Last week, DC’s biggest icons clashed for the very first time.  This time around, we turn our attention to the protagonists of the upcoming ‘Captain America: Civil War.’

It’s a much less pleasant interaction…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Captain America #341 awaits!

CaptainAmerica341CAPTAIN AMERICA #341
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Kieron Dwyer
Inker: Al Milgrom
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: John Morelli
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously in Captain America: Confronted by the government for activities not in keeping with the current (Read: Reagan) Administration, Steve Rogers officially gave up the role of Captain America.  He did not, however, give up his crusade against bad folk, taking up a stylish new black uniform and calling himself The Captain, as ‘Galactic President Superstar McAwesomeville’ was taken.  His costume, shield and identity were given to a new Captain America, one John Walker, whose actions continue to escalate towards crazy-pants.  Worse still, when he approached his old friend Tony “Iron Man” Stark about procuring a new shield for his unauthorized activities, Steve found himself in the middle of Tony’s personal crap (with his designs stolen by Justin Hammer, Tony had embarked on a crusade to eliminate all traces of his tech from anyone else’s armors.)  At the government superhuman holding facility known as The Vault, The Captain had confronted Iron Man, who had come to disable the armored suits used by the prison’s guards.  Stark beat Rogers in combat, destroyed the armors and left the villains within the facility unguarded.  Now, Steve would have words with his long-time compatriot…


The old ‘spinning-chair-in-a-dark-room’ gambit…  Nice.  Tony and Steve have a terse moment of secret-identity protection in front of the nice young lady before calling her a limousine and getting down to brass tacks…


Many times, when the Major Spoilers Podcast team reviews older material, there are complaints about the sheer amount of text and the wordiness of the material, but Mark Gruenwald is a master of writing “As you already know…” dialogue without making it feel redundant or bogging the story down completely.  As a stunned Stark realizes the trouble he’s in, The Captain advises him that he has arrived to take Stark into custody for his recent erratic behavior (or, as we call it, ‘The Armor Wars.’)


A very tense standoff ensues, as Iron Man tries to use his superior firepower to deter The Captain, but Rogers is in no way intimidated by his longtime teammate.  When it becomes clear that there’s no parlay that will get him out of the situation, Iron Man is forced to defend himself physically…


The Captain proves correct in his assumption that Iron Man won’t open up with his full arsenal in the middle of his own home, but the power disparity between them surprises even the Sentinel of Liberty.  Worse still, without his primary weapon, The Captain’s tactical deficiencies are even larger.

(Not that that sort of thing will stop him…)


Iron Man tries to argue justifications for his actions, but Captain America isn’t hearing any of it, reminding him that there is a code of honor that they, as Avengers, have sworn to uphold.  Stark realizes that the argument is pointless, and shuts the conversation down immediately…


It’s a strong moment for both heroes, as The Captain faces a much more powerful foe, refusing to stall or back down simply because he is outgunned, while Iron Man chooses to harmlessly immobilize his old friend rather than have the situation escalate further.  He’s admittedly kind of a jerk about it, though…


In many ways, this is the core of the seemingly endless battles between Captain America and Iron Man we’ve seen over the last decade: Idealism versus pragmatism; Tradition versus Innovation; in many ways, this issue is a cornerstone in the foundation of Marvel Comics.  (To be honest, the years 1984 through 1989 inclusive fit that description.)  In the midst of their greatest personal crises of the decade, though, the two men maintain their respect and their friendship…


The Captain decides to let his friend restore his own reputation, but future issues will show, he does hold a grudge (especially when Iron Man’s quest gains a body-count a few issues down the line.  But that, as they say, is another Retro Review.)  Amazingly, after packing that much character and energy into the opening story, there are two more tales to be had in this issue.  First, we get to see the new Captain America and his partner preparing for their public debut.  Just don’t call Lemar Hoskins “Bucky.”


What is really well-done about this sequence is the fact that the Vault guards words are actually the critiques of the fans and readers of Marvel Comics, complaints that he took to heart and addressed in-story, rather than dismiss or minimize.  In the context of modern editorial responses to such fan complaints, it feels practically archaic, but refreshingly so, especially the fact that they came right out and admitted the ugly connotations that ‘Buck’ has in some circles, and made course corrections mid-story to fix the issues.  When the newly christened Battlestar and Captain America take the stage, though, they are greeted by some old friends…


The brutality and rage with which Cap/Walker rebuffs the other former Buckies is a hint of what is to come, and his erratic and ragey behaviors eventually lead to attempted murder by Captain America, which may or may not have a large role in why Steve Rogers is Captain America again in the modern-day.  Also in this issue, the members of Sidewinder’s Serpent Society find that their ranks have been infiltrated by Viper loyalists, leading Diamondback to make a fateful decision…


It is this moment that leads to Diamondback’s face-turn and long run as Cap’s on-again/off-again main squeeze, as well as the wonder that is The Captain’s battle with a serpentine president.  Still, all of that is in the future, right now (for some “thirty Springs ago” values of ‘right now’) we have a very impressive issue of Captain America to deal with.  In the old days, they called a book like this a “housekeeping issue”, one that reminds us who the players are and their positions on the metaphorical chessboard, but a master storytelling like Gruenwald can take this material and turn it into something compelling and meaningful, leaving Captain American #341 with a more-than-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall.  If you ever wonder what an old-school comics nerd like me means when I turn into a blowhard about the “Real” Captain America, this issue should serve as example and explanation…



A 'housekeeping issue', but one that Gruenwald fills with key moments and character development, as well as some lovely bits of humanity. Art's not bad, either.

User Rating: 3.8 ( 2 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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