OOPS! I ACTUALLY POSTED THIS ON MY BLOG ON JULY 28 AND FORGOT TO MIGRATE IT OVER HERE, AND THEN DIDN'T EVEN NOTICE UNTIL TODAY. ENJOY!
Welcome to Longbox Junk, where the comics are cheap and the reviews are free!
Despite getting a late start on things due to a family medical emergency and things being super hectic at work (I manage a hotel and I think the only way to make people stay at home THIS year would be an actual apocalypse of some sort), it's July and I can't let July pass by without shining the Longbox Junk spotlight on some Captain America!
SO. . .
Let's jump into the Longbox Junk paper time machine and set the dial for a short trip back in time to the edge of the Bronze Age. . .the year 1984! The comic at hand is one of the final issues (#44 out of 47) of Marvel's What If? anthology series, which explored what would happen if the stories of familiar characters were changed in some small way.
What If? is right up there in the top ten of my all-time favorite Bronze Age comic series. I've always enjoyed tales of alternate history AND this series is a who's who of Marvel's Bronze Age talent, so what's not to like? Even better, if you're a Longbox Junker such as myself, the issues are fairly easy to come by, with only a few being "valuable" enough to be priced out of the bargain bin.
But enough introduction! Let's jump into this comic that asks the question, "What if Captain America were not revived until today?" With "today" meaning 1984, of course. Ready? Let's do it!
WHAT IF? #44
WHAT IF CAPTAIN AMERICA WERE
NOT REVIVED UNTIL TODAY?
SCRIPT: Peter Gillis
PENCILS: Sal Buscema
INKS: Dave Simons
COVER: Bill Sienkiewicz
Now THERE'S a Bronze Age beauty if I've ever seen one! Classic Captain America rendered in impeccable detail by the one and only Bill Sienkiewicz! This is one of my favorite covers from the whole What If? run, and it has taken several turns up on the "Wall O' Covers" in my office at work. It's just a great piece of comic art, period. Let's get inside!
We begin our tale as the Avengers pursue Namor. . .but unlike OUR world, the Sub-Mariner eludes them and they give up the chase before discovering the body of Captain America suspended in ice since the end of WWII.
Years later, without the binding influence of Captain America to keep them together, the Avengers decide to disband. A political tensions worldwide rise, we see a mysterious man in a government base release Captain America and Bucky from some sort of laboratory where they were being kept in suspended animation!
Although the two heroes are confused as to how exactly they got where they are, they know they have a purpose. . .to restore order to the increasingly lawless nation! And so we see them in action shortly after their revival taking down a group of armed bank robbers. It is during this scene that we begin to realize something is. . .off. Cap and Bucky seem to be much more ruthless and brutal than we know the heroes to usually be.
In the months to follow, Cap and Bucky take down all manner of criminals, proving themselves as heroes in the eyes of America. . .but all the while keeping a secret. They are actually the replacement "Captain America and Bucky" from the 1950's, forced into suspended animation by the government when they felt there was no longer a use for them.
Then one day, a representative from a far right wing political group approaches Cap and Bucky, letting them know that their group is aware of their secret, but wants to enlist their help promoting their political cause. The two heroes agree.
In the months to come, Captain America and Bucky use their status as patriotic superheroes to push a hardline anti-communist/ anti-immigrant candidate to the top of the polls, all the while quashing rumors of their true identities.
After sweeping the election with Captain America's support, Senator Chadwick quickly begins to enact anti-immigrant and racist legislation, including a national identity card. . .
Protests soon begin to turn to riots, including one where a sniper attempts to kill Captain America! Emergency powers force martial law across the nation, leading to more and deadlier confrontations between government forces and protestors. . .
We move forward in time several years. A U.S. submarine on patrol finds something strange. . .a man frozen in ice! After thawing out the mysterious figure, he revives and fights the sailors, believing them to be Nazis. The Captain of the sub realizes that they've just discovered the REAL Captain America!
When the sub returns to port in Brooklyn, the Captain sneaks Captain America off the boat and takes him on a tour of New York. Cap is horrified to see the city is in the grip of an armed occupation, with armed soldiers wearing the insignia of Captain America. . .the "Sentinels of Liberty". . .everywhere!
The Submarine Skipper takes Captain America to see a contact with ties to the Underground. . .J. Jonah Jameson. With Jameson's assistance, Cap and the Skipper are able to cross the heavily-guarded barrier known as the Harlem Wall. Cap is disgusted by the poverty-stricken despair found in the racially-segregated ghetto Harlem has become.
Deep in the Harlem ghetto, the submarine skipper introduces Cap to the underground resistance movement, led by General Nick Fury, Spider-Man, and Snap Wilson (AKA the Falcon). At first he is suspected of being an infiltrator, but after Cap talks to Fury about their time fighting WWII, he is accepted into their ranks as they prepare for a major operation against the "America First Party" during their National Convention, soon to be held in New York City.
Elsewhere, we find the imposter Captain America meeting with the leaders of criminal organizations that have infiltrated the government, and we learn of their plans for complete control of the United States. . .as well as his support for their plans as long as they at least pretend to align with his insanely unbending anti-communist ideals.
Shortly thereafter, the scene shifts to Madison Square Garden, where the America First Party is holding a huge, heavily-guarded rally to finally cement their complete political control of the United States. The underground infiltrates the stadium and then attacks as the imposter Captain America makes his speech!
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