies even thinner.

So the bulk of the movie is a Last Stand, as Carson struggles with both defending the hotel from the bandits and dealing with those making panicky decisions inside the hotel. He also has a spy for the bandits inside with him, though he at first misidentifies a woman named Natascha (Gwili Andre) as this

He figures wrong and, perhaps a little too predictable, he and Natascha eventually fall in love.

But despite the awkward handling of this cliché, the movie as a whole is great. The tension is high throughout, as food runs out and the various people in the hotel handle the situation in different ways.

I especially enjoyed Edward Everett Horton as the hotel clerk Busby. Known for light comedy roles, Horton initially plays Busby in a slightly bumbling and very nervous manner. He’s got a crush on a travelling lady cornet player, though he obviously doesn’t stand a chance with her.

But then there’s actually a definable moment in the movie when you can see him make a decision to acknowledge Carson’s authority and make himself useful. As the movie continues, he does the jobs given him well, bonds with the lady he likes and eventually gets a Crowing Moment of Awesome. His character progression is clearly presented, believable and admirable.

The movie succeeds both as a cracking adventure story and on a surprisingly deep emotional level, as several character deaths during the film have an enormous impact on us.

At the climax, Carson realizes its time to make a break for the riverboat, with Carson putting himself at serious risk to allow the others to escape. This is a bit of a plot hole, since it means the bandits, while in control of the city, left the boat alone and allowed repairs on it to continue. But I suppose its possible that the bandits were concentrating their forces on the hotel, siince Voronsky is obsessed with killing Carson, and the crew of the boat was able to defend it and get is fixed up. Arguable plot hole aside, the climax is exciting stuff.

Another minor criticism is one the movie shares of Men of America. It suffers from Red Shirt Syndrome. As I mentioned, the named characters who die leave an impact on the story. But several Chinese who die defending the hotel are apparently forgotten about. It is probably fair to consider that this might be an aspect of the racism that was common in our culture at the time. But, on the other hand, the American characters are placing themselves at greater risk by taking in and feeding Chinese children without concern over their race. So perhaps it is simply Red Shirt Syndrome, involving characters who exist in a story merely because they are supposed to die to let us know something dangerous is happening.

But I’m nitpicking here. Roar of the Dragon is a great adventure story with a cast of actors who bring their various characters to life. Alive enough so that when some of them die, it can really bring a tear to your eye.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Crime Waves and Unexpected Super-Strength!

Last week, I talked about my strong memories of reading a three-part Captain America story as a kid. It's a strong story--the sort of skilled, entertaining storytelling I like to celebrate on this blog. But I wasn't sure why this particular story stuck out in my mind to such a degree.

This week, we'll look at the second part of the story from Captain America and the Falcon #158 (February 1973), with the script by Steve Englehart and art by Sal Buscema. I still don't remember exactly why I loved this story so much in 1973, but it might have been my inherant good taste was already active and appreciative of well-told adventure tales. This story isn't an innovative classic in the history of graphic literature, but it does a great job of simply telling a fun story.

Remember that we left off last time with Cap and Falcon dying slowly from poison on a rooftop, while the villainous Viper makes a getaway. But Viper leaves behind an antidote he had tossed to the roof earlier as a distraction, gloating that Cap has no chance of getting to it before dying.

This is such a stereotypical villain thing to do that it can be justly argued its a weak spot in the story. But Englehart and Buscema make the most of it, following it up with a legitimately tense scene in which Cap painfully drags himself across the rooftop to reach the antidote, showing the determination that is such a key part of his character while saving both himself and Falcon.

The partners decide for Cap to try to track down the Cowled Commander--the head bad guy behind the Viper's attack--while Falcon trails the Viper personally. I really like how the rest of the issue is constructed. There's plenty of action, but the story around it is solid, with the two parallel investigations progressing in a logical manner.

Well, logical as far as Cap is concerned. Not everyone he questions seems to be thinking things through properly. His first stop is to talk to Sgt. Muldoon, who has been suspended recently while corruption charges against him are being invesigated.

Remember that at the time, Cap had been working as a cop while in his Steve Rogers identity. This had been an undercover assignment for an earlier case, which had meant he had often disappeared while on duty. This has led poor Muldoon to suspect that Steve is in fact the Cowled Commander.

(Gee whiz, I'll bet as a kid I just accepted the Cowled Commander as a cool villain name, but for now it sticks out as the one consistantly annoying part of an otherwise great story. It's a terrible villain name.)

Falcon, in the meantime, has first paid a visit to a local crime boss with whom he's been clashing, looking for information. He has to take out a trigger happy bodyguard, but afterwards can't make the crime boss talk. It's a nice bit of characterization for a secondary character--the boss is obviously scum, but he's not without physical courage, forcing Falcon to realize he's underestimated his opponent.
We switch back to Cap--the script does a fine job of juggling the action between the two heroes, helping keep up a nice level of suspense throughout the issue.

Cap encounters a gang of bank robbers and easily takes them down. In fact, he takes them with surprising ease. Possibly because of the poison and/or antidote interacting with the Super Soldier serum, Cap suddenly has increased super strength.

One of the crooks also spills the information that they are just the beginning of a crime wave that is about to be unleached on New York by the Cowled Commander.

Falcon, meanwhile, has tracked down Viper by tracing the drugs he would have had to buy to make his poisons. Between Falcon and Redwing, they take the villain down.

I should mention that Sal Buscema continues to do a great job with drawing and choreographing some wonderful fight scenes.

Cap has gone back to his apartment, only to find it's been searched. Soon after that, he's ambushed and captured--by Sgt. Muldoon!

Simultaneously, Falcon also learns about the impending crime wave, which will be led by a number of second-tier villains.
 It's very much a judgment call, but I think Marvel had better depth in their villain "bullpen" than did DC. They had a larger variety of secondary villains who weren't necessarily a part of one hero's Rogue's Gallery, but could be pulled out of storage and used in any story in which the writer thought they would fit.

So there you have it. A well-constructed story with a strong plot and some great action scenes. I really think I particularly remember this story primarily because my extraordinary good taste in such things was already developed. I was an unappreciated genius, by golly.

Next week, we'll look at the final chapter of this story arc.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

New article by me.

An article I wrote about old-time radio episodes in which husbands and wives plan to murder each other has just been published. Since I'm getting married in a few months, I figured this would be a good topic to research.
You know--just in case.

You can read it HERE

Friday, July 12, 2019

Friday's Favorite OTR

Fort Laramie: "Galvanized Yankee" 10/7/56

The Civil War on Old-Time Radio (Part 16 of 17)

A former Confederate cavalry trooper joins Company B in order to get out of prison. But whether he can be trusted to fight along Yankee soldiers he still openly hates is an open question.

Click HERE to listen or download.

This is the 16th of 17 episodes from various series that will take us through the Civil War and its immediate post-war legacy. I'll be posting another Civil War episode every three or four weeks.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Lone Star Planet

H. Beam Piper is a go-to writer if you are in the mood for science fiction that is both a quick read and a lot of fun. He wrote exciting, entertaining Space Opera that featured self-reliant protagonists and clever plots.

A lot of his tales are pretty much straight-forward adventures, but he was also adept at featuring the tension of different cultures clashing together. In at least one case, he had a lot of fun seeding political parody into a particular adventure story.

Lone Star Planet (co-written with John J. McGuire) was first published in the March 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe. It was later expanded slightly and published as a novel in several different editions, sometimes under the title A Planet for Texans. In fact, it earned an honored spot twice among the Ace Double Novels, once under each title.

Either title fits the story. When faster-than-light drive was invented, a large proportion of the population of Texas moved to another planet, where they raised "super-cattle." 

The illustration above, by the way, is a little mis-leading. The super-cattle are raised for meat to be exported to other planets, but they are huge alien beasts, not just oversized longhorns.

Here's a excerpt from the novel that effectively sets up the theme of the novel:

It had been the dissatisfied, of course, the discontented, the dreamers, who had led the vanguard of man's exploration into space following the discovery of the hyperspace-drive. They had gone from Terra cherishing dreams of things that had been dumped into the dust bin of history, carrying with them pictures of ways of life that had passed away, or that had never really been. Then, in their new life, on new planets, they had set to work making those dreams and those pictures live.

New Texas is essentially a libertarian paradise. To control a herd of super-cattle requires heavily-armed tanks and planes. So every rancher has what is essentially his own private army. But those armies aren't quite large enough for the rancher to set himself up as dictator. If any one of them tried to set himself up as dictator, his own men would kill him. So the ranchers were obligated to respect the rights of their men and of others out of simple self-preservation.

There is a central government, but it is purposely left very weak. It has no choice but to stay weak, because if a politician starts pushing for an income tax or gun control, someone will simply kill him. The assassin is then tried at the Court of Political Justice. If he can make an effective defense that the killing was justified because the politician was overstepping his authority, he is acquited. 

It is an effective and often very funny parody of extreme libertarianism and the stereotypical Texan, though Piper carefully sets up conditions on an alien world where this system could believably exist (at least within context of the story he wants to tell). 

The main character is the latest ambassador from the Earth-run Solar League, which wants New Texas to join the league. Stephen Silk actually didn't ask for this job. He was assigned it after he wrote a controversial article that displeased his superiors in the League's diplomatic service. 

Silk is no dummy. The previous ambassador had been killed and Silk realizes he is being set up for assassination as well, so this can be used as an excuse for New Texas to simply be annexed. In fact, he's pretty sure members of his own staff have orders to kill him.

Actually, Silk thinks getting New Texas to join the League is a good idea, since they are likely to be conquered by an aggressive alien race without the League's protection. But he'd rather arrange for this to happen without getting knocked off.

The key do doing this depends on the fate of three men who are accussed of killing the previous ambassador. There is evidence they are guilty and were being paid by aliens, and so are set to be tried at the Court of Political Justice. The political situation means it is best for the Solar League if the men are not convicted in that specific court (rather than a more traditional criminal court), even though this might mean they will go free. So Silk must first pull off some clever legal manuevering, then also administer some frontier-style justice AND foil an alien invasion. Then he might just stay alive as well as negotiate a treaty with New Texas.

Lone Star Planet works as an science-fiction adventure story and as a funny political/cultural parody that never crosses a line into being mean-spirited. You can read it in its original form HERE

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

From Advertising Exec to Super Villain. Is anyone really surprised?

I remember buying Captain America and the Falcon #157 (January 1973) off the 7-11 spinner rack. This was a few years after we moved to Florida and a store that carried comics became easily accessible and I had been reading many of the Marvel superhero books, so I'm sure this isn't the first C.A. book I bought. But its the first one of which I have a strong memory. I'm not sure why. It's the first chapter of a three-parter, which we'll be looking at over the next few weeks. And its a very good, enjoyable story, but its not exceptional in any way. Something about it, though, spoke to my 12-year old mind and made it stand out in my memory.

Written by Steve Englehart and with fun, kinetic art by Sal Buscema, it begins with Cap heading towards the police station, called there by the police commissioner. Along the way, he's jumped by three men who say someone called the Cowled Commander" has told them to stop that particular meeting.

This takes place not long after Steve Rogers had gone undercover as a cop while working on a previous case. Rogers is still officially a cop and the commissioner is aware of his double identity, so Steve seems to be the best person to investigate charges of corruption in the department. Several cops have been nailed for taking bribes and several others are suspended while under investigation. This includes Sgt. Muldoon, a tough and not terribly likeable cop, but Steve had worked with him and is convinced he's probably innocent.

But before he can start looking into things, the precinct house blows up. Or presumably the room Cap is in blows up, since no other casualties are mentioned, though the subsequent art work makes it unclear just how much of the building is wrecked.

For much of the remaining issue, Cap is assumed to have been killed in the explosion. It turns out that he was protected from the brunt of the blast by his shield. He's just hiding nearby in hopes of smoking out the person who planted the bomb. The assumption that the bomber would still be in the area or somehow give himself away is a bit of a stretch, but since this does turn out to happen that way, I guess I can't argue.

The story breaks away after the explosion to focus on the Falcon, which includes some stuff about a possible love interest and a conflict he's having with a local crime boss. I'm skipping over this, since it isn't connected to the main story, but its well-written and gives Sam Wilson some ongoing character development.

When Sam learns about the explosion and Cap's presumed death, he jumps head first into the main story. Soon, he's spotted the bomber on a nearby rooftop. This is the first appearance of the lower-tier Marvel villain called the Viper, a former advertising exec who spouts ad-related dialogue while fighting heroes. His M.O. involves using lots of poison and in the ensuing struggle, he manages to peg Falcon with a poisoned dart. He also conveniently mentions that he's been hired by the Cowled Commander to kill Captain America.

This is when Cap shows up and begins to clean Viper's clock. But the villain distracts Cap by tossing a vial of antidote to his poison on to the rooftop, then manages to peg Cap with a dart as well. The issue ends with Viper making a getaway while Cap and Falcon are slowly dying.

As was typical of many writers in the Marvel bullpen in the 1970s, Steve Englehart's dialogue is often over-written. ("Someone may be alive in there!" "Don't count on it, chief. Looks like that flag-wavin' Avenger finally bought it!") and "Cowled Commander" is a terrible villain name. But those would be minor quibbles. The story is a lot of fun and moves along at a brisk pace, with Sal Buscema choreographing some effective fight scenes. I honestly don't remember now why this story stuck so strongly in my memory from first reading it 46 years ago, but it is representative of entertaining storytelling that I like to celebrate on this blog.

Next week, we'll find out if Cap and Falcon survive.
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