Captain America and the Falcon #138 (1971)

Where Cap #102 is a treat, Captain America #138 is an odd, embarassing curiosity. It, like many Cap comics, is a relic of the early ’70s era of turmoil. Unlike his issues in collaboration with Jack Kirby, when escapism was the whole point of the comic, by the time Jazzy Johnny Romita came aboard, the comic was plunged into an odd sort of relevance. It wasn’t the sort of relevance that was appearing in DC’s Green Lantern/Green Arrow series of the time, but more the sort of relevance that a middle-aged hipster might conjure up by watching Walter Cronkite and thinking vaguely about "the problems of the inner city."

The plot revolves around the Falcon, then wearing one of the ugliest costumes in costumed hero history, trying to hunt down Spider-Man, for unclear reasons, while Stone Face, an Harlem thug, tries to blackmail the city of New York out of (everyone together, in your Doctor Evil voice) one miiiiilllion dollars. Yeah, it’s dated and silly and feels pointless and embarassing.

What made this comic worth the three bucks I paid for it (three bucks?! As much as a new issue, and with much denser story and art!) is the wonderful art of John Romita Sr., along with a few deft touches by Stan the Man. Romita has never been my favorite artist – I think I burned out on him during the era he was art director of Marvel in the ’70s and his art was everywhere – but there’s no arguing that he could draw Spider-Man. There’s a nice scene in this issue with Peter Parker and Norman Osborn that looks like it came directly from that month’s Spider-Man. Norm has the wonderful iconic Romita Sr. hair that I love so much, and it just feels right for Romita to draw the characters.

But the real highlight of the issue is a wonderful image of Spider-Man swinging along under a rain-swept Elevated Train tracks. This is one gorgeous image. The city looks awash in a flash rainstorm, rain pelting anyone unlucky enough to be caught outside and making the city dark and gloomy. You really feel the city in that panel, vibrant and alive even in Harlem.


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