CAPTAIN AMERICA AND THE FALCON: SECRET EMPIRE (Marvel, First Printing, 2005; Softcover)
Collects Captain America #169-176 (cover dates January- August, 1974)
Writers: Steve Englehart and Mike Friedrich
Artists: Sal Buscema with Inking by Vince Colletta and Frank McLaughlin
The recent announcement of a forthcoming new printing of this book in early 2017 embarrassed me into reading this, which has sat unread in my backlog for years. Captain America is a character who was launched as a political concept tied into the zeitgeist, so it makes perfect sense for the character to become disillusioned with America during a time when America became disillusioned with itself. The Viet Nam War and Watergate weighed heavily on the minds of the populace, and the white hat/ black hat nature of our country from three decades earlier had faded. We were no longer in the right, and our then-brave new world left Captain America feeling lost at sea.
Things start out with Cap catching a commercial on the television discrediting him, paid for by the Committee To Regain America's Principles. In reality they are the Secret Empire. The Secret Empire baits Cap into action, setting him up in fights with Silver Age C-lister the Tumbler, going so far as to film Cap “murdering” him. The Committee, who speaks out against costumed vigilantes, bring in their own “hero” to fight on the side of the law, Moonstone. This would be the original, male Moonstone, whom I had no idea existed until I read this. Cap gets arrested by Moonstone while his partner, The Falcon, journeys to Wakanda to visit the Black Panther to see about boosting his power. The Falcon did not yet have his trademark wings. Those debuted in #170.
The Secret Empire again frames Cap, this time by breaking him out of prison and arranging for Moonstone to again fight and apprehend him. The Falcon returns just in time to join in on this battle, but both heroes get defeated and captured. They end up escaping and, using one of the most insane set of clues ever, use Moonstone's drawl and country music references to stereotype him as a Nashville resident. I'm not a very politically correct guy, but isn't this kind of racist to assume that just because someone has a drawl and references country music that they would be from Nashville? I dunno, this century confuses me. Maybe it is a micro-aggression or a macro-aggression. Who knows.
While in Nashville Cap and the Falcon run into the then-villain Banshee, who was being tailed by The X-Men. Professor X, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl were also hot on the tail of the Secret Empire. In some convoluted, it-makes-sense-because-everyone-was-high-in-1974 kind of way, the Secret Empire were capturing mutants to use their brain energy to power some bizarre machine. This being the Cold War, there is of course some giant robot for our heroes to fight.
The heroes win the battle but lose the war. Captain America is so disheartened with how easily the public turned against him, wishing to believe the worst about him, that he decides to quit being Captain America. This sets the stage for the next book in this line, Nomad, which I have also now read and will be reviewing for you soon.
I have always enjoyed Englehart's writing, and Sal Buscema turns in his usual solid work. The Bronze Age of comics is often maligned by modern fans for it's overly wordy nature. I enjoy this full-bodied flavor of storytelling to the wimpy, watered down light taste of modern comics. Your mileage may vary.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.5 out of 5.
The OCD zone
Linework and Color restoration: Some issues look better than others, but overall this is a serviceable restoration job with the original color palette maintained for the most part.
Paper stock: Glossy coated stock. While not optimal for material with flat coloring, it isn't too bad when read in natural light. Marvel used paper like this until 2006.
Binding: Perfect bound trade paperback.
Cardstock cover notes: Laminated cardstock cover.