For Part One of this series click HERE.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #171 (March 1974)
Villains: Stone-Face and Moonstone
NOTE: This is the first story with the Falcon using his new wings in action.
Synopsis: We pick up right where we left off last time. The country is heatedly divided regarding the jailed Captain America’s guilt or innocence on the murder charge. We readers know that Cap was framed by Moonstone and Quentin Harderman (a former colleague of the supervillain the Viper) as the capstone of their smear campaign against our hero.
A gang of armed men have blasted their way into Captain America’s jail cell, claiming to be on his side and offering to help him escape. Cap is torn, apprehensive that people will conclude he’s guilty if he escapes but fearful that if he stays nobody will be able to prove his innocence.
Our hero ultimately decides to stay in his cell to let the legal process play out. It is then that the supposedly “pro-Cap” armed men reveal that they are really part of Harderman’s organization and tell him he has no choice: come with them or they’ll kill him.
Captain America fights the armed men, who refer to each other by number while shouting orders. Cops in the building arrive to help Cap fight the villains, but ultimately those armed intruders unleash knockout gas on the cops and a separate gas powerful enough to knock out Captain America himself.
When Cap comes to later, he realizes the armed villains have carried him with them, so everyone thinks he escaped with them after all. Harderman is running with this in the media with more fake news to make our hero seem more crooked than ever.
As Cap is coming to in an alleyway overnight, he hears his abductors mention that they are going to leave him here and have Moonstone show up to bring him in again, further advancing their plan to make Moonstone hailed as America’s greatest new superhero.
Our villains are attacked by Captain America and since they don’t have any more knockout drugs with them he totals them easily. By threatening one of the defeated thugs, Cap learns that clues regarding the framing of Cap might be found at the Penn Street offices of Quentin Harderman’s Committee to Regain America’s Principles.
(Click HERE for my previous item putting that fictional committee into its political context in the 1970s.)
With the sun coming up now Cap goes off to hide from the authorities and wait for an opportune moment to break into Harderman’s Penn Street offices.
Meanwhile, in Lagos, Nigeria, the Falcon and the Black Panther have arrived by Quin-Jet and hit the streets in search of the exiled African-American gangster Stone-Face. That supervillain had clashed with Cap and Falcon in the past and last issue abducted Falc’s girlfriend Leila Taylor.
Leaving the Wakandan Consulate, the Black Panther and Falcon rendezvous with an undercover Wakandan intelligence agent who has located the headquarters of Stone-Face. The Black Panther and the Falcon charge in to save Leila, with the Falcon getting his first battle test of the new wings that T’Challa gave him via Wakandan technology.
Despite some awkwardness getting used to his new power of flight, Falcon takes down Stone-Face and helps the Black Panther wipe out the villain’s armed underlings. With Falc and Leila reunited, the Black Panther next flies them back to New York City.
After Sam (Falcon) and Leila wave goodbye to T’Challa as he drops them off and then heads for Avengers Mansion, the Falcon arranges to take Leila out that night and flies off to the office of social worker Sam Wilson, his secret identity. (Unknown to Leila, yet.)
At his office, our hero finds Iron Man waiting inside for him. Iron Man updates Sam about everything that’s happened to Cap over the past few days. The government is pressuring the Avengers to bring in the fugitive Cap but they have an excuse to stall right now because their latest clash with the supervillain team Zodiac is still going on.
Iron Man convinces Falcon that it will look better for Cap if he (Sam) can find him first and talk him into turning himself in, rather than have to be hunted down like a criminal. Falc agrees.
NOTE: Steve Englehart was writing both Captain America & the Falcon AND The Avengers at this time and synched up this story with that one. Iron Man’s visit to Sam Wilson’s office takes place during the hours when Thor is scouring the Tri-State area for any sign of Zodiac’s aircraft and the other Avengers (Scarlet Witch, Vision and Black Panther) are guarding the wounded Mantis and Swordsman at Avengers Mansion.
Iron Man flies back to the mansion while the Falcon conveys to his falcon sidekick Redwing that he needs the bird to find Captain America.
NOTE: That may sound silly but they are setting the stage for the revelation about the Falcon’s mutant power to communicate with birds. It’s another part of giving Falc more powers to complement Cap’s Spider-Man level strength during this 5 year period.
Redwing finds Captain America and leads the Falcon to him just as the workday has come to a close and employees are leaving the Quentin Harderman offices. Cap is waiting in an alleyway to break in as soon as the employees leave.
Falc joins him and after Cap tells him his side of what happened regarding the murder frame, the Falcon states he will stand with his crime-fighting partner and NOT turn him in. Instead, he will help him try to clear himself.
Moonstone emerges from hiding, saying he just recorded Falcon saying he won’t take Cap in, so he can now accuse him of being an accomplice to the fugitive “murderer.” The villain posing as a hero battles both Captain America and Falc, using his super strength, energy blasts and ability to fly and teleport to defeat both of them.
With Cap and Falcon unconscious before him, Moonstone gloats and prepares to call the police to come and arrest them.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #172 (April 1974)
Title: The Howl of the Banshee
Villains: Moonstone and Banshee
Synopsis: Quentin Harderman emerges from his office building and instructs Moonstone to take Cap and Falc’s bodies elsewhere, then have the cops pick them up. If he is found to have publicly defeated Captain America right outside the committee’s offices AGAIN, it may lead the hero’s sympathetic allies to wonder what Cap might have been after inside their main office.
Moonstone takes the unconscious heroes to an out of the way place in Central Park and leaves the armed goons that Cap defeated the previous day to keep an eye on Cap and Falc from hiding while he goes to call the cops.
While he is gone, our two heroes come to and defeat the thugs. Moonstone returns from calling the cops but Captain America and the Falcon fight their way past him and take it on the run. The two sneak into Sam Wilson’s office in Harlem since not even S.H.I.E.L.D. knows the Falcon’s secret identity.
With his experience operating behind enemy lines during World War Two, Cap (Steve Rogers) works out plans for him and Sam to investigate Moonstone’s past beginning in Nashville, TN. It’s the only lead they have thanks to the villain’s casual references to the place during battle.
Traveling in civilian clothing and with the Falcon wearing a fake moustache, the pair arrive in Nashville by the afternoon of the following day. While scouring the city for clues, they are spotted by the fugitive Banshee, who notices that Steve is wearing his Captain America costume under his street clothes.
NOTE: The mutant Banshee (Sean Cassidy) was a sometime foe and sometime ally of the original X-Men team in the 1960s. He was often on the run from the law over his mercenary activities. At this moment he had recently escaped from captivity at the hands of a secret army that has been hunting and imprisoning mutants. (More on that group shortly.)
Banshee jumps to the conclusion that Captain America and the Falcon are either hunting him over his various criminal offenses or because they’re working for the army that he recently escaped from. He dons his Banshee costume and attacks our heroes.
The battle rages throughout the streets of Nashville as Cap and Falc contend with the Banshee’s power to fly and to shoot powerful sonic rays from his mouth the way Cyclops shoots optic beams from his eyes.
Just as Banshee has the two heroes on the ropes, he is attacked by Cyclops, who arrives out of nowhere. This makes Banshee assume that the X-Men are working with Cap and Falc to bring him in and he overcomes Cyclops as well, then flies off.
Next, Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) shows up and uses her telekinetic powers to fly Steve, Sam and Cyclops out to the forests of Tennessee, where they all meet with Professor X to compare notes. The professor explains to Cap and Falc that they had trailed Banshee to Nashville and planned to recruit him to help them against the secret group that abducted him and other mutants.
Among those other imprisoned mutants are supervillains as well as X-Men members like the Beast, Iceman, Angel, Polaris and Havok. Professor X further states that he is convinced that the group which has framed Cap for murder is the same conspiratorial organization which has been capturing mutants – the Secret Empire.
NOTE: The Secret Empire were formerly a subdivision of Hydra but in the 1960s broke away from Hydra to try to conquer America by themselves. They had previously clashed with the Hulk, Sub-Mariner and the Beast. More on them below.
Just as Cap and Falc agree to combine efforts with the professor, Cyclops and Marvel Girl, they are informed via megaphone that they are surrounded by Nick Fury and several armed S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Nick orders our heroes to surrender.
NOTE: In 1975, when Professor X recruited his second team of X-Men, Banshee was still laying low in Nashville, where the professor found him for that team.
CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON Vol 1 #173 (May 1974)
Title: The Sins of the Secret Empire
Villains: The Secret Empire
Synopsis: Fury is still calling for Captain America, the Falcon, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Professor X to surrender. He states they weren’t in Tennessee looking for Cap and Falc but saw them being levitated through the sky, so they followed them to their destination.
Nick goes on to say that the few dozen S.H.I.E.L.D. agents he has with him are backed up by “half of the Tennessee State Police.” Captain America and the Falcon hurriedly consult with the X-Men, then, as one, they attack Nick Fury and all the forces he has with him.
While the battle rages, Professor X watches from his wheelchair and uses his psychic powers to make Fury, his agents and the state police forget he is there and not see him. After a time, Professor X has his two X-Men start a forest fire as cover for them all to escape, justifying it by pointing out that the entire country is in danger from the Secret Empire.
By the time Nick Fury and company have put out the fire, our heroes are long gone. We cut to an abandoned mine tunnel in which Cap, Falc, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Prof X hide out. The professor fills in Steve and Sam about the Secret Empire.
NOTE: This is another example of Marvel Comics wrapping up the storyline from a canceled series in the pages of a still-running comic book series. The X-Man called the Beast had been clashing with the Secret Empire during the brief run of his own adventures from Amazing Adventures Vol 2 #11 to Amazing Adventures Vol 2 #17 (March 1972 – March 1973)
The Beast’s secret identity of Hank McCoy, PhD was working on Long Island as a research scientist for the Brand Corporation (Marvel Comics’ version of the real-life Rand Corporation). With the X-Men series canceled during this time period the Beast was tried out in this solo series, but it was canceled, too.
During the Beast’s run there, he was being used by Secret Empire Agent Number Nine, aka Linda Donaldson, who pretended to be in love with Hank McCoy to manipulate him for the Secret Empire. The Beast repeatedly clashed with the Secret Empire while keeping his secret identity as Hank McCoy concealed. The Angel even helped him fight the Griffin, a supervillain working for the Empire.
Back to the story, the professor goes on, saying that the Secret Empire eventually abducted the Beast, and also captured the Angel after he was wounded by Magneto when the X-Men and Avengers joined forces against Maggy in Avengers #110-111.
After that, the Empire slowly picked off other X-Men – Polaris, Havok and Iceman, leaving just Professor X, Cyclops and Marvel Girl still free and investigating the Secret Empire. They learned about the covert alliance between the Empire and Quentin Harderman’s Committee to Regain America’s Principles.
The professor concludes by telling Cap and Falc that Number Nine – Linda Donaldson, the only Secret Empire operative whose real name they know – has recently been reassigned to the Houston offices of the Brand Corporation. Professor X proposes using her in a bid to have Cap and Falc infiltrate the Secret Empire in the civilian disguises they were using last issue.
The next day, in Houston, Linda Donaldson has just been chewed out by the cowled and robed Number One for failing to obtain the Brand Corporation’s electron gyro for the Secret Empire. As she gets out of her car, Cyclops pretends to be kidnapping Linda, claiming the X-Men want to question her about the missing Beast.
She is “saved” in a staged rescue by Steve and Sam in their disguises, complete with that fake moustache for Sam and black wig for Steve. The two pretend to be anti-mutant people saving a “normal” human being from an X-Man.
From there, they further ingratiate themselves with Linda Donaldson, passing themselves off as unemployed men who hire themselves out for any dirty job. They casually let their hotel room info slip in front of Linda.
Just before nightfall, a cowled man whose mask is marked with the number 13 shows up at their door. He does not say Linda sent him, but offers our undercover heroes $10,000 to rob the electron gyro from the Brand Corporation. (That would be over $54,600.00 today.)
Number Thirteen lays out stolen plans for Steve and Sam, then departs, threatening violence if they tell anyone about him. Cap and Falc don their costumes and later that night set out to pull off the robbery. (It’s a comic book, so just go with this ridiculously swift infiltration of the Secret Empire.)
The two wear their costumes for the break-in as they face high-tech security measures at the Brand Corporation’s offices. Cap leaves a note explaining why he and the Falcon are doing this for Mister Black, the boss of this branch of Brand Corporation. Cap naively appeals to Mr Black’s patriotism and “faith in Captain America” and asks him not to implicate him and the Falcon in this robbery. They will return the electron gyro soon.
Mr Black (no first name ever given) agrees, but as you’ve probably guessed, he later turns out to be a Secret Empire agent. (No, I don’t know why he didn’t just let Linda Donaldson steal the electron gyro since they both work for the Secret Empire. You know comic book writing.)
Back in their plainclothes disguises, Steve and Sam turn the electron gyro over to Number Thirteen back at their hotel room. He pays them and offers them more money to officially join his organization, which is on the verge of conquering the United States.
Our undercover heroes agree, and Number Thirteen takes them to a high-tech aircraft. He flies Steve and Sam from Houston, TX to the New Mexico desert where a secret elevator platform opens. Number Thirteen, Steve and Sam board the elevator and disappear into the subterranean HQ of the Secret Empire.
Shortly afterward, Cyclops, Marvel Girl and Professor X arrive in their own aircraft near where Cap and Falc boarded the elevator. The professor and Marvel Girl used their psychic powers to telepathically follow Cap and Falc.
As the three mutants establish their stakeout of this concealed entrance to the Secret Empire’s headquarters, Professor X wonders if Captain America and the Falcon will ever leave that place alive. And that’s our cliffhanger ending for this time.
I’LL COVER THE NEXT FEW CAPTAIN AMERICA & THE FALCON INSTALLMENTS NEXT TIME.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO MY REVIEW OF SPIDER-MAN 1970s CLASSICS CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ MANTIS/ KANG/ CELESTIAL MADONNA STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS IN THE AVENGERS/ KREE-SKRULL WAR STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s ADAM WARLOCK/ GAMORA/ THANOS/ MAGUS STORY CLICK HERE.
FOR CHAPTER LINKS TO THE 1970s BLACK PANTHER VS KILLMONGER STORY CLICK HERE.