This past week I decided to do some light reading, Captain America style. Off I went to my local comic store (4th World Comics- if you’re ever on Long Island, check them out. You won’t be sorry) and started to thumb through the library of trade paperbacks they sell when I stumbled upon 2 interesting looking reads- Captain America and The Falcon: Madbomb and Captain America: The Bloodstone Hunt. After several minutes of wandering around deciding which to get, I eventually just ended up snagging both (I knew this was going to happen, but I needed to let myself “decide”) and away I went with my afternoon’s entertainment (though watching my fiancé try to assemble a bookshelf was plenty entertaining too).
I had such fond memories of The Bloodstone Hunt, having been one of the earliest Cap stories I remember reading from my childhood, so I started with that one. Collecting Captain America Vol. 1 #357-364, the book was a much welcomed trip down memory lane. Suddenly I was there in 1989, 7 years old, following Cap on a ridiculous Indiana Jones-style adventure that only the 80’s could have produced. Ritualistic Incas, helpful mummies, a culturally diverse team of villains, and a globe trotting race to collect all seven Dragonbal…er, I mean all 5 Bloodstone fragments- man, the 80’s were great.
Let’s get this out of the way right now- by today’s standards, this book is pretty cheesy. Heck, by 1980’s comic standards it was probably a little cheesy. But hey, sometimes you need a little cheese.
The book begins with the introduction of the story’s main antagonists- Baron Zemo and his hired thugs, Batroc’s Brigade! In fact, Cap doesn’t even appear in the entire first issue (chapter) of the book! Instead we are treated to a plethora or entertaining accents from the wonderfully honorable Batroc the Leaper, the British mercenary Zaran, and the South American revolutionary known as Machete while they carry out their task of retrieving the remains of Ulysses Bloodstone for the ever-villainous Baron Helmut Zemo. Unbeknownst to the rogues, the on-again-off-again criminal Diamondback has followed them on their heist and enlists Cap’s help in an attempt to win over her Star-Spangled object of affection.
That hunt for the crimson fragments takes our heroes (and villains) all over the world and makes for some fun reading, including plenty of corny dialogue and some out-there plot points (nice Mr. Mummy never did get his shiny rocks back), but writer Mark Gruenwald never steps too far off the path and keeps the characters very true to the way we love them. What’s really fun is that you could see this story being redone with modern story-telling techniques while only having to change very little, and for that I give Gruenwald a lot of credit. Not every comic from the CCA-era could boast that.
The six-part story is definitely the main focus of this book, but as I already stated this trade collects 8 issues of Cap, 357 through 364, so what gives? Well, this story arc has a special place in my heart for another reason. Towards the end of the Bloodstone adventure, we meet a soon-to-be arch-enemy of Cap for the very first time, and I’m a sucker for first appearance stories. The last two issues of this book continue the cliffhanger left at the end of the main story and to me are the real gems in this collection. I mean, what Cap fan doesn’t love Crossbones???
…And don’t you forget it! Brock’s 1st appearance would definitely not be his last.
That’s right, Crossbones. Good ol’ Brock Rumlow makes his first appearance in the pages of The Bloodstone Hunt, and both Gruenwald and artist Kieron Dwyer make sure he’s gonna stick around for a while. Gruenwald must have been testing how far the CCA (Comic Code Authority) would let him go when he thought up this sadist, and Dwyer built a simple-yet-memorable design that would remain a fan-favorite to this day. These two might not be the first (or even fifth) creative team Cap fans think of, but their contribution to the mythos was a big one.
I think my only real complaint was with the trade paperback itself, and not the story it collected. For some reason, this collection doesn’t include the side-story teased on the cover to issue 357- “Teen Cap Battles the Sisters of Sin”. Marvel, why wouldn’t you include that in this volume? It sounds ridiculous! Oh well, I did get to relive my childhood when I read this book, so I can let it slide. Just don’t let it happen again, Marvel.
So maybe it’s just my personal preference for Rumlow and first appearances, or my never-ending love of nostalgia, but Captain America: The Bloodstone Hunt was definitely a fun read. Was it the greatest Cap story ever? Not by a long shot, but it sure was a wild ride and one I’d recommend again and again.