08 May 2008

Re-Cap, Part 7: Cap Meets Solarr

I didn’t mention in my last Captain America write-up about the artwork of Sal Buscema, who settled in as the mag’s regular artist. He quickly turned into one of Cap’s definitive artists, and his work feels much more appropriate than the darker and shadier artwork of previously regular Gene Colan. (I always associate Colan with Daredevil, for whom he was ideal.)

On to the next issue, #159. We’re at the end of the Silver Age of comics, so we’ve got plenty of oddball villains popping up. The cover introduces us to Solarr, but never explains that extra ‘r.’ Perhaps it’s there just to distinguish his name from a regular word in the dictionary, ‘solar.’ (Not that such logic stops Porcupine.) On the cover, our radiant baddie shouts: “I’ve harnessed the power of the sun! Now nothing nothing can stop me! Nothing!” Well, what about darkness? Silly supervillain.

Solarr receives his backstory in a one-page flashback, showing him as a hippie who got stranded in the desert and suffered an incredible heat-stroke that somehow gave him superpowers. I would wager that he is probably a latent mutant (the Marvel Database confirms this), but let’s just forge ahead. Solarr tries to rob the New York Stock Exchange and gruesomely incinerates some innocent bystanders. Cap arrives and figures out that Solarr must regenerate in sunlight to use his fiery abilities. Cap then dumps weather-proofing paint on him, and that’s the end. For all his megalomaniacal boasting, Solarr proved easy to beat.

That wraps it up for the actual superheroics part of our tale, which only appears as an excuse for a return to the drama between Falcon and Cap which took a rest during the Sgt. Muldoon problems we just went through. Cap suddenly has super-strength, an unforseen result of the antidote he used to cure himself of Viper’s poison mixing with the super-soldier serum in his blood. Falcon suddenly feels inferior as he watches his partner best five robbers all on his own, and he doesn’t get a chance to join in the brawl with Solarr. Feeling himself useless, he goes to talk to Leila for advice.

And who’s Leila? I guess we had to get around to talking about her eventually. She’s Sam Wilson’s love interest, although she prefers the Falcon identity. (Ah Leila, if only you knew.) Sam often finds her obnoxious, and it’s probably because she’s mouths ‘70s blaxploitation clichés at him. She’s into black power, spouts Angela Davis philosophy (and hair), and rides Sam for being an “Uncle Tom” because he does social work. Of course, when he goes to her in the Falcon guise to ask for help with his relationship with Cap, Leila advises him to go solo because Cap will eventually make him his “native bearer.” Sam can’t really believe that—because it’s not true—but with Captain America on a literal power trip, he’s more swayed by Leila’s arguments than he would like to admit.

Despite the dated nature of Leila’s character, the drama Englehart develops here is solid and doesn’t feel one bit forced. I’m intrigued to see what will happen next with Cap’s super-strength, since I know it won’t be permanent.

I love it when old comic books date themselves with a topical pop culture reference
Thug: He ain’t human no more!

Cap: Oh no, I’m plenty human. I watch All in the Family just like everybody else.
Another major storyline begins at the conclusion of the issue, when Sharon leaves a “Dear John” letter on Steve Rogers’s door and walks away with her bags packed. Englehart’s end teaser promises the “Macabre Mystery of Sharon Carter” starting next issue.

Last episode: No, Not the Porcupine!

Next episode: The Fury of Yellow Claw