Printed in 1968, Captain America #100 was Cap’s first solo title in the modern Marvel Age. It concludes a story started back in Tales of Suspense #97 and features some of Cap’s soon-to-be iconic supporting characters, like the insidious Baron Zemo (well, sorta) and Agent 13, in addition to Avengers’ regular, the Black Panther and classic Marvel mainstay, the Sub-Mariner. Another solid book from the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby powerhouse that helped define Marvel in 60’s, Cap #100 gets it’s numbering from its predecessor, Tales of Suspense, which, ever since 1964’s ToS #59, had featured two stories in every issue- one for Iron Man and one for Cap. When the book hit issue #99, Marvel announced that starting the next month Iron Man would be moving to his own monthly title (The Invincible Iron Man #1) and Cap would be taking over Tales of Suspense, which changed it’s title but kept the original numbering.
While Cap’s life in the Marvel Universe started back in Avengers #4, this, in many ways, was a breakthrough book for the character and would go on to be one of Marvel’s longest running titles. So sit back and we’ll take a look at just how this classic book stands the test of time.
Captain America #100
“This Monster Unmasked!”
Released: April 1968
Writer: Stan “The Man” Lee
Penciler: Jack “King” Kirby
Inker: Syd Shores
Letterer: Artie Simek
Editor: Stan Lee
The book opens up with a three page recap of Cap’s modern day “origin”. For those not in the know, Steve Rogers was frozen in ice at the end of World War II and remained a Cap-cicle for two decades (or more, depending on which timeline you’ve walked into). He spent that time being revered as a demigod by an Inuit tribe who discovered him, until one day an angry Namor, the Sub-Mariner, King of Atlantis, attacked the village and hurled the frozen figure into the ocean, where it was later discovered by the fledgling super-team, The Avengers!
Cap comes to in present day (with the help of Black Panther) and realizes that he has just had a flashback to when he was first found in ice (including remembering the parts he was frozen for) due to being knocked unconscious by Baron Zemo’s dastardly ray gun! It’s a ham-fisted way to shoehorn in the character’s intro, and the best part of the entire comic is the caption that follows:
Stan Lee practically tells the reader “Yeah, we just threw this in here for recap purposes. It has no bearing on the story. Carry on.” Man, the things you could get away with in the Silver Age of comics. I guess, since the book was intended for kids, it was a necessary evil, but still, funny as anything I’ve ever seen. Especially the part about thanking himself for letting himself do the recap.
The action begins to unfold immediately following the intro scene and really doesn’t stop. We get caught up to speed pretty quickly on Cap’s current situation in which he and Panther are surrounded by Baron Zemo and his soldiers with no escape in sight! Zemo orders his newest recruit, a woman named
Agent 13 Irma Kruhl, to shoot Cap and prove her loyalty to the evil empire. Agent 13 (she’s undercover, kids!) is hesitating, despite her orders to infiltrate Zemo’s organization and destroy his orbiting Death Ray at any cost. Seems that all her S.H.I.E.L.D. training is no match for her love for the Living Legend of World War II, who just can’t seem to recognize her even though she’s only disguised in a pair of glasses and a hat. Cap probably thinks she’s Kim Basinger portraying Vicki Vale- I know I sure did.
Suddenly Black Panther jumps into the frame, knocking Cap aside just as Agent 13 fires, causing her to “miss” (though Cap would point out that he notices she didn’t actually aim at him, but rather a few inches above his head). Instead of firing again, something that Cap thinks is odd, “Irma” turns to Zemo and says, “Meh, this isn’t important. Let’s go look at your satellite laser instead. We can always kill the super heroes later. What could possibly go wrong?” And you know what? Zemo agrees! Because why not?
So, as you would imagine, Zemo inexplicably escorts “Irma” over to his control station and after a brief explanation of how the machine works, including a “Without this control station my device would be useless.” part, the undercover agent blows the entire console to a fiery nothingness. Just as Zemo orders his men to kill the woman, Cap and Panther jump into action in classic astounding Kirby style.
When I was younger I never really appreciated just how freaking amazing a panel like this was. Just glorious.
During the brawl, Agent 13’s glasses fall off and her hat is lost in the fray, allowing Cap to now recognize the woman who spared his life just moments ago. You know, the woman he loves. Who he has never seen before with a different hair style. I guess. Yeah, yeah. It’s for kids, I get it. Even still…really?!?
With all our heroes on the same side again, and the mission a success, our courageous trio starts to fight off the endless waves of purple-headed goons at Zemo’s disposal in an attempt to escape the villain’s sinister HQ. Agent 13, being a good S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, resigns herself to a satisfying death since she completed her goal, but Cap ins’t too keen on letting things end this way. He urges the group to move on in typical inspirational Cap fashion.
The odds are against our heroes, though, as the white and purple goon squad closes in on them, cornering them in a room with no way out. Well, unless you count the giant air duct they climb into. Cap snags 13’s pistol and fires backwards to keep the hordes of evil at bay (and hopefully stifling all the critics who say “Captain America doesn’t use guns!”) giving the three enough time to escape. However, their exit route takes them directly into a room containing what Zemo refers to as “The Ultimate Bodyguard”- the dreaded Destructon!
The massive mechanical menace gets the drop on the Panther, knocking him down in one brutal blow but Cap quickly steps in to turn the monster’s attention away from the downed Wakandan. The Detructon proves to be stronger than Captain America anticipated, however, swatting him aside with a powerful uppercut. Black Panther springs back into battle and he and Agent 13 take a turn at trying to down the robotic beast. Though unsuccessful, it does give Cap enough time to notice some small metal studs on the android’s torso. SOMEHOW he concludes that those nodes must be the controls, and hunch pays off. By destroying one of them, he manages to shut down the Destructon, which is great in moving the story forward, I’m just not sure how he thought it was going to work. I mean, Destructon is a giant robot of Kirby design, and those things are always covered in all sorts of useless yet elaborate embellishments. Hell, this guy has those very same studs on it’s back and it’s legs, but a single punch to one of the torso ones takes the bot out of commission. Lucky play, Cap.
As the Destructon drops, Zemo and his militia burst into the room. The criminal leader is enraged that his prized (but flawed) weapon was defeated and orders his men to open fire to finish off the heroes, but he’s standing a bit too close to Cap, who acts fast to grab the villain and unmask him. Yes, unmask Zemo. See, Cap continues his astounding observations and notices that Zemo’s mask sits loosely on his face- something that couldn’t happen to the real Zemo since the mask should be glued in place due to his accidental exposure to the experimental Adhesive X. Given Cap’s track record of game-changing scrutiny this entire issue, it’s even more puzzling that he couldn’t recognize Agent 13 earlier.
Thanks to Cap’s clever eye, the man in charge is revealed to be Zemo’s former pilot, who was present the day the actual Zemo died and decided to disguise himself as his fallen employer to carry on the Nazi’s dark work. This actually might help to explain why Zemo was so freaking dumb earlier in the issue. Or at least that’s what I’m going to say.
Outraged that they were tricked into following a false-Zemo, his henchmen open fire, killing the pilot before anyone can react. Black Panther orders them to lay down their arms, revealing that he is King T’Challa of Wakanda, and with his army moving in on the compound, he announces that they’re all under arrest. He offers them all a fair trial if they surrender, and they agree, mainly because they have no reason to fight without someone to pay them, which makes it somewhat confusing since they just killed a guy while claiming they only serve Zemo, but then allude to only working for Zemo because he paid them. Fickle bunch.
With “Zemo’s” sinister plan unraveled and our heroes safely out of harm’s way, the story concludes as S.H.I.E.L.D. destroys the now useless Death Ray. Cap, Agent 13, and T’Challa fly off into the sunset as Cap offers T’Challa his old spot on The Avengers before making the statement, “So long as freedom may be threatened–Captain America must follow his destiny–wherever it may lead!”
Obviously this book has some iffy parts- mostly surrounding Cap’s abnormal deductive abilities, but it’s still a great read. The Lee/Kirby freight train starts moving and keeps a speedy pace throughout the entire thing with plenty of twists and action, and, although it comes a different era of comics, it doesn’t feel all that different from something you would read today.