CAPTAIN AMERICA #443 (1995): Mark Gruenwald run ends

“The 137th Cap Adventure Written by Mark Gruenwald…” 

Gruenwald has written some really fun, really good Cap stories and created some iconic characters, but at this point it feels like he’s written 137 scripts.  He’s going over old ground, and there’s no suspense or dramatic tension left.  The splash page says, “I look bad.  I feel worse.”  And truer words were never spoken.

Issue #443 chronicles the dying Captain America’s last day on Earth.  Only of course it’s not his last day.  His super soldier serum is killing him, but even in 1995—when Marvel Comics was at its lowest point in history both in terms of quality and sales—nobody believed they’d kill a flagship character.

Black Crow visits Cap to tell him he’s definitely gonna die, so Cap tells his supporting cast (Fabian Stankowitz, Free Spirit, Jack Flag) that he’s set up a financial trust to enable them to keep doing crimefighting after his death, and then walks down memory lane with Crossbones and tries to get him to turn in his boss…

…This is just silly.  He then spies on his ex-girlfriend Bernie Rosenthal, visits Arnie in the hospital (Arnie’s in a coma and conveniently flatlines after Cap’s visit)…

…and calls on other character’s from Mark G’s long run on this title.  And by now it’s becoming clear to us readers that this isn’t the end of Cap—it’s the end of Gruenwald’s run.

Cap winds up at Avengers Mansion and goes to bed.  At the end of the issue, his teammates find his armor, empty, in the bed—and Steve Rogers’ body nowhere to be found.  And we’re told it’s the end of an era.

Okay.  In the end, this actually wasn’t a terrible sendoff for Mark Gruenwald.

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