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Captain America #431: Review

Sep 1994
Mark Gruenwald, Dave Hoover

Story Name:

The Next Generation

Review & Comments

4 stars

Captain America #431 Review by (May 13, 2017)
Comments: “Fighting Chance, Book 7.” First appearance/origin of Free Spirit. Though Cathy is suspended from school, she acts as though she has been permanently expelled; she really takes these things seriously. And her efforts to overcome the anti-male brainwashing were easier than she thought: it is never an issue again.

Review: Third trilogy in the “Fighting Chance” arc introduces us to Free Spirit, the next “patriotic” hero of the sequence—problem is, despite the red-white-and-blue décor, she really isn't a patriotic hero. If Americop was a caricature of the “law and order” party, the brainwashed Free is a flat-out cartoon of a feminist, no surprise since she is a disciple of the ridiculous Superia. This is announced through that bizarre cover where her anatomy is hard to delineate. On the inside she is portrayed as a mouse, easily manipulated into becoming a fanatical mouthpiece for Superia's propaganda. And her efforts to overcome the anti-male brainwashing were easier than we thought: it is never an issue again. Plus, Diamondback gets all whiny and self-absorbed (“Are the really gossiping about ME?”) which, along with “What does Cap really think about me?” distracts from the real moral quandary she is in, and Cap's serious trouble as well. Also in this issue: Cap gets a new look as part of the treatment for his deteriorating physical condition. And what a coincidence that it falls into the 1990s comic trope of giving all heroes belts and pouches. So what to do about the iconic Red, White, and Blue outfit? Simple! Just wrap him in belts and pouches. He fits right in with all of the suggestive artwork of women! Feh. And this three-issue arc only gets sillier. I hope Mark Gruenwald had a lot of fun writing it.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America #431 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

The latest examination by Dr. Kincaid reveals that Captain America’s deterioration (since #425) is occurring more rapidly than he had expected. Kincaid wants to consult with Hank Pym on the case but Cap says no, he doesn’t want to be an object of pity. The doctor suggests that the crisis points seem to be activated by a rush of adrenaline.

Elsewhere in Avengers Mansion, Diamondback is still concerned about Cap’s reaction to her in New Orleans (last issue) and overly sensitive to her treatment by the other heroes. She asks Black Widow what the others think of her and Natasha tells her frankly that some of the others don’t think she, being a reformed criminal, is worthy of the status Cap gives her. Natasha reassures her that only Cap’s opinion counts, though Rachel questions that. When Cap comes looking for her, he is puzzled to find her gone and contacts Fabian Stankowicz about building some new ordnance for him…. Meanwhile, Rachel visits Bernie Rosenthal about her legal troubles. She is still consumed by guilt for having killed Snapdragon, though Bernie suggests that since the murder can’t be proved and the legal system on A.I.M. Island is suspect, it would be best to forget the whole thing….

At Hayden College in the Midwest, honor student Cathy Webster is introduced to researcher Dr. Wentworth who would like Cathy to be a test subject for an experiment in subliminal learning to enhance physical and mental proficiency. The morally upright Cathy is reluctant as it sounds like cheating but she promises to think about it. Later she is knocked around and humiliated on the soccer field because she is not aggressive enough. Returning to her dorm room she finds her roommate Jennifer with her boyfriend and when Cathy is accused of being the one who snuck him in, she takes the blame and is suspended. Confused about where to go, she agrees to Wentworth’s experiment, spending her nights sleeping in the lab "listening" to tapes….

Steve heads to his Brooklyn headquarters where Fabian shows him his new creation: a harness that fits over Cap’s costume, containing pockets for a variety of small weapons. Before Fabian can demonstrate the features, they are interrupted by Rachel who wants to talk. She wants out of their relationships as she thinks Cap resents her help (he explains he was disgusted with his weakness, not her aid) and that she isn’t worthy of him. They are in turn interrupted by a call from the Vision, explaining that he kidnapped children (see issues #428-430) have been traced—to Baron Zemo’s castle in Mexico. Cap asks Diamondback for her help in this mission….

After a week of the treatment, Cathy is startled to find she has the physical abilities of an Olympic athlete; Wentworth explains that the purpose of the experiment was to encourage young women to unleash their potential. She wants Cathy to be spokesperson for a self-help program, giving demonstrations and speaking out against sexism. For a trial run, Cathy dons a red-white-and-blue outfit and heads toward a toga party at a frat house. There, she lectures the guys and gals on the demeaning sexist nature of their activities. When two guys try to take advantage of her she fights them off—but a voice in her head saying "Hate men! Hunt men! Hurt men!" causes her to react much more violently than she intended and she runs off to avoid arrest, Returning to the lab she finds Wentworth gone, and promises to overcome the forced subjugation of her mind. She vows to be in control of her own destiny as—the Free Spirit….

In Mexico, Cap and Diamondback skydive into Zemo’s castle where they are immediately surrounded by an army of plastoids, artificial men who bring them before their master. The unscarred villain, seated in his reception hall with his wife the Baroness, readily admits to "adopting" the 25 missing children. They are brought in an act like the loving children of the Zemos. Zemo explains they have been raised with proper family values and they have a surprise for Cap: on orders from the Nazi they announce they hate Captain America and draw guns on him….

Preview Pages
Click sample interior pages to enlarge them:

Dave Hoover
Danny Bulanadi
George Roussos
Dave Hoover (Cover Penciler)
Dave Hoover (Cover Inker)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Baron Zemo
Baron Zemo

Black Widow
Black Widow

(Natasha Romanoff)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

(Rachel Leighton)

(Pietro Maximoff)

Plus: Arnie Roth, Baroness Zemo, Bernie Rosenthal, Fabian Stankowicz, Free Spirit, Moonhunter, Peggy Carter, Superia (Deidre Wentworth).

> Captain America: Book info and issue index

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